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Job Search Before and After the Great Recession

September 3, 2014 Comments off

Job Search Before and After the Great Recession
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

Since the onset of the Great Recession, unemployment rates have been high and job-finding rates have been low. These persistent trends raise concerns that unemployed workers may have become discouraged by poor job prospects. To begin understanding the job searching behavior of the unemployed, we examine data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) and find that a greater proportion of the unemployed are spending time searching for a job after the Great Recession than before. We also find important differences in job search time by educational attainment, age, and gender—including decreases in search time for some groups.

To compare the amount of time the unemployed spend on their job search before and after the recession, we analyzed data from the ATUS, which asks respondents how much time they spent on various activities the previous day. Activities classified as job searching include sending out resumes, conducting interviews, commuting, asking for information, and looking for information on the internet or in the newspaper. We compared ATUS data on job searching before and after the Great Recession, combining the years 2003 to 2007 for the pre-recession period and the years 2008 to 2012 for the post-recession period.

As we would expect, the proportion of unemployed individuals who spent some time on an average day searching for a job increased from 20 percent to 24 percent after the recession. However, and perhaps surprisingly, among those unemployed who did search, the average time spent on job search looked very similar in the five years on either side of the Great Recession.

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Notice to Readers: Final 2013 Reports of Nationally Notifiable Infectious Diseases

September 3, 2014 Comments off

Notice to Readers: Final 2013 Reports of Nationally Notifiable Infectious Diseases
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Table 2 listed on pages 703–15 summarizes finalized data, as of June 30, 2014, from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) for 2013. These data will be published in more detail next year in the Summary of Notifiable Diseases — United States, 2013 (1). Because no cases were reported in the United States during 2013, the following diseases do not appear in these early release tables: anthrax; diphtheria; eastern equine encephalitis, nonneuroinvasive disease; poliovirus infection, nonparalytic; severe acute respiratory syndrome–associated coronavirus disease (SARS-CoV); smallpox; St. Louis encephalitis, nonneuroinvasive disease; western equine encephalitis, neuroinvasive and nonneuroinvasive disease; yellow fever; and viral hemorrhagic fevers. Data on chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus infection (past or present) are not included because they are undergoing data quality review. Data for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) diagnoses do not appear because CDC is transitioning to a new system for processing national HIV surveillance data, and will be published in the Summary of Notifiable Diseases — United States, 2013.

TIGTA — Some Contractor Personnel Without Background Investigations Had Access to Taxpayer Data and Other Sensitive Information

September 3, 2014 Comments off

Some Contractor Personnel Without Background Investigations Had Access to Taxpayer Data and Other Sensitive Information
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS
IRS policy requires contractor personnel to have a background investigation if they will have or require access to Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information, including taxpayer information. Allowing contractor personnel access to taxpayer and other SBU information without the appropriate background investigation exposes taxpayers to increased risk of fraud and identity theft.

WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT
The overall objective of this review was to determine the effectiveness of IRS controls to ensure that background investigations were conducted for contractor personnel who had access to SBU information.

WHAT TIGTA FOUND
Taxpayer and other SBU information may be at risk due to a lack of background investigation requirements in five contracts for courier, printing, document recovery, and sign language interpreter services. For example, in one printing services contract, the IRS provided the contractor a compact disk containing 1.4 million taxpayer names, addresses, and Social Security Numbers; however, none of the contractor personnel who worked on this contract were subject to a background investigation.

In addition, TIGTA found 12 contracts for which IRS program and procurement office staff correctly determined that contractor personnel required background investigations because they would have access to SBU information; however, some contractor personnel did not have interim access approval or final background investigations before they began working on the contracts.

Further, TIGTA identified 20 contracts for which either some or all contractor personnel did not sign nondisclosure agreements. In June 2013, after the period covered by our audit, the IRS issued more explicit guidance requiring the execution of nondisclosure agreements.

WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED
TIGTA recommended that the Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support should ensure that the types of service contracts identified in this review have the appropriate security provisions included in the contract and that associated contractor personnel have an appropriate interim access approval or final background investigation prior to beginning work on the contract. In addition, the IRS should use the results of our contract reviews to train program office and procurement office staff on contractor security requirements and the necessity for contractor personnel to sign nondisclosure agreements prior to working on a contract. Finally, TIGTA recommended that the Office of Chief Counsel (Chief Counsel) work with the Department of the Treasury Security Office to review the waiver currently in place that exempts expert witnesses from background investigations and determine if the waiver is still appropriate in the current security environment.

The IRS agreed with four of the five recommendations. The IRS disagreed with our recommendation that the Chief Counsel should work with the Department of the Treasury Security Office to review the background investigation waiver issued in August 2005 to determine if the waiver is still appropriate. TIGTA believes that waiving the requirement for a background investigation presents a security risk.

New From the GAO

September 3, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. VA Dialysis Pilot: Documentation of Plans for Concluding the Pilot Needed to Improve Transparency and Accountability. GAO-14-646, September 2.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-646
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665498.pdf

2. Medicare Advantage: CMS Should Fully Develop Plans for Encounter Data and Assess Data Quality before Use. GAO-14-571, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-571
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665143.pdf

3. Human Capital: OPM Needs to Improve the Design, Management, and Oversight of the Federal Classification System. GAO-14-677, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-677
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665199.pdf

Emergency department visits linked to zolpidem overmedication nearly doubled

September 3, 2014 Comments off

Emergency department visits linked to zolpidem overmedication nearly doubled
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The estimated number of emergency department visits involving zolpidem overmedication (taking more than the prescribed amount) nearly doubled from 21,824 visits in 2005-2006 to 42,274 visits in 2009-2010, according to a new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The report also indicates that 68 percent of all zolpidem overmedication visits in 2010 involved females, the number of zolpidem overmedication emergency department visits for males increased 150 percent from 2005-2006 to 2009-2010 compared to an increase of 69 percent for females over the same time period.

In 2010 there were a total of 4,916,328 drug-related visits to emergency departments throughout the nation.

Other prescription drugs were involved in 57 percent of the emergency department visits involving zolpidem overmedication. These medications included benzodiazepines (26 percent) and narcotic pain relievers (25 percent). Alcohol was also combined with zolpidem in 14 percent of these hospital emergency department visits.

Some Tax-Exempt Organizations Have Substantial Delinquent Payroll Taxes

September 2, 2014 Comments off

Some Tax-Exempt Organizations Have Substantial Delinquent Payroll Taxes
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS
While tax‑exempt organizations are generally not required to pay income taxes, they are generally required to pay other taxes such as payroll taxes. If tax-exempt organizations do not pay their taxes and thereby abuse the Federal tax system, the Federal Government could lose millions of dollars in revenue.

WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT
The overall objectives of this review were to determine if, and to what extent, tax‑exempt organizations have known Federal tax debt and to identify actions the Exempt Organizations function has taken to address this noncompliance.

WHAT TIGTA FOUND
IRS records indicate that the majority of tax‑exempt organizations pay their Federal taxes. However, a small percentage are not paying their taxes. TIGTA determined that more than 64,200 (3.8 percent) tax‑exempt organizations had nearly $875 million of Federal tax debt as of June 16, 2012. While some organizations owed minor amounts, approximately 1,200 tax exempt organizations owed more than $100,000 each. Unpaid taxes were often associated with multiple tax periods. For example, nine organizations each had Federal tax debt spanning 10 or more years that collectively totaled more than $5.5 million.

TIGTA reviewed 25 tax‑exempt organizations – all Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) – that appeared to be among the worst examples involving unpaid Federal tax but are not representative of the population of all tax‑exempt organizations with unpaid tax. TIGTA determined that these organizations generally received government payments over a three‑year period of $148 million, including Medicare, Medicaid, and government grants; had annual revenue of almost $167 million; and owned assets of more than $97 million—but continued to not remit payroll and other taxes, including penalties and interest, totaling more than $25 million. The Internal Revenue Code does not authorize the IRS to revoke tax‑exempt status based on an organization’s failure to pay payroll taxes, and substantially all of the organizations that TIGTA reviewed were still recognized by the IRS as tax‑exempt as of May 2013. The Exempt Organizations function had completed several examinations but was generally not aware of the behavior of the organizations because another IRS business unit is responsible for collecting the delinquent tax debt.

WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED
TIGTA recommended that the Director, Exempt Organizations: 1) coordinate with Small Business/ Self‑Employed Division management to receive relevant collection information, 2) periodically complete analyses to identify tax‑exempt organizations that potentially abuse their tax‑exempt status for examination (if necessary), and 3) work with the Department of the Treasury to evaluate whether a legislative proposal is warranted to strengthen the IRS’s ability to enforce payroll tax noncompliance by tax‑exempt organizations.

In their response to the report, IRS management disagreed with the first two recommendations and agreed to apprise the Department of the Treasury of our third recommendation. TIGTA believes that the Exempt Organizations function should do more to oversee tax‑exempt organizations that repeatedly fail to remit payroll taxes, which include Medicare, Social Security, and Federal income taxes withheld from employees. This is particularly important because these organizations have the benefit of charitable status, and the Government has paid them millions of dollars of Medicare and Medicaid funds.

2013 Annual Survey of Public Pensions: State-Administered Defined Benefit Data

September 2, 2014 Comments off

2013 Annual Survey of Public Pensions: State-Administered Defined Benefit Data
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Provides a comprehensive look at the financial activity of the nation’s state-administered defined benefit pension systems, including cash and investment holdings, receipts, payments, pension obligations and membership information. Statistics are shown at the national level and for individual states. The total cash and investment holdings of the nation’s state-administered defined benefit pensions systems totaled $2.7 trillion in 2013. By comparison, total cash and investment holdings totaled $2.5 trillion in 2012, yielding a 7.8 percent increase from 2012 to 2013.

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