Justices turn away trade group’s appeal on reporting tax on Internet sales

SUPREME COURT

Justices let stand Internet tax law

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a Colorado law that imposes reporting requirements on Internet retailers in an effort to get customers to pay sales taxes.

The justices turned away an appeal by a retail-industry trade group that argued the measure violated the U.S. Constitution.

The case raised questions about a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that bars states from requiring merchants to collect taxes unless they have a physical presence in the state. Consumers are supposed to pay the taxes themselves, but few do unless the seller collects the money.

The Colorado law requires Internet retailers to turn over customers’ names, addresses and purchase amounts to tax authorities. They also must notify consumers of their obligation to pay taxes and give a purchase summary to those who spend more than $500 in a year.

The Direct Marketing Association contended the law violates the Constitution’s commerce clause because it applies solely to out-of-state companies.

Also on Monday, the court upheld the broad reach of a federal law prohibiting bank fraud, giving the government more leeway to prosecute financial crimes.

The unanimous ruling came in the case of a California man who siphoned about $307,000 out of a Taiwanese businessman’s Bank of America account.

Lawrence Shaw argued that he wasn’t guilty of bank fraud because he intended to cheat only the bank customer, not the bank itself. But Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the court, said the bank has an interest in preserving the money in its customers’ accounts.

— Associated Press

ENERGY

Gates group starts fund for clean energy

Bill Gates and more than a dozen of the world’s wealthiest people revealed a new $1 billion investment fund late Sunday to foster major advances in clean energy production.

Dubbed Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the 20-year fund is backed by a mix of technology luminaries and heavyweights from the energy industry. The goal is to pump money into risky, long-term energy technology that could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a statement. The investments likely will go into areas such as electricity generation and storage, agriculture and transportation.

Investors include Jeffrey P. Bezos, chief executive of Amazon.com and owner of The Washington Post; Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group; and Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group.

— Bloomberg

Also in Business

Google and the Cuban government signed a deal Monday allowing the Internet giant to provide faster access to its data by installing servers on the island that will store much of the company’s most popular content. Storing Google data in Cuba eliminates the long distances that signals must travel from the island through Venezuela to the nearest Google server. Cuba suffers from some of the world’s most limited and expensive Internet access. Home connections are illegal for most Cubans, and the government charges about a month’s average salary for 10 hours of access to public WiFi with speeds often too slow for streaming video.

Chipotle Mexican Grill on Monday named founder Steve Ells as the sole chief executive of the burrito chain as it fights to recover from a series of food scares. Ells had been co-chief executive with Monty Moran, who is stepping down from that post and from his seat on the board of directors. Moran will retire from the company in 2017. Ells, who founded the company more than 23 years ago, will remain as chairman of the board.

China complained to the World Trade Organization to force the United States and European Union to stop using example prices from other nations in anti-dumping probes on its goods. China is urging the WTO to drop the so-called analogue-country model that its two biggest trading partners have used in past disputes, the Ministry of Commerce said Monday in a statement on its website. Beijing is trying to keep export markets accessible in the face of growing European and U.S. political concerns about the threat to their manufacturers posed by Chinese competitors.

The federal government’s deficit jumped sharply in November, but for the first two months of the budget year it is running 10 percent lower than a year ago. The Treasury Department says the deficit for November totaled $136.7 billion, compared with a deficit of $44.2 billion in October. For the first two months of the new 2017 budget year, the deficit totals $180.8 billion, 10 percent below the same period a year ago. The deficit for all of 2016 totaled $587.3 billion, a 34 percent spike from the previous year.

— From news services

Coming Today

All day: Federal Reserve policymakers begin a two-day meeting to set interest rates.

— From news services

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