Tax Refunds May Be Delayed By Cliff Wrangling

Morning Business Memo:

If you depend on an early tax refund to help pay for large holiday credit card bills you could be out of luck. The last-minute debate over the fiscal cliff may delay tax refunds in the new year because the IRS is likely to be very busy dealing with changes in the tax code. "There's a high possibility that the tax filing season could be further delayed," says Kathy Pickering, executive director of The Tax Institute at H&R Block. "We're recommending that people be aware of that," especially you are looking for an early refund to take care of a big credit card bill. "Either if you need to modify your holiday spending or make arrangements to pay bills in February that you would otherwise pay in January," says Pickering.

Medicare is warning doctors - and millions of elderly patients - payments will be slashed in January unless Congress acts soon. A 27 percent cut to doctors is scheduled to be triggered if Congress doesn't vote to waive spending cuts. The American Medical Association says Medicare would be devastated if the cuts go through, and advocacy groups such as AARP agree. Many doctors might stop taking new Medicare patients.

Alleged rate rigging by big banks may have cost taxpayers as much as $3 billion. Federal housing regulators say illegal manipulation of the global LIBOR rate led to heavy losses at government controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Regulators recommended suing banks that were involved. Yesterday, UBS agreed to pay $1.5 billion in fines for trying to rig LIBOR. It's the second global bank to face penalties.

Ports on the East Coast are bracing for a possible walkout by thousands of dockworkers and 15 ports from Massachusetts to Texas could close. The National Retail Federation wrote to President Obama this week to ask him to use "all means necessary" to head off a strike.

It costs 2 cents to make every penny! A nickel costs more than 10 cents to produce. The US Mint is testing new metals that would make it cheaper to produce coins. The Mint's acting director says the problem is figuring out how to make coins more cheaply without sparing quality and durability, or changing the size and appearance.

Nike could get off on the wrong foot with its latest quarterly report. New numbers will be released today, and analysts expect a slight drop in profit compared with last year. Nike and other athletic shoe makers have been hit by rising costs, currency changes and sagging markets overseas. The Wall Street Journal says over the past year Nike's share price has lagged the S&P 500 by 14 percent.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio