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22nd September 2021
House passes spending bill and debt limit increase over GOP opposition
The House has passed a measure keeping the government funded until early December and suspending its borrowing limit through 2022. With less than two weeks before the government’s current funding expires at 12:01 a.m. October 1st, the House passed in a 220-211 party-line vote a package unveiled earlier in the day that would fund the government through December 3rd 2021, and suspend the debt limit through December 16th 2022. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure either later this week or early next; most Senate Republicans have said they won’t vote to increase the debt limit, saying Democrats should shoulder responsibility on their own after passing $1.9tn in COVID-19 relief earlier this year without GOP votes. 
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Trump sues NYT and niece over tax records story
Former President Donald Trump is suing his estranged niece and the New York Times over a 2018 story about his family’s wealth and tax practices that was partly based on confidential documents she provided to the newspaper’s reporters. The suit alleges that Mary Trump, the New York Times and at least three of its reporters “engaged in an insidious plot to obtain confidential and highly-sensitive records” about the former president’s finances. According to the lawsuit, he suffered at least $100m in damages as a result of the alleged actions. The article claimed that Mr. Trump “participated in dubious tax schemes . . . including instances of outright fraud” that allowed him to receive over $413m from his father, Fred Trump Sr., while significantly reducing taxes. 
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Poll finds support for solar energy tax credit legislation
A new survey from pollster Data for Progress has found support for a Senate bill that would provide tax credits for solar energy manufacturers at all stages of the supply chain. The poll found that 67% of likely voters in the U.S. strongly or somewhat support the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America (SEMA) Act, compared to 23% who said they strongly or somewhat oppose the measure. The bill, introduced by Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) in June, specifically calls for granting tax credits to American manufacturers at all steps of the solar manufacturing supply chain, including the production of polysilicon, solar cells and assembled solar modules. The senator has said the legislation is essential for making the U.S. competitive on the international stage when it comes to renewable energy. Mr. Ossoff is pushing for the measure to be included in Democrats’ multi-trillion dollar reconciliation package, which members of both congressional chambers are currently negotiating.
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Big Four lawyers take government gigs to shape tax rules
Tax lawyers from US accounting and consulting giants do short stints at the Treasury Department to craft favorable tax policy for their former corporate clients, then return to their firms to receive promotions and pay increases, according to a recent report from the New York Times. The publication says that, in the last four presidential administrations, there were at least 35 instances of round trips from the big accountancies to the Treasury Department’s tax policy office, as well as the IRS and the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, and then back to the original firm. In at least 16 of those instances, the professionals were promoted to partner.
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IFAC and ACCA see need for reliable climate accounting
The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) are marking Climate Week in New York City by urging accountants to get more involved in climate information reporting. They co-hosted an online panel discussion Monday on how finance and accounting professionals can help improve sustainability reporting for companies and their investors by giving them access to more reliable information. “Accountants can help bridge the climate information gap, first to inform investors and stakeholders about the climate risks and opportunities facing the company and the financial implications, and second to navigate their companies toward climate mitigation and adaptation,” said IFAC CEO Kevin Dancey. “This all starts with the board and management’s need to understand a company’s climate impacts and how climate risks and opportunities will affect its financial position and performance and enterprise value creation over time." ESG standard-setters have been coming together to try to better align their sometimes conflicting standards while the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation is in the process of setting up an International Sustainability Standards Board that it would oversee alongside the International Accounting Standards Board. “The new ISSB under the IFRS Foundation will have an important role here, and IFAC strongly supports this initiative,” said Dancey.
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Single-family housing starts decline further in August
U.S. single-family homebuilding fell for a second straight month in August as builders continued to struggle with shortages of materials and labor. The Commerce Department said that single-family starts, which account for the largest share of the housing market, dropped 2.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.076m. Overall housing starts advanced 3.9% to a rate of 1.615m, ahead of a Reuters poll estimate of 1.555m. The report showed backlogs continued to climb, with the number of single-family houses under construction but not yet completed rising to the highest since 2007. Houses that are authorized but not yet started rose to the most since 1979, further underscoring builders’ struggle to keep up with demand. The backlog of homes yet to be started increased 3.7% to 251,000 units, a record high. Single-family homes yet to be started were near a 15-year high.
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U.S. current account deficit widens to 14-year high in second quarter
The U.S. current account deficit increased to a 14-year high in the second quarter as businesses boosted imports to replenish depleted inventories amid robust consumer spending. The Commerce Department said on Tuesday the current account deficit, which measures the flow of goods, services and investments into and out of the country, rose 0.5% to $190.3bn last quarter. The current account gap represented 3.3% of gross domestic product last quarter, down from 3.4% in the January-March quarter. Imports of goods increased $29bn to $706.3bn, primarily reflecting an increase in industrial supplies and materials, mostly petroleum products as well as metals and nonmetallic products. Meanwhile, exportsof goods rose $28.3bn to $436.6bn. 
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More CFOs add sustainability targets to corporate loans
An increasing number of companies are tying the interest rates on their corporate loans to environmental and other sustainability targets as they face pressure from investors and regulators to go green. Sustainability-linked loans carry interest rates that adjust based on whether a company meets a predetermined environmental, social or governance goal, such as reducing carbon emissions
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Delta variant set to hold back global economic recovery
The fast-spreading Delta variant of COVID-19 has slowed the pace of the global economic recovery but won’t derail it, according to new forecasts released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In its latest quarterly report on the economic outlook published on Tuesday, the Paris-based research body lowered its growth forecast for the U.S. economy in 2021 to 6% from the 6.9% projected in May, and trimmed its global growth forecast to 5.7% from 5.8%. With demand for many consumer goods still strong, and many services industries yet to return to their pre-pandemic levels of output, the global economic recovery is set to continue into 2022, aided by vaccination programs. The OECD estimates that the U.S. economy will grow 3.9% next year, a faster expansion than the 3.6% increase in gross domestic product that it forecast in May. Globally, it sees economic output rising 4.5%, slightly faster than its previous projection.
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Kenya’s High Court declares minimum tax is unconstitutional
Kenya's High Court has said a plan to levy a minimum tax of 1% on total sales is unconstitutional. The levy, which was due to take effect at the start of 2021, is now annulled. Judge George Odunga said in his ruling: “It results in diminishing capital for those making losses, while for those making profits the capital base is unaffected.”  Business owners who challenged the new tax in court said it was “unconstitutional, unlawful and devastating.” The measure could have raised about 21bn shillings ($190m) for the Treasury annually, according to lawmakers who said it was designed to ensure companies that perennially report losses also contribute to government programs.
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Global billionaire ranks soared 13.4% last year
The pandemic proved to be a boon for billionaires, who grew their collective wealth and saw more people join their ranks. For the first time, the world has more than 3,000 billionaires, according to a new report from research firm Wealth-X - a 13.4% increase since 2019. Their total wealth swelled to $10tn, a 5.7% increase in net worth. North America cemented its status as "the world's leading billionaire region in 2020," with the three-comma club there growing by 17.5% from the year prior, and its 980 billionaires accounting for 30.6% of the world's total. 
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