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 | 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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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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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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Media Hit | Tax

Your View: Time to end the corporate tax dodge

As summer arrives and hard-working Bay Staters stretch back on sandy shores, many of the corporations that do business here are also taking advantage of places like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands — to dodge their share of taxes. But last week a public hearing at the Statehouse discussed closing a key loophole that currently allows multinational companies to use offshore tax havens to avoid paying Massachusetts taxes.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Budget, Tax

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average MA Taxpayer $1,886 a Year, MA Small Business $6,269

As hardworking Americans file their taxes today, it’s a good time to be reminded of how ordinary taxpayers pick up the tab for the loopholes in our tax laws. 

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News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

New Report: Massachusetts Receives an "A-" in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

Massachusetts received an A- when it comes to government spending transparency, according to “Following the Money 2014: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the fifth annual report of its kind by the MASSPIRG Education Fund. 

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News Release | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Budget, Tax

MA Could Save $79 Million Curbing Offshore Tax Dodging

Massachusetts taxpayers could save $79 million from a simple reform to crack down on offshore tax dodging. MASSPIRG and small businesses owners call for reform.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

JPMorgan should get no tax deduction in settlement deal

Taxpayers should not pay for corporate wrong doing.

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News Release | MASSPIRG | Budget, Tax

Groups call for Transparency and Accountability of Corporate Tax Breaks

MASSPIRG calls on State House Committee to make corporate tax breaks more transparent and accountable.

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Report | MASSPIRG | Budget, Tax

Closing the Billion Dollar Loophole

Massachusetts taxpayers could save $79 million from a simple reform to crack down on offshore tax dodging, according to a new report.

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Report | MASSPIRG | Budget, Tax

Picking Up the Tab 2013

Off Shore Tax Havens Cost Average Massachusetts Taxpayers $1,542 a Year.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

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 | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Getting Our Money's Worth?

The people of Massachusetts deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent, including on tax subsidies for businesses. Full transparency allows citizens to hold lawmakers, government contractors, and recipients of public subsidies accountable. It also promotes fiscal responsibility, checks corruption, and bolsters public confidence in government.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

The Hidden Costs of Offshore Tax Havens

When U.S. corporations and wealthy individuals use offshore tax havens to avoid paying taxes to the federal government, it is an abuse of our tax system. Tax haven abusers benefit from our markets, infrastructure, educated workforce, and security, but they pay next to nothing for these benefits. Ultimately, taxpayers must pick up the tab, either in the form of higher taxes, cuts to public spending priorities, or increased national debt. Massachusetts alone lost $1.66 billion in 2012.

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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 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.

News Release | US PIRG

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."

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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