Economy Briefs

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INDIANAPOLIS | Nearly 1 of every 10 midsize or big employers expects to stop offering health coverage to workers once federal insurance exchanges start in 2014, according to a new survey from a large benefits consultant.

Towers Watson also found in a survey completed last month that an additional 20 percent of the companies are unsure about what they will do.

Another big benefits consultant, Mercer, found in a June survey of large and smaller employers that 8 percent are either “likely” or “very likely” to end health benefits once the exchanges start.

Employer-sponsored health insurance has long been the backbone of the nation’s health insurance system. But the studies suggest that some employers, especially retailers or those offering low wages, feel they will be better off paying fines and taxes than continuing to provide benefits that eat up a growing portion of their budgets every year.

A large majority of employers in both studies said they expect to continue offering benefits once the exchanges start. But former insurance executive Bob Laszewski said he was surprised that as many as 8 percent or 9 percent of companies already expect to drop coverage a couple of years before the exchanges start.

TAXES

Switzerland, Britain agree to deal on tax evasion

GENEVA | Swiss banks will have to pay $630 million to Britain as part of an agreement to end tax evasion, the Swiss government said Wednesday.

Britain’s treasury described the deal struck by senior officials in Zurich on Wednesday as “historic.”

“The agreement will resolve the long-standing abuse of Swiss banking secrecy by those who seek to conceal the proceeds of tax evasion and is expected to secure billions of pounds of unpaid tax for the U.K. exchequer from 2013,” the treasury said.

The deal is the latest in a series struck by Switzerland in a bid to shed its image as a haven for tax cheats. The country inked a similar agreement with Germany earlier this month, though the sums involved there were much higher, as Switzerland has long been a favored destination for tax evaders from its northern neighbor.

The Swiss Bankers Association welcomed the deal, noting that Britain had agreed to accept an anonymous withholding tax in place of automatic information exchange on bank clients, something to which Swiss financial institutions have fiercely objected.

Under the deal, Switzerland will levy a withholding tax of 27 percent to 48 percent on the Swiss accounts of British taxpayers.

CHINA

Country’s PC shipments pass U.S.

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