New Video on Administrative Burden & Taxpayer Rights

Dear Friends,

Let me start this issue of the Digest with a gentle reminder to register for the online 6th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights, which will be held from 05 to 08 October, 2021.  The theme of the conference is Taxpayer Rights, Human Rights: Issues for Developing Countries; and there is a free online workshop on 05 October on the role of Tax Clinics and Taxpayer Ombuds/Advocates in protecting taxpayer rights.

So, the news for this week is that we’ve posted a new video from our Tax Chat! series over on our website and Youtube channel.  This video is of our April 13th Tax Chat! on Administrative Burden and Taxpayer Rights.  In this video, Professors Les Book, Keith Fogg and I discuss the manner in which procedures and rules of administrative agencies, including tax administrations, can place undue burden on persons interacting with the agency, such that they may not receive benefits to which they are entitled or their rights are impaired.  We discuss this more thoroughly in a draft article we are working on.  You can access the draft article here.


In the Tax Chat! we first discuss the important work of Professors Pamela Herd and Don Moynihan in the field of public administration and apply their observations to U.S. tax administration.  Herd and Moynihan go beyond traditional cost/benefit analysis to identify three categories of burden: compliance costs, learning costs, and psychological costs.  While acknowledging that some administrative burden may be justified in order to protect the integrity of the program, rather than focus on the agency’s administrative burden, this analysis views administrative burden from the perspective of the taxpayer. 

In the Tax Chat! and in our draft article we review the various ways the U.S. Congress has attempted to get executive branch agencies to consider administrative burden.  The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires agencies to identify the burden a proposed regulation may have on small businesses; the Paperwork Reduction Act requires agencies to estimate the time spent on persons’ recordkeeping and preparation in filling out required forms; and the Privacy Act and Privacy Impact Assessments require agencies to document the reasons for a collection of data, the use to which that data will be put, and the privacy rights implications of the agency obtaining and using that data.

None of these approaches specifically identifies or measures the impact of agency procedures, regulations, and rules with respect to the excess administrative burdens they create for specific populations or their impact on the population’s ability to exercise taxpayer rights and protections.  Toward this end, as we discuss in the Tax Chat! and in our article, we propose a new mechanism, the Taxpayer Rights Impact Statement, which would require the tax agency to identify the populations disproportionately affected by a proposed (or existing) initiative, whether the proposed initiative would result in excess administrative burden based on the specific characteristics of that population, and if so, what steps can be taken to mitigate or eliminate that burden.  We propose this analysis not only be prepared in consultation with internal and external stakeholders but also be published on the agency’s website, similar to Privacy Impact Assessments conducted under the Privacy Act.  Finally, we apply the rights-based framework to a specific example relating to COVID relief.

We covered a lot in this Tax Chat! and there were lots of excellent questions and discussion.  I hope you will check this out.

If you haven’t subscribed to our YouTube channel, please do – you’ll get early notifications of what we’ve posted.

In the meantime, don’t forget to register for the 6th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights.  We’ll resume with our monthly Tax Chats! in November, after our conference.

Hope all is well,


Nina E. Olson
Executive Director