The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)

The Federal Government’s responsibilities and services are supported through the gathering of information from the public.
The Federal Government collects information for a wide range of important public purposes, including protecting national security, funding government programs and services, ensuring compliance with health, safety, and environmental standards, providing benefits to citizens, evaluating the performance of agency programs, and developing statistical information that portray
s the condition and progress of our economy and society. Some examples of Federal information collections are the Census, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 1040, and many others.

Information collections provide vital data and are necessary for the effective functioning of government, but they can also impose a significant burden and cost on the public.  The key purpose of the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995 is to require that any such burdens and costs are justified, and to reduce them where appropriate.  In the current era, it is exceedingly important to seek new and innovative methods to promote those purposes.  The internet makes such steps far easier to undertake, because cumbersome “paperwork” can be eased by electronic filing.  At the same time, the growing interest in simplification and in pre-populated forms suggests a range of possible ways to reduce burdens and costs.   

On March14, 2011, the statistics on active information collections were:

  Number of Active Collections     Annual Responses Annual Burden Hours
 Annual Cost
Government-wide  8,964  87,245,045,828  9,885,183,721  $73,353,974,181
Department of the Treasury
 1,340  2,811,748,144  7,428,462,078  $31,758,082,904
Internal Revenue Service  933  2,680,407,776  7,380,686,982  $31,662,006,080

The goals of the PRA are to:
  • Reduce the burden imposed by Federal information collection activities;
  • Ensure the greatest possible public benefit from and maximize the utility of information created, collected, maintained, used, shared and disseminated by or for the Federal government;
  • Improve the integrity, quality and utility of  information to strengthen decision making;
  • Promote openness and accountability in the use of information;
  • Minimize the cost to the Federal government of the creation, collection, maintenance, use, dissemination, and disposition of information; and
  • Ensure the integrity, quality, and utility of the Federal statistical system.

Source: 2011 Information Collection Budget. Statistical data: .
See 44 U.S.C. Chapter 35 and 5 CFR Part 1320 for more details.