The Paperwork Reduction Act is a U.S. law that requires federal agencies to obtain approval before collecting information from the American public. Its main purpose is to minimize the amount of paperwork the public must fill out on behalf of the federal government. It is also intended to ensure agencies’ compliance with laws regarding information collection such as the Computer Security Act of 1987.
Enacted in 1980, the Paperwork Reduction Act established the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within the Office of Management and Budget. The OIRA has the authority to regulate matters regarding federal information and to establish information policies that will reduce the amount of paperwork handled by the U.S. government and the American public.
Under the law, all agencies are required to apply for clearance before promulgating a form that collects information from the public. To begin the process, agencies must obtain a control number. They then submit Form 83-I, along with their proposed form, to the OIRA. Form 83-I requires the agency to explain why the form is needed, and how much time and money it will cost recipients to fill it out. Agencies that receive approval must reapply every three years by submitting another Form 83-I.
By acting as a central clearinghouse for all government forms, the OIRA is able to assess the impact of the government’s information collection efforts on the American public. It can also ensure that the government and public are fully benefitting from the information collected, and improve the quality and use of this information. The OIRA publishes its assessment in an annual report called the Information Collection Budget of the United States Government.
The Office of the Chief Information Officer has information to help agencies submit and track information collection requests.