By Richard Davies
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Apr 1, 2014 8:31am

gty caterpillar trucks wy 140401 16x9 608 Caterpillar Accused of Avoiding Billions in US Taxes

(Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Morning Money Memo:

The April 15 tax-filing deadline is two weeks from today. As millions of Americans race to beat the deadline, the giant manufacturing and construction firm Caterpillar Inc. is facing questions about its aggressive tax strategy.

A Senate report says Caterpillar avoided paying $2.4 billion in U.S. taxes by shifting profits to an affiliate in Switzerland. The Senate investigations subcommittee is holding a hearing today on the company’s taxes.

Representatives from Caterpillar and accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers are scheduled to testify. Julie Lagacy, a Caterpillar vice president, said the company complies with all tax laws.

Subcommittee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D- Mich., told USA Today, “Caterpillar is an American success story that produces phenomenal industrial machines, but it’s also a member of the corporate profit-shifting club that has shifted billions of dollars of profits offshore to avoid paying U.S. taxes.”

If you’re having problems paying your 2013 taxes, don’t ignore them.

“When dealing with the IRS, you want to be as straightforward and honest as you can about your situation,” tax accountant Janice Hayman says. “If you need a payment plan, you want to let them know up front. If you’ve been unemployed, let them know that you really want to tackle this tax burden.”

Gas prices keep edging higher but the national monthly average is actually the cheapest for March since 2010. The U.S. Energy Department says the price for regular gas rose 3 cents a gallon last month to an average of $3.58. The price is the highest since September.

“Spring is the most frustrating time of year for drivers given that gas prices seem to jump every time you get in the car,” AAA spokesman Avery Ash says. “We are seeing the same seasonal hikes this spring but, fortunately, gas is not nearly as expensive as in recent years.”

6.3 million. That’s the number of GM autos recalled since February. America’s biggest car company’s latest recall involves 1.5 million with electronic power-steering assist problems.

Included in the new recall are the Chevrolet Malibu, Malibu Maxx, Chevrolet HHR, Saturn Aura, Saturn Ion and Pontiac G6. Model years vary, but all of the vehicles are from the 2010 model year or earlier.

GM’s CEO Mary Barra will testify today before members of Congress. House and Senate subcommittees plan hearings to find out why GM didn’t recall the cars with the ignition switch problem sooner and why the government never investigated the cars.

If 2013 was straight up for the stock market, the first quarter of this year moved sideways. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 ended the first quarter with small three-month gains. The Dow Jones index fell less than 1 percent. Markets had strong gains Monday with the Dow up 134 points.

Exxon Mobil says global policies to fight climate change won’t be strict enough to stop it from selling all of the oil and gas it will find. The company says the fuels are too important for global economic development.

Exxon issued a report on the risks that climate change policies could pose to the company’s assets and future profitability. It’s a response to shareholder concerns.

The oil company says governments are “highly unlikely” to adopt policies that sharply cut emissions because they would choke economic growth.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reaped a $3.3 billion gain last year by exercising stock options in the social networking company that he founded in a Harvard dorm room.

It was the second straight year that Zuckerberg has realized a huge gain from stock options, according to Facebook documents. He made $2.3 billion in 2o12. The 29-year-old Zuckerberg still owns 426.3 million Facebook shares worth about worth $25.7 billion.

Facebook paid Zuckerberg a $1 salary last year.

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