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 | Budget

Statement on the President's State of the Union Address

The State of the Union address is the President's opportunity to articulate his priorities.  In a time of divided government, action on many of the President's priorities will require an agreement with Congress.  However, it is notable the range of issues raised by the President where he and his Administration can take action independent of Congress. We list our U.S. PIRG position on key highlights:

> Keep Reading
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:

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Budget, Tax

The Country Has Spoken | Jaimie Woo

While the dust is still settling from the mid-term elections and the pundits are trying to figure out what it all means, the American people have made their collective voices heard and delivered a message that they do not like the country's direction. Exit polling data from Election Day showed clear majorities in against growing corporate influence on the political process and in favor of greater corporate accountability. The message is clear: inversions must stop, corporate tax avoidance must end, and special corporate loopholes must close.

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

U.S. PIRG Urges Treasury Department to Expand Ruling on Inversions

 

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Public Interest Research Group today submitted comments to a ruling issued by The Department of Treasury on corporate inversions. The guidance, released in September, laid out a number of reforms to curb inversions including regulations on “hopscotch” loans and “de-controlling” strategies.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Budget, Tax

It's Not Over Yet | Jaimie Woo

There are 12 days left before the 2014 election, and campaign efforts have hardly let up. Last-minute donations are flooding in, canvassers are knocking on doors, and organizations are registering young people to vote.

But after November 4, Congress will reconvene, and their work will be far from over.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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

New Bill: No Federal Contracts for Companies that Renounce American Corporate Citizenship to Dodge Taxes

"Changing your address on a piece of paper shouldn’t change your tax bill. Unfortunately, a loophole in our tax code allows American companies to renounce their American corporate citizenship to avoid paying U.S. taxes...at the very least, lawmakers shouldn’t reward this tax dodging gimmick by granting these companies federal contracts."

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Ed Fund & Citizens for Tax Justice | Budget, Tax

Study: 70% of Fortune 500 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2013

Tax loopholes encouraged more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies to maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens as of 2013, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Citizens For Tax Justice. Collectively, the companies reported booking nearly $2 trillion offshore for tax purposes, with just 30 companies accounting for 62 percent of the total, or $1.2 trillion.

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

House Tax Writers Vote to Make Offshore Loopholes Permanent

House tax writers voted to renew and making permanent two expired offshore tax loopholes, forcing average taxpayers and small business owners to pick up the tab for tax dodging by many multinationals for years to come. For all of the talk in Washington about getting our fiscal house in order, the Committee did not consider how to pay for these expensive tax breaks.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Budget

Our Taxpayer Dollars: Going to Waste and Wealthy Corporations | Jaimie Woo

 

Congress just passed a Farm Bill that will put taxpayers on the hook for another five years of billion-dollar handouts to huge, wealthy agribusinesses. Even the most modest reforms to trim subsidies were stripped out or watered down at the last second by the chairs of the House and Senate Agricultural Committees.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Budget, Tax

Webinar for State Officials on Spending Transparency | Phineas Baxandall

U.S. PIRG Education Fund conducted a webinar with officials from 31 states on ways to improve online spending transparency.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Budget

Problems With Privatized Law Enforcement's New Frontier | Phineas Baxandall

One in five Americans lives in a jurisdiction that outsources traffic ticketing this way, according to a newly released report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, titled "Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead; The Risks of Privatizing Traffic Law Enforcement and How to Protect the Public." And a report released by the Justice Department suggests this trend may accelerate under the twin pressures of budget pressure and intense lobbying.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Budget

How Much Did You Pay for Tax Dodging Corporations? | Phineas Baxandall

Yesterday, millions of Americans rushed to the post office to file their federal income tax returns. For all of us, the checks we wrote were an average of $434 higher because of the burden we are forced to shoulder for major corporations and wealthy individuals who use offshore tax havens to avoid paying their share.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Support Us

Your donation supports U.S. PIRG’s work to stand up for consumers on the issues that matter, especially when powerful interests are blocking progress.

Consumer Alerts

Join our network and stay up to date on our campaigns, get important consumer updates and take action on critical issues.
Optional Member Code