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US Vows 100% Tariffs on French Champagne, Cheese, Handbags Over Digital tax

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By David Lawder and Andrea Shalal

The US government on Monday said it may slap punitive duties of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion in imports from France of Champagne, handbags, cheese and other products, after concluding that France’s new digital services tax would harm US tech companies.

The US Trade Representative’s office said its “Section 301” investigation found that the French tax was “inconsistent with prevailing principles of international tax policy, and is unusually burdensome for affected US companies,” including Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.com.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the government was exploring whether to open similar investigations into the digital services taxes of Austria, Italy and Turkey.

“The USTR is focused on countering the growing protectionism of EU member states, which unfairly targets US companies,” Lighthizer said. His statement made no mention of proposed digital taxes in Canada or Britain.

The US trade agency said it would collect public comments through Jan. 14 on its proposed tariff list as well as the option of imposing fees or restrictions on French services, with a public hearing scheduled for January 7.

It did not specify an effective date for the proposed 100% duties.

CHAMPAGNE, ROUGE AND GRUYERE

The list targets some products that were spared from 25 percent tariffs imposed by the United States over disputed European Union aircraft subsidies, including sparkling wines, handbags and make-up preparations – products that would hit French luxury goods giant and cosmetics maker L’Oreal hard.

Gruyere cheese, also spared from the USTR aircraft tariffs levied in October, featured prominently in the list of French products targeted for 100 percent duties, along with numerous other cheeses.

The findings won favor from US lawmakers and US tech industry groups, who have long argued that the tax unfairly targets US firms.

“The French digital services tax is unreasonable, protectionist and discriminatory,” Senators Charles Grassley and Ron Wyden, the top Republican and Democrat, respectively, on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a joint statement.

Spokespeople for the French embassy and the European Union delegation in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment.

But prior to the release of the USTR’s report, a French official said that France would dispute the trade agency’s findings, repeating Paris’ contention that the digital tax is not aimed specifically at US technology companies.

“We will not give up on taxation” of digital firms, the official said.

France’s 3 percent levy applies to revenue from digital services earned by firms with more than €25 million ($27.86 million) in French revenue and €750 million (£644 million) worldwide.

The USTR’s report and proposed tariff list follow months of negotiations between French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over a global overhaul of digital tax rules.

The two struck a compromise in August at a G7 summit in France that would refund US firms the difference between the French tax and a new mechanism being drawn up through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

But Trump never formally endorsed that deal and declined to say whether his French tariff threat was off the table.

Reuters

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American Airlines Seeks $12B in Coronavirus Rescue Funding

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American Airlines seeks $12B in coronavirus rescue funding

American Airlines is seeking $12 billion in loans and grants from the U.S. government, and says it won’t furlough employees for the next six months during the coronavirus health crisis.

In a memo sent to employees from CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom, the U.S. carrier said it will seek the funding as part of the $50 billion pot set aside for airline industry bailouts that’s included with the $2.2 trillion economic relief bill passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last week.

Parker and Isom said, with the government help, they’re confident American will “fly through even the worst of potential future scenarios.”

To receive the rescue funding, carriers must not furlough workers or cut their pay rates through Sept. 30. It allows for equity stakes for the federal government and requires carriers to maintain certain air routes.

American is the world’s largest airline by fleet size, passenger traffic and revenue passenger miles. It and other airlines are offering partially paid, voluntary leaves of absence to workers as traveler demand has evaporated due to the pandemic. Three out of every four Americans are presently subject to municipally ordered lockdowns.

Monday, American said it’s extending no-fee travel changes for flyers who bought fares through April 30.

Also Monday, low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines said it’s canceling all flights to and from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against all non-essential travel in the region.

Spirit said it’s suspending service to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, Newark, N.J., Hartford, Conn., and Plattsburgh, N.Y., through at least May 4.

Copyright 2020 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Federal CARES Act Provides Relief to Businesses Hurt by COVID-19

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Federal CARES Act provides relief to businesses hurt by COVID-19

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed by both Congress and signed into law by President Trump, also known as the CARES Act, offers major financial support for companies impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The most vital policy provisions for businesses affected by the coronavirus, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are:

  • Slowing the payment of payroll taxes to allow businesses to have more cash to keep employees on their payrolls.
  • Loans and grants for small businesses.
  • Creating a bridge loan facility to allow businesses with significantly less or no available revenue to continue to pay employees.

The chamber has published an interactive map for businesses to learn how available aid under the Small Business Paycheck Protection Program can help small businesses in each state. The website lists the amount aid available in each state, the number of small businesses and small business employees. To access the interactive map, click here.

The National Retail Federation, meanwhile, has published a summary of the CARES Act’s key provisions.

  • The “Paycheck Protection Program” provides $S250 billion to support loans for employers with less than 500 employees.
  • The “Loan Program and Credit Facility” provides $500 billion in both direct and indirect lending in Federal Reserve credit.
  • The “Unemployment Insurance Provision” provides assistance for unemployed workers, including those who have exhausted regular state and feral unemployment compensation in addition to short-term compensation programs.
  • The “Business Tax Provisions” includes tax provisions for retailers to offset the cost of retaining employees during the economic downturn.

For the full National Retail Federation summary, click here.

“Securing these funds could make the difference between keeping a business up and running over the coming weeks or being forced to reduce salaries, lay off employees, or shutter businesses entirely,” Thomas Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO, said in a press release.

For the latest updates on how the coronavirus is affecting the kiosk industry, click here.

Copyright © 2020 Networld Media. All rights reserved.

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IRS, Treasury Department and Department of Labor Give Guidance on Small Business Leave and Tax Credit

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IRS, Treasury Department and Department of Labor give guidance on small business leave and tax credit

The U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Department of Labor (Labor) have announced that small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees.

This relief to employees and small and midsize businesses is provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Act), signed by President Trump on March 18, 2020.

The Act will help the United States combat and defeat COVID-19 by giving all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees funds to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members.

The legislation will enable employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.

Key Takeaways

* Paid Sick Leave for Workers

* For COVID-19 related reasons, employees receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and expanded paid child care leave when employees’ children’s schools are closed or child care providers are unavailable.

* Complete Coverage

* Employers receive 100% reimbursement for paid leave pursuant to the Act.

* Health insurance costs are also included in the credit.

* Employers face no payroll tax liability.

* Self-employed individuals receive an equivalent credit.

* Fast Funds

* Reimbursement will be quick and easy to obtain.

* An immediate dollar-for-dollar tax offset against payroll taxes will be provided

* Where a refund is owed, the IRS will send the refund as quickly as possible.

* Small Business Protection

* Employers with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for an exemption from the requirements to provide leave to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care is unavailable in cases where the viability of the business is threatened.

* Easing Compliance

* Requirements subject to 30-day non-enforcement period for good faith compliance efforts.

To take immediate advantage of the paid leave credits, businesses can retain and access funds that they would otherwise pay to the IRS in payroll taxes. If those amounts are not sufficient to cover the cost of paid leave, employers can seek an expedited advance from the IRS by submitting a streamlined claim form that will be released next week.

Background

The Act provided paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for COVID-19 related reasons and created the refundable paid sick leave credit and the paid child care leave credit for eligible employers. Eligible employers are businesses and tax-exempt organizations with fewer than 500 employees that are required to provide emergency paid sick leave and emergency paid family and medical leave under the Act. Eligible employers will be able to claim these credits based on qualifying leave they provide between the effective date and December 31, 2020. Equivalent credits are available to self-employed individuals based on similar circumstances.

Paid Leave

The Act provides that employees of eligible employers can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 100% of the employee’s pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and seeking a medical diagnosis. An employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, to care for a child whose school is closed or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing substantially similar conditions as specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay. An employee who is unable to work due to a need to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, may in some instances receive up to an additional ten weeks of expanded paid family and medical leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay.

Paid Sick Leave Credit

For an employee who is unable to work because of Coronavirus quarantine or self-quarantine or has Coronavirus symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis, eligible employers may receive a refundable sick leave credit for sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate, for a total of 10 days. For an employee who is caring for someone with Coronavirus, or is caring for a child because the child’s school or child care facility is closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may claim a credit for two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate, for up to 10 days. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.

Child Care Leave Credit

In addition to the sick leave credit, for an employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for a child whose school or child care facility is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may receive a refundable child care leave credit. This credit is equal to two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay, capped at $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate. Up to 10 weeks of qualifying leave can be counted towards the child care leave credit. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.

Prompt Payment for the Cost of Providing Leave

When employers pay their employees, they are required to withhold from their employees’ paychecks federal income taxes and the employees’ share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. The employers then are required to deposit these federal taxes, along with their share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, with the IRS and file quarterly payroll tax returns (Form 941 series) with the IRS.

Under guidance that will be released next week, eligible employers who pay qualifying sick or child care leave will be able to retain an amount of the payroll taxes equal to the amount of qualifying sick and child care leave that they paid, rather than deposit them with the IRS.

The payroll taxes that are available for retention include withheld federal income taxes, the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes with respect to all employees.

If there are not sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of qualified sick and child care leave paid, employers will be able file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS. The IRS expects to process these requests in two weeks or less. The details of this new, expedited procedure will be announced next week.

Examples

If an eligible employer paid $5,000 in sick leave and is otherwise required to deposit $8,000 in payroll taxes, including taxes withheld from all its employees, the employer could use up to $5,000 of the $8,000 of taxes it was going to deposit for making qualified leave payments. The employer would only be required under the law to deposit the remaining $3,000 on its next regular deposit date.

If an eligible employer paid $10,000 in sick leave and was required to deposit $8,000 in taxes, the employer could use the entire $8,000 of taxes in order to make qualified leave payments and file a request for an accelerated credit for the remaining $2,000.

Equivalent child care leave and sick leave credit amounts are available to self-employed individuals under similar circumstances. These credits will be claimed on their income tax return and will reduce estimated tax payments.

Small Business Exemption

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be eligible for an exemption from the leave requirements relating to school closings or child care unavailability where the requirements would jeopardize the ability of the business to continue. The exemption will be available on the basis of simple and clear criteria that make it available in circumstances involving jeopardy to the viability of an employer’s business as a going concern. Labor will provide emergency guidance and rulemaking to clearly articulate this standard.

Non-Enforcement Period

Labor will be issuing a temporary non-enforcement policy that provides a period of time for employers to come into compliance with the Act. Under this policy, Labor will not bring an enforcement action against any employer for violations of the Act so long as the employer has acted reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act. Labor will instead focus on compliance assistance during the 30-day period.

For More Information

For more information about these credits and other relief, visit Coronavirus Tax Relief on IRS.gov. Information regarding the process to receive an advance payment of the credit will be posted next week.

© Copyright 2020, The Courier, All Rights Reserved.

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