Transparent & Accountable Government

AVOIDING BAD DEALS — Illinois PIRG volunteers set up in front of City Hall to raise awareness of the need for government transparency. The long-term impact on Chicago taxpayers resulting from the parking meter privatization might have been avoided had city officials been transparent about the plan and given citizens a chance to influence the terms of the lease before it was approved.

BUDGET DEALS AND THE PUBLIC INTEREST

As our cities and state confront budget deficits, accountability and transparency should be the rule. That includes avoiding budget gimmicks like last-minute privatization deals and borrowing against future tax revenues (called tax increment financing) to give handouts to special interests.

From Springfield to local City Halls, Illinois PIRG advocates improving fiscal policy to stop special-interest giveaways, increase budget transparency and accountability, eliminate waste, and ensure that subsidies or tax breaks serve the public.

Specifically, Illinois PIRG is working to protect the public from bad deals in so-called tax increment financing by:

  1. Making sure that any borrowing against future tax revenue is targeted and temporary. This policy should only be used in service of a specific development strategy, and it should only be directed to areas in special need of development, and for projects that are unlikely to occur without public intervention and with a defined time limit.
  2. Subsidy recipients must be held accountable for meeting goals. Contract agreements should include measurable targets for success and regular performance reviews. And if development promises are not fulfilled, municipalities should be able to demand the return of some or all of the money.
  3. Information on these deals must be transparent. Because of the long-term implications, the decision to borrow against future tax revenues should come with the highest level of transparency and public participation. Citizens must have the tools to evaluate the benefits and trade-offs in their own community. 

Read more on our blog, Tax Dollars and Sense.

Issue updates

Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund and Citizens for Tax Justice | Tax

Offshore Shell Games 2014

Many large U.S.-based multinational corporations avoid paying U.S. taxes by using accounting tricks to make profits made in America appear to be generated in offshore tax havens—countries with minimal or no taxes. By booking profits to subsidiaries registered in tax havens, multinational corporations are able to avoid an estimated $90 billion in federal income taxes each year. These subsidiaries are often shell companies with few, if any employees, and which engage in little to no real business activity.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Tax

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

Tax loopholes encouraged more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies – including Abbot Labs and Caterpillar – to maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens as of 2013, according to the report “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by Illinois 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 | Illinois PIRG | Tax

Taxpayers Win, as Justice Department Blocks Credit Suisse Tax Write Off

On Tuesday, the Justice Department acted in the best interests of taxpayers by blocking Credit Suisse from writing off their $2.6 billion settlement for aiding tax evasion. The unpublicized stipulation will likely save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by preventing the bank from treating the payment as an ordinary business cost on its taxes.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Tax

Close corporate tax loopholes

"Many U.S.-based multinationals, which do their business here in the U.S. using our infrastructure and educated workforce, can make profitsearned here appear on the books in offshore tax havens. This tax haven abuse costs us $90 billion each year."

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Tax

Poll: Public Wants Federal Agencies to Disclose and Restrict Corporate Tax Write Offs for Out-of-Court Settlements

A new poll released today confirms what has long been apparent: The public overwhelmingly disapproves of corporations taking tax write offs for out-of-court settlements for wrongdoing, and has a strong preference for federal agencies to be both more transparent and more restrictive of tax deductions for future settlements. Substantial majorities across party lines would support reforms and greater transparency.

> Keep Reading

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News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Tax

Illinois could save $108 million with simple, proven method to curb offshore tax dodging, new study finds

A simple reform, which has already been proven effective in Montana and passed in Oregon, would require companies to treat profits booked to notorious tax havens as domestic taxable income.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG | Tax

Regulators Disallow Tax Deduction for JPMorgan’s $1.7 Billion Settlement, Saving Taxpayers Close to $600 Million

In a win for taxpayers, the $2 billion settlement with JPMorgan for its role in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme will NOT be tax deductible, saving taxpayers as much as $595 million.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG | Tax

No Madoff Write-off For JPMorgan

Americans don’t deduct their parking tickets or library fines from their taxes. Corporations like JPMorgan shouldn’t be able to deduct their settlements for wrongdoing either.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG | Tax

Record-breaking JPMorgan Settlement Contains Protections for Taxpayers

The Department of Justice Specifically Disallows Tax Deductibility of JPMorgan’s $2 Billion Fine, Allows Deduction for Remainder of Settlement.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG | Tax

Statement: JPMorgan Shouldn’t Get Tax Break for “London Whale” Settlement

JPMorgan could get a $35 million tax deduction from its $100 million settlement with Commodity Futures Trading Commission unless the regulator explicitly forbids it.

> Keep Reading

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead

Privatized traffic law enforcement systems are spreading rapidly across the United States. But when private firms and municipalities consider revenues first, and safety second, the public interest is threatened.

> Keep Reading
Report | Illinois PIRG | Budget, Tax

Toward Common Ground

To break through the ideological divide that has dominated Washington this past year and offer a pathway to address the nation’s fiscal problems, the National Taxpayers Union and U.S. PIRG joined together to identify mutually acceptable deficit reduction measures.

> Keep Reading
Report | Illinois PIRG | Budget, Tax

Shining a Light on Tax Increment Financing in Chicago

This report gives an initial snapshot of how well the Mayor’s office is doing in introducing transparency to tax increment financing (TIF) by examining how well critical information has been made available on the TIF transparency website.

> Keep Reading
Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Tax Shell Game

Tax havens are countries with minimal or no taxes, to which U.S.-based multinational firms or individuals transfer their earnings to avoid paying taxes in the United States. Users of tax havens benefit from access to America’s markets, workforce, infrastructure and security, but pay little or nothing for it—violating the basic fairness of the tax system.

> Keep Reading
Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Tax

Following the Money 2011

This report is Illinois PIRG Education Fund’s second annual ranking of states’ progress toward “Transparency 2.0” – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Tax

Midway Airport Lease Resurgence | Celeste Meiffren

Is the deal to lease Midway Airport to a private company coming back?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Tax

A More Transparent Cook County | Celeste Meiffren

Yesterday, Cook County released an unprecedented amount of data on their website: http://data.cookcountyil.gov/.

Using the same technology as the City of Chicago's Data Portal, Cook County has posted data related to economic development, county finances, public safety, property and taxation, and more.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Budget, Tax

Wait, what is TIF? | Celeste Meiffren

I was at a BBQ this weekend for Labor Day and a friend of mine told me that she had been reading 'Tax Dollars and Sense,' but was embarrassed because she had no idea what tax increment financing is. That's understandable.

So, in an effort to hold up the "sense" part of this blog, here is a quick breakdown of what a TIF is and how it works.

> Keep Reading

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News Release | U.S.PIRG

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio has devised a creative way to ensure that Americans can maintain their quality of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the nature of work changes.

News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund

Every year, corporations use complicated schemes to shift U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens which helps them dodge both state and federal taxes. Reforms to end tax dodging in Illinois would reduce revenue loss by $1.3 billion, according to a new report called “A Simple Fix for a $17 Billion Loophole,” released today by Illinois PIRG Education Fund.

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."

News Release | Illinois PIRG

In 2016, 73 percent of Fortune 500 companies – including 34 headquartered in Illinois - maintained subsidiaries in offshore tax havens, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by Illinois PIRG Education Fund and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. 

Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund

“Special districts” are a type of government agency that exist outside of traditional forms of general purpose local or state governments, and serve key governmental functions such as public transit or housing. However, special districts are poorly understood by the public and often do business without adhering to modern standards of government budget or spending transparency.

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