Congressional Report: Treasury Department Data Unreliable

By Ben Anderson | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

( - A new congressional report is calling into question the reliability of the Treasury Department's claims about which taxpayers would benefit more from a tax cut.

The Treasury Department's "tax distribution numbers are statistically compromised and include conjectures and guesswork making their reliability unknowable," according to a new Joint Economic Committee (JEC) study released on Tuesday.

"Simply put, the Treasury is releasing statistics in such a way that it is impossible to evaluate their quality and integrity despite their often-explosive policy impact," said JEC Chairman Jim Saxton (R-NJ). "It appears quite possible that the Treasury itself does not know how reliable these statistics are."

The Treasury Department, under which the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) operates, routinely gathers data on which taxpayers pay their share of the federal budget. But the latest JEC report suggests that the agency, in compiling its data, neglects to adhere to federal information dissemination rules implemented to ensure the accuracy of such reports.

Treasury numbers are often cited by the Clinton Administration during the public policy debate concerning cuts in income taxes.

"Government statistics can have important policy implications, so any errors or other data limitations should be disclosed, as is normally the case," Saxton said. "Although these Treasury statistics have been the center of many important policy debates, the Treasury has not complied with the disclosure rules governing the release of such statistics."

Saxton questioned how the Treasury Department is able to release information with no assurances of accuracy. "How could a major federal department release numbers without knowing their quality or integrity, as required under federal rules?"

According to the JEC report, the Treasury is releasing statistics that do not meet minimum government standards "because they are constructed in a way that make a determination of their statistical quality and integrity virtually impossible."

Treasury Department officials have not responded to regarding the Congressional Report's Joint Economic Committee criticism.