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

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

House Tax Writers Vote to Make Offshore Loopholes Permanent

House tax writers voted to renew and making permanent two expired offshore tax loopholes, forcing average taxpayers and small business owners to pick up the tab for tax dodging by many multinationals for years to come. For all of the talk in Washington about getting our fiscal house in order, the Committee did not consider how to pay for these expensive tax breaks.

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

New Report Ranks Transparency of Government Spending in the 50 States

Most states are improving the transparency of government spending, but some do a much better job than others.

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

Following the Money 2014

The fifth annual report card evaluating how well each of the 50 states provide public access to data about government spending shows ongoing advances in transparency across the nation but some states far ahead of others.

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

Offshore Loophole Got Snuck Back in Tax Extenders Bill Behind Closed Doors

After Chairman Wyden took the bold step of striking an egregious offshore tax loophole from his proposed tax extenders bill, it found its way back in with no public debate. The Controlled Foreign Corporation (CFC) Look Through Rule lets multinational giants avoid U.S. taxes by booking profits to shell companies in tax havens like the Cayman Islands. Nixing this loophole would have saved taxpayers over $2 billion over the course of the next two years. We’re encouraged that an amendment to strike this loophole has been filed by Senator Brown (D-OH), and we hope the committee will do right by taxpayers and strike it once again. Close scrutiny reveals that the CFC look through rule serves only one purpose: letting a handful of giant multinationals use sham subsidiaries in tax havens to shirk their tax responsibilities.

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

Bipartisan Legislators Come Together To Expose "Wrongdoing Write Offs"

Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress have introduced bills that would require agencies to disclose when their settlements with corporations allow tax write offs for payments made to resolve charges of wrongdoing.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Enriquez, Visco: Tax deduction benefits BP in blast settlement

Many companies deduct the cost of settlement payments for misdeeds like the Texas City disaster as an ordinary business expense.

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

Record-Breaking JPMorgan Settlement Contains Protections for Taxpayers

Now that the DOJ has protected taxpayers by addressing the tax deductibility of the penalties, U.S. PIRG is calling on the agency to be fully transparent as to why the remainder of the settlement is deductible.  If the remaining $11 billion is fully deducted, taxpayers deserve to know why they will end up picking up the tab for almost $4 billion in lost revenue.

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

Baucus Corporate Tax Proposal Closes Loopholes, but Leaves Incentives to Shift Profits to Offshore Tax Havens

 

Statement of U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Advocate Dan Smith on Senate Finance Committee corporate tax reform discussion draft.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

JPMorgan Settlement Truth in Advertising Sought on Taxes

An aspect of U.S. tax law is being criticized by some lawmakers and consumer groups concerned that it may be worth billions of dollars for JPMorgan Chase & Co in negotiations with the Department of Justice.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Government must shut down corporate tax havens

American citizens continue to bear the brunt of many congressional decisions lately, or perhaps, lack thereof. Congress's inability to grapple with our budget crises ultimately led to a government shutdown and fight over the debt ceiling. Yet one common-sense solution is not difficult to find: stopping the abuse of offshore tax havens that costs us an estimated $150 billion in annual revenue.

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Report | MASSPIRG | Budget

Massachusetts Stimulus Website: What It Tells Us & How It Could Tell Us More

This brief examines how Massachusetts has used its recovery website to provide information about ARRA spending – and describes additional strategies that could improve transparency.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Budget

California Budget Transparency 2.0

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Budget transparency checks corruption, bolsters public confidence in government, and promotes fiscal responsibility.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Budget

California Budget Transparency 2.0

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy.  Budget transparency checks corruption, bolsters public confidence in government, and promotes fiscal responsibility. With the state in the midst of an historic budget crisis, it’s especially important for Californians to have easy access to information about the state’s expenditures. California has taken some steps towards better transparency, but still falls far short of the best practices established by other states.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Privatization and the Public Interest

Chicago has been the most aggressive city in the United States in the privatization of public infrastructure. Chicago must adopt strong public interest protections and embrace greater government transparency before any further privatization of public assets takes place.

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

Economic Stimulus or Simply More Misguided Spending?

President-elect Obama has declared that the next recovery plan must do more than just pump money into the economy. It will also create the infrastructure that America needs for the 21st century. This fall, Congress asked states to submit lists of “ready-to-go” transportation infrastructure projects that could be funded by the stimulus package.

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