Paperwork Reduction Act

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Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn Act to reduce paperwork and enhance the economy and efficiency of the Government and the private sector by improving Federal information policymaking, and for other purposes.
Enacted bythe 96th United States Congress
EffectiveDecember 11, 1980
Public law96–511
Statutes at Large94 Stat. 2812
Titles amended44 U.S.C.: Public Printing and Documents
U.S.C. sections amended
Legislative history
Major amendments
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995
United States Supreme Court cases
Dole v. United Steelworkers of America

The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (Pub. L. No. 96-511, 94 Stat. 2812, codified at 44 U.S.C. §§ 35013521) is a United States federal law enacted in 1980 designed to reduce the total amount of paperwork burden the federal government imposes on private businesses and citizens. The Act imposes procedural requirements on agencies that wish to collect information from the public. It also established the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and authorized this new agency to oversee federal agencies' collection of information from the public and to establish information policies. A substantial amendment, the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995,[4] confirmed that OIRA's authority extended over not only agency orders to provide information to the government, but also agency orders to provide information to the public.[5]

Historical context[edit]

The predecessor statute to the Paperwork Reduction Act was the Federal Reports Act of 1942. That statute required agencies to obtain approval of the Bureau of the Budget (a direct predecessor of OMB) before imposing information collection burdens on the public. However, large departments such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) were exempted from the requirement,[6] and the statute neglected to include sanctions for agencies' noncompliance.[6] Moreover, OMB chronically understaffed its responsibilities: in 1947, there were 47 personnel reviewing agency requests for the entire government, but by 1973 the number of reviewers had dwindled to 25, and these few reviewers had a number of additional responsibilities.[7] The result of the lack of resources was both weak oversight (only between 1 and 5 percent of applications were rejected) and longer delays.[8] Some agencies refused to submit requests for approval;[9] others sought and received alternative processes,[10] fragmenting the regulatory system and increasing the chance of duplicative and wasteful demands for information.

Substantive requirements[edit]

The Act imposes a number of procedural requirements on an agency that wishes to implement a reporting or recordkeeping requirement on the public. For instance, the agency must determine a specific objective met by the collection of information,[11] develop a plan for use of the information,[12] and in some cases test the collection method through a pilot program.[13] The agency must ensure that forms include certain items, for instance: an explanation to its audience of the purposes of the information collection,[14] an estimate of the paperwork burden,[15] and whether response is voluntary.[16] In most cases, agencies are further required to publish notice of a proposed requirement in the Federal Register and allow at least 60 days for public comments on the need for and burden of the requirement.[17]

The Paperwork Reduction Act mandates that all federal government agencies receive approval from OMB—in the form of a "control number"—before promulgating a paper form, website, survey or electronic submission that will impose an information collection burden on the general public.[18] The term "burden" is defined as anything beyond "that necessary to identify the respondent, the date, the respondent's address, and the nature of the instrument."[19] No one may be penalized for refusing an information collection request that does not display a valid control number.[20] Once obtained, approval must be renewed every three years.[21]

The process created by the Paperwork Reduction Act makes OIRA into a centralized clearinghouse for all government forms. Thus, it is able to assess the overall impact of the government bureaucracy on American citizens and businesses. This is done in an annual document called the Information Collection Budget of the United States Government. The 2009 Collection Budget reported that the Federal Government generated 9.71 billion hours of mandatory paperwork burden.[22] The burden in 2016 was 9.78 billion hours.[23]

Portion of the Instructions for 2012 IRS Form 1040 (page 103), listing estimated burden imposed in compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act
Portion of the IRS Form 1040. The OMB Control Number "1545-0074" can be seen in the upper right corner of the image

See also[edit]


  • Funk, William F. (1987). "The Paperwork Reduction Act: Paperwork Reduction Meets Administrative Law". Harvard Journal on Legislation. 24 (1).
  1. ^ Funk, p. 27
  2. ^ Funk, p. 29 (citing 126 Cong. Rec. 30,193 (1980))
  3. ^ Funk, p. 30 (citing 126 Cong. Rec. 31,228 (1980))
  4. ^ Pub. L. No. 104-13, 109 Stat 163
  5. ^ Funk, William F, Sidney A. Shapiro, and Russell L. Weaver. Administrative Procedure and Practice: Problems and Cases 4th ed. West, 2010. p 128. "As a result of amendments in 1995, these reporting and recordkeeping requirements include both situations where the information is to be reported to a federal agency and where the information is only to be reported to the public."
  6. ^ a b Funk, p. 9
  7. ^ Funk, p. 11 (citing S. Rep. No. 125, 93d Cong., 1st Sess. 25 (1973))
  8. ^ Funk, p. 14
  9. ^ Funk, p. 14 "Complaints of inadequate enforcement were buttressed by the refusal of certain agencies, among them the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to submit regulatory reporting to OMB for clearance."
  10. ^ Funk, p. 16 "OMB's delay ... was one of the motivating factors behind the amendment to the Federal Reports Act that eliminated OMB review of independent agencies' reports."
  11. ^ 44 U.S.C. § 3506(c)(1)(A)(i)
  12. ^ 44 U.S.C. § 3506(c)(1)(A)(iii)
  13. ^ 44 U.S.C. § 3506(c)(1)(A)(v)
  14. ^ 44 U.S.C. § 3506(c)(1)(B)(iii)(I)
  15. ^ 44 U.S.C. § 3506(c)(1)(B)(iii)(III)
  16. ^ 44 U.S.C. § 3506(c)(1)(B)(iii)(IV)
  17. ^ 44 U.S.C. § 3506(c)(2)(A) "[With respect to the collection of information and the control of paperwork, each agency shall ...] except as provided under subparagraph (B) or section 3507(j), provide 60-day notice in the Federal Register, and otherwise consult with members of the public and affected agencies concerning each proposed collection of information, to solicit comment to
    (i) evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility;
    (ii) evaluate the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information;
    (iii) enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
    (iv) minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology"
  18. ^ 44 U.S.C. § 3507(a)(3) "An agency shall not conduct or sponsor the collection of information unless in advance of the adoption or revision of the collection of information—obtained from the Director [of OMB] a control number to be displayed upon the collection of information."
  19. ^ 5 CFR 1320.3(h)(1)
  20. ^ 44 U.S.C. § 3512(a)(1) "no person shall be subject to any penalty for failing to comply with a collection of information that is subject to this subchapter if-- (1) the collection of information does not display a valid control number assigned by the Director in accordance with this subchapter"
  21. ^ 44 U.S.C. § 3507(g) "The Director [of OMB] may not approve a collection of information for a period in excess of 3 years."
  22. ^ Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (2009). "Information Collection Budget of the United States Government" (PDF). Office of Management and Budget. p. i. Retrieved 2 August 2019 – via National Archives.
  23. ^ Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (2016). "Information Collection Budget of the United States Government" (PDF). p. i. Retrieved 2 August 2019.

External links[edit]