The US Supreme Court will consider whether Hennepin County's seizure of a woman's Minneapolis condo over unpaid taxes contravened her constitutional rights. Geraldine Tyler had moved out of her home to a senior community when she ran up a tax bill of around $15,000. The county sold the property for $40,000 but refused to give Tyler the surplus. She argues that the action amounts to a Fifth Amendment taking without just compensation or an excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment. Supporters of Tyler have filed 25 amicus briefs supporting her argument. If the county loses, it could have implications for small businesses and lending.
PwC US, one of the Big Four accounting firms, will invest $1 billion over the next three years to expand the use of AI by its tax accountants, auditors, and consultants. PwC will partner with Microsoft to provide its 65,000 employees with the AI tools to reduce busywork, improve quality of outcomes, and shorten their workday. PwC already uses Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service for clients in the healthcare, insurance, and aviation industries. The firm plans to use AI across all its business lines, including tax and audit, to speed up the process of sifting through financial data and to assist in spotting anomalies or outliers. Additionally, AI tools could help accountants and advisers to write first drafts of position papers and memos. The $1 billion investment is an attempt to stay ahead of competitors such as KPMG, which recently announced incorporating AI technology into its global audit platform through a collaboration with MindBridge Analytics Inc.
The $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft has been blocked by the UK antitrust watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA said that its concerns could not be solved by remedies such as the sale of blockbuster title Call of Duty or other solutions involving promises to permit rivals to offer the game on their platforms. Microsoft has said that it will appeal the decision. The CMA's conclusions come before decisions from the European Union and the US Federal Trade Commission, which is waiting for a hearing in the summer. The deal would have been one of the 30 biggest acquisitions of all time. If it is eventually blocked, Microsoft could be on the hook for a break-up fee of up to $3 billion. Activision shares tumbled more than 10% in pre-market trading, while Microsoft rose 7.4%. The CMA took the view that the merger could result in higher prices, fewer choices, and less innovation for UK gamers. Microsoft had been fighting the regulatory battle in the UK and Europe, with full-page advertisements in British newspapers and press conferences in Brussels to try to influence sentiment on the deal.
Madison Square Garden in Manhattan has not paid property taxes since 1982, which is a cause for concern given the immense public funds invested in the facility. The tax exemption stems from a deal made with former Mayor Ed Koch to prevent teams from fleeing to New Jersey. The total tax expenditure for the exemption is over $875 million, with an ongoing annual cost of $43 million, according to the Independent Budget Office. Taxing the arena like other neighboring businesses would fund New York City's electric vehicle charging station initiatives in about four years, and one year's property tax revenue would fully fund the city's program to improve criminal case processing. However, teams that receive tax breaks frequently threaten to leave cities for better deals elsewhere, which makes cities reluctant to hold them accountable. While these venues purportedly provide benefits like job creation, studies show they may be net fiscal negatives for surrounding communities. The future of ensuring that venues pay their fair share lies in national initiatives such as the No Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act of 2022, which aimed to eliminate tax-exemption status for bonds used to finance sports stadiums.
The Sixth Circuit has ruled that bump stocks, a device that can be attached to a semi-automatic rifle to make it function like a machine gun, cannot be regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) under the Gun Control Act. The opinion was based on the rule of lenity, a criminal law doctrine that construes ambiguous statutes in favor of the defendant. The court noted that the ATF didn't adopt a rule treating bump stocks as a machine gun part that could be regulated until after the deadly shooting in Las Vegas in 2018, where the shooter used a rifle with a bump stock to kill 58 people. The ruling creates a circuit split, with the Tenth and D.C. circuits saying that bump stocks can be regulated, while the Fifth Circuit disagrees. Although courts generally defer to an agency's interpretation of a law they enforce, the court said that deference wasn't appropriate here. The court therefore applied the rule of lenity, which says criminal statutes must be construed strictly. Judge John K. Bush concurred in the judgment but said that it's up to Congress, not ATF, to change the law.