Unstructured Finance

from MacroScope:

SEC has power to ban high-frequency trading, congressman says

Not everyone agrees that using high-speed machines to trade stocks in less time than it takes the average person to blink is a bad thing, but the people who do might be heartened by the letter a congressman sent the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who has waged a decades-long struggle against computerized trading sent the SEC a hint: The power to curb high-frequency trading has been within its grasp all along.

In his letter, Markey described a law he co-sponsored in 1989 to increase the agency’s power to regulate computerized trading, a precursor to HFT that employed computer programs to make trading decisions without the participation of conscious humans. The law lets the SEC “limit practices which result in extraordinary levels of volatility,” according to Markey’s citation.

Markey, nudging further, added: “If the commission simply makes a finding that the markets are currently in a period of extraordinary market volatility and that HFT is reasonably certain to engender such levels of volatility, the Commission can immediately promulgate rules that restrict or eliminate the practice.”

Do current market conditions warrant this? HFT proponents say high-speed trading reduces volatility in liquid stocks. Volatility in the stock market is the lowest it has been since 2007. But incidents like the May 2010 flash crash, a head-spinning plunge in the stock market precipitated by computers, or the glitch that nearly brought down Knight Capital last summer, could count as their own sort of volatility.

Calendar

Some important tax and accounting events in the week to come:

Monday, Jan. 21 – Wednesday, Jan. 23

* American Institute of Certified Public Accountants personal financial planning conference. Las Vegas.

Tuesday, Jan. 22

* Internal Revenue Service acting senior technical adviser Jason Langley and other panelists discuss the 2013 filing season and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Tax Talk Today Webcast. 2 p.m. ET.

Wednesday, Jan. 23 – Friday, Jan. 25

* Public Company Accounting Oversight Board member Jeanette Franzel, Securities and Exchange Commission chief accountant Paul Beswick, and division of corporate finance acting director Lona Nallengara, and others address Northwestern University School of Law’s annual securities regulation institute. Coronado, California.

Essential reading: Greek tax probe launched, and more

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

* Greek parliament to probe tax list claims. Kerin Hope – The Financial Times. The Greek parliament voted on Thursday to probe allegations that former finance minister George Papaconstantinou failed to pursue possible tax evaders on a list of 2,000 Greeks with Swiss bank accounts provided by French authorities in 2010. Link

* Thompson says he wouldn’t raise taxes if elected mayor. David Chen – The New York Times. Differentiating himself from his likely Democratic rivals in the New York City mayoral race, William C. Thompson Jr. vowed on Thursday that he would not raise taxes if elected. Link

* A simpler form for home office deductions. Ann Carrns – The New York Times. If you work at a home-based business, the Internal Revenue Service has some (potentially) good news: It’s going to offer a simpler option for taking a tax deduction for home offices. The new option won’t be available for your 2012 return. It takes effect this year, for 2013 returns that are generally filed in early 2014. Link

Essential reading: Facebook’s slump hits California’s budget, and more

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

* California budget hurt by Facebook’s stock-price slump. Vauhini Vara – The Wall Street Journal. Facebook Inc.’s disappointing IPO has claimed another victim: California’s budget. Aides to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown last week lowered their estimate of how much revenue the state will get from Facebook’s initial public offering by nearly one-third, to $1.3 billion in the three years ending in June 2014, down from $1.9 billion. Link  

* Advisers give wealthy early attention to taxes. Arden Dale – The Wall Street Journal. Financial advisers are focused on their wealthiest clients as they start to make plans this year with the new federal tax rules in place. Link

* American Airlines swings to profit on tax benefit. Susan Carey and Tess Stynes – The Wall Street Journal. In the latest quarter, AMR Corp swung to a fourth-quarter profit after recording a positive one-time item of $350 million from an income-tax benefit. Link  

Essential reading: New Yorkers face higher real estate taxes, and more

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

* Tax bite to climb from boom years. Josh Barnanel – The Wall Street Journal. While property values are slowly rising in New York, a quirk in the tax law will drive up property taxes by considerably more, including higher taxes on 69 homes damaged in superstorm Sandy, according to new city data. Link 

* Rep. Levin: Curb some tax breaks, keep others. John McKinnon – The Wall Street Journal. President Barack Obama’s proposed limit on tax deductions is the most likely model for raising revenues as part of a balanced approach to reducing deficits and averting the latest fiscal crisis, Rep. Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said Tuesday. Link  

* Wind industry’s roar may diminish in 2013. Ryan Tracy – The Wall Street Journal. The U.S. wind industry is planning new wind farms again after Congress renewed subsidies, giving idled factories that make turbines and components the prospect of a fresh set of orders in the second half of 2013. But industry officials say this year’s projects are unlikely to match the record number of megawatts installed in 2012. Link  

Essential reading: Retail sales to hold clues to taxing times, and more

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

 * Retail sales to hold clues to taxing times. Spencer Jakab – The Wall Street Journal. Back during the housing boom, local tax officials were at a loss to explain why sales-tax revenue was outstripping income-tax withholding. We know how that ended, as people ran out of equity to extract from their homes to spend on flat-screen TVs and the like. Link  

* IMF: U.S. has done enough budget cutting for 2013. Ian Talley – The Wall Street Journal. As far as the International Monetary Fund is concerned, Washington’s 11th hour tax deal appears to be enough fiscal consolidation for this year. Link  

* States will be given extra time to set up health insurance exchanges. Robert Pear – The New York Times. The White House says it will give states more time to comply with the new healthcare law after finding that many states lag in setting up markets where millions of Americans are expected to buy subsidized private health insurance. Link  

Calendar

Some important tax and accounting events this week:

Monday, Jan. 14 – Friday, Jan. 18

* University of Miami School of Law Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning. Orlando, Florida.

 Tuesday, Jan. 15

* Officials from the U.S. Treasury Department speak at the D.C. Bar Association International Tax Series. D.C. Bar Conference Center. Washington.

 Wednesday, Jan. 16

* Lawyers from the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Justice Department are among the speakers at the American Bar Association panel on opting out of the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative, and other issues. 1 – 3 p.m. ET. Webcast.

Essential reading: Retailers fear payroll tax will cut consumer spending, and more

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

 * Retailers fear payroll tax will cut consumer spending. Serena Ng – The Wall Street Journal. The tax increase’s effect for companies is that the hit is likely to cement a frugal attitude that led consumers to cut back on eating out and shift to less-expensive store brands. Link

* Companies pay less tax on global profits. Martin Sandbu and Vanessa Houlder – The Financial Times. UHY Hacker Young, an accountancy group, says the total global taxes paid by the average FTSE100 company fell to 24.5 percent of its global profits in 2012, compared with 35.8 percent in 2009. It attributes the fall to companies’ “greater profits overseas, allowing them to take advantage of lower prevailing tax rates in those jurisdictions”. Link  

* After tax deal, some gain while others lose. Abha Bhattarai and Steven Overly – The Washington Post. Thanks to a one-year extension of the wind production tax credit, Silver Spring-based Clean Currents, which supplies wind power to establishments such as Honest Tea and Busboys and Poets, is continuing with plans to open offices in two more states and add a dozen employees to its current roster of 25 by the end of this year. Link  

Tyrone Gilliams fights the law

By Matthew Goldstein

It’s been a while since we last wrote about the legal struggles of Tyrone Gilliams, the Philadelphia commodities trader/hip-hop promoter/wannabe reality show star/self-styled preacher, whom federal authorities have charged with scamming investors out of $5 million. But the University of Pennslyania graduate is making news again with the scheduled start of his Jan. 22 criminal trial in New York federal court.

Gilliams will be on trial with his former lawyer Everette Scott. Both men are charged with working together to “devise a scheme and artifice to defraud” investors out of their money that was supposed to have been invested in Treasury Strips–a derivative of U.S. Treasury bonds the separates the coupon and principal on the underlying note into different securities.

For the details of where the investors’ money allegedly went, read our earlier special report from May 2011 and this feature article from last year in Philadelphia magazine.

Essential reading: States to seniors: Good times may be ending, and more

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

* States to seniors: Good times may be ending. Anne Tergesen – The Wall Street Journal. Some states are starting to have second thoughts about the tax breaks they give older people. For decades, state governments have been generous with those breaks, perhaps because older Americans tend to show up at the polls to vote. Link 

* What business wants: Smaller deficits and lower tax rates, of course. Suzy Khimm – The Washington Post. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has long stressed that the deficit is principally a problem of spending and entitlements — essentially, the same argument that the GOP is pushing. What’s less clear is whether the chamber would be open to more tax revenue to do the job. Link 

* UBS chief seeks a new moral path. Patrick Jenkins and Brooke Masters – The Financial Times. The new head of investment banking at Switzerland’s UBS on Wednesday talked about the bank’s integrity and ethics – the new buzz theme for banks as they seek to rebuild their battered reputations. Link   

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