Improper Payments on the Rise

Increasingly, the federal government is making payments it shouldn’t. Improper payments are when the federal government overpays, underpays, or makes payments to ineligible recipients. In FY 2019, federal agencies reported about $175 billion in estimated improper payments—up from $151 billion in FY 2018.

The majority of these improper payments were made in 3 federal program areas: Medicaid, Medicare, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Improper Payments in Federal Programs, FY 2019Improper Payments in Federal Programs, FY 2019

Improper payments are not always due to fraud. Here is Beryl Davis, a director in our Financial Management and Assurance team, talking about the factors that lead to an improper payment and how agencies can cut down on them.


We’ve found that federal efforts to resolve improper payments are hindered by (among other things) incomplete, unreliable, or understated estimates.

Learn more in our report.

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