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. 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.

> Keep Reading
News Release | US PIRG | Tax

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.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Budget, Tax, Transportation

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Idea | Jaimie Woo

A little more than a year ago, I highlighted the absurdity of using a corporate tax holiday to fund infrastructure. Here's a quick refresher: Currently, large wealthy corporations avoid taxes by making it look as though their U.S. profits are generated offshore - costing Americans $90 billion each year in tax revenue.

> Keep Reading
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.  

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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

Looking Back at 2014: Year of Stocking Stuffers for Criminal Corporations

This was the year that billion-dollar settlements paid by corporations to atone for wrongdoing became normal -- and so many of those deals gave the corporations huge tax write offs at the expense of ordinary taxpayers.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Senator Coburn (R-OK) Slams Corporate Deductions of Legal Damages

Senator Coburn publishes a guide to American taxation that describes how Congress and federal agencies should prevent corporations accused of wrongdoing from writing off their out-of-court settlements as a tax deduction.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Tax deal to put grab bag of tax breaks on the nation's credit card

U.S. PIRG urged the Senate to reject the House’s proposed one-year retroactive tax extender package, which would add approximately $45 billion to the federal deficit, while overwhelmingly catering to special interests and failing to prioritize public benefits

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

U.S. PIRG Urges Treasury Department to Expand Ruling on Inversions

 

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Public Interest Research Group today submitted comments to a ruling issued by The Department of Treasury on corporate inversions. The guidance, released in September, laid out a number of reforms to curb inversions including regulations on “hopscotch” loans and “de-controlling” strategies.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Forex settlements prevent banks from writing off multi-billion dollar payments as tax deductions

The six banks that today announced out-of-court settlements with federal agencies to atone for manipulating foreign exchange markets won't be able to write off those payments as a tax-deductible business expense. Why isn't that always the case?

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Priority Action

We're calling on big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Tell KFC to stop serving meat raised on routine antibiotics.

Support Us

Your donation supports U.S. PIRG’s work to stand up for consumers on the issues that matter, especially when powerful interests are blocking progress.

Consumer Alerts

Join our network and stay up to date on our campaigns, get important consumer updates and take action on critical issues.
Optional Member Code