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HSBC Private Bank’s Brussels branch is being accused of helping wealthy Belgians to avoid taxes.
Belgian prosecutors allege that hundreds of clients – including diamond dealers in Antwerp – moved money to offshore tax havens with the help of the bank.
They said it resulted in hundreds of millions of euros in lost tax revenue.
In August, HSBC warned that the penalties in relation to such allegations “could be significant”.
In a statement, Belgian authorities accused HSBC of “having knowingly eased and promoted fiscal fraud by making offshore companies available to certain privileged clients”.
These companies, which are based in Panama and the Virgin Islands, exist for the sole purpose of tax evasion, they added.
Over 1,000 taxpayers are alleged to have been involved in the fraud, which saw funds amounting to several billion dollars transferred out of Belgium since 2003.
Responding to the announcement by Belgian authorities, HSBC said it had been notified of the investigation, and of a similar investigation by French authorities, and that the bank would “continue to cooperate to the fullest extent possible”.
Banks operating in Switzerland are bound by the European Union Savings Directive to counter cross-border tax evasion, by collecting information on the savings income foreign residents receive outside their resident state.
Belgian authorities also published emails and other correspondence between HSBC and Belgian clients, which appear to show the bank offering tax evasion services.
Prosecutor Michel Claise accused HSBC of “fraud, money laundering, criminal association and illegal exercise of the profession of financial intermediary”.
In October, Belgian police raided the homes of approximately 20 people with private bank accounts at HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary, to gather evidence against the lender.
HSBC has been subject to a series of fines for misconduct in recent years, most recently in relation the manipulation of foreign currency exchange rates.
Walmart employees pushing for higher wages announced on November 14 they were planning protests at 1,600 Walmart stores nationwide on Black Friday.
Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year in the United States.
The labor group, Our Walmart, said it had protested 1,200 to 1,400 Walmart stores last year on Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc, owner of Walmart brand stores, and the largest private employer in the United States, has been a target for activists in the contentious national debate over proposals to raise the minimum wage.
The announcement comes a day after police arrested 23 people outside a Los Angeles-area Walmart protesting what they say are the company’s low wages and its retaliation against employees who pushed for better working conditions.
The arrests on November 13 followed several hours of protest by a number of Walmart workers in California, according to Our Walmart and The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, or UFCW.
About 30 workers entered a Walmart store in the Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles on Thursday morning and held a sit-down protest for two hours, UFCW spokesman Marc Goumbri said.
The workers then protested at a Walmart store in Pico Rivera in eastern Los Angeles where the arrests eventually took place.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc Chief Executive Douglas McMillon last month said the company would work to phase out minimum wage jobs “over time”, a move seen as largely symbolic as just 6,000 of its 1.3 million U.S. workers make minimum wage.
The average full-time hourly wage at Walmart stores is $12.92, compared with the federal minimum wage of $7.25, according to the company.
Oil industry giants, Halliburton and Baker Hughes, are in talks about a possible merger.
Baker Hughes, the industry’s third largest services provider, confirmed press reports, adding that the talks were “preliminary”.
Any deal with Halliburton, the sector’s No 2 behind the far larger Schlumberger, is likely to face competition issues.
The companies provide drilling and logistics services, but have been hit by falling oil prices and higher costs.
The falling crude oil price has made exploration less economical and the big oil and gas producers have been cutting costs. A tie-up would allow the companies to better weather the downturn in the market.
A merged Halliburton-Baker Hughes would create a company worth about $67 billion, employing initially 140,000 people. But its market capitalization would still be half that of market leader Schlumberger.
Analysts said that antitrust authorities in the US, Europe and China would want to investigate the terms of any deal, and that a merged group might need to sell some assets before approval was given.
Honda Motor Co has widened its recall for the defective airbags by another 170,000 vehicles globally, taking its total recalls to nearly 10 million vehicles fitted with potentially defective Takata airbag inflators since 2008, including US region-specific recalls.
The Japanese carmaker said on November 13 that a driver in Malaysia died in July after being hit by shrapnel from an airbag supplied by Takata Corp – the fifth such fatality and the first outside the United States.
Honda recalled nearly 10 million vehicles with potentially defective Takata airbag inflators since 2008
Before Thursday’s disclosure, Takata airbags had been linked to four deaths in Honda vehicles in the US. All the victims were hit by shrapnel ejected by the airbag.
Defective Takata airbags are the target of a US safety investigation over the risk they could explode with dangerous force in an accident and shoot metal shards into the vehicle. More than 17 million vehicles made by nearly a dozen different automakers have been recalled globally for flawed Takata airbags since 2008.
In the Malaysia accident on July 27, involving a 2003 Honda City model, the air bag inflator ruptured and sent shrapnel into the vehicle, some of which struck the female driver, Honda said.
Honda learned of the incident on August 27 and notified Japan’s transport ministry on September 10.
The newly elected president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has denied allegations he encouraged tax avoidance when he was Luxembourg’s prime minister.
Jean-Claude Juncker, 59, said there was “nothing in my past to indicate that I wanted to encourage tax evasion”.
He has come under pressure over claims that some 340 global companies were granted deals to help them avoid tax during his 18 years in office.
The Commission has begun an investigation.
Jean-Claude Juncker has denied allegations he encouraged tax avoidance when he was Luxembourg’s prime minister
Jean-Claude Juncker, 59, took over as president of the Commission at the start of November and was confronted within days with a report by investigative journalists that alleged that companies such as Pepsi and Ikea had made deals with his country’s government to save billions in tax in other countries.
Incumbent PM Xavier Bettel was quoted as saying all deals abided by international tax rules, although Jean-Claude Juncker made no comment at the time.
In an unexpected appearance before journalists on November 12, the Commission President repeated the message.
“Everything that has been done has been in compliance with national legislation and international rules that apply in this matter,” he said.
The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations finals will not take place in Morocco because of the country’s fears over the Ebola outbreak elsewhere on the continent, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has confirmed.
The CAF expelled Morocco, which would have qualified as hosts, from the finals.
The confederation did not announce a new venue for the tournament, due to take place from January 17 to February 8.
New reports claim that three nations have expressed an interest and the new host will be confirmed on November 12.
Morocco had been given until November 8 to make a final decision on whether or not it would host the tournament.
The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations finals will not take place in Morocco because of the country’s fears over the Ebola outbreak
The country had asked to postpone the competition until 2016.
Egypt has stated it will not host the tournament for “economic and political reasons”.
Qualification matches for the tournament will continue as planned on November 14 and 15 to decide which 15 teams will join the new host country for the finals.
Up to November 4, at least 4,960 people had been reported as having died from Ebola, mainly in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Morocco had expressed fears an influx of foreign fans could help spread the epidemic.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) has banned violinist Vanessa-Mae from skiing for four years after results were manipulated to help her qualify for the Sochi Winter Olympics.
An FIS hearing panel found “violations” in the Thailand skier’s results at an event in Slovenia.
Vanessa-Mae, a 36-year-old British citizen, qualified days before the deadline after competing in the hastily-staged races in January.
Five officials involved in the event have also been banned by the FIS.
Vanessa-Mae was born in Singapore to Thai and Chinese parents and moved to England at the age of 4
The competitions in Slovenia were organized at the request of the management of the skier, through the Thai Olympic Committee.
Competing as Vanessa Vanakorn, she went on to finish last of 67 competitors in the giant slalom at the Sochi Games, 50 seconds adrift of winner Tina Maze.
The FIS said in a statement: “The hearing panel found to its comfortable satisfaction that the results of the four ladies’ giant slalom races that took place on 18 and 19 January at Krvavec were manipulated.”
Vanessa-Mae was born in Singapore to Thai and Chinese parents and moved to England at the age of 4 after her mother married a British lawyer.
She earned fame as a violinist during her childhood with a series of performances on British television before going on to launch a successful solo career with album sales running into millions.
The International Olympic Committee said it would not be taking any follow-up action until the outcome of any appeal was known.
Alibaba has sold $2 billion of goods in the first hour of China’s annual Singles’ Day (Guanggun Jie).
That compares with $3.1 billion in sales seen in the first half of last year’s event.
Singles’ Day is celebrated each year on November 11 (11/11). The date is chosen for the connection between singles and the number “1”. In recognition of the day, young singles organize parties and Karaoke to meet new friends or try their fortunes.
Singles’ Day is considered the world’s biggest online retail sales day. It compares with Cyber Monday in the US – the day after Thanksgiving also marketed as a big online shopping day.
Alibaba said it expected to break sales records during the annual event, offering big discounts to boost sales.
Singles’ Day is considered the world’s biggest online retail sales day
“I bet the number [of goods bought] is going to be scary,” said Alibaba’s executive chairman Jack Ma last week. He estimated that 200 million packages would be shipped from orders made during the day.
Last year, Alibaba shipped more than 150 million packages worth about $5.75 billion in gross merchandise volume.
Before midday on November 11, sales had already hit $4.9 billion, Jack Ma told official state broadcaster CCTV.
Singles’ Day in China was adopted by Alibaba in 2009 to boost sales, but dates back to at least 1993, when students at Nanjing University are believed to have chosen the date as an anti-Valentine’s Day where single people could buy things for themselves.
Since then, it has gone on to become a massive day of sales for China’s fast growing e-commerce market.
The market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 25% over the next few years, from $390 billion in 2014 to $718 billion in 2017, according to a recent study released by management consulting firm AT Kearney.
Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm has been ordered to pay $995.5 million to his ex-wife Sue Ann Hamm in one of the largest-ever US divorce judgments, according to a court filing on November 10.
In an 80-page ruling following a more than 9-week divorce trial that ended last month, Oklahoma Special Judge Howard Haralson ruled that oil magnate Harold Hamm should pay his ex-wife a total of $995.5 million.
Although the award could make Sue Ann Hamm, 58, one of the 100 wealthiest women in the United States, according to Forbes‘ rankings, it is far smaller than the amount her lawyers sought and does not require Harold Hamm to sell shares of Continental.
Harold and Sue Ann Hamm wed in 1988 and had no prenuptial agreement
Harold Hamm, 68, holds 68% of Continental, a stake worth nearly $14 billion.
The ruling is subject to appeal, but if accepted by both parties it would allow Continental’s CEO to put a contentious and time-consuming divorce behind him, without eroding his control of one of America’s most successful oil companies.
Following news of the judgment, Continental shares fell 1.6% to $54.22 per share. The shares have lost around 30% since July 1, in step with tumbling world oil prices.
Oklahoma-based Continental is a leading driller in the key Bakken Shale play of North Dakota and Montana, the largest US oil discovery in decades. Through his stake in Continental, Harold Hamm is believed to own more oil underground than any other American.
Harold and Sue Ann Hamm wed in 1988 and had no prenuptial agreement. For years, Sue Ann Hamm was also an executive at Continental.
Orlando Thomas, ex-Minnesota Vikings safety, died on November 10 after a long battle with ALS at the age of 42.
Orlando Thomas was living in his native Crowley, Louisiana, just a half hour west of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette campus where he starred for four seasons before being selected by the Vikings in the second round of the 1995 NFL draft.
He spent all seven of his NFL seasons with the Vikings before retiring after the 2001 campaign at age 29.
Orlando Thomas was a key starter on the Minnesota teams of the late 1990s, including the 1998 group that went 15-1 in the regular season before losing to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.
Orlando Thomas spent all seven of his NFL seasons with Minnesota Vikings before retiring after the 2001 campaign at age 29 (photo Jonathan Daniel/Allsport)
He led the league with nine interceptions as a rookie.
“The Vikings are deeply saddened by the loss of Orlando Thomas,” the team said in a statement on November 10.
“Orlando was an outstanding player for the Vikings for seven years, but more importantly, he represented the franchise and the state of Minnesota with the utmost dignity and class. While his outgoing personality made him a favorite among his teammates, Orlando’s involvement in the community made him a favorite outside of Winter Park.”
Orlando Thomas is one of several former NFL players affected by ALS, including ex-New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason, ex-Baltimore Ravens linebacker and current front office executive O.J. Brigance, ex-Oakland Raiders fullback Steve Smith and retired journeyman Tim Shaw.
The US unemployment rate has fallen to 5.8% after the economy added 214,000 jobs in October 2014, official Labor Department figures show.
The number of jobs created is slightly below forecasts of about 230,000 new posts, but still indicates a healthy US jobs market.
The figures are a significant gauge of the health of the economy.
US employers have added at least 200,000 jobs for nine months in a row, the longest growth period since 1995.
Jobs figures for August and September were also revised higher.
The US unemployment rate has fallen to 5.8 percent in October 2014
The burst of hiring lowered the unemployment rate to 5.8% from 5.9%. That is the lowest rate since July 2008.
Shares in New York were down shortly after the start of trading. The Dow Jones was 0.28% lower at 17505.28.
The number of unemployed in the US has dropped to 8.995 million, below nine million for the first time in six years.
The work force participation rate, which counts those with jobs and those actively seeking jobs, was barely changed in October at 62.8%.
The financial crisis of 2008 has dented that rate, with some people simply giving up the search for work.
Although economic growth has picked up this year and job opportunities with it, this week’s mid-term elections revealed employment was voters’ top worry, suggesting many Americans have not yet felt any improvement.
It doesn’t matter if you own a business or work for someone else, paying taxes is an essential part of life. You cannot avoid paying taxes. Not paying your taxes can result in expensive fines or even jail time, which is why you want to make sure to follow all the laws and processes and file your taxes accurately and on time.
If you’re not an accountant, taxes can be a hard thing to understand. There are so many different rules regarding filing, and there are so many different credits you can claim depending on income, filing status, employment, etc.
Although learning everything about taxes may require you to take some classes or do a lot of research, there are basic questions and answers that most people have regarding their taxes that are answered below. The following are some of the most common tax payment questions and answers.
Q: I want to claim my child as a dependent. Is there an age limit?
Yes, there are certain requirements in place in order to claim your child as a dependent. First, your child must be younger than you. While this may sound silly, the law refers to stepchildren, adopted children and conservatorships. Second, at the end of the calendar year, your child must be either younger than 19 years old or be enrolled as a student and younger than 24 years old.
Q: Who can I claim as a dependent?
Some people think that a dependent needs to be a child, but this is not true. You are allowed to claim a child or a relative as a dependent as long as they meet certain requirements that are related to relationship with you, residency, income, and financial support you have provided. Spouses can also qualify as dependents depending on the same requirements. Because the regulations are so in depth, it may be a smart decision to use an accountant or accounting package to process your taxes. These individuals or programs can help make filing taxes easier and explain all the items in more detail.
Q: Do I have to claim a child as a dependent in order to file as head of household?
In order to be considered a head of household, you must meet the following criteria:
Have paid more than half of the cost of keeping up a home
Have a qualifying dependent live in the home for at least half of the year
As for claiming a child, you do not have to claim a child as a dependent in order to file as head of household.
Q: What should I do if I made a mistake on my taxes that have already been filed?
Mistakes happen, and the IRS understands this. The IRS looks over the filed taxes before submitting refunds or other tax-related information. If the IRS catches your mistake, they will reach out to you with specific directions as to what you need to do in order to correct the mistake.
If the mistake is something you noticed that the IRS may not catch, such as forgetting to report all income, you will need to file an amended tax return. This is done by filling out Form 1040X, and you have up to three years to report an amended tax return. Amended tax returns are usually not processed as quickly as original taxes, so if your amendment will result in a refund, do not expect it to land in your bank account for at least two to three months.
Q: I have my own business. What can I deduct on my taxes?
There are many different items you can deduct for business on your taxes, including company vehicles, home office supplies, and even mortgage or rent payments. See a list of deductible home office expenses in order to receive a more detailed list.
Germany has been hit by a four-day rail strike, billed as the longest in the country history.
The strike has hit passenger trains and threatens to disrupt celebrations marking the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.
The stoppage by the 20,000-member GDL union hit intercity and regional services alike on November 6 and is due to last until early on November 10.
Rail operator Deutsche Bahn is seeking an injunction to halt the strike.
The union rejected the company’s offer of arbitration late on Wednesday.
As commuters struggled to work, on the roads and on restricted rail services, there was widespread concern that the strike would hit up to two million people travelling to Berlin for the 25th anniversary celebrations of the fall of the wall.
Germany has been hit by a four-day rail strike, billed as the longest in the country history
Events are being held throughout the weekend, with concerts, a street festival at the Brandenburg Gate, and guests of honor such as former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
The weekend’s Bundesliga football matches are also likely to be hit by the 100-hour stoppage.
Deutsche Bahn, facing the longest strike in its 20-year history, complained of “massive disturbances” for travelers. The company’s request for an injunction will be heard by a court in Frankfurt later.
One traveler in Munich complained that he was unable to go to Frankfurt: “There are no hire cars left at the station and the buses are booked solid.”
A bus booking website reported a five-fold rise in traffic on its site.
Traffic jams were reported on many key roads across Germany. A 18-mile jam on the A81 motorway between Heilbronn and Stuttgart in the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg was described as the worst.
An estimated 30% of long distance trains were running on Thursday morning, while services were more variable on regional and suburban S-Bahn trains.
In some eastern areas, as few as 15% of trains were running, while the number was higher in southern states such as Bavaria.
In areas such as South Bavaria, regional services were barely affected because they are operated privately or by a subsidiary.
GDL is calling for a 5% pay rise and working week cut to 37 hours. But it has been widely criticized for rejecting mediation.
The head of the DBB civil service union, Klaus Dauderstaedt, said he would have recommended arbitration but the union’s head Claus Weselsky argued that Deutsche Bahn had failed to engage with the train drivers seriously.
The company has been hit by several rounds of industrial action since September. Last month, passengers faced a 50-hour strike.
The latest action began on November 5 on goods trains and spread to passenger services at 02:00 on November 6.
A major sticking point in negotiations was the GDL union’s demand to negotiate on behalf of other train staff, including conductors and restaurant staff.
Germany’s government is expected to produce a draft law later this year aimed at stopping small numbers of employees paralyzing large parts of the country’s infrastructure through strike action.
The European Commission will press Luxembourg over new allegations it offered tax breaks for more than 300 global companies, an EU spokesman says.
Commission chief and ex-Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker will not handle the probe, Margaritis Schinas said.
Pepsi and Ikea are among those accused of making deals with Luxembourg to save billions in tax in other countries.
The revelations were published in a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Luxembourg is already under investigation by the EU over suspected “sweetheart” tax deals with online retailer Amazon and the financing arm of carmaker Fiat.
Two other member states, Ireland and Malta, are also being investigated as part of the EU’s crackdown on multinationals’ tax avoidance schemes.
Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel has insisted that the deals abided by international rules on tax, in comments reported by AFP news agency.
The European Commission will press Luxembourg over new allegations it offered tax breaks for more than 300 global companies
The ICIJ said a team of 80 journalists had pored over nearly 28,000 pages of leaked documents showing tax agreements and returns relating to more than 1,000 businesses.
It says the companies created “complicated accounting and legal structures that move profits to low-tax Luxembourg from higher-tax countries where they’re headquartered or do lots of business”.
In some cases, it adds, companies enjoyed tax rates of less than 1% on profits moved into the European duchy.
“The Duchy of Luxembourg has a legitimate government that has to provide answers to the investigation opened by the Commission,” the EU Commission’s spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters on November 6.
When pressed repeatedly about Jean-Claude Juncker’s role in the probe, Margaritis Schinas said that EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager would take charge of the current investigation.
“She will request the appropriate information, enforcing the rules, as is the duty of the European Commission,” he added.
The leaked papers related to some 340 companies, including FedEx, Accenture, Burberry, Procter & Gamble, Heinz, JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank.
The deals – which the ICIJ says were legal – were facilitated by the international tax advisory group PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The Guardian, which was one of the media outlets working on the probe, said it painted “a damning picture of an EU state which is quietly rubber-stamping tax avoidance on an industrial scale”.
Luxembourg was “like a magical fairyland,” the paper quotes former senior US Treasury official Stephen Shay as saying.
Asian stock markets opened higher on November 6 after US stocks hit record highs on Republicans taking control of the Senate.
The Republican victory raised investor hopes for more pro-business and energy-friendly policies from the US government.
The Dow Jones jumped to a new record close of 17,484.53, while the S&P 500 also finished at a record 2,023.57.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was up 0.4% to 17,012.71 after five days of gains.
The yen strengthened marginally against the dollar to 114.63, down from 114.69 yen in New York trade.
Asian stock markets opened higher after US stocks hit record highs on Republicans taking control of the Senate
In Greater China, Hong Kong shares opened up 0.2% with the Hang Seng index at 23,737.76.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite index was higher 0.1% to 2,423.23 points.
In Australia, shares were trading lower 0.1% with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index at 5,510.20 points despite news that employment figures rebounded in October.
Government data showed that Australia added an estimated 24,100 jobs in October, recovering from a revised 23,700 drop in September. But concerns about the reliability of the data that has been revised a few times in past months weighed on investor sentiment.
Shares of struggling television channel Ten Network rose as much as over 10% in early trade after it said it had hired Citigroup to assess “strategic options” as reports surfaced of takeover offers.
In South Korea, the Kospi index was up over 0.3% at 1,937.78 points.
Jay-Z, real name Shawn Carter, has bought the Armand de Brignac champagne brand.
New York wine and spirits company Sovereign Brands said it had sold the luxury brand to Jay-Z for an undisclosed amount.
The champagne, also known as “Ace of Spades”, is produced in the French town of Chigny-les-Roses by eight people.
Jay-Z has bought the Armand de Brignac champagne brand
The golden-bottled champagne, which featured in a 2006 Jay-Z music video, sells for $300.
Jay-Z, 44, has been known for his love of the champagne, which is bottled at a winemaking house founded in 1763. He reportedly displayed 350 bottles of the drink at a fundraiser that he and his wife Beyonce Knowles threw for President Barack Obama in a New York night club in 2012.
The acquisition is the latest addition to Jay-Z’s vast business interests outside of his music, which include a clothing line, restaurants and a recording label.
Jay-Z is considered the third richest hip-hop artist in the world with an estimated net worth of $520 million, according to Forbes magazine.
The US stock market closed higher with investors relieved that the midterm elections produced a clear result.
The Dow Jones and S&P 500 hit fresh records.
Sentiment was also boosted by an upbeat jobs survey, raising hopes that the official payroll figures on Friday will be strong.
The Dow Jones closed after adding 100.69 points at 17,484.53.
The broad-based S&P 500 rose 11.47 points to 2,023.57 while the NASDAQ lost early gains and fell 2.91 points to 4,620.72.
The US stock market closed higher with investors relieved that the midterm elections produced a clear result (photo Reuters)
Energy shares rose on hopes that the Republican majority in the Senate could lead to new energy-friendly legislation.
The midterm vote also boosted the dollar, which jumped to a seven-year high against the yen of 114.65 yen.
Meanwhile, investors were impressed by a report from payroll processor ADP which said that private firms in the US added 230,000 jobs in October. This was ahead of forecasts and the largest increase since June.
Among individual firms, shares in TripAdvisor dived 14% after the travel review website’s third quarter results fell short of expectations.
Net income for the quarter fell to $54 million from $56 million a year earlier, following a big increase in marketing costs.
Time Warner shares rose 4% after its third quarter profit and revenue beat expectations. It posted net income of $967 million with revenue up 3.3% to $6.24 billion.