Home » Business Highlights: IRS call times, McCarthy on debt bill

Business Highlights: IRS call times, McCarthy on debt bill

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Calling the IRS? Hold times are way down this tax season

WASHINGTON (AP) — The IRS says it has answered 2 million more calls this tax filing season than a year ago, with the average phone wait time now at four minutes. That’s down considerably from 27 minutes for the 2022 tax season. The federal tax administrator is promoting its improved customer service and giving credit to a big boost in funding provided by the Inflation Reduction Act that Democrats pushed through Congress last year. Additionally, the agency served 100,000 more taxpayers in-person and digitized 80 times more paper forms than in 2022 and cleared the backlog of unprocessed 2022 individual tax returns.

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US tax breaks lure European clean tech companies as EU lags

LONDON (AP) — Norwegian battery startup Freyr is planning its next factory in an Atlanta suburb because a new U.S. clean energy law offers generous tax credits for local production. Across Europe, companies seeking to invest in the green energy boom ranging from batteries to solar panels are making similar calculations. They’re weighing up the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act’s $375 billion in benefits for renewable industries against Europe’s fragmented response. Executives hail the U.S. program’s simplicity. Some complain that a plan from the 27-nation European Union is underwhelming, confusing and bureaucratic, putting Europe at risk of falling behind in the green energy transition.

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Lagarde: US-China split may weaken growth and fuel inflation

WASHINGTON (AP) — The fragmentation of the world economy into rival blocs led by the United States and China threatens to destabilize global commerce, increase inflation and weaken growth, Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central Bank, warned Monday. Lagarde said that economic data dating to 1900 shows that “geopolitical risks led invariably to higher inflation.” Costs tend to mount, she said, as countries stop or reduce trading with rivals and seek supplies at home or from allied countries. She added that it can be difficult to sever ties: Europe, for example, relies on China for 98% of its rare earth minerals, which are used in cellphones and computer hard drives, among other products.

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Speaker McCarthy vows to pass debt bill – with a big ‘if’

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is pledging to pass legislation to raise the nation’s debt ceiling — but only if coupled with a cap on future federal spending. In a speech Monday at the New York Stock Exchange, the Republican leader lashed out at President Joe Biden for refusing to engage in budget cutting negotiations to prevent a debt crisis. McCarthy said Biden is “missing in action.” The White House, in turn, accused McCarthy of “high-risk hostage taking.” The speaker’s Wall Street address comes as Washington is heading toward a fiscal crisis over the need to raise the nation’s debt limit, now at $31 trillion, and avert a federal default.

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Stocks drift higher as earnings season kicks into gear

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks rose slightly Monday, the start of the first full week of earnings reporting season. The S&P 500 rose 0.3%. The Dow and Nasdaq also closed near their highs for the day with modest gains. M&T Bank led the S&P 500 while other financial companies reported a mixed set of profit reports for the first three months of the year. They followed up on a bevy of better-than-expected reports from some of the biggest U.S. banks that kicked off the reporting season at the end of last week. Treasury yields rose as expectations firmed for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates again next month.

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DeSantis seeks to control Disney with state oversight powers

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers are ratcheting up pressure on Walt Disney World. They announced on Monday plans to introduce legislation that would end an exemption for Disney parks, allowing the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to inspect Disney rides. The announcement is the latest in a tit-for-tat between Disney and the governor that started last year when the entertainment giant publicly opposed the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. In retaliation, Florida lawmakers passed, and DeSantis signed, legislation reorganizing Disney World’s company-controlled government, allowing the governor to appoint the five members of the Board of Supervisors instead of Disney.

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Fox News-Dominion case delayed by judge without explanation

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — The Delaware judge overseeing a voting machine company’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News has delayed the opening of the trial. The decision raises the prospect that the two sides might settle before the eagerly watched case can go before a jury. Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis suggested the sides try to mediate their dispute, according to a person close to Fox who was not authorized to speak publicly about the status of the lawsuit. Attorneys for both sides who appeared in court Monday declined to answer reporters’ questions about the delay. The case centers on whether Fox defamed Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems by spreading false claims that the company rigged the 2020 presidential election.

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EU investigates after 3 countries ban Ukraine grain imports

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Slovakia has become the third European Union country to ban food imports from Ukraine. The move on Monday deepens a challenge for the bloc as it works to help Ukraine transport its grain to world markets. Slovakia followed Poland and Hungary. The latter two countries announced bans Saturday on Ukrainian food imports through June 30. They did so in response to rising anger from farmers who say that a glut of grain in their countries is causing them economic hardship.

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US ready to lend Poland $4 billion for nuclear energy plan

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A project to develop about 20 small nuclear power reactors in Poland is moving forward as Polish energy company Orlen and two U.S. government financial institutions signed an agreement. Poland, which has traditionally relied heavily on its own coal and Russian energy imports, is seeking a shift toward energy that’s renewable or doesn’t use climate-changing fossil fuels. In a ceremony Monday, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the International Development Finance Corporation signed letters of interest to lend billions to the Orlen Synthos Green Energy project. Orlen CEO Daniel Obajtek told The Associated Press that only nuclear power can guarantee energy security and keep the lights on when the wind isn’t blowing or sun isn’t shining.

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The S&P 500 rose 13.68 points, or 0.3%, to 4,151.32. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 100.71 points, or 0.3%, to 33,987.18. The Nasdaq composite added 34.26 points, or 0.3% to 12,157.72. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies ended up 21.68 points, or 1.2%, to 1,802.84.