Business briefing

The daily business briefing: April 18, 2018

Starbucks to close 8,000 stores for a day of "racial-bias training," IRS online payment page crashes ahead of tax deadline, and more


Starbucks to close 8,000 stores for a day of 'racial-bias training'

Starbucks said Tuesday it would close more than 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores for a day next month to give employees "racial-bias education." The move could cost an estimated $20 million in sales. The coffee chain's CEO, Kevin Johnson, called for the sensitivity training for nearly 175,000 workers after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks last week when a manager called the police. The men were waiting for another friend, and had been denied access to the restroom because they had not made a purchase. "Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities," Johnson said in the statement.


IRS direct payment page crashes on Tax Day

The Internal Revenue Service's "Direct Pay" page for paying income taxes online using bank accounts briefly crashed on Tuesday, hours before the April 17 deadline for filing federal tax returns. Taxpayers tweeted their frustration after the page crashed, although filers still appeared to be able to pay using a debit or credit card, although they had to pay fees of $2 or $3.95 to do so. Taxpayers also can pay with paper checks. IRS Acting Commissioner David J. Kautter said filers would not be penalized if they got their returns in late due to the problem with the website. The systems were restored, but everyone will have an extra day to file.


White House confusion on Russia sanctions plan goes public

An internal battle over proposed new Russia sanctions erupted into public view on Tuesday. President Trump's new top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley mistakenly signaled the sanctions would be announced Monday due to "momentary confusion." Haley responded, "With all due respect, I don't get confused." Kudlow reportedly called her to apologize. The sanctions were proposed as punishment for Moscow's support of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which the U.S. blames for a suspected chemical weapons attack. Trump reportedly was not comfortable with the sanctions yet. Moscow is reportedly discussing a bailout of the business empire of Oleg Deripaska, already targeted by American authorities, as banks and suppliers flee, endangering the jobs of more than 60,000 Russians.


Stocks get a boost from strong earnings season

U.S. stock futures added to the week's gains early Wednesday as strong corporate earnings overshadowed geopolitical tensions that have been weighing on global markets. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose by 0.2 percent, while those of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq-100 gained 0.3 percent. On Tuesday, the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq Composite all gained for the second straight day. The Dow rose by 0.9 percent, the S&P 500 jumped up by 1.1 percent, and the Nasdaq was up by 1.8 percent, leaving all three in positive territory for 2018. Investors are watching for Morgan Stanley's quarterly earnings on Wednesday following Goldman Sachs' report of a surge in profits in the first three months of the year.


Justices appear split during arguments on internet tax law

Supreme Court justices appeared split as they heard arguments Tuesday on whether online retailers should have to collect sales taxes in some states. Brick-and-mortar rivals complain that a 1992 Quill Corporation v. North Dakota Supreme Court ruling, which allows internet retailers to avoid paying sales taxes in states where they lack a physical presence, puts traditional stores at a disadvantage. Several justices expressed reluctance to impose a major burden, including back taxes, on small online businesses. Some justices indicated they felt Congress, not the Supreme Court, should make the call. Chief Justice John Roberts said the marketplace might be handling the problem. "The bigger e-commerce companies find themselves with a physical presence in all 50 states," he said, "and they are covered."


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