Recap: Senate takes a key step toward an Internet sales tax

The days of tax-free online shopping could be numbered. A bill that would give states the authority to collect sales taxes on all Internet purchases passed a major procedural hurdle in the Senate. It would hand local governments as much as $11 billion per year in added revenue that they are legally owed — but that hasn’t been paid to them for years. Since before the dawn of Internet shopping, the basic rule was that as long as a retailer didn’t have a physical presence in the state where the consumer was shopping, the company wouldn’t have to collect a sales tax. Technically, shoppers are supposed to track these purchases and then pay the taxes owed in their annual tax filings. Few people, however, do this or are even aware of it. ¶ The result: Online retailers have been able to undercut the prices of their non-Internet competitors for years. As states have become more strapped for cash since the recession, local officials have fought back. Nine states require Amazon.com to collect sales taxes, including California, Pennsylvania and Texas. Amazon supports the broader measure. E-commerce giant eBay reached out to its users to lobby against it.

Business

Capital One Financial is paying $3.5 million to settle federal civil charges that it underreported as much as $123 million in losses on automobile loans in the months preceding the financial crisis.

Bank of New York Mellon must face a U.S. lawsuit that accuses the world’s largest custody bank of defrauding clients in foreign exchange transactions, a federal judge ruled.

Carlyle’s Synagro Technologies, a Baltimore-based waste recycler, filed for bankruptcy protection.

Lockheed Martin officials said the sequestration will wipe out $825 million of its revenue this year.

Halliburton is in talks to settle private claims against it in a trial to determine how to allocate blame for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the oil-field services company said , as it took a $1 billion pretax charge for a possible deal.

Jon Corzine was sued by the bankruptcy trustee liquidating MF Global Holdings, who accused the former chief executive of negligently pursuing a high-risk business strategy that culminated in the commodities brokerage’s destruction.

Hackers affiliated with the Chinese government are responsible for the vast majority of global cyber-espionage, according to a report.

Fisker Automotive had $21 million seized by the federal government just weeks after the troubled automaker laid off three-fourths of its workers amid continuing financial and production problems. Fisker, maker of the $100,000-plus Karma hybrid sports car, had received $192 million in federal loans before a series of problems led U.S. officials to freeze the loan in 2011.

General Motors said that the battery-powered version of its Chevrolet Spark mini-car can travel up to 82 miles on a single charge, putting it among the leaders in mass-market electric vehicles sold in the United States.

A German regulator fined Google about $190,000 for illegally recording data from WiFi networks while taking photos for its Street View service.

Apple won a patent-infringement case brought by Google’s Motorola Mobility unit over a phone sensor. The patent covers a sensor that prevents the phone from accidentally hanging up or activating an application when close to a person’s face.

T-Mobile and Sprint will delay the launch of Samsung’s new Galaxy S4 smartphone because of shipment delays.

Zynga said that the number of people playing its online games dropped dramatically in the first quarter.

Ralph Lauren will pay more than $1.6 million to settle a criminal and civil investigation of allegations that one of its subsidiaries bribed government officials in Argentina.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Maryland’s biggest health insurer, is proposing to raise premiums for individual policies by an average of 25 percent, saying the federal health-care law is driving up costs.

Earnings

Amazon.com’s quarterly profit dropped 37 percent, to $82 million, even though revenue increased 22 percent, as the online retailer continued to spend heavily on order fulfillment and rights to digital content.

AT&T’s profit climbed 3 percent to $3.7 billion, missing estimates, dragged down by a lingering slump at its landline business.

Boeing profits rose 20 percent, to $1.1 billion, beating estimates and showing little impact from the 787 Dreamliner problems.

Chevron profit dropped 4.5 percent, to $6.2 billion, as oil prices and refinery output dragged.

ConocoPhillips profit dropped to $2.1 billion, from $2.9 billion a year ago. Its oil and gas production rose a combined 42 percent in North Dakota’s Bakken shale and Texas’s Permian Basin and Eagle Ford shale.

Delta Air Lines profit fell to $44 million, from $48 million a year ago.

Exxon Mobil profit climbed to $9.5 billion, from $9.45 billion a year ago.

Ford was up 15 percent to $1.6 billion, boosted by U.S. sales.

General Dynamics profit climbed 1.2 percent to $571 million, helped by cost-cutting.

Netflix squeaked out a $2.7 million profit, after adding 2 million U.S. subscribers last quarter.

Northrop Grumman profit dropped 3 percent to $489 million.

Samsung Electronics profit jumped 42 percent, to a record $6.5 million, from a year ago, thanks to robust smartphone sales during a typically slow season.

Starbucks profit was up 26 percent to $390.4 million, from $310 million a year earlier, as sales climbed in the Americas.

Yum Brands, owner of the KFC and Pizza Hut dining chains, said profit fell 26 percent, to $337 million, but beat estimates, boosted by sales at Taco Bell.

Economy

The U.S. economy expanded at an annual rate of 2.5 percent during the first three months of the year — slower than the 3.1 percent economists expected. Many have begun warning that the recovery has cooled even more since then.

Japanese opponents of a free-trade agreement warned on Capitol Hill that the pact could hurt Japan’s rice farming and culture.

New-home sales for March are expected to climb 1.5 percent from February.

Transitions

Apps that translate voice into text are found to be as distracting for drivers as typing, according to a study for the Texas Transportation Institute.

Regulators asked automakers to disable Web-linked devices unless a vehicle is stopped.

New York City can test its “e-hail” program allowing people to hail yellow cabs via their smartphones, a judge said.

— From The Post and news services

18%

Drop in Apple’s quarterly profit

The slip, to $9.5 billion, was the tech giant’s first in 10 years, and it cautioned that sales could fall more than analysts expect over the summer. CEO Tim Cook sought to reassure investors dismayed by the company’s falling stock price and profit drop by unveiling the largest buyback plan in corporate history — adding $55 billion to its plan to return cash to shareholders and bringing the total to $100 billion through 2015.

 
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