Business & Finance

Airlines lost $4.8 billion globally last year and they expect to lose another $6 billion this year, the International Air Transport Association said Monday at a gathering for the commercial aviation industry in Tokyo. The IATA, which represents 265 airlines from 136 countries, including some low-cost carriers, called on governments to lower taxes and relax restrictions on air travel to help airlines stay competitive amid increasing pressures for cost cuts. The airlines' fuel bill is expected to rise to $83 billion this year, or 31 percent, according to industry figures.

Most of the 22 foreign oil companies that owe back taxes totaling some $2 billion to the Venezuelan government have agreed to pay up, the country's tax agency chief said. In comments reported Sunday by the state-run Bolivarian News Agency, tax agency chief Jose Vielma Mora said officials plan a meeting Thursday with diplomats and oil company representatives to discuss the payments. Representatives of major oil companies in Venezuela have yet to announce how they will respond to the claims of owed taxes. Venezuela is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and a major supplier to the US.

A group led by Mitsubishi Corp. has won a $3.4 billion contract to build Dubai's light-rail system, the government of the United Arab Emirates said Sunday. The Dubai Rapid Link consortium, which includes Mitsubishi, Obayashi Corp., Kajima Corp., and Turkish civil engineering group Yapi Merkezi, submitted the lowest bid to win the contract to construct two lines and 44 trains over the next five years. Consortiums led by Alstom, Siemens, and Bombardier also bid on the contract.

The US Internal Revenue Service has announced plans to close 68 sites nationwide where taxpayers can get face-to-face help with tax issues. The IRS said fewer people visit the agency's 400 assistance centers as more taxpayers turn to website and telephone services. More than 7.6 million people used walk-in sites last year, down from almost 9 million the year before. Electronically filed tax returns also outpaced paper returns for the first time last year. The tax centers picked for closure affect 29 states. The change ousts 434 employees, who will be offered early retirement or priority attention for job placement.

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