The tax gap - the difference between the amount that taxpayers pay voluntarily and on time and what they should pay - continues to generate congressional hearings and legislative proposals. The most recent data from 46,000 returns examined under the National Research Program show a net gap of $290 billion for the year 2001.

"It's an issue that comes around in cycles," said American Institute of CPAs technical manager Benson Goldstein. "It's an important issue to look at in any event, but what's triggering it now is the focus on the federal budget deficit."

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