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

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, 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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

Drug Company’s $193M Settlement for Misconduct May Become Big Tax Write-Off

A new factsheet from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group documents how health care and pharmaceutical corporations are able to write off the payments they make to settle charges of wrongdoing, such as fraud, on their taxes.

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

New Factsheet Outlines How Corporations Get Tax Write-Offs for Consumer Harm

A new factsheet from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group documents how corporations that have been charged with harming consumers through mortgage violations, price-fixing, racial discrimination and other charges have typically been able to write off the cost of their misdeeds on their taxes.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

New Farm Bill Contains Massive Taxpayer Handouts To Big Ag, Last Minute Deal Removed Even Modest Taxpayer Savings

U.S. PIRG urges Congress to vote NO on the Farm Bill. At a time of supposed fiscal caution, this bill would put taxpayers on the hook for another five years of billion-dollar handouts to huge, profitable agribusinesses. Even the most modest reforms to trim subsidies for the largest players were stripped out or watered down at the last second by the chairs of the House and Senate Agricultural Committees.

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

The Hidden Cost of Offshore Tax Havens

In 2011, states lost approximately $39.8 billion in tax revenues from corporations and wealthy individuals who sheltered money in foreign tax havens. Multinational corporations account for more than $26 billion of the lost tax revenue, and wealthy individuals account for the rest.

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

Transparency in City Spending

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence, improves responsiveness, and promotes greater effectiveness and fiscal responsibility.

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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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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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