Updates

Report | Maryland 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. Instead, ordinary taxpayers end up picking up the tab, either in the form of higher taxes, cuts to public spending priorities, or increases to the federal debt.

News Release | Maryland PIRG | Tax

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Maryland Taxpayer $1,259 a Year, MD Small Business $4,118

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. Maryland PIRG released a new study which revealed that the average Maryland taxpayer in 2013 would have to shoulder an extra $1,259 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals.

DO NOT rush to change your passwords on all of your favorite websites. You shouldn’t change your password on a site until the site has fixed the Heartbleed bug, or else you risk having your new password compromised. Watch for a notice on the site, but don’t click any links in emails claiming to be from the website.

Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

The Unfriendly Skies

Consolidation in the airline industry, along with pressures created by new security rules and the recent high cost of aviation gasoline, has changed the way we fly. It seems as if every consumer has an airline travel story—how they were trapped on the tarmac, tricked by fees, missed their connection, or lost their bag.

News Release | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Report: Spirit Is Most Complained-About Airline

The report, “The Unfriendly Skies: Five Years of Airline Passenger Complaints to the DOT” analyzes complaints to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division about major U.S. airlines from 2009-2013. The report found that most complaints are about delayed or canceled flights, which were the top complaint category each year and have trended upward overall.

Media Hit | Democracy

Supreme Court Gets It Wrong (again) On Campaign Finance

The court's decision to eliminate federal limits on the total amount of money that mega-donors can contribute during an election cycle empowers a tiny group of fewer than 3,000 elite donors to spend an additional billion dollars in our elections through 2020.

News Release | Maryland PIRG | Democracy

TODAY SUPREME COURT RULED FOR ANOTHER FLOOD OF BIG MONEY

Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McCutcheon v. FEC to strike down overall, or aggregate, contribution limits to candidates and political committees. Maryland PIRG research found that this ruling could bring $1 billion in additional campaign contributions from fewer than 2,800 elite donors through the 2020 election cycle.

News Release | 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.”

Maryland consumers have a right to know what’s in the food we buy, so we can make healthy, responsible, and informed choices about what we’re eating. Manufacturers are required by federal law to list ingredients and other nutrition information on food packaging, but whether or not a food is genetically modified is not included. More than 60 countries, including the entire European Union, already require GMO labeling, but in the U.S., consumers are still denied this basic information.  

Report | Maryland PIRG | Public Health

What's on Your List?

Parents want and expect the products they use to care for their children to be safe and free of harmful chemicals. But our nation’s toxic chemical laws are weak and ineffective and many harmful chemicals get into everyday consumer products without the public’s knowledge. Taking steps to remedy this problem, Washington State passed the Children’s Safe Products Act in 2008 (CSPA). CSPA set up requirements for makers of children’s products being sold in Washington to report to the state if these products contain chemicals on a list of 66 Chemicals of High Concern to Children. Manufacturer reporting began phasing-in in 2012. This document summarizes the chemicals and products reported from March 5 to September 6 of 2013.

Overall there were 4,605 reports of Chemicals of High Concern to Children reported in children’s products such as toys, clothing, baby safety products, and bedding during this time period. A total of 78 companies such as Walmart, Target, Safeway, Walgreens, Nike, and Toys “R” Us reported products containing harmful chemicals. A total of 49 chemicals such as formaldehyde, bisphenol A (BPA), parabens, phthalates, heavy metals, and industrial solvents were reported. The health effects of reported chemicals include carcinogenicity, endocrine disruption, and developmental or reproductive toxicity. This time period of reporting showed new companies reporting and showed new products being reported such as children’s tableware containing formaldehyde and toy vehicles containing antimony trioxide flame retardant. 

Washington’s reporting law is achievable for the business community. More states should be passing these laws so families have chemical information about products being sold where they live. Retailers should remove products containing toxic chemicals from their store shelves. Ultimately, companies should phase these chemicals out of use and Congress should strengthen and update the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. Families can help bring about these changes by taking action.

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