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

Media Hit | Tax

TV News Investigation About BP Settlement Based on USPIRG Report

WAFF TV News in Alabama investigated and confirmed U.S. PIRG findings that BP is poised to shift much of the cost of its $18.7 billion out-of-court settlement for the Gulf oil spill back onto consumers. The segment's statement from U.S. Senator Shelby unfortunately does not address the problem.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

BP’s $18.7 Settlement Today for Gulf Spill Appears to Be Mostly Tax Deductible

BP's settlement today for the Gulf oil spill appears to contain a huge hidden tax windfall for the company. USPIRG calls on the Justice Department to ensure taxpayers aren't subsidizing the oil giant's misdeeds.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

U.S. PIRG COMMENDS THE BIPARTISAN TRUTH IN SETTLEMENTS ACT AS A WIN FOR AMERICAN TAXPAYERS

U.S. commends a House bill to disclose when agencies allow corporations to write off as a tax deduction the out-of-court settlements they sign with corporations requiring payment to resolve charges of wrongdoing. A counterpart bill was already introduced in the Senate.

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

Concrete, Fair Reforms Submitted to Senate Finance Committee Working Groups

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group today submitted comments to the Senate Finance Committee’s Business Income Tax and International Tax Working Groups, urging lawmakers to close corporate tax loopholes that allow multinational corporations to avoid U.S. tax. 

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News Release | U.S. Public Interest Research Group | Tax

34 Thousand Tell Justice Dept: Deny BP Tax Write Off for Gulf Oil Spill

Today, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group delivered over 34,000 petitions to the Department of Justice calling on the agency to deny British Petroleum (BP) tax deductions for its remaining payments to address the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill. A forthcoming decision to address BP’s liability under the Clean Water Act could earn the company a $4.9 billion tax windfall if the Justice Department signs an out-of-court settlement and fails to specify that the payments are non-deductible.

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Achtung Baby! German Bank Settlement Could Include $490 Million Loophole

As the German-based Commerzbank approaches a settlement agreement to resolve allegations surrounding the bank’s role in illegal money laundering with sanctioned states, the Justice Department will need to forbid tax deductions for this corporate wrongdoing or the bank will likely deduct the payments as an ordinary cost of doing business. In that case, ordinary taxpayers would ultimately shoulder up to $490 million of the deal.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

U.S. PIRG PRAISES BIPARTISAN BILL REINTRODUCTION PROHIBITING TAX WRITE-OFFS FOR WRONGDOING

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jack Reed (D-RI) reintroduced The Government Settlement Transparency and Reform Act, which would restrict the ability for corporations to reap massive tax write-offs from payments made to settle allegations of misconduct or criminal wrongdoing.  

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Media Hit | Tax

How Much of Its Record Settlement Will S&P Write Off at Tax Time?

First comes the settlement. Next comes the tax write-off?

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services on Tuesday announced a record $1.5 billion payout to resolve crisis-era lawsuits with the Justice Department, states and a pension fund over inflated residential mortgage deals. Collectively, the settlement total is 10 times larger than any other previously involving a credit-rating firm.

But how much of the unprecedented round of settlements could end up being written off?

Michelle Surka, a program associate with the nonpartisan consumer advocacy group U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said she thinks she has an answer based on an early analysis: about $290 million.

That’s about a $50 million break on state taxes but also the potential to write down $240 million of federal taxes owed in the more than dozen states involved in the settlement, Ms. Surka said.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

Following the Money

This report evaluates states’ progress toward “Transparency 2.0” – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility. At least 7 states have become leaders in the drive toward Transparency 2.0, launching easy-to-use, searchable Web sites with a wide range of spending transparency information.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Tax

Tax Shell Game 2009

Many of the largest corporations in our country hide profits made in the United States in offshore shell companies and sham headquarters in order to avoid paying billions in federal taxes. The result is massive losses in revenue for the U.S. Treasury – which ultimately must be made up by taxpayers. 

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Tax

Sunshine for California

Corporate tax avoidance leaves taxpaying households to pick up the tab for funding highways, schools, and other public structures. Much of the indirect costs of aggressive tax avoidance are also borne by investors who are unaware of these risky schemes. And everybody suffers when corporate profitability is determined by opportunities for tax evasion rather than efficiency or innovation.

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