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 Ed Fund & Citizens for Tax Justice | Budget, Tax

Study: 70% of Fortune 500 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2013

Tax loopholes encouraged more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies to maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens as of 2013, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Citizens For Tax Justice. Collectively, the companies reported booking nearly $2 trillion offshore for tax purposes, with just 30 companies accounting for 62 percent of the total, or $1.2 trillion.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Ed Fund & Citizens for Tax Justice | Budget, Tax

Offshore Shell Games 2014

Tax loopholes encouraged more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies to maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens as of 2013, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Citizens For Tax Justice. Collectively, the companies reported booking nearly $2 trillion offshore for tax purposes, with just 30 companies accounting for 62 percent of the total, or $1.2 trillion.

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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

Unlikely Allies Offer Billions in Deficit Reduction Recommendations for Budget Conference Committee

As the Congressional Budget Conference Committee nears its deadline to craft a fiscal plan for the coming years, a new report released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) provides our elected leaders with a solid place to start: over half a trillion dollars’ worth of deficit reduction recommendations with appeal from across the political spectrum in, “Toward Common Ground: Bridging the Political Divide with Deficit Reduction Recommendations for Congress.”

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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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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | 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 | 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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