Government Transparency

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, Food, Tax

Groups, Lawmakers Demand Cuts to Ag Subsidies, Deliver Petitions from 278,000 Citizens, 1,000 Small Farmers

Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Tom Petri (R-WI) joined groups from across the political spectrum to deliver petitions and call on Congress to end subsidies to large agribusinesses, which are a part of the Farm Bill that is set to expire at the end of this month. 

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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 | 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

Report Card Ranks 50 States on Transparency of Spending

In Following the Money 2012: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, researchers at the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) graded all 50 states on how well they provide online access to information about government spending. States were given “A” to “F” grades based on the characteristics of the online transparency systems they have created to provide information on contracts, subsidies and spending at quasi-public agencies.

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News Release | Budget

WISPIRG Report: Taxpayer Protections at Risk

As the Wisconsin state senate and assembly consider bills removing the requirement for cost benefit analyses for all WISDOT projects over $25,000, a new WISPIRG report finds that numerous government ventures in privatizing or outsourcing public work have ended up being a bad deal for taxpayers and costing more in the long run.

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

Amendment Passes to Crack Down on Offshore Tax Cheats

 

Statement of U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Associate Dan Smith on the passage of the Senate Amendment 1818 to crack down on offshore tax evaders, introduced by Senators Levin, Conrad, and Whitehouse to the Transportation Bill.

 

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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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