Farm Programs: Additional Steps Needed to Help Prevent Payments to Participants Whose Incomes Exceed Limits

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A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "As part of verifying if farm and conservation program participants had incomes below statutory limits--making them eligible to receive certain 2009 and 2010 program payments--reviews of tax returns by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm Service Agency's (FSA) state offices varied in quality. GAO's review of 115 tax return files from selected state offices found that some files met agency guidance and had no apparent errors. Other files did not meet agency guidance or contained errors, resulting in some potentially improper payments to participants whose ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. August 29, 2013.

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A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "As part of verifying if farm and conservation program participants had incomes below statutory limits--making them eligible to receive certain 2009 and 2010 program payments--reviews of tax returns by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm Service Agency's (FSA) state offices varied in quality. GAO's review of 115 tax return files from selected state offices found that some files met agency guidance and had no apparent errors. Other files did not meet agency guidance or contained errors, resulting in some potentially improper payments to participants whose incomes exceeded the limits. For example, GAO found errors in 19 of the 22 tax return files it reviewed from FSA offices in two states; one of these errors led to a potentially improper payment of $40,000. FSA headquarters does not monitor state offices' reviews of tax returns to ensure that the offices are applying program guidance consistently and making accurate eligibility determinations, even though federal standards for internal control direct agencies to monitor and assess the quality of performance over time. Also, 2008 Farm Bill provisions requiring a distinction between farm and nonfarm income make it difficult for agency officials to verify if participants' incomes exceed the limits without making errors. Because the statutory limits for farm and nonfarm income differ, to verify such income, FSA officials must comb through sometimes long and complex tax returns to classify and calculate income--a difficult task for those who are not accountants or tax preparers. Recent bills in the House and Senate have proposed using total adjusted gross income instead of farm and nonfarm income, which would reduce the need for FSA to review tax returns."

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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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  • August 29, 2013

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Farm Programs: Additional Steps Needed to Help Prevent Payments to Participants Whose Incomes Exceed Limits, report, August 29, 2013; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc302127/: accessed September 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.