Business Briefs

Judge: Microsoft

likely evaded taxes

SEATTLE — A federal judge says it’s likely that Microsoft was trying to avoid or evade paying U.S. taxes and is ordering the company to hand over financial documents from more than a decade ago.

The Internal Revenue Service has been seeking the documents as part of a long-running investigation into how Microsoft structured a Puerto Rico manufacturing facility starting in 2005. The IRS has said Microsoft hired accounting firm KPMG to set up a cost-sharing arrangement with the Puerto Rican affiliate that shifted taxable revenue out of the U.S.

A ruling Friday by U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez says the court “finds itself unable to escape the conclusion that a significant purpose, if not the sole purpose, of Microsoft’s transactions was to avoid or evade federal income tax.”

The Seattle judge gave Microsoft about a week to hand over documents that the IRS has been seeking for several years. The Redmond, Washington, tech company has objected to disclosing the 174 documents, saying U.S. law protects confidential communications with tax professionals.

Home sales up 3%

in December

WASHINGTON — U.S. home sales climbed 3.6% in December, but a record-low inventory of houses on the market has caused prices to surge as affordability is worsening.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that sales of existing homes rose last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.54 million. For all of 2019, 5.34 million homes were sold — matching the 2018 level. High mortgage rates hurt sales in the first half of the last year, while lower rates boosted purchases in the second half.

But the rebound in sales failed to cause more people to put their homes on the market. Sales listings have tumbled 8.5% from a year ago to 1.4 million properties. There are just 3 months’ supply of single-family houses for sale, the lowest level since the Realtors began tracking the number in 1982.

In December, sales rose in the Northeast, South and West. But sales fell in the Midwest, which is generally a more affordable market.

Starbucks pushes

for sustainability

SEATTLE — In yet another sign of corporate America’s growing focus on environmental sustainability, Starbucks has launched an ambitious plan to cut its waste, water use and carbon emissions in half by 2030.

The plan, announced Tuesday by Starbucks CEO and President Kevin Johnson, appears to be driven by a mix of government regulation, activist pressure and internal concerns about the Seattle-based company’s image as the public pays closer attention to environmental issues.

Starbucks’ promise comes just a week after Microsoft vowed that by 2030 it would be “carbon negative,” meaning it would remove more carbon from the environment than its own operations and supply chain emit each year.

— Bulletin wire reports

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