Government Accounting Office (GAO)

Written By
Paul Tracy
Updated June 16, 2021

What is the Government Accounting Office (GAO)?

Founded in 1921, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that studies how the federal government spends taxpayer money.

How Does the Government Accounting Office (GAO) Work?

The head of the GAO is the Comptroller General of the United States. Congress creates a list of candidates to head the GAO, and then the President selects and appoints one of those candidates to the post. Congress must confirm the candidate before he or she can assume the duties as head of the GAO.

The GAO’s job is to ensure that the federal government is accountable to the American people. Congressional committees or subcommittees often request certain research and reporting, though much of the GAO’s work is mandated by federal law.

In particular, the GAO audits government agencies to determine if those agencies are spending money efficiently, investigates allegations of improper activities, reports on how well government programs meet their goals, analyzes proposed policies for Congress, and issues legal decisions and opinions about certain ruling and reports.

Why Does the Government Accounting Office (GAO) Matter?

If the IRS has ever audited you, you know that the federal government is very efficient at collecting revenue. But does it spend that money efficiently? The GAO’s job is to find out and report back to the taxpayers. Learn what the GAO has to say at GAO.gov.

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