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Blog Post | Budget, Tax

New year, fresh start: Congress’s Do’s and Don’ts | Jaimie Woo

Another year has come and gone, and 2015 presents an opportunity to start fresh. With that in mind, it’s time for the newly minted 114th Congress to make the right choices for the public’s interest in its New Year’s resolutions, and making the tax code fairer is a good place to start. 

“Tax reform.” Perhaps you hear these words and your eyes gloss over. It’s long been talked about, but hardly any progress made on the issue in nearly 30 years. However, both the president and Republican Congressional leaders have said they’re willing to make headway by reforming the corporate tax code. Here is a short list of Do’s and Don’ts that puts the public interest first and should form the basis of any agreement:

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News Release | US PIRG | Tax

S&P Settlement Could Leave Taxpayers Partly Underwater Again

Standard & Poor’s (S&P), the bond-rating agency whose past practices have been tied to the mortgage crisis, is in negotiations with the U.S. Justice Department to settle allegations of civil fraud with a payout of over $1 billion. Unless the Justice Department specifically forbids it, the deal could allow S&P to claim the payment as a deductible business expense worth more than $350 million.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

House Passes Two Bills Favored By Wall Street, Harmful to the Public

Statement of Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski: "This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two awful bills on behalf of Wall Street and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. One bill weakens important 2010 financial system reforms designed to prevent another financial system collapse like the one in 2008 that occurred due to Wall Street malfeasance. The second imposes massive roadblocks in front of any agency, from EPA and FDA to the financial regulators, seeking to protect the public's health, safety or wallets. We will seek to block these bills in the Senate and at the White House."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

USPIRG LAUDS CFPB SAFE STUDENT BANKING INITIATIVE

WASHINGTON, DC --   Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched an initiative to protect students from the high banking fees and aggressive marketing surrounding campus bank accounts.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Study Shows Big Donors Dominated Competitive 2014 Congressional Races

U.S. PIRG today released a new study, “The Money Chase: Moving from Big Money Dominance in the 2014 Midterms to a Small Donor Democracy,” at a joint research summit with seven other major money in politics organizations. The study, which was written by U.S. PIRG and Demos, found that the top two vote-getters in the 25 most competitive districts in 2014 got 86 percent of their campaign contributions from individuals giving $200 or more. Only two of the 50 candidates surveyed raised less than 70 percent of their individual contributions from big donors, and seven relied on big donors for more than 95 percent of their individual contributions. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Report Shows Mounting Evidence of Millennials’ Shift Away from Driving

The 2000s saw a marked decrease in the average number of miles traveled by young Americans, and that trend appears likely to continue even as the economy improves, due to the consistency of Millennials’ surveyed preferences, a continued reduction of Millennials driving to work, and the continued decreases in per-capita driving among all Americans.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Extendicare, in $38 Million Elderly Mistreatment Settlement, Gets Go Ahead from Justice Department to Claim Payment as "Ordinary Business Expense"

Today’s Justice Department settlement with Extendicare allows the company to deduct the $38 million payment from its taxes as an “ordinary business expense,” leaving the door open for Extendicare to take a tax windfall of $13.3 million.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Consumer Groups Commend CPSC Step Toward Eliminating Child Strangulations

We join leading child safety advocates to commend U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commisision (CPSC) staff for recommending that the commissioners accept our joint petition to consider adoption of a mandatory rule addressing window blind cord strangulations. At least 7 deaths have occurred in 2014; since 1996, window cord strangulations have resulted in at least 285 serious injuries or deaths.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG Commends Defense Department for Protecting Military Families from Predatory Lenders

Today, we applaud the Department of Defense for its proposal to expand the protections of the 2007 Military Lending Act against predatory financial practices aimed at servicemembers and veterans and their families and that threaten the nation's military preparedness. The proposal also closes loopholes exploited by payday lenders, auto title pawn companies and other lenders to evade the law's intended protections.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

U.S. PIRG statement in response to the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder's Department of Justice negotiated many large settlements to resolve charges of corporate wrongdoing, but he missed an opportunity to leave behind a legacy of increased transparency and public protections against companies writing off settlements as tax deductions.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Demos | Democracy

Billion-Dollar Democracy

The first presidential election since Citizens United lived up to its hype, with unprecedented outside spending from new sources making headlines.

Demos and U.S. PIRG analysis of reports from campaigns, parties, and outside spenders to the Federal Election Commission found that our big money system distorts democracy and creates clear winners and losers.

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

Trouble in Toyland 2012

The 2012 Trouble in Toyland report is the 27th annual U.S. Public Interest Research Group survey of toy safety. In this report, U.S. PIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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Report | Ohio PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Eight Questions about the Future of the Ohio Turnpike

Ohio Governor John Kasich has touted privatization plans for the Ohio Turnpike as a possible way to fund roadway projects around the state that have been stalled by deep budget cutbacks he signed to highway and bridge construction. Ohioans must make sure that eight basic questions have been fully addressed to ensure that fair comparisons are made and hidden costs are considered.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Airlines Pushing Bill To Hide True Cost of Airfare | Ed Mierzwinski

After losing its court case to overturn new pro-consumer, pro-competition airfare price disclosure rules, the airline lobby has flown into Congress. Just before the spring recess, a House committee approved a so-called Transparent Airfares Act without benefit of a public hearing. It's a bad idea.

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Blog Post | Tax

CFPB Gets Results for Consumers...And Taxpayers, Too | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB's latest enforcement action against Bank of America resulted in $727 million of consumer refunds for unfair credit card practices. But taxpayers also benefited, since CFPB told BofA it could not take a tax writeoff on the $25 million civil penalty fine it also was required to pay.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

We Join FTC Event on Big Data E-Scores | Ed Mierzwinski

Companies on the Internet are tracking you with vastly powerful Big Data algorithms to determine what to sell you and for how much and what financial opportunities to offer you. Today at 10am, I join an FTC workshop on Alternative Scoring Products to debate the transparency and fairness of the system with privacy and technology experts from industry, academia and the public interest. You can attend or watch online.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

We testify on data breaches again | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, I testify in the House Financial Services Committee in the latest hearing on the Target data breach. As I did in the Senate last month, I will try to shift the debate from the supposed need for a "uniform national data breach notification standard" to more important issues, such as improving consumer rights when they use unsafe debit cards to ensuring that standards for payment card and card network security are set in an open, fair way that holds banks and card networks accountable for forcing merchants and consumers to rely on inherently unsafe, obsolete magnetic stripe cards.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

While CFPB Takes Action To Aid Consumers, U.S. House Acts Against CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, the CFPB sued ITT, a for-profit school, for a variety of alleged violations, including pressuring students into high-cost predatory loans with little promise of a future job. This morning, I join CFPB leaders for a panel on how it can help fix the credit reporting system. Yet, this afternoon, the House will probably vote to hobble the CFPB in several ways. Go figure.

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