Tax Compliance: IRS May Be Able to Improve Compliance for Nonresident Aliens and Updating Requirements Could Reduce Their Compliance Burden

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A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "For tax year 2007, nonresident alien individuals filed about 634,000 Forms 1040NR, the U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return. IRS has not developed estimates for the extent of nonresident alien tax noncompliance because it often lacks information to distinguish between nonresident aliens and other filers, and examinations can be costly and difficult since many nonresident aliens would depart the country before IRS could examine their returns. IRS's outreach and education efforts have focused on presenting information on nonresident tax issues to a variety of audiences and ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. April 14, 2010.

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A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "For tax year 2007, nonresident alien individuals filed about 634,000 Forms 1040NR, the U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return. IRS has not developed estimates for the extent of nonresident alien tax noncompliance because it often lacks information to distinguish between nonresident aliens and other filers, and examinations can be costly and difficult since many nonresident aliens would depart the country before IRS could examine their returns. IRS's outreach and education efforts have focused on presenting information on nonresident tax issues to a variety of audiences and making information available on its Web site and in its publications. Nevertheless, some nonresidents, their employers, and paid preparers may not be aware of nonresident alien tax rules, according to representatives of groups that work with employers and nonresidents to assist them in fulfilling their tax obligations. Other filing challenges exist. For example, individuals filing Forms 1040NR cannot file electronically. Also, nonresidents in the U.S. for less than 90 days who earn over $3,000 in compensation for services paid for by a foreign employer will likely have to file Form 1040NR, even if they owe no tax. The $3,000 exemption threshold, enacted by Congress in 1936 to lessen the tax compliance burden on nonresident aliens and never adjusted for inflation or other purposes, likely results in a greater proportion of nonresident aliens having a filing requirement today than in 1936. IRS has expanded its nonresident alien enforcement efforts over the past decade. However, IRS does not have a program to automatically identify nonresident aliens who improperly file Form 1040 instead of Form 1040NR, which can result in lost tax revenue when these taxpayers take unallowed deductions. IRS may be able to use taxpayer information to identify this type of noncompliance systematically. Finally, some nonresidents must file a certificate of compliance, referred to as a sailing permit, before departing the U.S. to ensure that tax obligations have been satisfied. The requirement is difficult to enforce and few nonresidents fulfill it, potentially leading to broader noncompliance if individuals assume the lack of enforcement extends to other tax rules."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • April 14, 2010

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Tax Compliance: IRS May Be Able to Improve Compliance for Nonresident Aliens and Updating Requirements Could Reduce Their Compliance Burden, report, April 14, 2010; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc296949/: accessed August 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.