Category: Business Written by CNN
by Melanie Hicken
CNN—Despite improving economic conditions, a record percentage of American workers remain worried that they won’t be able to afford retirement.
They’re worried about their jobs, high debt levels and rising living expenses, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
Only 13 percent of workers surveyed said they “feel very confident” that they will be able to retire comfortably—less than half the percentage reported in 2007.
Nearly half—49 percent—said they were “not too” or “not at all” confident.
A large chunk of the workers surveyed have little or no retirement savings. Of those who provided estimates, 57 percent reported household savings and investments of less than $25,000, which included 28 percent of respondents who said they had less than $1,000. Only 24 percent reported savings of $100,000 or more.
Debt is standing in the way of saving. More than half of workers reported having a problem with their level of debt, while only about half of those surveyed said they could definitely cover $2,000 worth of unexpected expenses within the next month.
“Many lack even a short-term cushion,” Matt Greenwald, president of Greenwald & Associates, a market research firm which conducted and co-sponsored the survey, said in a release.
Though economic conditions are improving, workers may also be waking up to just how much they actually need to save for retirement, according to EBRI.
Workers fear that cuts to Social Security could leave them picking up a bigger share of retirement expenses. Nearly 70 percent of workers reported a lack of confidence that Social Security would be kept at current benefit levels.
Spiraling health care costs and long-term care expenses are also a growing concern.
In 2013, 29 percent of respondents expressed concern with their ability to cover medical costs in retirement, up from 24 percent last year. Nearly 40 percent said they were worried about paying for long-term care, compared to 34 percent last year.
The survey polled 1,254 Americans ages 25 and older, including 1,003 workers and 251 retirees.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 14:27
Category: Business Written by Courier Newsroom
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 resolved most of the tax issues that were a part of last year’s “fiscal cliff” debates and answered many pending tax questions for small businesses. The act will have an effect on businesses and long-term planning implications, so the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers this update to answer some of the most common questions.
Are There Changes in Payroll Taxes?
Immediately after Jan. 1, 2013, the new law did not extend the temporary 2 percent reduction in the employees’ portion of the Social Security payroll tax. That increase, which is not related to the new law, returns the tax to 6.2 percent on income up to $113,700 in 2013. In addition, there is a 0.9 percent Medicare surtax on certain taxpayers who earn in excess of $250,000.
What about Section 179 Expensing?
The law does extend a number of valuable small business provisions, including small-business expensing under Internal Revenue Code Section 179, through 2013 and retroactive to the beginning of 2012. The deductions can be used for purchases of a wide range of new and used capital equipment, including software, from both last year and this year. The dollar limit that can be expensed in 2012 and 2013 is $500,000, with a $2 million investment limit. There is some uncertainty in this area going forward, since the expensing and investment limits are set to drop significantly in 2014. Your CPA can offer advice on the best steps for your business.
Can I Still Use Bonus Depreciation?
Small companies can also continue to take advantage of 50 percent bonus depreciation through 2013. This applies to new assets that are expected to last 20 years or less. It is possible to apply Section 179 and 50 percent on the same asset, but some limitations apply. In addition, since this option also expires at the end of the year, it may affect your 2013 purchasing decisions. Ask your CPA for the details.
What Credits Are Available?
Company owners are still eligible for several credits. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, for example, is available through 2013 to those who hire workers from specific groups, including qualified veterans. (To receive the credit, you must have certification from your state’s employment security agency.) Companies can also continue to benefit from the Section 41 research tax credit, which can be applied to increased research activities, through the end of 2013.
Are There Any Other Incentives?
On the list of preserved items is the 15-year recovery period for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified retail improvements, and qualified restaurant property, which were extended until the end of 2013. The 100 percent exclusion for gains on a sale of small-business stock can be used through the end of this year. In addition, the special tax incentives for empowerment zones and rules on S corporations making charitable donations of property remain in force.
Were There Changes to Estate Tax Rules?
Business owners should also be interested in the act’s impact on individual taxes. Of particular interest may be the permanent retention of the existing estate and gift tax exclusion, which was held at an inflation-adjusted $5 million. (That translates to $5.12 million in 2012 and $5.25 million this year.) The top estate tax rate rose to 40 percent from 35 percent on Jan. 1, 2013, but that is much lower than the 55 percent it was set to reach—with a $1 million exclusion amount—if the act had not been passed. On another front, the estate tax portability election, which allows a surviving spouse to use a deceased spouse’s unused exemption amount, has been made permanent.
Your CPA Can Help
While one fiscal crisis has passed, several more are looming. Discussions on the federal debt ceiling are pending, as are the debates on the federal budget and tax law changes. Business planning is critical, so turn to your local CPA for understandable and practical advice on the best available tax-planning choices. To find a CPA in Pennsylvania by location and area of expertise, or for more tax resources, visit www.picpa.org/taxhelp.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 14:29
Category: Business Written by Charlene Crowell
(NNPA)—As Black America continues to struggle with high unemployment rates, a new research report by Demos, a public policy organization titled, Discredited: How employment credit checks keep qualified workers out of a job, unveils how the use of credit history in employment decisions is often leaving people of color in the unemployment lines.
Among employers with fiduciary responsibilities, it is a long-standing practice to include credit reviews in hiring decisions. Banks, credit unions and similar employers should be careful in handling others’ money and deposits. But the Demos report found that employment credit checks now are becoming standard operating procedures for many employees without such responsibilities. In these instances, disproportionately screening people of color out of jobs can lead to discriminatory hiring.
With higher rates of unemployment and the additional burden of wealth disparities, many African-American and Latino households have a greater need to borrow for emergencies and are also at a greater risk for foreclosure or loan default.
Surveying nearly 1,000 low- and middle-income households with credit card debt, Demos found that people of color are disproportionately likely to report worse credit than Whites. Even for employed persons seeking a promotion at work, credit scores can be a factor in deciding which employee will get the better job.
Consumers surveyed shared that much of the debt going to collections agencies was for unexpected medical costs rather than for retail credit card usage. Households without health coverage were more than twice as likely to report that their credit score had declined in the past three years.
“It makes little sense to say that someone is not a good candidate for a job because they are still coping with the expense of a costly family medical emergency several years ago,” the report said. “Yet this may be exactly the type of situation that a blemished credit history indicates: having unpaid medical bills or medical debt is cited as one of the leading causes of bad credit among survey respondents.”
Amy Traub, the report’s author and a senior policy analyst at Demos, was even more frank. “This practice continues because it financially benefits the companies that market and sell this information to employers with little concern for the negative impact to the economic security of those with most at stake—low- and middle-income Americans struggling to find work in a tough job market.”
This specific finding on medical debt mirrors another by the Federal Reserve Board. According to the Fed, 52 percent of all accounts reported by collection agencies consisted of medical debt.
These consistent findings on medical debt are also reflected in America’s disproportionate unemployment data. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics continues to show that Black unemployment doubles that of Whites. From December 2012 through February 2013, White unemployment averaged 7 percent. By contrast, Black unemployment stood at 14 percent.
So what is a debt-burdened, unemployed consumer to do?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows employers to request credit reports on job applicants and existing employees. The statute also lays out specific steps under which these credit checks must occur. By law, employers must:
First obtain written permission from the affected consumer before a credit review;
Notify individuals before any adverse action is taken as a result of the credit review;
Offer the employee or applicant a copy of the credit report, along with a written summary of his/her consumer’ rights; and
Provide job applicants with a brief period of time to dispute any errors in their report.
Additionally, eight states have laws against employment discrimination involving applicants’ credit history: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont.
Currently three other states are now considering similar legislation: Colorado, Massachusetts and New York.
If your state lacks laws against this type of discrimination, contact your local legislator about passing such legislation.
(Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.email@example.com)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 12:34
Category: Business Written by CNN
FLIGHT ATTENDANTS--Singapore Airlines' iconic Singapore Girl first appeared in 1972 wearing the "sarong kabaya" uniform, inspired by traditional attire found across much of Southeast Asia. (Photo/Singapore Airlines).
by Ramy Inocencio in Hong Kong and Frances Cha in Seoul
(CNN) -- Images of bikini-clad women in Thailand posing suggestively in an online ad for a local airline inflamed passions -- both positive and negative -- earlier this year.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 12:13
Category: Business Written by Christian Morrow - Courier Staff Writer
L.C. GREENWOOD becomes second Black on board.
When Consol Energy won the right to pay Allegheny County $500 million to extract natural gas from the International Airport property, the Marcellus Shale boom moved a little closer to Pittsburgh.
On March 14 it took another step closer when Steelers Hall-of-Famer L.C. Greenwood was named to the board of Southpointe Marcellus Shale Chamber of Commerce. The announcement was made during the chamber’s March luncheon at Southpointe.
Greenwood, whose Carnegie-based Greenwood Enterprises also includes packaging and manufacturing businesses, is working to expand his Greenwood-McDonald electrical supply throughout the Marcellus extraction and supply stream.
In his typically stoic fashion, beyond waving and saying “thank you,” Greenwood declined an offer from Chamber founder Don Hoder to speak during the luncheon presentations, preferring to remain at his table with Monaloh Basin Engineers founder Jim McDonald, Randall Industries founder Greg Spencer and chamber ambassador Scotti Mulert.
Spencer said he has been making inroads with various shale gas producers, but even with his past history as a vice president with EQT, it has been slow.
“There are a lot of new players, and the guys who know me know me mostly from (Department of Defense) contracting years ago,” he said. “So it’s fine tuning to get them to know what I’m doing now.”
Spencer has several products he developed for cleaning and de-scaling well pipes, which he sells to industry supplier Mays Energy, which like his firm is based in Indianola, Pa.
“I’m trying to see how the big players interact with the chamber and the mid-stream companies,” he said.
McDonald, whose engineering company is based in Finley Township, Pa., has been the lone African-American chamber member for years, and always an advocate to increased minority participation. While he said it is great to see Spencer, and to have Greenwood join him on the board, he’s not waiting for anything.
“I’m here at the meetings. I’m going to the companies. I’m going after it,” he said.
McDonald said he is currently bidding to do the site surveying work at the airport site that Consol will need before it even does any environmental or geotechnical evaluation.
“We already did a survey of the property for the (Transportation Safety Administration), so I’m pushing that experience,” he said.
His efforts may be paying off in one respect, he said. Consol recently hired a general manager for supplier diversity.
Hoder, who has known and worked with McDonald for 30 years, said there are opportunities throughout the shale supply chain.
“Trucking, pipe, surveyors, lawyers, accountants—demand is greater than the folks these companies have dealt with historically can provide,” he said. “Years ago I got a tiny contract to do the security system at Clark University—I was the only White guy there. But the prime was impressed with the work. I’m still getting work from that one contract. There is a lot of opportunity in this room, you just have to be ready for it.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 09:23
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