The IRS issues guidance on Bitcoin, consumer confidence reaches a six-year-high and an Oklahoma Girl Scout crumbles previous cookie-selling records. Read about these and more of the day's top business news stories.
Durable Goods Orders Higher Than Expected
The Commerce Department Wednesday announced that durable goods orders rose 2.2 percent in February, which was higher than expected. Shipments snapped two straight months of declines brought on by the winter’s nasty weather. January durable goods orders were revised to show a slightly bigger 1.3 percent drop. Durable goods are items that range from toasters to aircraft and are meant to last three years or longer. Economists polled by Reuters had expected orders to rebound just 1.0 percent last month after the previously reported drop of 1.0 percent in January.
Bitcoin is Property, Not Currency: IRS
The federal government will tax digital money such as Bitcoin like property, not currency, the IRS said Tuesday in its first significant guidance on the virtual coin, USA TODAY reports. No country accepts Bitcoin as “legal tender” although it may operate like coin and paper currency, the IRS said in its notice. "Virtual currency is treated as property for U.S. federal tax purposes," the notice said. "General tax principles that apply to property transactions apply to transactions using virtual currency." The guidance means that wages paid in Bitcoin are subject to federal income tax withholding and payroll taxes and must be reported on W-2 forms. Taxpayers must include the fair market value of Bitcoin payments for goods or services as part of their gross income, the IRS said. The fair market value would be calculated as the U.S. dollar value on the date payment was received.
Walgreen’s Finds Prescription for Unprofitable Stores: Closure
Deerfield, IL-based Walgreen Co. on Tuesday said it plans to shutter 76 of its unprofitable drugstores by August as part of a plan to save $40 million to $50 million annually beginning in its fiscal 2015, The Chicago Tribune reports. The nation’s largest drugstore chain did not specify which locations across the country it would be closing. The stores facing closure have had other Walgreens locations open in the same area or have seen real estate values decline since they’ve opened, the company said. Walgreens operates 8,210 drugstores nationwide. Including the closures, the company still plans to have a net increase of between 55 and 75 stores this year. A slower cold and flu season and the introduction of fewer new generic drugs were among the symptoms in the company’s decline in net income in the second quarter from $756 million to $754 million.
Consumer Confidence Reaches Six-Year High
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, a monthly gauge of Americans' confidence in the economy and labor market surged in March to the highest level in six years, the Conference Board said Tuesday. The Conference Board's index, which is one of two key monthly measures of consumer attitudes, increased to 82.3 in March from 78.3. The increase in consumer confidence is being attributed to a substantial improvement in the consumer mindset about the short-term outlook for the economy, the Conference Board said. They expressed more optimism that business conditions and the labor market would improve in the next six months.
New York Times Announces New iPhone App
On April 2 the New York Times will launch a new smartphone app and a premium monthly subscription package in an attempt to boost subscribers for its digital news products. The app is called NYT Now and will cost $2 per week which comes to about $8 per month, which is much lower than the current digital subscription rates that start at $15 per month. The Times says it will staff the app with more than 10 editors providing select content to mobile users. At the same time, the Times announced that its Time Premier package will offer more content, including access to Times Insider, which provides an inside look at the Times newsroom on a daily basis. Premier will cost $45 for four weeks.
Oklahoma Girl Breaks Girl Scout Cookie Record
Katie Francis of Oklahoma City, a 12-year-old Girl Scout, sold 18,107 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in the seven-week sales period to break the previous mark of 18,000 sold in the 1980s. Francis said she asks everyone she met or ran into to buy cookies, which is how she managed to break the record. She said a good salesperson needs three things to succeed: a lot of time, commitment and asking everyone she meets to make a purchase. Last year, Francis sold 12,428 boxes. Her troop receives a share of the proceeds from her sales and it intends to make a donation to breast cancer research.