Transparent & Accountable Budgets

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

Blog Post | Budget, Tax

The Country Has Spoken | Jaimie Woo

While the dust is still settling from the mid-term elections and the pundits are trying to figure out what it all means, the American people have made their collective voices heard and delivered a message that they do not like the country's direction. Exit polling data from Election Day showed clear majorities in against growing corporate influence on the political process and in favor of greater corporate accountability. The message is clear: inversions must stop, corporate tax avoidance must end, and special corporate loopholes must close.

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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.

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Blog Post | Budget, Tax

It's Not Over Yet | Jaimie Woo

There are 12 days left before the 2014 election, and campaign efforts have hardly let up. Last-minute donations are flooding in, canvassers are knocking on doors, and organizations are registering young people to vote.

But after November 4, Congress will reconvene, and their work will be far from over.

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Blog Post | Budget, Tax

Recent Inversion Wave Brings on Slew of Outrage - What's Next? | Jaimie Woo

 

Ten years ago, Republicans and Democrats agreed that corporate tax dodging was a problem, and came together to fix it. But large U.S. corporations got trickier — they sought out new ways to get around paying their taxes on U.S. profits, hiring thousands of tax accountants to take advantage of loopholes in our tax code. The recent fix? Corporate inversions.

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

New Bill: No Federal Contracts for Companies that Renounce American Corporate Citizenship to Dodge Taxes

"Changing your address on a piece of paper shouldn’t change your tax bill. Unfortunately, a loophole in our tax code allows American companies to renounce their American corporate citizenship to avoid paying U.S. taxes...at the very least, lawmakers shouldn’t reward this tax dodging gimmick by granting these companies federal contracts."

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

Camp Corporate Tax Proposal Would Make Offshore Tax Dodging Easy for Large Multinationals

At a time when multinational giants are shifting profits offshore at an alarming rate to avoid billions in taxes, Chairman Camp’s bill would make our loophole-ridden corporate tax code even worse. Congress should take aggressive measures to crack down on tax haven abuse – like those put forth by Senator Levin in the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act – instead of expanding the loopholes.

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

Drug Company’s $193M Settlement for Misconduct May Become Big Tax Write-Off

A new factsheet from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group documents how health care and pharmaceutical corporations are able to write off the payments they make to settle charges of wrongdoing, such as fraud, on their taxes.

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

Subsidizing Bad Behavior

BP’s recent $4.5 billion legal settlement with the Justice Department for its misdeeds in the Gulf oil spill was historic for being the largest ever criminal settlement. But it was historic for another reason as well—none of it is allowed to be tax deductible. Unfortunately, too many settlements for wrongdoing end up as tax deductions.

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

What America Could Do With $150 Billion Lost to Offshore Tax Havens

Many corporations and wealthy individuals use offshore tax havens—countries with minimal or no taxes—to avoid paying $150 billion in U.S. taxes each year. By shielding their income from U.S. taxes, corporations and wealthy individuals shift the tax burden to ordinary Americans, who must pick up the tab in the form of cuts to public services, more debt, or higher taxes. The $150 billion lost annually to offshore tax havens is a lot of money, especially at a time of difficult budget choices. To put this sum in perspective, we present 16 potential ways that income could be used.

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

Loopholes for Sale

A new report by U.S. PIRG and Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) found that thirty unusually aggressive tax dodging corporations have made campaign contributions to 524 (98 percent) sitting members of Congress, and disproportionately to the leadership of both parties and to key committee members. The report, Loopholes for Sale: Campaign Contributions by Corporate Tax Dodgers, examines campaign contributions made by a total of 280 profitable Fortune 500 companies in 2006, 2008, 2010 and to date in 2012.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Following the Money 2012

This report is U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s third annual ranking of states’ progress toward “Transparency 2.0” – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility. The past year has seen continued progress, with new states providing online access to government spending information and several states pioneering new tools to further expand citizens’ access to spending information and engagement with government.

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Report | WISPIRG | Budget

WISPIRG Report: Outsourcing Outrages

State leaders have proposed to end the existing requirement for proposals that privatize public functions to show cost-benefit advantages and report on results for Department of Transportation projects over $25,000.  Privatization in other states has sometimes saved the public money, but has often led to huge losses and other problems. Politicians may be enticed by the short-term cash offered by privatization, but citizens of Wisconsin deserve to know that there will not be larger long-term losses.

 

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