May 11, 2023
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  • Improper Payments

    The federal bureaucracy repeatedly treats taxpayer dollars with disdain, wasting hundreds of billions each year on improper payments with no accountability.

    Too often, success in government programs is measured by how many people are served and how quickly money is spent. This incentive structure leads to widespread failures in verifying people’s identities and eligibility for government programs. While these failures cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars per year, there are no consequences for the agencies and programs themselves.

    Staff Budget Papers


    • In 2022 alone, the federal government spent at least $247 billion of taxpayers’ money on improper payments according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
      • That translates into a 5.12 percent improper payment rate across all the government’s programs.
    • If improper payments were considered its own budgetary category, it would be the sixth largest category in the federal budget, after Social Security, Medicare, national defense, Medicaid, and interest on the debt.
    • Improper payment spending was seven times larger than funding for the Department of Justice.
    • Before Biden, improper payments averaged 4.5 percent. But improper payments jumped in 2021 to 7.16 percent (costing taxpayers $281 billion) and in 2022 to 5.12 percent (costing $247 billion).
    • President Biden’s administration has spent $528 billion in just two years on improper payments.

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