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U.S. PIRG Education Fund
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Sacramento Bee
By
David Cay Johnston

Just how much state lawmakers across America shift the burden of supporting government off the wealthiest individuals and largest multinational corporations and down the income ladder is the focus of a pioneering analysis by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

It estimated that tax havens cost the 50 state governments $39.8 billion in 2011. That's enough money to pay for all state and local costs of firefighting or the cost of parks and recreation.

The report, "The Hidden Cost of Offshore Tax Havens: State Budgets Under Pressure From Tax Loophole Abuse," analyzed various official reports to come up with its numbers. The authors concluded that multinational corporations accounted for $26 billion of the total, individuals the other $13.8 billion.

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An investigation by a legislative committee, or the staff of the Franchise Tax Board, could establish the actual costs by looking at tax returns and analyzing the data. My guess is that the estimated losses in the federal PIRG report will turn out to be conservative, especially on the individual side.

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Dan Smith, of U.S. PIRG and one of the study authors, said, "Tax dodging is not the victimless offense. When corporations skirt taxes, the public is stuck with the tab. Since offshore tax dodgers avoid both state and federal taxes, they hurt everyday taxpayers twice."

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