No Tax Write-Offs For Wrongdoing

END WRITE OFFS FOR WRONGDOING

Paying for misdeeds shouldn’t be a tax write off. Unlike regular citizens and small businesses, large corporations accused of wrongdoing like oil spills and mortgage scams typically negotiate out-of-court settlements to resolve charges from government regulators. The company agrees to make a payment and the government agency agrees not to prosecute the alleged misdeed. Annually, billions of dollars are exchanged between corporations accused of crimes and government agencies attempting to hold them accountable.

These settlements shouldn’t just be another cost of doing business.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what these payments often end up being. 

Unless agencies specify otherwise, these corporations usually deduct the costs of out-of-court settlements on their taxes as ordinary business expenses, leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab. 

Especially when Congress is struggling to reduce budget shortfalls, every dollar that corporate wrongdoers avoid paying by deducting a settlement must be made up for through higher tax rates for others, cuts to public programs, or an increase in the national debt.

The public often can’t even know when these settlement agreements come with a tax deduction because there are no standards for transparency. Government agencies aren’t required to publish the settlement agreements or publicly post the details, and corporations don’t disclose whether or not they deduct the payments from their taxes.

That’s how Bank of America, accused of consumer fraud that contributed to the financial crisis, can write off up to $11 billion of their recent settlement agreement and leave taxpayers to pick up the tab, with no one the wiser.

THERE IS A SOLUTION

We’re calling on Congress to pass bipartisan common-sense legislation to restrict write offs for wrongdoing. We are also supporting a bipartisan bill to make settlement agreements between government agencies and corporations more transparent, so that Americans can know the real value of the deals being signed on their behalf. In the meantime, we’re pushing agencies to update their settlement policies and deny tax deductions for corporate misbehavior. 

Issue updates

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

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Small Businesses on Average $5,128 a Year

Small businesses in the U.S. have to shoulder, on average, an extra $5,128 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the abuse of offshore tax havens by multinational corporations, according to a new report by U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. As a new administration takes office and the possibility of tax reform again enters the national conversation, the report highlights how it’s small domestic businesses and ordinary Americans that have to shoulder the burden of multinational tax avoidance.

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

Picking Up the Tab 2016

Every year, corporations and wealthy individuals use complicated gimmicks to shift U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens – countries with minimal or no taxes – in order to reduce their federal and state income tax liability by billions of dollars. While tax haven abusers benefit from America’s markets, public infrastructure, educated workforce, security and rule of law – all supported in one way or another by tax dollars – they avoid paying their fair share for these benefits.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

U.S. PIRG Statement on Treasury Rule to Limit Corporate Tax Avoidance

Statement from U.S. PIRG advocate Michelle Surka on new Treasury Department rule to limit multinational corporate tax avoidance:Statement from U.S. PIRG advocate Michelle Surka on new Treasury Department rule to limit multinational corporate tax avoidance.

 

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

Study: 73% of Fortune 500 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2015

In 2015, more than 73 percent of Fortune 500 companies maintained subsidiaries in offshore tax havens, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Collectively, multinationals reported booking $2.5 trillion offshore, with just 30 companies accounting for 66 percent of this total. By indefinitely stashing profits in offshore tax havens, corporations are avoiding up to $717.8 billion in U.S. taxes. 

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

Offshore Shell Games 2016

U.S.-based multinational corporations are allowed to play by a different set of rules than small and domestic businesses or individuals when it comes to paying taxes. Corporate lobbyists and their congressional allies have riddled the U.S. tax code with loopholes and exceptions that enable tax attorneys and corporate accountants to book U.S. earned profits to subsidiaries located in offshore tax haven countries with minimal or no taxes.

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

Study: 73% of Fortune 500 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2015

In 2015, more than 73 percent of Fortune 500 companies maintained subsidiaries in offshore tax havens, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Collectively, multinationals reported booking $2.5 trillion offshore, with just 30 companies accounting for 66 percent of this total. By indefinitely stashing profits in offshore tax havens, corporations are avoiding up to $717.8 billion in U.S. taxes. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

U.S. PIRG supports Rep. Pocan's New Legislation to Expose Multinational Tax Dodgers

Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) introduced H.R. 6126, the Corporate Transparency and Accountability (CTA) Act which addresses rampant corporate tax evasion. The bill will require multinational corporations to provide the Securities and Exchange Commission with income and tax information on a country-by-country basis, and will make that offshore financial information available to the public.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group | Tax

Following the Money 2016: New Report Ranks All Fifty States on Government Spending Transparency

Government spending transparency is improving, but many states still lag far behind, according to “Following the Money 2016: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the sixth annual report of its kind by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. Some states have improved their spending transparency web portals significantly, earning perfect scores in this year’s report, while others are still barely achieving the minimum standards.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

U.S. PIRG Statement in Response to Finalized BP Oil Spill Settlement

A statement by Michelle Surka, U.S. Public Interest Research Group Program Associate, regarding the recently finalized BP Gulf Oil Spill Settlement:

 

“Though we are glad that the protracted settlement to address BP’s actions in relation to the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill has finally concluded, and injured parties can begin to be made whole again, we are disappointed that BP will yet again be able to claim its settlement payments as ordinary cost of doing business tax deductions.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

U.S. PIRG Opposes Congressional Deal to Extend and Make Permanent Tax Breaks Costing $830 Billion Without Paying for Them

U.S. PIRG urges the Congress to reject the proposed budget and tax break deal announced late Tuesday. The deal extends or makes permanent about 50 tax breaks that add $830 billion to the deficit over 10 years. The proposed deal does not pay for any of these new costs. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Offshore Shell Games

This study reveals that tax haven use is ubiquitous among the largest 100 publicly traded companies as measured by revenue. 82 of the top 100 publicly traded U.S. companies operate subsidiaries in tax haven jurisdictions, as of 2012. All told, these 82 companies maintain 2,686 tax haven subsidiaries.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

Picking Up the Tab 2013

Tax haven abuse costs the United States approximately $150 billion in tax revenues every year. Even when tax haven abusers act perfectly legally, they force other Americans to shoulder their tax burden. The average U.S. tax filer would need to pay $1,026 in additional taxes to make up for lost revenue from tax havens. To pick up the tab for the taxes avoided by multinational corporations, the average small business in the United States would need to pay an average of $3,067 each in additional taxes.

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

Following the Money 2013

Every year, state governments spend tens of billions of dollars through contracts with private entities for goods and services, subsidies to encourage economic development, grants, and other forms of spending. Accountability and public scrutiny are necessary to ensure that state funds are well spent.

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

The Hidden Cost of Offshore Tax Havens

In 2011, states lost approximately $39.8 billion in tax revenues from corporations and wealthy individuals who sheltered money in foreign tax havens. Multinational corporations account for more than $26 billion of the lost tax revenue, and wealthy individuals account for the rest.

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

Transparency in City Spending

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence, improves responsiveness, and promotes greater effectiveness and fiscal responsibility.

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Blog Post | Tax

CFPB Gets Results for Consumers...And Taxpayers, Too | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB's latest enforcement action against Bank of America resulted in $727 million of consumer refunds for unfair credit card practices. But taxpayers also benefited, since CFPB told BofA it could not take a tax writeoff on the $25 million civil penalty fine it also was required to pay.

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Blog Post | Budget, Tax

Webinar for State Officials on Spending Transparency

U.S. PIRG Education Fund conducted a webinar with officials from 31 states on ways to improve online spending transparency.

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Blog Post | Tax

Four Reasons Lawmakers Are Scrutinizing How Companies Turn Settlements From Wrongdoing Into Tax Write Offs

When a company must pay a penalty for wrongdoing, should the public also shoulder a hidden subsidy for the corporation? Four factors are bringing this issue to a head.

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Blog Post | Tax, Transportation

Senate Transportation Bill Stretches Dollars by Ending Hidden Subsidies and Cracking Down on Tax Dodgers

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Blog Post | Tax

What Do Jon Stewart, Elizabeth Warren, and Barack Obama Have In Common? | Dan Smith

All three of them spoke out this week against corporate tax dodging.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama called for an economy where “everyone plays by the same set of rules” and where companies can’t avoid taxes by shifting profits overseas. That same night, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren went on the Daily Show and called out 30 corporations that a recent U.S. PIRG and Citizens for Tax Justice study found paid more to lobby Congress than they did in federal income taxes. When Warren told this to John Stewart on the Daily Show, it made the usually unflappable comedian’s jaw drop.

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