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 Education Fund | Budget, Tax

New Report Ranks Transparency of Government Spending in the 50 States

Most states are improving the transparency of government spending, but some do a much better job than others.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Following the Money 2014

The fifth annual report card evaluating how well each of the 50 states provide public access to data about government spending shows ongoing advances in transparency across the nation but some states far ahead of others.

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

Offshore Loophole Got Snuck Back in Tax Extenders Bill Behind Closed Doors

After Chairman Wyden took the bold step of striking an egregious offshore tax loophole from his proposed tax extenders bill, it found its way back in with no public debate. The Controlled Foreign Corporation (CFC) Look Through Rule lets multinational giants avoid U.S. taxes by booking profits to shell companies in tax havens like the Cayman Islands. Nixing this loophole would have saved taxpayers over $2 billion over the course of the next two years. We’re encouraged that an amendment to strike this loophole has been filed by Senator Brown (D-OH), and we hope the committee will do right by taxpayers and strike it once again. Close scrutiny reveals that the CFC look through rule serves only one purpose: letting a handful of giant multinationals use sham subsidiaries in tax havens to shirk their tax responsibilities.

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

Bipartisan Legislators Come Together To Expose "Wrongdoing Write Offs"

Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress have introduced bills that would require agencies to disclose when their settlements with corporations allow tax write offs for payments made to resolve charges of wrongdoing.

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

Camp Corporate Tax Proposal Would Make Offshore Tax Dodging Easy for Large Multinationals

At a time when multinational giants are shifting profits offshore at an alarming rate to avoid billions in taxes, Chairman Camp’s bill would make our loophole-ridden corporate tax code even worse. Congress should take aggressive measures to crack down on tax haven abuse – like those put forth by Senator Levin in the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act – instead of expanding the loopholes.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

Unlikely Allies Offer Billions in Deficit Reduction Recommendations for Budget Conference Committee

As the Congressional Budget Conference Committee nears its deadline to craft a fiscal plan for the coming years, a new report released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) provides our elected leaders with a solid place to start: over half a trillion dollars’ worth of deficit reduction recommendations with appeal from across the political spectrum in, “Toward Common Ground: Bridging the Political Divide with Deficit Reduction Recommendations for Congress.”

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Enriquez, Visco: Tax deduction benefits BP in blast settlement

Many companies deduct the cost of settlement payments for misdeeds like the Texas City disaster as an ordinary business expense.

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

Record-Breaking JPMorgan Settlement Contains Protections for Taxpayers

Now that the DOJ has protected taxpayers by addressing the tax deductibility of the penalties, U.S. PIRG is calling on the agency to be fully transparent as to why the remainder of the settlement is deductible.  If the remaining $11 billion is fully deducted, taxpayers deserve to know why they will end up picking up the tab for almost $4 billion in lost revenue.

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

Baucus Corporate Tax Proposal Closes Loopholes, but Leaves Incentives to Shift Profits to Offshore Tax Havens

 

Statement of U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Advocate Dan Smith on Senate Finance Committee corporate tax reform discussion draft.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

JPMorgan Settlement Truth in Advertising Sought on Taxes

An aspect of U.S. tax law is being criticized by some lawmakers and consumer groups concerned that it may be worth billions of dollars for JPMorgan Chase & Co in negotiations with the Department of Justice.

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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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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Out of the Shadows

In Massachusetts, quasi-public agencies perform vital government functions, delivering essential services such as operating public buses and rail systems, delivering drinking water and managing public pensions. Because they are not directly accountable to the legislature and exempt from many kinds of public oversight, these agencies should make their decisions and budgets especially open to public scrutiny.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

Following the Money

This report evaluates states’ progress toward “Transparency 2.0” – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility. At least 7 states have become leaders in the drive toward Transparency 2.0, launching easy-to-use, searchable Web sites with a wide range of spending transparency information.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Massachusetts Stimulus Website: What It Tells Us & How It Could Tell Us More

This brief examines how Massachusetts has used its recovery website to provide information about ARRA spending – and describes additional strategies that could improve transparency.

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Report | MASSPIRG | Budget

Massachusetts Stimulus Website: What It Tells Us & How It Could Tell Us More

This brief examines how Massachusetts has used its recovery website to provide information about ARRA spending – and describes additional strategies that could improve transparency.

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