UK unveils $420 billion lifeline for firms hit by coronavirus

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance arrive for a news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London, Britain March 17, 2020. (Reuters)
Updated 18 March 2020

UK unveils $420 billion lifeline for firms hit by coronavirus

LONDON: Britain said it would launch a £330 billion ($399 billion) lifeline of loan guarantees and provide a further £20 billion in tax cuts, grants and other help for businesses facing the risk of collapse from the spread of coronavirus.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak repeated his pledge to do “whatever it takes” including further action if needed to help sectors from retailers to bars and airports which are reeling from a near-shutdown of their businesses.
“This is not a time for ideology and orthodoxy,” Sunak said on Tuesday, speaking alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “This is a time to be bold, a time for courage.”
Britain, criticized by some scientists for moving more slowly than other European countries to prevent the spread of the virus, ramped up its response on Monday when it told people to avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas and theaters.
The coronavirus death toll in Britain rose by 16 to 71 on Tuesday.
Sunak said he was including all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in the suspension of a property tax, alongside the new loan guarantee program which was equivalent to 15% of British economic output.
Companies from those sectors would be offered cash grants and the government would discuss a support package for airlines and airports.
Britain’s biggest airports including Heathrow and Gatwick have warned that they face the threat of a complete shutdown without government help.
Banks and lenders would offer a three-month mortgage holiday for people in difficulty, Sunak said.
He later told lawmakers, some of whom criticized the business focus of the plan, that the government would soon make a statement about support for renters.
Sunak described Tuesday’s package of measures as unprecedented, although Britain issued guarantees of around £1 trillion
during the global financial crisis.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies, a think-tank, said Sunak would need to “come back with more” and Allan Monks, a JP Morgan economist, said that excluding the loan guarantees, the size of Britain’s stimulus measures for this year was “likely to look small compared to the economic shock underway.”
The Bank of England said it would set up a new fund with the finance ministry to buy commercial debt with a term of up to one-year issued by investment-grade companies making a “material contribution” to Britain’s economy.
It added that the fund would be financed out of the creation of central bank reserves — in other words with new money, much like the BoE’s quantitative easing program.
Earlier on Tuesday, Britain’s budget forecasters said the scale of the borrowing needed to fight the coronavirus hit to the economy might resemble the country’s immense debt splurge during World War Two.
“Now is not a time to be squeamish about public sector debt,” Robert Chote, head of the Office for Budget Responsibility, told lawmakers.
“We ran during the Second World War budget deficits in excess of 20% of GDP five years on the trot and that was the right thing to do.”
On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said his government would guarantee 300 billion euros worth of loans, and promised that no French company would be allowed to collapse.
New Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey promised “prompt action” on Monday, less than a week after an emergency rate cut by the BoE which took its benchmark rate to just 0.25%.
Investors are watching for another rate cut, possibly before the BoE’s next scheduled announcement on March 26.
The central bank is also expected to expand its £435 billion government bond buying program.


Trump paid $750 in US income taxes in 2016, 2017: NY Times

Updated 28 September 2020

Trump paid $750 in US income taxes in 2016, 2017: NY Times

  • In 2017, Trump paid $145,400 in taxes in India and $156,824 in the Philippines
  • Trump relied on business tax credits to reduce his tax obligations in the US, says report

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for president and in his first year in the White House, according to a report Sunday in The New York Times.
Trump, who has fiercely guarded his tax filings and is the only president in modern times not to make them public, paid no federal income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years.
The details of the tax filings complicate Trump’s description of himself as a shrewd and patriotic businessman, revealing instead a series of financial losses and income from abroad that could come into conflict with his responsibilities as president. The president’s financial disclosures indicated he earned at least $434.9 million in 2018, but the tax filings reported a $47.4 million loss.
The disclosure, which the Times said comes from tax return data it obtained extending over two decades, comes at a pivotal moment ahead of the first presidential debate Tuesday and weeks before a divisive election against Democrat Joe Biden.
Speaking at a news conference Sunday at the White House, Trump dismissed the report as “fake news” and maintained he has paid taxes, though he gave no specifics. He also vowed that information about his taxes “will all be revealed,” but he offered no timeline for the disclosure and made similar promises during the 2016 campaign on which he never followed through.
In fact, the president has fielded court challenges against those seeking access to his returns, including the US House, which is suing for access to Trump’s tax returns as part of congressional oversight.
During his first two years as president, Trump received $73 million from foreign operations, which in addition to his golf properties in Scotland and Ireland included $3 million from the Philippines, $2.3 million from India and $1 million from Turkey. The president in 2017 paid $145,400 in taxes in India and $156,824 in the Philippines, compared to just $750 in US income taxes.
Trump found multiple ways to reduce his tax bills. He has taken tax deductions on personal expenses such as housing, aircraft and $70,000 to style his hair while he filmed “The Apprentice.” Losses in the property businesses solely owned and managed by Trump appear to have offset income from his stake in “The Apprentice” and other entities with multiple owners.
During the first two years of his presidency, Trump relied on business tax credits to reduce his tax obligations. The Times said $9.7 million worth of business investment credits that were submitted after Trump requested an extension to file his taxes allowed him to reduce his income and pay just $750 each in 2016 and 2017.
Income tax payments help finance the military and domestic programs.
Trump, starting in 2010, claimed and received an income tax refund that totaled $72.9 million, which the Times said was at the core of an ongoing audit by the IRS.
Rep. Richard Neal, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee who has tried unsuccessfully to obtain Trump’s tax records, said the Times report makes it even more essential for his committee to get the documents.
“It appears that the President has gamed the tax code to his advantage and used legal fights to delay or avoid paying what he owes,” Neal wrote in a statement. “Now, Donald Trump is the boss of the agency he considers an adversary. It is essential that the IRS’s presidential audit program remain free of interference.”
A lawyer for the Trump Organization, Alan Garten, and a spokesperson for the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press on the report.
Garten told the Times that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate.”
He said in a statement to the news organization that the president “has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2015.”
The New York Times said it declined to provide Garten with the tax filings in order to protect its sources.
During his first general election debate against Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, Clinton said that perhaps Trump wasn’t releasing his tax returns because he had paid nothing in federal taxes.
Trump interrupted her to say, “That makes me smart.”