SEATTLE (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp has a stable of senior executives who could be contenders to succeed Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, even though outsiders have sparked the most discussion so far.
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(NEW YORK) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will extend its health care benefits to its U.S. workers’ domestic partners, including those of the same sex, starting Jan. 1. The nation’s largest private employer, which has been a target of attacks by labor groups for what they criticize are skimpy wages and benefits, said Tuesday that the changes were made so it could have one uniform policy for all 50 states at a time when some states have their own definitions of what constitutes domestic partnerships and civil unions. Employees can enroll their domestic partners from Oct. 12 through Nov. 1. Wal-Mart defines domestic partners as spouses of the same-sex or opposite gender, and unmarried partners who are not legally separated who have lived together for at least 12 months, are not married to anyone else, are in an exclusive relationship and plan to continue sharing a household indefinitely, says Randy Hargrove, a Wal-Mart spokesman. “States have different definitions,” said Hargrove in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “We are going to have our own definition that will apply to our associates.” (MORE: Meet the Low-Key, Low-Cost Grocery Chain Being Called ‘Walmart’s Worst Nightmare’) The move, which was announced to Wal-Mart workers in postcards sent to them Monday, follows the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June to overturn a 1996 law that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. So the decision makes the federal government recognize same-sex marriages in states where they are legal. Wal-Mart also announced that it will be offering an eyewear care program, including eye exams, to its eligible associates, starting next year. The Bentonville, Ark.-based discounter has 1.3 million full-time and part-time U.S. workers. More than half of the workers participate in health care plans, the company says. About 1.1 million Wal-Mart workers and family members combined participate in Wal-Mart’s health care plan. Hargrove said that the company’s health care premiums are going up anywhere from 3 percent to 10 percent, a lower rate than in previous years. “We have been working to keep our costs down,” he
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A top accounting firm is warning that credit unions could be unfairly slammed by a new tax measure, but according to the federal government it was an error that has already been identified and a fix is on the way.
Deloitte Canada said in a report that credit unions and caisses populaires could see their federal tax bills jump to 15% from the current level of 11%, under a new measure included in the March budget.
And since most provinces mirror the federal tax, the increase could have a significant impact on the entire credit union sector, said Deloitte. At the end of the day, credit unions could end up with tax rates as much as 13% higher than banks, their main competitors, according to Deloitte.
But a spokesman for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the situation is being resolved.
“This is a technical issue that was already identified by other tax professionals earlier this summer,” Chisholm Pothier said in an email. “Minister Flaherty has committed to fix it as soon as possible and ensure no credit union is disadvantaged.”
Meanwhile, Peggy Nash, the NDP Finance Critic, on Tuesday referred to the apparently unintended measure as a radical Conservative tax hike, and she called on Mr. Flaherty to either explain what’s going on or get rid of it.
Deloitte suggested the new tax rate is the result of an error on the part of the Finance Department.
“There is a technical deficiency in the legislation that adversely impacts credit unions and caisses populaires,” the firm says in a tax alert issued Aug. 14.
“The result is that the federal rate applicable to income that is not eligible for additional deduction is subject to a 28% federal tax rate rather than 15%.”
The firm said Finance Department officials are aware of the discrepancy, but have not said whether the problem will be corrected.
“Our contacts would not provide any assurance that the legislative fix would be enacted prior to the end of 2013 or whether the fix would be retroactive to budget day.”
Parliament would have to amend the legislation.
The Deloitte report findings are troubling, Ms. Nash said.
“If this is a legislative error, the minister must immediately take corrective action,” she said.
“If this was a deliberate attack on Canada’s credit unions, then the minister must explain why credit unions and caisses populaires are being targeted by his government for such unfair treatment.”
But according to Mr. Pothier, the government will bring in new legislation “in the fall” to resolve the problem.
“The NDP could have been aware of all this with one phone call to the Department of Finance,” he added.
A general tax rate reduction was introduced in 2001 for all corporations to reduce the federal tax rate to 15% from 28%.
Using a formula, corporations could claim deductions from taxes owing equal to what’s known as their “full rate taxable income,” multiplied by the reduced percentage rate.
But the budget bill changed the definition of full rate taxable income as it applies to credit unions and caisses populaires, yielding a much different result when they calculate taxes owed.
For their part, credit unions are watching the issue but not concerned, as long as it does eventually get addressed.
“It appears to be a tech oversight,” said Helmut Pastrick, chief economist for Central Credit Union 1, the main back office organization for credit unions in British Columbia and Ontario. “The crux of the issue is that the Finance Department is looking at it… if rectified, then it’s certainly [not a problem].”
With files from The Canadian Press