Corporate Taxes Poised to Rise After 136-Country Deal

 
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Nearly 140 countries agreed Friday to the most sweeping overhaul of global tax rules in a century, a move that aims to curtail tax avoidance by multinational corporations and raise additional tax revenue of as much as $150 billion annually.

But the accord, which is a decade in the making, now must be implemented by the signatories, a path that is likely to be far from smooth, including in a closely divided U.S. Congress.

The reform sets out a global minimum corporate tax of 15%, targeted at preventing companies from exploiting low-tax jurisdictions.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the floor set by the global minimum tax was a victory for the U.S. and its ability to raise money from companies. She urged Congress to move swiftly to enact the international tax proposals it has been debating, which would help pay for extending the expanded child tax credit and climate-change initiatives, among other policies.

“International tax policy making is a complex issue, but the arcane language of today’s agreement belies how simple and sweeping the stakes are: when this deal is enacted, Americans will find the global economy a much easier place to land a job, earn a living, or scale a business,” Ms. Yellen said.

The agreement among 136 countries also seeks to address the challenges posed by companies, particularly technology giants, that register the intellectual property that drives their profits anywhere in the world. As a result, many of those countries established operations in low-tax countries such as Ireland to reduce their tax bills.

The final deal gained the backing of Ireland, Estonia and Hungary, three members of the European Union that withheld their support for a preliminary agreement in July. But Nigeria, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Pakistan continued to reject the deal.

The new agreement, if implemented, would divide existing tax revenues in a way that favors countries where customers are based. The biggest countries, as well as the low-tax jurisdictions, must implement the agreement in order for it to meaningfully reduce tax avoidance.

Overall, the OECD estimates the new rules could give governments around the world additional revenue of $150 billion annually.

The final deal is expected to receive the backing of leaders from the Group of 20 leading economies when they meet in Rome at the end of this month. Thereafter, the signatories will have to change their national laws and amend international treaties to put the overhaul into practice.

The signatories set 2023 as a target for implementation, which tax experts said was an ambitious goal. And while the agreement would likely survive the failure of a small economy to pass new laws, it would be greatly weakened if a large economy—such as the U.S.—were to fail.

“We are all relying on all the bigger countries being able to move at roughly the same pace together,” said Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. “Were any big economy not to find itself in a position to implement the agreement,  that would matter for the other countries. But that might not become apparent for a while.”

 

Congress’ work on the deal will be divided into two phases. The first, this year, will be to change the minimum tax on U.S. companies’ foreign income that the U.S. approved in 2017. To comply with the agreement, Democrats intend to raise the rate—the House plan calls for 16.6%—and implement it on a country-by-country basis. Democrats can advance this on their own and they are trying to do so as part of President Biden’s broader policy agenda.

The second phase will be trickier, and the timing is less certain. That is where the U.S. would have to agree to the international deal changing the rules for where income is taxed. Many analysts say that would require a treaty, which would need a two-thirds vote in the Senate and thus some support from Republicans. Ms. Yellen has been more circumspect about the schedule and procedural details of the second phase.

Friction between European countries and the U.S. over the taxation of U.S. tech giants has threatened to trigger a trade war.

In long-running talks about new international tax rules, European officials have argued U.S. tech giants should pay more tax in Europe, and they fought for a system that would reallocate taxing rights on some digital products from countries where the product is produced to where it is consumed.

The U.S., however, resisted. A number of European governments introduced their own taxes on digital services. The U.S. then threatened to respond with new tariffs on imports from Europe.

The compromise was to reallocate taxing rights on all big companies that are above a certain profit threshold.

Under the agreement reached Friday, governments pledged not to introduce any new levies and said they would ultimately withdraw any that are in place. But the timetable for doing that has yet to be settled through bilateral discussions between the U.S. and those countries that have introduced the new levies.

Even though they will likely have to pay more tax after the overhaul, technology companies have long backed efforts to secure an international agreement, which they see as a way to avoid a chaotic network of national levies that threatened to tax the same profit multiple times.

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The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which has been guiding the tax talks, estimates that some $125 billion in existing tax revenues would be divided among countries in a new way.

Those new rules would be applied to companies with global turnover of €20 billion (about $23 billion) or more, and with a profit margin of 10% or more. That group is likely to include around 100 companies. Governments have agreed to reallocate the taxing rights to a quarter of the profits of each of those companies above 10%.

The agreement announced Friday specifies that its revenue and profitability thresholds for reallocating taxing rights could also apply to a part of a larger company if that segment is reported in its financial accounts. Such a provision would apply to Amazon.com Inc.’s cloud division, Amazon Web Services, even though Amazon as a whole isn’t profitable enough to qualify because of its low-margin e-commerce business.

The other part of the agreement sets a minimum tax rate of 15% on the profits made by large companies. Smaller companies, with revenues of less than $750 million, are exempted because they don’t typically have international operations and can’t therefore take advantage of the loopholes that big multinational companies have benefited from.

Low-tax countries such as Ireland will see an overall decline in revenues. Developing countries are least happy with the final deal, having pushed for both a higher minimum tax rate and the reallocation of a greater share of the profits of the largest companies.

 
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Mandatory Face Masks In The Workplace, Everything Employers Need To Know

A well-fitted, clean face mask is essential to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Different states and territories may have different rules about wearing face masks or coverings at work. This can depend on whether an enforceable government or public health direction applies so make sure you check if any of these directions apply to your business. You can be held legally accountable if you do not fulfil your employer health and safety obligations, as well as if you put your employees’ health at serious risk.

In this post we explain why ensuring your employees have correct face mask protection is crucial to avoiding legal issues and keeping your staff and customers safe. We’ll explain how to make sure you adhere to the rules correctly, avoid fines, and help you protect your staff and customers.

What are my employer obligations for employee face mask protection?

Workplace health and safety legislation in each state and territory stipulate employers’ obligations to protect workers from harm and provide a safe working environment.  This means ensuring that all employees wear face masks in the workplace if a health direction is in place to this effect. Even if there are no mandatory face mask restrictions in your workplace’s area, a health and safety risk assessment that you conduct in consultation with your workers may conclude that wearing face masks is a reasonable control measure to manage the risk of infectious respiratory disease transmission.

If a requirement to wear face masks is in place and an employee doesn’t have a clean mask to use, you must provide them with this protection. The type of face mask used will depend on the setting and it is your responsibility to provide training, instruction and correct information on how to handle the appropriate use, storage, decontamination and disposal of face mask protection where a government or public health direction is in place, or your risk assessment concludes that wearing masks is a reasonably necessary control measure.

How do I as an employer ensure we comply to the face mask rules correctly?

With active restrictions, it’s essential you regularly check up to-date public health orders on government websites. You have an obligation to conduct a risk assessment in consultation with your workers with respect to COVID-19 and it may be a mandatory requirement in specific circumstances such as where a worker has tested positive to COVID-19. When conducting a risk assessment, take into account how people move around the workplace, if your employees have contact with the public in the workplace as well as if there are any vulnerable workers in your business, then factor this in.

If wearing face masks is mandatory, it’s important to communicate this clearly. For employers, a written communication to staff can be a reassuring record of their responsibility to enforce the public health order.

As part of your duty to keep your staff safe, it’s vital you ensure employees have a clean supply of face masks in the workplace, and that they are properly informed on safe handling, use, storage, decontamination, and disposal of face masks.

Providing personal protective equipment such as a face mask can be an effective control measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and comply with health and safety obligations in the workplace. Therefore, if you run out of your supply of face masks, or they become unusable, you will need to replace them as soon as possible, this may mean closing the workplace temporarily, whilst more protection is purchased. If your employee’s mask becomes unusable during work-related travel, be assured you may reimburse them any costs in purchasing new protection and ask them to keep receipts and records.

What if my employee refuses to wear a face mask? 

First, discuss with the employee the reason for their refusal, if there is a valid reason such as a medical condition or illness or a disability. It is recommended to seek expert advice on alternatives for individual employees who fall into this category as employers need to balance an employee’s anti-discrimination, unfair dismissal, and general protections while ensuring that their refusal does not cause the business to breach its health and safety and public health directive obligations. At Employsure we offer expert advice to ensure a fair and safe workplace.

If the employee refuses to wear a face mask and has a valid reason, consider alternative duties for the employee or if the employee is able to work from home, you can allow then to do so. If working from home is absolutely not an option, then you can agree with the employee to take any accrued annual or long service leave or leave without pay while you investigate alternative options for the employee’s ongoing employment.

If the employee steadfastly refuses to wear a face mask and it is not for a valid reason and no agreement can be reached, employers may be in a position to initiate a disciplinary process. Always seek expert advice before initiating such a process.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to keep your employees safe and eliminate or reduce health risks as far as reasonably practicable. Gather as much expert knowledge as you can and be armed with information to adhere to your employer obligations. 

Employsure

Source: Mandatory Face Masks In The Workplace, Everything Employers Need To Know – Dynamic Business

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“CDC’s Dr. Redfield: This is why everyone should be wearing masks”. American Medical Association.

“Personal Protective Equipment: Questions and Answers”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 8 August 2020. Archived from the original on 10 August 2020.

“Considerations for wearing cloth face coverings : help slow the spread of COVID-19”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 28 June 2020. Miller, Sara G. (13 August 2020).

“Does your mask have a valve on it? It won’t stop the spread of coronavirus, CDC says”. NBC News.

“Scientific Brief: Community Use of Cloth Masks to Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 10 November 2020. Public DomainThis article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.“Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Healthcare Personnel During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 15 July 2020. Archived from the original on 30 July 2020.

“Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 28 June 2020. Archived from the original on 28 July 2020. Public DomainThis article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.“When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 27 July 2021. Archived from the original on 28 July 2021. Aubrey, Allison (27 July 2021).

“CDC Urges Vaccinated People To Mask Up Indoors In Places With High Virus Transmission”. NPR.

IRS Delivers Covid-19 Surprise To Workers:  A Chance To Redo Their 2021 Health Plan And FSA Choices

If your employer lets you make changes to your workplace healthcare elections for 2021 under new Treasury guidance, it could cut your tax bill.

 

Wish you could change your health plan for 2021? In newly released guidance on new flexible rules for healthcare and dependent care FSAs, the Internal Revenue Service has included a new Covid-19-relief surprise: Employers can allow employees to make changes prospectively to health care coverage for 2021.

“The guidance is very employer and employee friendly; it really gives a lot of flexibility,” says Jake Mattinson, an employee benefits lawyer with McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago.

Notice 2021-15 allows for mid-year changes to employer-sponsored health care coverage, healthcare flexible spending accounts and dependent care accounts. It will help employees whose medical and caregiving situations have changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. That is, if your employer is on board.

Usually healthcare elections are set in stone on a calendar year basis. Last May, the Treasury Department came up with a partial mid-year fix for 2020, allowing prospective changes and extending grace periods and carryovers through year-end (IRS Notice 2020-29). But employees still cried foul: they had socked away more money than they could spend in these workplace tax-favored accounts, and would be subject to forfeiture rules.

In December, in the tax provisions tied onto the year-end spending package, Congress passed new special rules allowing rollovers and more for leftover 2020 and 2021 FSA money for employees and ex-employees. Notice 2021-15 answers a lot of the open questions about how to implement the new rules.

For 2021, you can revoke an existing healthcare plan election and make a new election, or revoke an existing election and attest that you’re getting coverage elsewhere. Say you picked an HMO plan, but really want to be in a PPO plan. Or say you decide you’d be better off under a spouse’s plan. This gives you the chance to make a mid-year change. That allowance is not in the December law, so it was a surprise, Mattinson says.

For healthcare and dependent care FSAs, the guidance says employers can allow employees to carryover unused amounts they’ve stashed in these accounts from the 2020 and 2021 plan years. It wasn’t clear before, but the IRS says that any plan can implement a 100% carryover or extended grace period, no matter what feature the plan had before, Mattinson says. That means employees might be able to carry over their whole balance (instead of just $550 under current law) from one year to the next.

The extended grace period could go out 12 months, instead of just 2.5 months. as of January 1, 2022, everything would shift back to the regular rules. Under the regular rules, you can stash up to $5,000 pretax per year in a dependent care FSA, but if you don’t use the money for the specified year, you lose it. You can put up to $2,750 in a healthcare FSA, and if you don’t use it, you may be able to either use it up during a grace period or carry over $550.

Don’t get your hopes up just yet: Employers have to adopt these changes, and while some have already been working on amendments to their plans based on the December law even before today’s guidance, others have decided to do nothing. “The reaction among employers is mixed; everyone has their own ideas of what to implement. It’s all optional,” says Mattinson. One client said they would implement it all, while another client said they wouldn’t make any of the changes, for example.

Some of the nitty-gritty guidance surrounds COBRA and health savings accounts. For COBRA, the guidance makes clear that if an employer lets terminated workers seek reimbursement from an FSA, that won’t hurt their qualification for COBRA. For health savings accounts, the guidance clarifies that for employees who want to make a midyear change into a high deductible health plan with an HSA, they could convert a general purpose FSA to a limited purpose FSA so as not to be disqualified from contributing to the HSA.

Notice 2021-15 is 34 pages long and includes detailed examples, suggesting this is an area of the tax code that could be simplified! Here’s a bullet point summary of the law changes addressed in the IRS guidance; employers can:

 

  • allow employees to carry over unused money up to the full annual amount from the plan year 2020 to 2021, and also from the plan year 2021 to 2022 for healthcare and dependent care FSAs
  • allow up to a 12-month grace period for employees to incur new expenses and submit claims against unused accumulated funds for plan years ending in 2020 or 2021 for healthcare and dependent care FSAs
  • allow midyear election changes on a prospective basis without a change in status event for plan years ending in 2021 for healthcare and dependent care FSAs
  • allow dependent care reimbursement up to age 14 in cases where an employee’s dependent turned 13 in 2020 and the employee had leftover funds from 2020 (this special carry forward rule helps employees whose dependents “aged out” during the pandemic) for dependent care FSAs
  • allow health FSA participants who stop participating in the plan (ex-employees) during calendar year 2020 or 2021 to continue to receive reimbursements through the end of the year, including grace periods (this post-termination benefit applies to healthcare FSAs, not dependent care FSAs)

 

Further reading: Healthcare And Childcare FSA Fix For 2021, Finally: Special Carry Over Rules And More

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I cover personal finance, with a focus on retirement planning, trusts and estates strategies, and taxwise charitable giving. I’ve written for Forbes since 1997. Follow me on Twitter: @ashleaebeling and contact me by email: ashleaebeling — at — gmail — dot — com

Source: IRS Delivers Covid-19 Surprise To Workers:  A Chance To Redo Their 2021 Health Plan And FSA Choices

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How Do You Tell Others to Observe Social Distancing Rules?

New Yorkers heed advice to wear masks to help control the spread of the coronavirus as they sit in Central Park in New York City on April 11, 2020.

Deciding when to comment on someone’s behavior in society’s shared spaces has always been complicated. If someone doesn’t pick up after their dog, do you point it out? If someone cuts you off on the highway, do you yell out your window? What about that smoker on the corner—do you tell them cigarettes are bad for you? What if the smoker is a pregnant woman?

The line between righteous and self-righteous is hard to discern in the best of times, and now there’s a pandemic. New rules about physical distancing and personal hygiene mean new questions about what to do when someone isn’t following them. Nowadays, if someone stands too close to you at the grocery store or coughs into the air on the bus or is walking around without a mask, do you say something? If a non-essential business is continuing to fill its shop with customers, do you call it out?

TIME asked several experts in medical ethics and health policy. The upshot: yes, it can make sense to respond when people aren’t following orders that have been put in place to protect oneself and others. But the way you do it really matters, for the sake of decency and results.

“At least for now, we don’t have treatment or vaccines. All we’ve got is behavior. And there is evidence that the behavior works, if we’re diligent about it,” says Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. “We shouldn’t be obnoxious, we shouldn’t get nasty,” Caplan says. “But in this day and age, I think you can speak up.” It could, directly or indirectly, save lives.

When it comes to changing people’s minds or behavior, shame and blame generally don’t work as well as empathy and the benefit of the doubt. And a pandemic is a time when extenuating circumstances are widespread. “Everyone is stressed out and fearful for their own health,” says Northeastern University law professor Aziza Ahmed, an expert in health law. “We have to be sensitive to what other people have the capacity to do.”

Keep up to date with our daily coronavirus newsletter by clicking here.

Studies on disaster preparedness have found that one of the best ways to get other people to adopt new habits is to model them. “The literature shows that people will change their behavior if there are three conditions in place: they know what to do, why to do it and they see other people like themselves also doing it,” says Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. A crucial part of this, she says, is that authority figures, from political leaders to pastors, are all repeating the same message, to the point that people are “swimming in a sea” of it.

Those waters are murky in the United States, where the response to the pandemic has been politically polarized and messages have been mixed. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered residents to wear masks when visiting essential businesses that remain open; on Twitter, he posted a new profile picture in which he’s wearing one. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump has said he won’t be wearing a mask because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended it, not ordered it, and “I just don’t want to.”

The absence of clarity and consistency from leaders gives individuals more reason to spread the message about best practices themselves (including, yes, wearing a mask). It also gives them more reason to reserve judgment when they do it. “You’re trying to frame it in a way that will motivate people’s behavior, where it’s not like you’re calling them stupid or accusing them of indifference,” Caplan says. “What you’re trying to do is appeal with carrots, not sticks.”

The changing guidance around masks helps illustrate why unwillful ignorance is possible. The CDC at first recommended that only sick people and those caring for them wear masks. Then, as it became more clear that people could spread the disease without appearing sick—making their coughs and sneezes just as dangerous—the CDC recommended everyone wear them. That “why to do it” message goes against our general understanding of what masks are for, and public health experts have had trouble getting it across. “You’re not wearing the mask to protect you, you’re wearing the mask to protect others,” says Stuart Finder, director of the Center of Healthcare Ethics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. “And there are a lot of people who still don’t understand that.”

Even if people have read the latest guidelines, there could be personal reasons they’re not abiding by them. “You can’t assume you know what is inhibiting someone from engaging in the correct behavior,” Schoch-Spana says. Some black Americans, for example, have reported that concerns about being associated with gangs or perceived as criminals have made them reluctant to wear face coverings. A homeless person has an understandable reason for not being home by curfew. Someone could be failing to stay six feet away from you on the sidewalk because they are blind. You might also encounter a person who doesn’t believe in science and dismisses the risks.

Among the tactics experts suggest for handling these situations is the “it’s not you, it’s me” approach: If you’re at the grocery store and someone is standing right behind you, don’t yell, “Move back!” Instead, emphasize that since you or anyone could have the virus without knowing it, it’s best to stay six feet apart, in case they hadn’t heard. Use cues where you can, like the tape many open businesses have started putting on the floor to show customers how to line up at a proper distance.

If you live in a place like Michigan or Laredo, Texas, where the government is issuing $1,000 fines for violations of social distancing rules, position your reminder as an attempt to protect their wallet. If you live in a state like Hawaii, where at least three people have been arrested for flouting quarantine orders, position it as an attempt to protect their liberty. In general, says Finder, “you want to find ways that reinforce that ‘we’re in this together,’ versus ‘You’re not doing what I want you to do.’”

In rare cases, people have gotten violent during such encounters. At an emergency room in New York City, an 86-year-old woman reportedly lost her balance and grabbed the IV pole of another patient, a 32-year-old woman, thereby violating the social distancing rule to stay six feet away from others. The younger woman allegedly pushed her, causing her to fall, sustain a head injury and die.

Not following the guidelines is dangerous. Not coughing into one’s sleeve can endanger someone else’s life. But, Finder says, “If I respond with a kind of violent or authoritative approach, there is actually danger there too.”

However tactfully one approaches the situation, these kinds of interactions carry risks of escalation. In New Jersey, a grocery store worker asked a customer who was standing near her to move back. Instead, he allegedly stepped closer and coughed toward her, laughing and saying he had the coronavirus. The man is now among the many people that the New Jersey attorney general has issued charges against, as people continue to violate executive orders relating to COVID-19.

There is a difference between being a good neighbor and being a vigilante who takes it upon themselves to inform every person they can, on the street or on Instagram, about what they should and should not be doing. As Caplan puts it, “You don’t have to be the town watchman. We don’t need public health crossing guards.” There are law enforcement officials for that.

Schoch-Spana, of Johns Hopkins, says it is reasonable to handle the situation yourself when there is an invasion of your personal space. “It makes sense to say something when someone is encroaching on your health and well-being,” she says. “You have every right to try and correct that behavior, but it should be done politely and with knowledge-sharing and with positive modeling.”

By Katy Steinmetz April 13, 2020

Source: How Do You Tell Others to Observe Social Distancing Rules?

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This Guy Tried To Ban Gay People From Entering His Store And It Backfired Hilariously – Rugile

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When it comes to stating your opinion, there’s nothing like a big sign to perfectly convey your stance one topic or another. Jeff Amyx, a hardware store owner from Tennessee, displayed his stance on homosexuality by declaring gay people were not welcome in his store. The whole story began in 2015 when Amyx decided to put-up a sign that said ‘No gays allowed’ on his hardware store door. The store owner didn’t stop at the sign but chose to also sell homophobic merchandise…..

Read more: https://www.boredpanda.com/no-gays-allowed-sign-store-yelp-tennessee/?utm_source=mix&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=organic

 

 

 

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