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 | Tax

Picking Up the Tab 2014

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 state and federal income tax liability by billions of dollars. 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 – but they avoid paying for these benefits.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Tax

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Illinois Taxpayer $1,396 a Year, Illinois Small Business $4,588

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. Illinois PIRG released a new study today entitled, “Picking up the Tab: Average Citizens and Small Businesses Pay the Price for Offshore Tax Havens” which revealed that the average Illinois taxpayer in 2013 would have to shoulder an extra $1,396 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals.

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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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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Tax

Victory for Taxpayers and Consumers as Justice Dept. Denies Toyota $1.2 Billion Write-Off in Criminal Probe Settlement

Today, the Justice Department acted in the best interests of taxpayers and consumers, by denying Toyota a hidden $420 million tax benefit on its settlement for misleading consumers about dangerous car malfunctions. One line of text in the settlement made the difference: “Toyota agrees that it will not file a claim, assert, or apply for a tax deduction or tax credit.”

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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.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Budget, Tax

JPMorgan Shouldn’t Receive Tax Windfall for London Whale Penalty

Unless regulators forbid JPMorgan Chase from writing off an $800 million settlement as a tax deduction, taxpayers could end up shouldering 35 percent of the cost of the settlement.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Tax

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Illinois Taxpayer $1,058 a Year, Illinois Small Businesses $3,202

With Tax Day approaching, it’s a good time to be reminded of where our tax dollars are going. Illinois PIRG released a new study that revealed the average Illinois taxpayer in 2012 would have to shoulder an extra $1,058 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Offshore Tax Dodging Blows a $2.5 Billion Hole in Illinois’ Budget

With Illinois in the midst of a budget crisis, the Illinois PIRG Education Fund, joined by the Small Business Advocacy Council; Gail Glasser, a small business owner; and the Chicago Political Economy Group, released a new study revealing that Illinois lost $2.5 billion due to offshore tax dodging in 2012. Many of America’s wealthiest individuals and largest corporations use tax loopholes to shift profits made in America to offshore tax havens where they pay little to no taxes.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Tax

Report Exposes How Taxpayers Bear Cost of Corporate Settlements

A report released today spotlights a common practice where corporations that commit wrongdoing and agree to financial settlements with the federal government, go on to claim such settlement payments as tax-deductible business expenses. The new study, released by the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (Illinois PIRG), follows a record year of corporate settlements, while many more settlements relating to banking, environmental, and consumer safety issues are expected.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Tax

Study Finds Only 52% of TIF-Related Job Creation Confirmed in Chicago

A new report released today found little tracking or enforcement of taxpayer subsidized private development projects that had promised job creation.  The analysis by the watchdog group Illinois PIRG comes one year after Mayor Emanuel’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Reform Panel released recommendations for how to fix the wasteful economic development program and underscores the need to implement reform to protect taxpayers.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

Privatization and the Public Interest

Chicago has been the most aggressive city in the United States in the privatization of public infrastructure. The problems resulting from parking meter privatization could have been avoided had Chicago followed common-sense principles regarding the privatization of public assets and provided the public with the ability to monitor and influence the privatization process

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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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