Government Transparency

U.S. PIRG believes that budgeting should be open, accountable, and follow long-term planning. Public money should be spent for the most effective pursuit of clear public benefits or to encourage beneficial behaviors undervalued by the market. 

Through Transparency, Shaping A Government Accountable to the People

How government collects and spends money is critically important. Tax and budget decisions are the most concrete way that communities declare priorities and balance competing values.

Unfortunately, government decisions about how to raise revenue and support public functions often fail to best advance the public interest. Too often, public subsidies, tax breaks or special deals are granted to powerful corporate interests at the taxpayers’ expense. When this happens, taxpayers are stuck with the tab, or public resources and services end up threatened.

It is not possible to ensure that government decisions are fair and efficient unless information is publicly accessible. Likewise, public officials and private companies that receive contracts and subsidies must be held to task for their actions. 

Transparency in government spending checks corruption, promotes fiscal responsibility and allows for greater, more meaningful participation in our democratic system. U.S. PIRG is working to advance these goals on a variety of fronts: 

  • Promoting public access to online information about government spending at a detailed "checkbook" level including contracts, subsidies and "off-budget" agencies.
     
  • Ensuring that companies that receive public subsidies are held accountable for delivering clear benefits or required to return public dollars.
     
  • Protecting against bad privatization deals that sell off public assets on the cheap and diminish public control of vital public structures such as toll roads, parking systems and traffic enforcement.

Issue updates

Media Hit | Budget, Tax

New York Times: Paying the Price, But Often Deducting It

[T]here’s more than meets the eye to the big legal settlements you’ve been reading about involving some of the nation’s biggest banks. Actually, there’s less than meets the eye. The dollar signs are big, but they aren’t as big as they look, at least for the banks. That’s because some or all of these payments will probably be tax-deductible. The banks can claim them as business expenses. Taxpayers, therefore, will likely lighten the banks’ loads.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

Do New Mortgage Settlements Contain a Hidden $7 Billion Tax Subsidy for Banks?

Unless federal agencies prevent it, the banks in yesterday's settlement announcements will likely write off the penalties on their taxes, effectively forcing ordinary taxpayer to provide $7 billion in tax subsidies for their wrongdoing.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Report Exposes How Taxpayers Bear Cost of Corporate Settlements

A report released today spotlights a common practice where corporations that commit wrongdoing and agree to financial settlements with the federal government, go on to claim such settlement payments as tax-deductible business expenses. The new study, released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), follows a record year of corporate settlements, while many more settlements relating to banking, environmental, and consumer safety issues are expected.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Subsidizing Bad Behavior

BP’s recent $4.5 billion legal settlement with the Justice Department for its misdeeds in the Gulf oil spill was historic for being the largest ever criminal settlement. But it was historic for another reason as well—none of it is allowed to be tax deductible. Unfortunately, too many settlements for wrongdoing end up as tax deductions.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Washington Post: Government doing more to prevent corporations from deducting settlements

Federal agencies are taking greater steps to prevent companies from claiming tax deductions on settlements reached with the government, though loopholes in the tax code persist, according to a new study by U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

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