NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Recover Act Recipients Owe Hundreds of Millions in Taxes

May 27, 2011

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ("Recovery Act") enacted on February 17, 2009, appropriated $275 billion to be distributed for federal contracts, grants and loans.  As of March 25, 2011, $191 billion of this $275 billion had been paid out.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to determine if Recovery Act contract and grant recipients have unpaid federal taxes.

  • At least 3,700 Recovery Act contract and grant recipients are estimated to owe more than $750 million in known unpaid federal taxes as of September 30, 2009, and received over $24 billion in Recovery Act funds.
  • This represents nearly 5 percent of the approximately 80,000 contractors and grant recipients in the data from as of July 2010.
  • Federal law does not prohibit the awarding of contracts or grants to entities because they owe federal taxes and does not permit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to disclose taxpayer information, including unpaid federal taxes, to federal agencies unless the taxpayer consents.
  • The estimated amount of known unpaid federal taxes is likely understated because IRS databases do not include amounts owed by recipients who have not filed tax returns or understated their taxable income and for which IRS has not assessed tax amounts due.

GAO selected 15 Recovery Act recipients for further investigation.  For the 15 cases, GAO found abusive or potentially criminal activity; that is, recipients had failed to remit payroll taxes to IRS.

Source: "Thousands of Recovery Act Contract and Grant Recipients Owe Hundreds of Millions in Federal Taxes," Government Accountability Office, April 28, 2011.

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