AMERICANS MORE AFFLUENT BUT LESS HAPPY
Money can't buy happiness, as they say. In this case, "they" happens to be a number of surveys showing Americans growing less happy even as their per capita income in real terms soared 75 percent in the last 30 years.
Affecting happiness more than wealth are two other factors: gender and marital status. Women rather than men have grown significantly less content over time despite big strides toward employment and education equality. Also, married folks are happier than others and the unhappiest of all are the divorced.
IRS WRONG HALF THE TIME
No wonder so many taxpayers have a professional do their returns. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) itself doesn't know the tax code in many cases. A Treasury Dept. audit reveals that the IRS responded correctly only 54 percent of the time to tax questions asked by small business owners.
As tax laws have grown more complex, people increasingly have been hiring someone to prepare their returns. Paid preparers signed 56 percent of the individual income-tax returns last year, up three percent from two years earlier.
RETURN TO WORK RECOMMENDED FOR INJURED
Returning to work early helps heal injured employees. That's the contention of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
The group says finding alternative work until an employee fully heals can reduce costs and hasten recovery. Early return to work distracts the injured from their pain, and activity can be better than rest.
YOUR NEXT FLIGHT MAY BE ON UNCLE SAM
Twenty-two states either allow or plan to allow for tax payment by credit cards, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators. That's up from just 14 states three years ago.
Federal taxpayers have been able to use credit cards for payment since 1999, and this year could use it for estimated taxes as well. Taxpayers say they pay with credit cards for convenience and to amass lots of frequent-flier miles.
SMOKERS BEING PAID TO QUIT
There's a cash bonus for employees for not smoking during the workday at Relativity Technologies Inc., in Cary, NC, ironically the heart of tobacco-growing country. The relatively small software company pays workers a $1,000 bonus for quitting during the workday for at least six months and foots the bill for Nicorette gum or Nicoderm patches.
Three of the 12 smokers have kicked the habit, which justifies the bonus being paid out for saving the time wasted on smoking and the resulting dirty office climate. Nationally, about one in five firms provide smoking-cessation programs, and a growing number also pays bonuses or covers the costs of successful weight-loss efforts.
BUSINESS PASSING ON INCREASED HEALTH COSTS TO WORKERS
With health insurance premiums its No. 1 concern since 1986, business is passing on more of those costs to its workers. Employees have been paying 15 percent of the premiums on their health insurance, and that share is forecast to increase to 21 percent next year.
Currently the cost for health insurance provided to a single employee is $2,426 a year and $6,351 for an average family. But health insurance costs are poised to soar next year by as much or more than the 8.3 percent increase seen this year.
Particularly hard-hit are smaller companies that pay more for health insurance and, in many cases, have been forced by the labor shortage to provide this benefit.
NO CREDIT CRUNCHFOR SMALL BUSINESS
Two decades ago, four of 10 small businesses reported that credit availability was their biggest problem. Today that figure is a scant four of 100.
According to the National Federation of Independent Business, small businesses haven't had a problem getting credit in more than a decade despite Federal Reserve warnings about credit tightening. Banks are becoming smarter about risk management during downturns, opting to raise the lending bar instead of outright turning off the spigot.