OMB Memorandum M-15-02 defines an improper payment as any payment that should not have been made or that was made in an incorrect amount under statutory, contractual, administrative, or other legally applicable requirements.

Incorrect amounts are overpayments or underpayments that are made to eligible recipients (including inappropriate denials of payment or service, any payment that does not account for credit for applicable discounts, payments that are for an incorrect amount, and duplicate payments). An improper payment also includes any payment that was made to an ineligible recipient or for an ineligible good or service, or payments for goods or services not received (except for such payments authorized by law). In addition, when an agency’s review is unable to discern whether a payment was proper as a result of insufficient or lack of documentation, this payment must also be considered an improper payment.

2016 Payment Accuracy Rate


See All High-Priority Programs

The payment accuracy rate reflects the government-wide total reported in agency program improper payment estimates. Additionally, during this timeframe agency programs estimate that the government-wide reduction target for the next fiscal year would be 4.39%. This reduction target reflects the government-wide reduction target goal as estimated by each individual program in their current year AFR. Estimating and achieving reduction targets continues to be the most challenging criteria for programs to meet during their annual IPERA compliance reviews. However, it is important for programs to continue to strive for reduction of their overall improper payment estimates.

Need more information on improper payments? We have a list of useful improper payment resources – including agency specific data, laws, and implementing guidance – that are often requested by agencies and the public. Please see our FAQ and Resources links at the top of this page. Download the improper payment data in spreadsheet form.

About This Site

The Improper Payments Information Act of 2002 (Pub. L. No. 107-300) PDF Document as amended by the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010 (Pub. L. No. 111-204) PDF Document, requires agencies to assess every Federal program and dollar for improper payment risk, measure the accuracy of payments annually, and initiate program improvements to ensure payment errors are reduced. On November 20, 2009, Executive Order 13520—Reducing Improper Payments and Eliminating Waste in Federal Programs PDF Document, was issued for the purpose of intensifying efforts to eliminate payment error, waste, fraud, and abuse in the major programs administered by the Federal government, while continuing to ensure that the right people receive the right payment for the right reason at the right time. This website contains information about:

  1. Current and historical rates and amounts of improper payments
  2. Why improper payments occur
  3. What agencies are doing to reduce and recover improper payments

Federal agencies must overcome significant obstacles to address the root causes of improper payments and will need additional tools and resources to meet this steep goal. The government can achieve the greatest return on investment for the taxpayer by ensuring that improper payments are eliminated in the highest-risk programs, otherwise known as “high-priority programs.” In pursuing reforms, the government must balance its responsibilities for reducing improper payments with the goal of providing fast and accurate payments to millions of beneficiaries.

Each program presents unique challenges and obstacles to overcoming the improper payment problem. Visit our High-Priority Programs page to understand these challenges and what agencies are doing to overcome them. By strengthening financial management controls so agencies can better detect and prevent improper payments, the government can better ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently.