Personal Finance

Technology

H&R Block Broker Branch Under Scrutiny; Computer Server Stolen

As H&R Block revealed that National Association of Securities Dealers is considering disciplinary action against the company for allowing improper mutual fund trading and market timing, the tax preparation branch also reported the theft of a server containing client information.In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week, H&R Block reported that its 1,000-person broker-dealer unit violated federal securities laws and association rules, the Arizona Republic reported.
Tax

Tax Preparers Put the ‘Fun’ in Refund

Can gifts, free address labels and $10 referral checks attract customers to a new tax preparation business?Dave and Jolinda Schreiber, owners of Refunds USA in Albert Lea, Minn., say they are making taxes more fun. After all, as Jolinda puts it, "Going to a tax preparer is like going to the dentist."According to the Albert Lea Tribune, the couple decided to start a tax business that would emphasize quick but casual service.
Tax

Top Tax Season Trends: Here's What Taxpayers Want to Know

Fiducial, an international provider of professional outsourcing services for small businesses and individuals, reported five tax questions that seem to be high on taxpayers' minds this tax season.
Tax

College 529 Plans Under Scrutiny, SEC Says Fees Paid May Offset Tax Benefits

Rep. Michael Oxley, a co-sponsor of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley accounting industry reform legislation, has set his sights now on what he calls high fees parents pay to save for college through state-run 529 plans.Bloomberg reported this week that Oxley, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said he may call for hearings on the regulation of 529 plans since they involve "perhaps one of the most important decisions a parent has to make -- that is, creating enough capital for their kids"' to go to college.
Tax

Bank of America to Pay $375 Million, Exit Mutual Fund Clearing Business

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced a settlement agreement in principle with Bank of America of securities fraud charges arising from arrangements to permit timing in certain Nations Funds mutual funds and for facilitating market timing and late trading by certain customers. The agreement in principle is subject to the approval by the Commission. Bank of America has agreed to pay a total of $375 million, consisting of $250 million in disgorgement and $125 million in penalties.
A&A

Martha’s Case Serves Up New Batch of Lessons

While plenty of Martha bashers are enjoying the idea of the style maven locked behind bars, there are those even among her detractors who can’t fathom how she is suddenly a convicted felon when those people who caused Enron’s downfall are still walking the streets. According to one pundit, they committed REAL crimes.
Tax

Retirement Savings Contributions Credit: IRS Tax Tip

This tax credit, which will be available only through 2006, could help you offset the cost of the first $2,000 contributed to IRAs, 401(k)s and certain other retirement plans.The Retirement Savings Contributions Credit applies to individuals with incomes up to $25,000 ($37,500 for a head of household) and married couples with incomes up to $50,000.
Technology

AMEX Offers Rocket Into Orbit Rewards; Is a Trip to Mars Close Behind?

American Express today announced last week that cardmembers enrolled in its Membership Rewards program can now redeem points with Space Adventures Ltd., the world’s leading space flight experiences and space tourism company.
Community News

Consumers Do Nothing to Protect Themselves From Fraudulent Tax Preparers

Despite yearly warnings from the Internal Revenue Service, only half (52%) of all Americans are taking steps toprotect themselves from fraudulent tax preparers.That's the finding of a new survey from lawyers.com, the free online attorney directory for individuals and small businesses, from LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell."This time of year, unscrupulous tax preparers rip off Americans by promising phony tax programs that they claim get big returns, or relieve Americans of their obligation to pay taxes altogether," observed attorney Alan Kopit, lawyers.com's legal editor."The IRS has

Cross-Selling Tactics: The Two Major Objectives

by Phyllis Weiss HaserotCross-selling has been hailed as the most logical and natural way to expand business with your current client base. In most firms, large or small, the results have been underwhelming because of lack of information on capabilities, cooperation, and commitment to follow through. Here is how it should work.Cross-selling is a process with two major objectives: 
A&A

CBIZ Announces Tender Offer to Repurchase Stock

CBIZ (Century Business Services, Inc.) announced this week that it has commenced a tender offer to purchase up to 7,500,000 shares of its outstanding common stock at a price per share of $5.00. On March 3, 2004, the Board of Directors authorized a share repurchase of up to 8,500,000 shares, 7,500,000 of which are being sought in the offer.
A&A

State Farm Launches Online Financial Education Program for Students

State Farm(R) this week unveiled a new financial education website that provides fun ways for K-12 students to learn basic principles of financial responsibility and money management.With only a handful of states requiring students to complete a personal finance course before graduating high school(1), the State Farm "Common Cents"(TM) online program can help parents and educators give children the real-life skills they need to become smart consumers, sensible savers and responsible investors. Located in the "Kid Stuff" section of State Farm's website at
Tax

SEC Files Civil Fraud Case Against Columbia Management Advisors, Inc.

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud action this week in federal court in Boston alleging that Columbia Management Advisors, Inc. and Columbia Funds Distributor Inc. allowed certain preferred mutual fund customers to engage in short-term and excessive trading, while at the same time representing publicly that it prohibited such trading. Columbia Management Advisors, Inc.
Tax

Tax Tip: Capital Gains and Losses

Almost everything you own and use for personal purposes, pleasure or investment is a capital asset. The IRS says that when you sell a capital asset, such as stocks, the difference between the amount you sell it for and your basis, which is usually what you paid for it, is a capital gain or a capital loss. While you must report all capital gains, you may deduct only your capital losses on investment property, not personal property.A "paper loss" – a drop in an investment's value below its purchase price – does not qualify for the deduction.
Tax

Tax Tip: Taxability of Social Security Benefits

Whether your Social Security benefits are taxable depends on your total income and marital status. Form SSA-1099, which Social Security recipients should receive by January 31, shows your total benefits, but determining your taxable benefits requires putting pencil to paper.Generally, if Social Security benefits were your only income, your benefits are not taxable and you probably do not need to file a federal income tax return.
Tax

Tax Tip: Alimony Payments Have Tax Implications

When the end of matrimony leads to the start of alimony, how does it affect your taxes? The answer is, alimony payments you receive are taxable to you in the year received.The amount of alimony received is reported on line 11 of Form 1040. You cannot use Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ. The person making the payment may claim a deduction on Form 1040 in the year paid.
Tax

Treasury, IRS Shut Down Abusive Life Insurance Policies in Retirement Plans

Last week, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service issued guidance to shut down abusive transactions involving specially designed life insurance policies in retirement plans, section “412(i) plans.” The guidance designates certain arrangements as “listed transactions” for tax-shelter reporting purposes.A “section 412(i) plan” is a tax-qualified retirement plan that is funded entirely by a life insurance contract or an annuity.
A&A

FASB Sets New Rules for Cash-Balance Benefits

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) last week adopted a definition for cash-benefit pension plans, giving companies new rules for measuring these controversial retirement vehicles.As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the definition says, "A cash-balance pension plan is a defined-benefit pension plan that defines the promised employee benefit by reference to a notional account balance.
A&A

Firms to Pay Over $21.5 Million in Penalties to Settle SEC, NASD Charges

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and NASD announced this week enforcement and disciplinary actions against a total of 15 firms for failure to deliver mutual fund breakpoint discounts during 2001 and 2002. Breakpoint discounts are volume discounts applicable to front-end sales charges on Class A mutual fund shares (front-end loads). SEC and NASD each brought cases against a group of 7 firms, and NASD separately brought actions against the other 8 firms.
Tax

$2.5 Billion Awaits Those Who Haven't Filed a 2000 Tax Return

Unclaimed refunds totaling more than $2.5 billion are awaiting nearly 2 million people who failed to file a 2000 income tax return, the IRS announced this week. In order to collect the money, however, a return must be filed with an IRS office no later than April 15, 2004.The IRS estimates that half of those who could claim refunds would receive more than $529. In some cases, individuals had taxes withheld from their wages, or made payments against their taxes out of self-employed earnings, but had too little income to require filing a tax return.

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