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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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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Anthem Customers and Others: Some Advice On Steps To Take After Data Breach | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED (9 Feb.) Retail store data breaches make a mess, but an easy one to clean up and the few consumers who become fraud victims are quickly made whole. The Anthem hackers, on the other hand, reportedly obtained a mother lode of information that could be used to commit a variety of serious frauds, including obtaining your tax refund. Read our tips here. Here's the first: Don't click on any emails claiming to be from Anthem; some may be malicious.

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News Release | US PIRG | Budget

U.S.PIRG advises for stronger standards to track state and local economic subsidies

The Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) called for public comment on proposed rules for reporting on tax abatements that could require states and localities to achieve new levels of checkbook level transparency around economic development programs. Across the U.S. these programs represent tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, often granted with little transparency or accountability for results. In our comment letter to GASB, US PIRG made a few suggestions for amendments that would further strengthen the proposed GASB standards.

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Blog Post | Public Health

House's New Target: All Health, Safety, Financial Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

Following their embarrassment a few weeks ago when a vote on Wall Street rollbacks using "name that post office" procedures failed, the good news is that House leaders are taking a hiatus from attacking financial reform directly this week. The bad news: instead, the House plans to move two proposals placing roadblocks in front of any agency -- from FDA and EPA to the CFPB -- seeking to establish public health, safety or financial safeguards. We're on the case.

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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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With Apple Pay, the tech leader takes its shot at replacing the wallet

We comment in a Washington Post story describing Apple's big product announcements Tuesday. We don't talk about the two new iPhones or even the totally new and much ballyhooed Apple Watch. We talk about Apple Pay, a digital wallet. What are its implications for consumer data security, convenience and choice?

Excerpt: Yet Apple Pay could prove the bigger bet, given its potential to shake up two industries — retail and finance. [...] “Apple’s claiming it’s more secure. We’ll have to see,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

BP Could Take $6.3 Billion Tax Deduction For Gross Negligence In Deepwater Horizon Spill

BP could claim a $6.3 billion tax windfall from settling charges of its gross negligence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster unless the EPA prevents it

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Last week’s other big bank settlement also shifts burden to taxpayers

Goldman Sachs will be able to take a $420 million tax write off on the bank's FHFA settlement for its mortgage misdeeds. A similar settlement paid in 2010 to the SEC specifically prohibited such tax deductions.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Bank of America settlement loophole creates at least $4 billion burden for taxpayers

 The Justice Department allows Bank of America to write off most of its legal settlement for mortgage abuses as a tax deduction, shifting at least $4 billion back onto taxpayers.

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Media Hit | Tax

Bank of America’s $16 Billion Mortgage Settlement Less Painful Than It Looks

“The American public is expecting the Justice Department to hold the banks accountable for its misdeeds in the mortgage meltdown,” said Phineas Baxandall, an analyst with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization. “But these tax write-offs shift the burden back onto taxpayers and send the wrong message by treating parts of the settlement as an ordinary business expense.”

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Chemical Insecurity

Across the United States, thousands of industrial facilities use and store hazardous chemicals in large quantities that pose major risks to their neighbors. More than 100 of these facilities would each put at least one million people at risk of injury or death in the event of a chemical release.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Next Stop: California

As California moves toward construction of a new high-speed rail network, the state has much to learn from experiences abroad. High-speed rail lines have operated for more than 45 years in Japan and for three decades in Europe, providing a wealth of information about what California can expect from highspeed rail and how the state can receive the greatest possible benefits from its investment.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

Delivering on the Promise

The recently passed federal health care reform law will make significant changes in how health insurance and health care work for consumers, businesses, and local and state governments, as well as how insurers and providers operate. But whether Americans experience improved care, lower costs and greater access depends largely on what happens next. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

The Next Trillion: Fiscal Responsibility Through More Accountability

To assist the work of the  President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, U.S. PIRG looked at existing tax code for loopholes, reviewed government reports on wasteful contracting practices and crunched the numbers. We came up with an initial list of ways the government can save the first trillion dollars by enacting common sense policies that advance the public interest.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Out of the Shadows

This study uses data provided to us by the quasi-public agencies in response to public records requests, as well as public audits and online searches, to examine the size and scope of quasi-public agencies in Massachusetts and the extent to which their budgets and decision-making are open to the public.

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Blog Post | Public Health

FDA’s BPA Ban: A Small, Late Step in the Right Direction

Last week the FDA announced a ban on the toxic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) from infant formula packaging. The rule change should provide some comfort to parents — however, it also showcased the FDA’s sluggish pace of action, and demonstrates to states that they shouldn’t wait for federal action to move forward with public health rules on their own.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Banks, Not CFPB, Spy On Consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

As a Tuesday, July 16th Senate showdown vote on the confirmation of Richard Cordray to direct the CFPB approaches, consumer protection opponents continue to make stuff up, such as their latest false claim that its use of data equates it with the NSA. Actually, it's the banks, not the CFPB, spying on consumers.

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Blog Post | Public Health

European Trade Talks Threaten Our Health and Safety | Nasima Hossain

Talks on the European and U.S. trade agreement start this week and are being hailed by both sides as a way to strengthen their lagging economies. But for consumers, lowered trade barriers too often mean the crippling of vital public health and safety rules.

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Blog Post | Tax

Four Reasons Lawmakers Are Scrutinizing How Companies Turn Settlements From Wrongdoing Into Tax Write Offs | Phineas Baxandall

When a company must pay a penalty for wrongdoing, should the public also shoulder a hidden subsidy for the corporation? Four factors are bringing this issue to a head.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

New book on the fight for the CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Two academics have published a book chronicling the PIRG-backed fight to establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as a centerpiece of the Wall Street reforms enacted in 2010. Their history of the largely successful efforts of the coalition Americans for Financial Reform and its work alongside Professor Elizabeth Warren has lessons for all advocates seeking to fight city hall or evil empires.

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Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening these lifesaving medicines. Call on big restaurants to do their part and stop buying meat raised with critical antibiotics.

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