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 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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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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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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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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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

Facebook’s Tax Dodge Stands to Make Billions for Company and Zuckerberg

U.S. Senator Carl Levin isn’t necessarily the man you’d look to for the latest news about Facebook. The 77-year old was described by Time magazine as “pudgy, balding and occasionally rumpled, and he constantly wears his glasses at the very tip of his nose.” However, today he broke some shocking news on the Senate floor about special tax favors that Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, will enjoy at great cost to the U.S. Treasury.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

White House Plan to Close Special Interest Tax Loopholes Is the Right Approach to Reform, But Details Matter

Statement by Phineas Baxandall, Senior Tax and Budget Analyst for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, in response to the White House announcement today proposing to eliminate tax loopholes and preferences.

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

House Transportation Bill a Step Backwards, Lacks Serious Funding Mechanism

 

Statement of U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Associate Dan Smith on the House transportation reauthorization bill introduced today.

 

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

Obama: Companies Shouldn’t Dodge Taxes

Statement of US PIRG Tax and Budget Associate Dan Smith on President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

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Media Hit | Budget

The Economist: You’re on film: The trouble with outsourcing traffic-law enforcement

Phineas Baxandall at the US Public Interest Research Group, a non-partisan advocacy, says the trend toward privatising the enforcement of traffic laws poses inherent conflicts of interest. Municipalities typically sign up because they are strapped for cash. When the contract involves revenue-sharing between the vendor and the municipality, there is an incentive to issue more tickets than necessary. But even flat-fee contracts can cause problems, if the system is implicitly tuned to recoup that fee by, in effect, setting a quota of tickets to be issued.

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