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

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

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Taxpayer $1,026 a Year, Small Businesses $3,067

With Tax Day approaching, it’s a good time to be reminded of where our tax dollars are going. U.S. PIRG released a new study which revealed that the average taxpayer in 2012 would have to shoulder an extra $1,026 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals. The report also found that the average small business would have to pay $3,067 to cover the cost of offshore tax dodging by large corporations.

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

BP Trial Decision May Hinge on Tax Deductibility

The high-stakes negotiations between BP and the Justice Department may depend on how determined the Department is to protect taxpayers from subsidizing a settlement. In the past, agencies have allowed companies to write off legal settlements over wrongdoing as a tax deduction. Doing so forces taxpayers to ultimately foot the bill for these deductions. Every dollar these companies avoid paying gets made up through cuts to public programs, higher national debt, or increases to other taxes.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Sacramento Bee: Tax Havens Let Billions Vanish Into Thin Air

Just how much state lawmakers across America shift the burden of supporting government off the wealthiest individuals and largest multinational corporations and down the income ladder is the focus of a pioneering analysis by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

New York Times: Paying the Price, But Often Deducting It

[T]here’s more than meets the eye to the big legal settlements you’ve been reading about involving some of the nation’s biggest banks. Actually, there’s less than meets the eye. The dollar signs are big, but they aren’t as big as they look, at least for the banks. That’s because some or all of these payments will probably be tax-deductible. The banks can claim them as business expenses. Taxpayers, therefore, will likely lighten the banks’ loads.

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

Do New Mortgage Settlements Contain a Hidden $7 Billion Tax Subsidy for Banks?

Unless federal agencies prevent it, the banks in yesterday's settlement announcements will likely write off the penalties on their taxes, effectively forcing ordinary taxpayer to provide $7 billion in tax subsidies for their wrongdoing.

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

Report Exposes How Taxpayers Bear Cost of Corporate Settlements

A report released today spotlights a common practice where corporations that commit wrongdoing and agree to financial settlements with the federal government, go on to claim such settlement payments as tax-deductible business expenses. The new study, released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), follows a record year of corporate settlements, while many more settlements relating to banking, environmental, and consumer safety issues are expected.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Washington Post: Government doing more to prevent corporations from deducting settlements

Federal agencies are taking greater steps to prevent companies from claiming tax deductions on settlements reached with the government, though loopholes in the tax code persist, according to a new study by U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

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

First Step to Avoid the Fiscal Cliff: Close Offshore Tax Loopholes

With Congress scrambling to agree on ways to reduce the deficit, U.S. PIRG released a new analysis pointing out a clear first step to avoid the “fiscal cliff”: closing offshore tax loopholes. Many of America’s largest corporations and wealthiest individuals use accounting gimmicks to shift profits made in America to offshore tax havens, where they pay little to no taxes. This tax avoidance costs the federal government an estimated $150 billion in tax revenue each year.  U.S. PIRG’s new data illustrates the size of this loss with 16 dramatic ways $150 billion could be spent.

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Report | TexPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Six Public Interest Principles for Considering Private Toll Roads in Texas

Plans for the state of Texas to sign concession deals for privately operated toll roads present a number of dangers for the public interest. Giving long-term control of our roads to a private operator and granting them future toll revenues is a huge commitment that should not be taken lightly. Regardless of whether a deal is with a public or private operator, no concession should be approved that fails to uphold any of six basic principles.

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Report | NJPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Caution on New Jersey Turnpike and Parkway Deal

A deal to “monetize” the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway should not be signed if it violates the public interest. No deal should be approved that fails to uphold any of six basic principles: public control, fair value, no deal longer than 30 years, state-of-the-art safety and maintenance standards, complete transparency and accountability, and no budget gimmicks.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Budget

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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