Five European nations will share information to curtail tax evasion

Date: April 14, 2016

By: The Washington Post

Five European nations will share information to curtail tax evasion

TAXES

5 European nations try to curb tax evasion

Five European nations on Thursday launched a joint effort to clamp down on tax evasion, responding to damaging revelations of financial wrongdoing by the rich and powerful in the so-called Panama Papers.

The finance ministers of Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain agreed to share detailed data on the ownership of companies, trusts and foundations, making it more difficult for the owners to hide their wealth and income from tax authorities.

The leak of thousands of confidential documents from a Panamanian law firm has had political repercussions, forcing Iceland’s prime minister to quit and putting British Prime Minister David Cameron under pressure over his family’s financial affairs.

“A global move towards interlinking country registries will provide, for the first time, international real-time access to tax and law enforcement agencies on company ownership,” Britain’s Treasury said about the initiative, which was presented to the G-20 presidency.

Unveiling their proposals alongside International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Secretary General José Ángel Gurría, the five nations committed to establishing a register as soon as possible to detail the beneficial owners of companies, trusts, foundations and shell companies and making the information available to tax administration and law enforcement authorities.

— Reuters

HOUSING

Fannie, Freddie to cut mortgage balances

The federal regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac approved a plan to reduce mortgage balances for some U.S. homeowners who have been struggling to make payments in the aftermath of the real estate crash.

The program is a one-time offer for people whose loans are owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said in a statement Thursday.

To qualify, borrowers must meet specific criteria that include being at least 90 days delinquent as of March 1 and having an unpaid principal balance of $250,000 or less. The FHFA expects about 33,000 homeowners to be eligible.

“The national housing market has significantly improved in recent years, but there are still areas of the country where home values have not recovered and negative equity remains a real problem,” FHFA Director Melvin L. Watt said in the statement.

Mortgage servicers must solicit borrowers eligible for a principal reduction no later than Oct. 15, the FHFA said.

The agency also said that, to help minimize foreclosures, it approved changes to requirements for Freddie Mac’s and Fannie Mae’s sales of soured home loans.

— Bloomberg News

ALSO IN BUSINESS

  • The Labor Department says U.S. consumer prices rose a modest 0.1 percent in March. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core consumer inflation also increased 0.1 percent, the smallest gain since August. Over the past year, overall consumer prices are up 0.9 percent and core inflation 2.2 percent. Grocery prices fell 0.5 percent in March, with cereal prices down 1.1 percent, the steepest slide since February 2006. Energy prices climbed 0.9 percent, the most since May. Gasoline prices surged 2.2 percent.
  • United Launch Alliance plans to cut up to 875 jobs before the end of 2017 to better compete against rivals bankrolled by entrepreneurs who include Elon Musk and Jeffrey P. Bezos, ULA’s chief executive officer said Thursday. ULA, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, expects a first round of 375 job cuts to be accomplished this year, mostly through voluntary layoffs. ULA chief executive Tory Bruno said another 400 to 500 employees will be cut by the end of 2017. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
  • Cheaper jet fuel continues to give airlines a lift, helping Delta boost its first-quarter earnings by 27 percent, to $946 million. The airline spent one-third less on fuel than it did a year earlier, a savings of more than $700 million. That offset higher spending on labor, especially profit-sharing for employees. The news was not entirely rosy for Delta, however. Revenue dipped 1 percent as passengers continued to pay slightly less for every mile they flew. The airline predicted that the closely watched per-mile figure would decline again in the second quarter, although at a slower pace.
  • The Agriculture Department will buy up to 30 million pounds of wild blueberries to help with flagging prices and oversupply. Members of Maine’s congressional delegation said Thursday that the agency will pay up to $13 million for the berries. The purchase comes after the delegation sent a letter to the agency saying that prices of frozen wild blueberries have fallen by as much as half in the past five years. The Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine says two back-to-back years of big crops have created a wild blueberry backlog.