Report: Federal regulations impose $1.9 trillion in costs

Federal regulations impose an estimated $1.9 trillion in costs a year, according to the latest version of an annual report compiled by a public policy organization based in Washington, D.C.

The costs constitute a hidden tax that amounts to nearly $15,000 a year for every household in the United States, said Clyde Wayne Crews Jr., vice president of policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute and author of the report titled “Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State.”

“The federal government has become very savvy in hiding costs by expanding their reach beyond taxes into regulations,” Crews said. “Unfortunately, regulatory costs get little attention in policy debates, because unlike taxes, they are difficult to quantify because they are unbudgeted and often indirect. But the impacts of burdensome regulations are very real and increase costs for consumers and businesses, limiting productivity and a thriving free market.”

Crews uses federal government data, past reports and contemporary studies to estimate the regulatory compliance and economic impacts of federal intervention. Businesses generally pass on the cost of some taxes and regulatory compliance in the prices of products and services and the wages paid to employees.

According to the report, the regulatory compliance costs associated with paying federal taxes alone exceed the $1.82 trillion the Internal Revenue Service expected to collect in both individual and corporate income taxes from 2015.

While 114 laws were enacted by Congress in 2015, 3,410 rules were issued by agencies. That equates to a ratio of 30 rules issued for every law enacted, the report states.

Another 3,297 regulations are in various stages of development by some 60 federal departments, agencies and commissions, the report stated. The Treasury, Commerce, Interior, Health and Human Services and Transportation departments account for 41 percent of all federal regulations.

The 2015 Federal Register contains 80,260 pages, the third-highest page count in its history. Of the seven all-time-highest Federal Register total page counts, six have occurred under the Barack Obama administration, the report stated.

The George W. Bush administration averaged 62 major regulations annually over eight years, while the Obama administration has averaged 81 major regulations annually over seven years, the report stated.