National / International News

VIDEO: Asda expansion 'great for business'

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:51
Asda president Andy Clarke speaks to the BBC's business editor Kamal Ahmed, following the announcement that the company will create up to 12,000 UK shop posts over five years.

Emotional Oscar Pistorius apologises

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:44
Oscar Pistorius makes a tearful apology at the start of his testimony in his murder trial, but proceedings adjourn early due to his "exhaustion".

Home's head nun was 'very caring'

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:40
A nun in charge of a Londonderry children's home in the 1970s was "very caring", according to a former social worker.

Army helicopter in emergency landing

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:27
An army Apache helicopter is forced to make an emergency landing on the outskirts of Aberdeen.

US mudslide death toll reaches 33

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:24
The number of dead in a mudslide that destroyed a town in the US state of Washington rises to 33 as workers battle the elements to locate the missing.

Collector does deal on art hoard

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:23
German art collector Cornelius Gurlitt, whose collection was seized by police in 2012, reaches a deal on the future of the 1,400 works.

VIDEO: Candle-lit vigil amid 'black box' hunt

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:23
Families are holding a candle-lit vigil for 239 people still missing after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared on 8 March.

Three attacked with hammer in hotel

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:21
Three women are bludgeoned by a hammer-wielding attacker in a room at a central London hotel.

Asda to create 'up to 12,000 jobs'

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:20
Supermarket giant Asda will create up to 12,000 UK shop posts over the next five years, Asda owner Wal-Mart says.

Gunman kills Dutch priest in Syria

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:20
An elderly Dutch priest who had become well known for refusing to leave the besieged Syrian city of Homs has been shot dead by a gunman.

VIDEO: 'I saw a girl and had to help her'

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:13
Eyewitness Adam Cramer has described how he saved a child from drowning off the island of Tenerife, where two women died after being swept out to sea.

Is this town the Luxembourg of Illinois sales tax?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:06

The Chicago area’s public transit agency says it’s been bilked of hundreds of millions of dollars over the last 15 years, a penny or two at a time. The culprits: towns in outlying parts of Illinois. Like Kankakee, population 27,000. Channohan, population 13,000. Sycamore, population 17,000. The agency says dozens of companies, including Target, AT&T and American Airlines, have used the towns as tax havens.

MTS consulting keeps an office in a faceless little building off Schuyler Avenue in Kankakee, about an hour south of Chicago. When no one answers, I look in the mail slot. No lights are on. A desk is visible, but no computer or phone. Later, MTS CEO David Polush tells me both are just out of view.

Down the hall, I ask a woman at Pinnacle Opportunities about MTS: Have you ever met anybody who’s been there?

"I haven’t. Sorry."  She's been working there for more than a year.

 In a court filing, Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority says MTS records significant sales here, on behalf of clients based in the Chicago area. It’s one of several companies with offices like this in towns like Kankakee.

They’re here to save on sales tax. Illinois sets a statewide sales tax, but in Chicago the tax is higher because it adds levies for the city, the county and the RTA.

Carol Portman, executive director of the Illinois Taxpayers Federation, says peculiarities in Illinois sales tax law forced the Department of Revenue to write rules about where sales take place. "In some instances," she says, "it led to some rather unexpected results."

That is, some companies have been able to run their business one place— like Chicago— but, for tax purposes, book their sales someplace with a lower rate— like Kankakee. In some cases, it’s consultants like MTS that book the sales.

Additionally, towns like Kankakee offer an extra incentive to companies. Under state law, Kankakee gets a penny of the sales tax it collects— and the village gives 85 percent of that penny back to these companies.

The remaining sliver adds up to $2.5 million dollars a year for Kankakee. Ten percent of the village’s budget.

Portman sees nothing unusual about the arrangement. "That really isn’t any different from the income tax credits, or the property tax abatements that we’re giving people to come here," she says.

For instance, Boeing got tens of millions of dollars in city and state tax breaks when it moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago in 2001.

Jordan Matyas, the RTA's chief of staff, sees things differently. He’s suing companies like MTS and towns like Kankakee.

He says there are reasons companies base their operations in Chicago: Amenities like transit make it easier for them to do business.

"If they want to move somewhere else that has less resources, that’s their decision," he says. "But as long as they’re taking advantage of all our government services, they need to be paying the appropriate sales tax."

Kankakee’s mayor, Nina Epstein, makes no apologies.  "There are other parts of the state than the RTA district," she says.

Epstein says some of these companies don’t have Chicago offices at all. Some are Internet companies with no other physical presence in the state. Others simply don’t need full time staff to fulfill orders.

"This has helped fund police and fire services, public works," she says. "But now, it’s going to be taken away."

Last fall, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered a rewrite of tax regulation, to eliminate some of these arrangements.  That’s underway.

Meanwhile, some companies have ended their presence in Kankakee, and Epstein has zeroed out income from the tax deals for her next budget.

Tax expert Carol Portman says this is how tax policy works:  There are winners and losers.

"It’s easy for someone like the RTA to feel like they’ve been the loser and they want changes that make them the winner," she says. "But the problem is: There’s a loser then."

GB's Smith claims historic bronze

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:03
Zoe Smith becomes only the second British woman to win an overall European weightlifting medal by finishing third in Israel.

Death Toll At 33 In Washington State Mudslide

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:03

Ten people are still listed as missing, officials say. According to the medical examiner's office, all of the victims recovered thus far have died of blunt force trauma.

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President urges apology for violence

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:01
The president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, says those who inflicted violence in Northern Ireland should apologise and show more humility about the past.

Cavendish to miss l'Escaut race

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:00
Mark Cavendish pulls out of the Grand Prix de l'Escaut as he continues his recovery from a bout of flu.

Selfie Day: Who do we think we are?

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 07:59
BBC journalists think about who they are - by taking selfies

Life for 'brutal' murder of woman

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 07:53
A former soldier who stabbed his ex-girlfriend's flatmate to death and attempted to murder his former partner while holding them hostage for eight hours is jailed for life.

Hillsborough boy had stadium fears

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 07:52
A boy who died at the Hillsborough disaster had expressed concern about the stadium, his sister tells the inquest jury.

Obituary: Mickey Rooney

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-07 07:52
Hollywood's Mickey Rooney had a life as dramatic as any of his films
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