Campaign for Budget Transparency

IMPROVING TRANSPARENCY, IMPROVING ACCOUNTABILITY—The ability to see how government collects and spends money is fundamental to a thriving, participatory democracy.

Let The Public Follow the Money

Public budgets are the most concrete expression of public values and priorities—articulated in dollars and cents. As states grapple with difficult decisions to make budgetary ends meet, opening the state checkbook to the public provides an important tool that allows both citizens and civil servants to make informed choices.

Unfortunately, too often public subsidies, tax breaks or special deals are granted to powerful corporate interests at the taxpayers’ expense. When this happens, Massachusetts residents are stuck with the tab, or public resources and services end up threatened.

Transparency in government spending checks corruption, promotes fiscal responsibility and allows for greater, more meaningful participation in our democratic system.

MASSPIRG is working to make all government spending and budgeting fully transparent, on an easy-to-use and comprehensive website.

While the Commonwealth has made significant improvements since we started our campaign in providing public access to state spending and revenue on the Transparency Massachusetts website, even earning an A in our Following the Money 2015 report,  there is still more to do, including providing more budget information on all quasi-public agencies, tax expenditures, and municipalities, as well as access to all contracts.

Issue updates

News Release | US PIRG | Tax

U.S. PIRG Statement on House Tax Bill

Below is a statement from U.S. PIRG Program Advocate Michelle Surka on the proposed House tax bill's impacts on our debt:

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, introduced this morning in the House, is an exercise in fiscal recklessness, exploding the budget deficit while failing to close the biggest tax loopholes and relying on gimmicks to obscure the impact on the national debt. Rather than make prudent trade-offs to achieve the President's promised tax cuts, this bill twists itself into knots attempting to distract from the bottom line: it will add trillions to our deficit."

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News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Tax

OFFSHORE TAX HAVENS COST AVERAGE MA SMALL BUSINESS $5,845 A YEAR

Small business in Massachusetts would have to shoulder an extra $5,845 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the abuse of offshore tax havens by multinational corporations, according to a new report by MASSPIRG Education Fund. 

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Report | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Tax

Picking Up the Tab

As a new administration takes office and the possibility of tax reform again enters the national conversation, the report highlights how it’s small domestic businesses and ordinary Americans that have to shoulder the burden of multinational tax avoidance.

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News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Tax

Study: List of Fortune 500 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2015

List of Fortune 500 companies using off shore tax havens to dodge taxes. 

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Report | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Tax

Offshore Shell Games 2016

New report shows which Fortune 500 companies stashed over $2 trillion in profits to avoid paying more than 200 billion in taxes.

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Media Hit | Tax

These eight Massachusetts companies have used offshore tax havens

 Tax havens are legal, but proponents of tax reform say eight companies headquartered in Massachusetts are using them and costing the state millions of dollars in revenue.

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Tax

Study: 72% of Fortune 500 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2014

 

Tax loopholes encouraged more than 72 percent of Fortune 500 companies – including 8 companies head quartered in Massachusetts – to maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens as of 2014, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by MASSPIRG 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 65 percent of the total, or $1.35 trillion.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Tax

Deepwater Horizon Settlement Comes with $5.35 Billion Tax Windfall

Today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice of a proposed $20.8 billion out-of-court settlement with BP to resolve charges related to the Gulf Oil spill allows the corporation to write off $15.3 billion of the total payment as an ordinary cost of doing business tax deduction. The majority of the settlement is comprised of tax deductible natural resource damages payments, restoration, and reimbursement to government, with just $5.5 billion explicitly labeled a non-tax-deductible Clean Water Act penalty. This proposed settlement would allow BP to claim $5.35 billion as a tax windfall, significantly decreasing the public value of the agreement, and nearly offsetting the cost of the non-deductible penalty.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Tax

Following the Money 2016

 

State governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year through contracts for goods and services, subsidies to encourage economic development, and other expenditures. Public accountability helps ensure that state funds are spent as wisely as possible.

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Report | For Immediate Release | Tax

SETTLING FOR A LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY?

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Tax

Biggest Tax Dodgers

 U.S.-based multinational corporations are allowed to play by a different set of rules than small and domestic businesses or individuals when it comes to the tax code. Rather than paying their full share, many multinational corporations use accounting tricks to pretend for tax purposes that a substantial portion of their profits are generated in offshore tax havens, countries with minimal or no taxes where a company’s presence may be as little as a mailbox. Multinational corporations’ use of tax havens allows them to avoid an estimated $90 billion in federal income taxes each year.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Tax

Offshore Shell Games 2015

U.S.-based multinational corporations are allowed to play by a different set of rules than small and domestic businesses or individuals when it comes to the tax code. Rather than paying their full share, many multinational corporations use accounting tricks to pretend for tax purposes that a substantial portion of their profits are generated in offshore tax havens, countries with minimal or no taxes where a company’s presence may be as little as a mailbox. Multinational corporations’ use of tax havens allows them to avoid an estimated $90 billion in federal income taxes each year.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Tax

Picking Up the Tab 2015

Every year, corporations and wealthy individuals use complicated gimmicks to shift U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens – countries with minimal or no taxes – in order to reduce their federal and state income tax liabilities by billions of dollars. While tax haven abusers benefit from America’s markets, public infrastructure, educated workforce, security and rule of law – all supported in one way or another by tax dollars – they continue to avoid paying for these benefits. 

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Blog Post | Budget, Health Care

Testimony in Opposition to an Act Relative to Restaurant Rejuvenation | Deirdre Cummings

The Prescription Drug and Medical Device Ban is an important consumer protection law aimed at driving down our highest-in-the-nation, spiraling health care costs by reining in the drug and medical device industries’ aggressive marketing tactics. Among other things, the law bans gifts and/or payments of more than $50, including restaurant meals and entertainment, to physicians and other prescribers, from drug and medical device companies.

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Blog Post | Budget

Testomony is support of Transparency in State Revenues and Expenditures | Deirdre Cummings

The Commonwealth should become a leader in budget transparency. Doing so will help rebuild the frayed public trust in government. It will help us make better choices together about investments in our community.

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Blog Post | Budget

Testimony urging inclusion of budget transparency recommendations on ethics reforms | Deirdre Cummings

"I am here today to urge you to include transparency – in particular – budget transparency, in this committees recommendations on ethics reforms..."

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Blog Post | Budget, Tax

In favor of Closing Corporate Tax Loopholes Included in Bill #s 4499 & 3756 | Deirdre Cummings

Whether you support raising or lowering the corporate tax rate, restoring the integrity of our tax system by closing gaps in the rules should not be held hostage to separate issues about the appropriate tax rate. Imagine the uproar if Barry Bonds had told Major League Baseball that he’d be willing to give up steroids if the home run fences were moved in far enough.

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News Release | MASSPIRG

BOSTON -- Too many corporations dodge both state and federal taxes by shifting U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. However, a State House legislative committee held a public hearing today on a new bill that could help the state recoup $699 million dollars even without further reforms from Congress. The bill, HB 3787, An Act relative to tax havens and complete reporting, filed by Representative Josh Cutler (Duxbury), would move the state to a “Complete Reporting” system, eliminating loopholes that allow companies to book profits made in the state offshore.

News Release | MASSPIRG

BOSTON -- Too many corporations dodge both state and federal taxes by shifting U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. However, a bill introduced on Beacon Hill could help the state recoup $699 million dollars even without further reforms from Congress. The bill, HD 1089, An Act relative to tax havens and complete reporting, filed by Representative Josh Cutler (Duxbury), would move the state to a “Complete Reporting” system, eliminating loopholes that allow companies to book profits made in the state offshore.

Report | MASSPIRG

Every year, corporations use complicated schemes to shift U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens—countries with minimal or no taxes—in order to reduce their state and federal income tax liability by billions of dollars. This new report outline how states can prevent this practice. 

Blog Post

New story in the Boston Globe today found at least 19 "quasi-public" agencies in Massachusetts failed to publish millions of dollars in payroll and spending data on the state's transparency website as required by a MASSPIRG backed 2010 law that mandated the public disclosures. 

Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund

Massachusetts received a “B-” for its government spending transparency website, according to “Following the Money 2018: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the eighth report of its kind.

Budget | U.S. PIRG

Blueprint for tomorrow

Our report highlights which investments will alleviate the most dire problems America faces as a result of crumbling or outdated infrastructure.

 
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