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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Students React to President's Budget Proposal on Student Loans

While the President’s budget keeps rates low in the near term, we’re disappointed that it risks sky-high interest rates in the long term. The structure of the proposal switches student loan interest rates from a fixed rate to a rate that varies with the market, allowing students to take advantage of temporarily low rates, but offers no protection for students when rates inevitably begin to climb.

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

New Poll: Small Businesses Overwhelmingly Support Closing Offshore Tax Loopholes for Large Corporations

A new scientific poll of small businesses found that small business owners overwhelmingly support closing loopholes that let large multinationals avoid taxes by artificially shifting their profits offshore. 85% of small business owners oppose “a tax system that would allow U.S. multinational corporations to avoid taxes permanently by shifting their income to places like the Cayman Islands.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Federal Government Makes Billions from Student Loan Borrowers Yearly

Today, a coalition of youth and student groups released an issue brief demonstrating that the federal government is making billions in revenue through the federal student loan program. The report projects that student loans will generate over $36 billion in revenue in 2013, in part because of a scheduled July 1 doubling of Stafford loan interest rates.

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Media Hit | Higher Ed

New York Times: Student Loan Rate Set to Rise, Despite Lack of Support

“Higher education loans are meant to subsidize the cost of higher education, not profit from them, especially at a time when students are facing record debt,” said Ethan Senack, the higher education advocate at the United States Public Interest Research Group.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

CFPB Ends Kickbacks by Mortgage Insurers

U.S. PIRG applauds CFPB’s enforcement action, including over $15 million in total penalties, against four mortgage insurers to end the practice of giving kickbacks to mortgage companies to get their business.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Encouraging news on HUD/state AG settlement with big mortgage servicers | Ed Mierzwinski

Update: The terms of the settlement, which was announced this morning, are at the page http://www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com. We are reading it now. Original: If I am reading the overnight news stories correctly (NY TIMES and Politico and Boston Globe), it appears that negotiators have clarified that the well-publicized settlement between HUD and state AGs and the nation's 5 largest mortgage servicers will not release the big banks from claims related to their activities with the mysterious entity known as MERS that aided and abetted their illegal foreclosures. If so, this is a big deal in ultimately holding the big banks fully accountable.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Airline passenger rights reforms finally take off, heading to President's desk | Ed Mierzwinski

PIRG-backed reforms designed to guarantee that passengers stranded in planes sitting on runways are not treated like cattle have been passed by the House and Senate and are expected to be signed by the president as part of FAA reauthorization (New York Times story). The reforms are largely based on the work of former stranded passenger Kate Hanni and her flyersrights.org campaign for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights (Kate's statement).

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Blog Post | Transportation

House Transportation Bills Strikes First as Tragedy, Then as Dangerous Farce

The House introduced additional legislation proposing that new revenue for the Transportation Fund would come through increased volumes of oil drilling and that public transit would be kicked out of the transportation fund. This breaks with three decades of public transit being supported by a small portion of the federal gas tax. The House measure would instead funnel all these funds to highways, and leave mass transit to search for new money from Congress at a time when debt reduction rules require massive cuts to the general budget. If you were trying to make America as addicted to oil as possible, you might design legislation like this.

 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Should Facebook And Google Be Regulated As Credit Bureaus? | Ed Mierzwinski

In a series of joint privacy petitions to the Federal Trade Commission beginning in 2006 and extended more recently to include behavioral targeting, as well as medical and mobile marketing, U.S. PIRG and the Center for Digital Democracy (sometimes with allies) have argued for greater scrutiny and regulation of the online digital marketing and behavioral targeting ecosystem that involves companies you do business with, social networking tools, third-party advertisers and other players. Today, in the New York Times, Professor Lori Andrews says that "Facebook is Using You."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Some Consumer News of the Week, In Case You Missed It | Ed Mierzwinski

It's hard to keep up, so here are some key consumer news stories I am following that you may have missed this week. We start with CALPIRG Education Fund's new "Cell Phone Guide," look at the Consumer Federation of America's report on auto insurance discrimination and take you all the way to the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign survey on what's "good, bad and ugly (rats!)" in NYC subway stations.

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Priority Action

We're teaming up with big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Call on KFC to stop selling meat raised on routine antibiotics.

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