June 18, 2013
This year's 10 top paid tech CEOs all make more than $15 million annually.

1. Larry Ellison: $96.2 million

Company: Oracle
Cash compensation: $5.5 million
Stock and options: $90.7 million
Total compensation 1-yr. change: 24%
Despite his $1 salary, Ellison is not only the highest paid tech CEO this year, but the highest paid of all CEOs.

Most of Ellison's pay ($90.7 million) comes from his stock grants. In June of 2011 he was given an option to purchase 7 million shares of Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500) common stock.

2. Marissa Mayer: $36.6 million

Company: Yahoo
Cash compensation: $1.6 million
Stock and options: $35 million
Total compensation 1-yr. change: N/A
Mayer left Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) to join Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) as its CEO, president and a board member in July of 2012. Her base salary was set at $1 million with an annual bonus target set at $2 million a year.

Though she only took home $6 million last year, Mayer reached No. 2 on this list because she was also offered a one-time retention award when she was hired, consisting of stock grants that could total $30 million when they vest over the next five years.

3. John Donahoe: $29.7 million

Company: eBay
Cash compensation: $4 million
Stock and options: $25.7 million
Total compensation 1-yr. change: 81%
The 81% jump in in Donahoe's salary this year is largely due to a one-time award of about $14.9 million paid in stock.

According to a regulatory filing, Donahoe got the grant because he led eBay (EBAY, Fortune 500) "successfully through a difficult turnaround ... and positioned it well for additional growth."

4. Marc Benioff: $22.1 million

Cash compensation: $3.2 million
Stock and options: $18.9 million
Total compensation 1-yr. change: 25%
Benioff's base salary has been set at $1 million for the past two years.

He received a $1.3 million cash bonus last year and almost $19 million in (CRM) stock options and awards. He also received $650,000 to cover costs related to his personal security which are "of paramount importance to the company," according to a regulatory filing.

5. Randall Stephenson: $21 million

Company: AT&T
Cash compensation: $8.4 million
Stock and options: $12.6 million
Total compensation 1-yr. change: 12%
Stephenson, who has served as CEO and president of AT&T (T, Fortune 500) since 2007, was paid a $6 million bonus on top of his $1.6 million base salary in 2012. About $13 million of his pay came in the form of stock and awards.

6. Paul Jacobs: $20.7 million

Company: Qualcomm
Cash compensation: $5.7 million
Stock and options: $15 million
Total compensation 1-yr. change: -5%
Jacobs was given a $3.4 million cash bonus on top of his $1.2 million salary. Other compensation for the CEO included more than $280,000 for personal use of Qualcomm's (QCOM, Fortune 500) corporate aircraft and more than $4,000 for things such as home office costs, personal travel and entertainment.

7. Paul Otellini: $18.9 million

Company: Intel
Cash compensation: $7 million
Stock and options: $11.9 million
Total compensation 1-yr. change: 10%
Otellini was granted a 10% raise in 2012 partly to keep his compensation in the 50th percentile of a group of CEOs at similar companies. His base salary jumped from $1.1 million to $1.2 million and his incentive cash bonus jumped from about $4.8 million to $5.3 million.

Otellini retired as the CEO of Intel (INTC, Fortune 500) in May after working for the company for 38 years.

8. John Coyne: $17.2 million

Company: Western Digital
Cash compensation: $7.8 million
Stock and options: $9.4 million
Total compensation 1-yr. change: 146%
Coyne's compensation more than doubled over the previous year. When he retired in January 2013, all of his Western Digital (WDC, Fortune 500) stock options granted to him prior to 2012 became fully vested. Hence the giant pay haul: His stock awards jumped to $6.3 million from $0 in the previous year.

9. Joseph Tucci: $16.6 million

Company: EMC
Cash compensation: $2.6 million
Stock and options: $14 million
Total compensation 1-yr. change: 25%
Tucci's base salary ($1.1 million) and target cash bonus ($1.5 million) have not increased since 2001, but that didn't not keep him off this year's list of highest-paid tech CEOs.

Like some other CEOs that made the list, Tucci is thinking about retirement, but EMC's (EMC, Fortune 500) board has requested that he stay through at least February of 2015.

10. Meg Whitman: $15.4 million

Company: Hewlett-Packard
Cash compensation: $1.9 million
Stock and options: $13.5 million
Total compensation 1-yr. change: N/A
Whitman, who has served as CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ, Fortune 500) since September of 2011, is another executive whose annual salary is just $1. Most of her compensation comes from stock and option awards.

November 27, 2012

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Tuesday said China's currency remained "significantly undervalued" but stopped short of labeling the world's second-biggest economy a currency manipulator.

In a congressionally mandated semi-annual report, the U.S. Treasury noted that yuan had risen 12.6 percent against the U.S. dollar in inflation-adjusted terms since June 2010. An official said it was up 9.7 percent on a nominal basis through Tuesday, when it closed at a record high.

Although Beijing keeps the yuan, also known as the renminbi, in a tight trading band, the Treasury said China did not meet the legal requirements to be deemed a currency manipulator. The label is largely symbolic but would require Washington to open discussions with Beijing on adjusting the yuan's value.

The Chinese government had "substantially" reduced its intervention in foreign exchange markets since the third quarter of 2011 and loosened capital controls, the Treasury said in the report, which examines the currency practices of major U.S. trading partners.

"In light of these developments, Treasury has concluded that the standards ... have not been met with respect to China," it said. "Nonetheless, the available evidence suggests the renminbi remains significantly undervalued."

During the U.S. presidential campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney pledged to label China a manipulator on his first day in office to show he would be tougher on the United States' chief economic competitor than President Barack Obama.

Many U.S. businesses and lawmakers complain that China keeps the value of its currency artificially low to gain an advantage in trade.

But an international consensus is growing that the yuan is closing in on its fair value after about a decade at an artificially weak level. The International Monetary Fund softened its language on the yuan in July.


The yuan closed at a record high on Tuesday as the central bank's reluctance to let the currency rise more quickly limited trading activity.

The People's Bank of China limits currency moves by allowing the yuan to rise or fall by only 1 percent from whatever rate the central bank sets that day.

It has been 18 years since the U.S. Treasury has designated any country a currency manipulator. China was so labeled five times from May 1992 to July 1994.

Charles Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate and a longtime critic of China's yuan policy, said the Treasury should label China a manipulator to be able to impose penalties on it.

"It's time for the Obama administration to rip off the band-aid, and force China to play by the same rules as all other countries," the New York senator said in a statement.

But the U.S.-China Business Council, which represents about 240 American companies that do business with China, applauded the latest decision.

"The exchange rate has little to do with the U.S. trade balance or employment," council President John Frisbie said. "We need to move on to more important issues with China, such as removing market access barriers and improving intellectual property protection."

The Treasury said further appreciation of the yuan would help China balance its economy toward consumption by giving households greater purchasing power.

The report also called on China to reduce its "exceptionally high" foreign exchange reserves and to publish data about its intervention in currency markets.

The Obama administration also used the report to keep pressure on South Korea to limit its intervention in foreign exchange markets.

South Korea says it intervenes to smooth the volatility of its won currency, but it has gone into the market throughout 2012, the Treasury report said. In July, the IMF said the won was undervalued by up to 10 percent.

"We will continue to press the Korean authorities to limit their foreign exchange interventions to the exceptional circumstances of disorderly market conditions," the report said.

(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov, additional reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by James Dalgleish and Dan Grebler)

September 5, 2012
Six years ago Dr. Dre was walking along the beach with Interscope Records chief Jimmy Iovine, pondering whether or not he should launch his own shoe line. "[Forget] sneakers," said Iovine. "Let's sell speakers!"

It might have been the best piece of advice the rapper-producer ever received. In 2008 he teamed with Iovine and a handful of other partners to launch Beats By Dr. Dre, which now sells more than half of the country's premium headphones ($100 and up). That's music to the ears of Dr. Dre, who collected $100 million pretax when handset maker HTC paid $300 million for a 51% stake in the company last year.

With $110 million in pretax earnings, Dr. Dre is this year's Hip-Hop Cash King—despite the fact that his long-awaited album, Detox, remains on the shelf. He's not the only one on the list who banks the bulk of his bucks outside the recording studio. Diddy ranks No. 2 with $45 million, thanks mostly to a share of profits from Diageo's Ciroc vodka; Jay-Z ranks third with $38 million, pulling in more than half his annual earnings from ventures including ownership stakes in cosmetics company Carol's Daughter, the Brookyln Nets and a joint venture with battery maker Duracell. Last year, Jay-Z topped the list with $37 million.

"The reality of it is, you want to do something that you own," says frequent Jay-Z collaborator Timbaland, who ranks No. 20 on the list with $6 million. "You want to own what you put your heart into. That's how you make money."
Kanye West ranks fourth on the list with $35 million, fueled by his Watch the Throne album with Jay-Z and the ensuing tour, followed by Lil Wayne at $27 million. The diminutive rhymester's latest album, Tha Carter IV, sold a million copies in its first week; he also launched clothing line Trukfit and a partnership with Pepsi's Mountain Dew, the first major product endorsement in the veteran rapper's career.

Lil Wayne is joined on the Cash Kings list by labelmates Drake (No. 6) and Nicki Minaj (No. 8), who banked $20.5 million and $15.5 million, respectively, thanks to new albums, tours and product endorsements with companies like Kodak and Pepsi. Their boss, Cash Money co-founder Bryan "Birdman" Williams, ranks seventh with $20 million. Even lower down on the list, artists are getting paid considerable sums to shill products.

"We've received a lot of income based around endorsements," says former Def Jam President Kevin Liles, who now manages a host of artists including No. 18 Young Jeezy. "A lot of brands are saying, 'Hey, there's a value proposition, instead of this freewheeling spending … I have some guaranteed curators and travel agents that can help me reach the consumer in a better way.'"

Yet for a few artists, music alone is a viable path to earning millions. No. 9 Eminem sold more albums last decade than any artist in the world, and continues to cash in from his extensive back catalog and occasional tour dates, pulling in $15 million.

Ludacris rounds out the top ten with earnings of $12 million. The multihyphenate mogul's non-musical ventures include Conjure cognac, headphone line Soul, voiceovers for RadioShack and roles in movies such as Fast Five and New Year's Eve.

"We work so hard that we never get a real chance to stop and reflect on what we've done sometimes," says Ludacris. "So the FORBES list is a great representation of, 'You know what, wow, we are out here working as hard as hell!'"

To compile the Cash Kings list, which charts pretax earnings for all living artists whose work is primarily classified as hip-hop or rap, we looked at income from touring, record sales, publishing, films, merchandise sales, endorsements and other ventures. Management, agent and attorney fees are not deducted; earnings are tabulated from May 2011 to May 2012 and based on data from Pollstar, the Recording Industry Association of America and Nielsen SoundScan, and from interviews with numerous managers, lawyers, record executives and some of the artists themselves.

All in all, hip-hop's top 20 earners pulled in $415 million last year, the most since 2008's $515 million. The more recent total got a heavy boost from Dr. Dre's impressive haul, but it doesn't mean he's resting on his financial laurels. Earlier this summer, he and his partners bought back half of the 51% stake in Beats that they sold to HTC nearly a year ago—meaning that fans waiting for his new album might have to hold out a little longer.

"I understand why Dre didn't finish Detox," says Liles, with a laugh. "It's called Beats."

December 26, 2012
The New York borough of Brooklyn has become a hub for the Big Apple's cutting-edge crowd - and among them are a new generation of entrepreneurs kick-starting successful new businesses despite the economic gloom.

By Arlene Gregorius
BBC World Service, Global Business

"I would come home from work, grab a quick bite to eat, then go off to make sodas till three or four in the morning, and go back to work again later," recalls medicinal chemist Antonio Ramos.

"We did this for the two years, seven days a week, evenings, everything."

Joining Antonio in his gruelling schedule was his partner, Caroline Mak - an installation artist.

They first started selling their sodas to friends - sparkling juices with flavours such as grapefruit, jalapeno and honey, and lemon, thyme and green pepper. They then expanded their market with a stall at the Brooklyn Flea Market.

"They trudged over to my old apartment in a snow storm. They were making their sodas at home, and were not food professionals," says the market's co-founder Eric Demby, who still remembers when they turned up with their soda samples asking for a pitch at the market.

"I knew that they would make something of themselves. It's like when you are dating. You know pretty quickly if this could be something."

Brooklyn Soda Works, as the company became known, still sells at the Brooklyn Flea, but is now also selling to bars and restaurants, too.

The company is part of a broader creative revival in Brooklyn which includes a range of hip, young start-up companies making artisan products, such as sodas, through to hand-made furniture.

The borough used to be famous for its large-scale manufacturing and was home to companies like the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer - the US Navy Yard also employed thousands of people. But in recent decades, many factories closed down, and tens of thousands of Brooklyn's industrial jobs were lost.

Keeping it local

Eric and Jessica Childs formed Kombucha Brooklyn and quickly attracted interest from the supermarket chain Wholefoods

As a result, commercial real estate became easily available - and much cheaper than Manhattan. Perfect for start-ups. In turn, markets like the Brooklyn Flea have become incubators for small businesses - a boon during the recent economic downturn.

"Considering the way the American economy has gone the last years, we are the silver lining over a pretty dark cloud," says Eric Demby.

"Our businesses are doing well... hiring people locally, and buying most of their goods and services locally."

Brooklyn Soda Works is now located in the old Pfizer building on Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn's Williamsburg district. The enormous former pharmaceutical factory now houses other artisanal food start-ups, too - among them is Kombucha Brooklyn.

Eric Childs had been drinking kombucha for years - a fermented tea - and was looking for a commercial opportunity a few years ago. After seeing a few other people drinking kombucha on the New York subway, he and his wife Jessica decided to set up a business making and selling his favourite drink.

Kombucha Brooklyn was born, and not long after some big customers came knocking.

"I will never forget the day I got the call from Wholefoods. I was still only making 10 cases a month in my apartment, and they said 'Oh, we'll take a thousand'," Eric says.

Eric and Jessica were far from ready to supply such a big order - mainly because of cash flow problems. To supply a thousand cases of Kombucha, the business needed to buy the bottles first. Retailers do not pay in advance, and in the wake of the economic crisis, banks have been unwilling to lend to start-ups.

Eric had some cash - $5,000 (£3,500; 3,795 euro) he inherited from his late grandfather, and he also relied on credit cards and loans from friends and family.

"It's an inverted pyramid," says Jessica, "your expenses grow before your income does. It needs a lot of juggling."

But she takes it in her stride: "It's creative, bouncing credit here and there. And it's about proper planning and decision-making."

It took Eric and Jessica two years to grow their business to a point where they could supply orders on the scale asked for by Wholefoods - but fortunately, the food giant was happy to wait for them.

Entrepreneurship in the USA
  • The rate of business creation in the USA declined by 5.9% in 2011 - although this still equates to about 543,000 new businesses being created each month.
  • The recession is a likely reason people have gone into business because of high unemployment. However, these are more likely to be sole proprietorships rather than firms with employees.
  • The states with the highest entrepreneurial activity in 2011 were Arizona, Texas, California and Alaska.
  • The states with the lowest rates of entrepreneurial activity were West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana and Virginia.
  • The 20-34-year-old and 45-54-year-old age groups experienced an increase in entrepreneurial activity in 2011.
  • Immigrants were more than twice as likely as native-born Americans to start a business in 2011.
  • The construction industry had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity, with the services industry in second place.

Source: Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity

Hope for growth

Kombucha Brooklyn now employs eight staff - but can these small start-ups ever replace the hundreds - thousands - of manufacturing jobs that have been lost in Brooklyn over the years?

"I wouldn't call it an industrial revival," says Ronda Kaysen, a real estate journalist who writes for the New York Times.

"I would call it an effort to stop the bleed of jobs. This might be the best that the city can do at the moment. It's better than to turn the [Pfizer] building into luxury homes. The hope is that these companies can grow."

People's Pops make up to 10,000 ice lollies per week during the summer

People's Pops is another new business working out of the Pfizer building. It sells ice lollies made from locally sourced fruit and herbs and employs up to 25 people in its peak summer months.

It, too, is an alumnus of the Brooklyn Flea, where former waitress Nathalie Jordi set up what she thought was going to be a one-day stall, for fun.

However, the ice lollies - or "pops" - proved so popular that she set up a business, with friends Joel Horowitz and David Carrell. They finally made People's Pops their full-time job two years ago.

"That was a big leap," says David Carrell.

"We quit our jobs and signed our first lease on the same day, losing our funding and taking on new liabilities at the same time."

But it has been worth it, they say. They now have four People's Pops shops, and continue to sell at weekly markets and catering events.

In the peak summer period, they make more than 10,000 ice pops a week - although have made some concessions to mechanisation by installing an industrial-scale sealing machine, rather than seal each lolly by hand.

But is this the slippery slope to standardisation, which would dilute the company's product?

Nathalie Jordi denies this emphatically: "What I don't want to standardise is what will affect quality - like tasting and mixing.

"At the beginning of the season, fruit can be tart, and need more sugar. And later, it can be very ripe, and need less... you can't just follow a recipe, you have to taste."

Right now, Brooklyn seems just ripe for new businesses. The borough has lots of small companies started by people with an idea and passion - or just a need to find work, not least in the wake of the economic downturn.

For the time being, commercial rent remains relatively cheap compared to Manhattan and nearby New Jersey - while the Pfizer building is full of tenants, that cannot be said for all of the former factories in the borough. There is still room for improvement, though.

"For manufacturing, what's difficult, is the infrastructure is very old and antiquated. And that's something that needs to be addressed," says journalist Ronda Kaysen - but she concedes the borough's creative climate is compensation for what it lacks.

"Brooklyn has experienced a huge renaissance. It's become this vibrant, hip, chic trendy place - the 'It' place to be - and for manufacturing, it's cool to have Brooklyn in your name."

September 26, 2012
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A Texas judge has ordered DNA testing on a man who claims to be the brother of the late “The Jeffersons” star Sherman Hemsley.

Richard Thornton is challenging the validity of Hemsley’s will, which names the actor’s longtime manager, Flora Enchinton of El Paso, as sole beneficiary. Hemsley died of lung cancer July 24.

Judge Patricia Chew on Monday rescheduled the El Paso trial on Hemsley’s estate to begin Oct. 31.

Thornton, of Philadelphia, sought the DNA testing and must provide results by Oct. 15. Hemsley was born in Philadelphia but had lived in El Paso for the past 20 years.

Court documents indicate Hemsley’s estate is worth more than $50,000.

January 22, 2013

Beyoncé is spoiling her mother, Tina Knowles, with a spanking new $5.9 million mansion according to reports. The six bedroom, 16 bathroom mansion is located in Piney Point village. The upscale home is the object of a fire sale it seems as just a few years ago it was listed for nearly four times the asking price.

The Houston mansion sits is 25,000 square ft., and listed for $20 million a few years ago.

The mansion is heavily influenced by French architecture and design.

French and Italian ornate designs are present throughout the mansion.

Oak wood cabinetry.

Marble floors and winding staircase in the foyer.

Romantic blush and black bathroom.

November 8, 2012

(CNN) -- When South Africans open their wallets, they will be greeted by images of a smiling Nelson Mandela in various denominations.

This week, the nation launched banknotes featuring a picture of the former president and anti-apartheid icon on the front. The back of the banknotes retains images of the Big Five animals.

Big Five --- lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino and leopard -- refer to the most celebrated animals in African game reserves.

"Our currency is a unique symbol of our nationhood, with many of us handling banknotes every day," said Gill Marcus, the Reserve Bank governor . "The Reserve Bank is proud to be able to honor South Africa's struggle icon and first democratically elected president in this way."

Before the launch, a public awareness campaign helped familiarize citizens with the new bills, Marcus said in a statement.

Mandela, a Nobel peace laureate, spent 27 years in prison for fighting against oppression of minorities in South Africa. He became the nation's first black president in 1994, four years after he was freed from prison.

Though he has not appeared in public for years, he retains popularity for his role in reconciling a country torn apart by apartheid.

The new 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 rand banknotes will co-exist with the current bills as legal tender.

February 9, 2013

Don't let a knowledge gap prevent you from taking advantage of these money-saving tax breaks.

Every year, the IRS dutifully reports the most common blunders that taxpayers make on their returns. And every year, at or near the top of the "oops" list is forgetting to enter their Social Security number at the top of the tax form -- or making a mistake when entering those nine digits.

But think about it for a minute: Do you really think that's the most common mistake ... or simply the easiest to notice?

One thing we know for sure is that the opportunity to make mistakes is almost unlimited, and missed deductions can be the most costly. About 45 million of us itemize on our 1040s -- claiming more than $1 trillion worth of deductions. That's right: $1,000,000,000,000, a number rarely spoken out loud until Congress started tying itself up in knots trying to deal with the budget deficit and national debt.

Another 92 million taxpayers claim about $700 billion worth using standard deductions -- and some of you who take the easy way out probably shortchange yourselves. (If you turned 65 in 2012, remember that you now deserve a bigger standard deduction than when you were younger.)

Yes, friends, tax time is a dangerous time. It's all too easy to miss a trick and pay too much. Years ago, the fellow who ran the IRS at the time told Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine that he figured millions of taxpayers overpay their taxes every year by overlooking just one of the money-savers listed below.

State sales taxes

This is an especially dangerous issue for 2012 returns because, throughout 2012, this tax deduction simply didn't exist. The right for taxpayers to deduct state sales taxes paid expired at the end of 2011. Everyone expected Congress to revive the tax break sometime during 2012, but the issue got tangled up in fiscal cliff negotiations. Finally, in the bill approved January 1, 2013, the deduction was restored ... retroactively for 2012 and for 2013 returns that will be filed next year.

This is particularly important to you if you live in a state that does not impose a state income tax. You see, Congress offers you the choice between deducting state income taxes paid or state sales taxes paid. You choose whichever gives you the largest deduction, of course, and if your state doesn't have an income tax, the sales tax write-off is clearly the way to go.

In some cases, even filers who pay state income taxes can come out ahead with the sales tax choice.

The IRS has tables that show how much residents of various states can deduct, based on their income and state and local sales tax rates. But the tables aren't the last word. If you purchased a vehicle, boat or airplane, you may add the sales tax you paid on that big-ticket item to the amount shown in the IRS table for your state.

The same goes for any homebuilding materials you purchased. These add-on items are easy to overlook, but could make the sales-tax deduction a better deal even if you live in a state with an income tax. The IRS has a calculator on its Web site to help you figure the deduction. (As this is written, the IRS is working to update the calculator for 2012 returns.)

Reinvested dividends

This isn't really a tax deduction, but it is an important subtraction that can save you a bundle. And this is the break that former IRS commissioner Fred Goldberg told Kiplinger's that a lot of taxpayers miss.

If, like most investors, your mutual fund dividends are automatically used to buy extra shares, remember that each reinvestment increases your tax basis in the fund. That, in turn, reduces the taxable capital gain (or increases the tax-saving loss) when you redeem shares. Forgetting to include the reinvested dividends in your basis results in double taxation of the dividends -- once when they were paid out and immediately reinvested in more shares and later when they're included in the proceeds of the sale. Don't make that costly mistake.

If you're not sure what your basis is, ask the fund for help. (Starting with sales in 2012, mutual funds must report to investors -- and the IRS -- the tax basis of shares redeemed during the year. But note this: The new rule applies only to shares purchased in 2012 and later years. If you redeemed shares you purchased prior to 2012, it's still up to you to figure your basis. Don't forget those reinvested dividends!)

Out-of-pocket charitable contributions

It's hard to overlook the big charitable gifts you made during the year, by check or payroll deduction (check your December pay stub).

But the little things add up, too, and you can write off out-of-pocket costs incurred while doing work for a charity. For example, ingredients for casseroles you prepare for a nonprofit organization's soup kitchen and stamps you buy for your school's fundraising mailing count as a charitable contribution. Keep your receipts and if your contribution totals more than $250, you'll need an acknowledgement from the charity documenting the support you provided. If you drove your car for charity in 2012, remember to deduct 14 cents per mile plus parking and tolls paid in your philanthropic journeys.

Student-loan interest paid by Mom and Dad

Generally, you can only deduct mortgage or student-loan interest if you are legally required to repay the debt. But if parents pay back a child's student loans, the IRS treats the money as if it was given to the child, who then paid the debt. So, a child who's not claimed as a dependent can qualify to deduct up to $2,500 of student-loan interest paid by Mom and Dad. And he or she doesn't have to itemize to use this money-saver. Mom and Dad can't claim the interest deduction even though they actually foot the bill since they are not liable for the debt.

Job-hunting costs

If you're among the millions of unemployed Americans who were looking for a job in 2012, we hope you kept track of your job-search expenses ... or can reconstruct them. If you're looking for a position in the same line of work, you can deduct job-hunting costs as miscellaneous expenses if you itemize. Qualifying expenses can be written off even if you didn't land a new job. In any case, such expenses can be deducted only to the extent that your total miscellaneous expenses exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income. Job-hunting expenses incurred while looking for your first job don't qualify. Deductible job-search costs include, but aren't limited to:
Transportation expenses incurred as part of the job search, including 55.5 cents a mile for driving your own car plus + parking and tolls
+ Food and lodging expenses if your search takes you away from home overnight
+ Cab fares
+ Employment agency fees
+ Costs of printing resumes, business cards, postage, and advertising

The cost of moving for your first job

Although job-hunting expenses are not deductible when looking for your first job, moving expenses to get to that job are. And you get this write-off even if you don't itemize.

To qualify for the deduction, your first job must be at least 50 miles away from your old home. If you qualify, you can deduct the cost of getting yourself and your household goods to the new area. If you drove your own car on a 2012 move, deduct 23 cents a mile, plus what you paid for parking and tolls.

Military reservists' travel expenses

Members of the National Guard or military reserve may tap a deduction for travel expenses to drills or meetings. To qualify, you must travel more than 100 miles from home and be away from home overnight. If you qualify, you can deduct the cost of lodging and half the cost of your meals, plus an allowance for driving your own car to get to and from drills. For 2012 travel, the rate is 55.5 cents a mile, plus what you paid for parking fees and tolls.

Deduction of Medicare premiums for the self-employed

Folks who continue to run their own businesses after qualifying for Medicare can deduct the premiums they pay for Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D and the cost of supplemental Medicare (medigap) policies. This deduction is available whether or not you itemize and is not subject the 7.5% of AGI test that applies to itemized medical expenses. One caveat: You can't claim this deduction if you are eligible to be covered under an employer-subsidized health plan offered by your employer (if you have a job as well as your business) or your spouse's employer if he or she has a job that offers family medical coverage.

Child-care credit

A credit is so much better than a deduction; it reduces your tax bill dollar for dollar. So missing one is even more painful than missing a deduction that simply reduces the amount of income that's subject to tax. In the 25% bracket, each dollar of deductions is worth a quarter; each dollar of credits is worth a greenback.

You can qualify for a tax credit worth between 20% and 35% of what you pay for child care while you work. But if your boss offers a child care reimbursement account -- which allows you to pay for the child care with pre-tax dollars -- that might be an even better deal. If you qualify for a 20% credit but are in the 25% tax bracket, for example, the reimbursement plan is the way to go. (In any case, only amounts paid for the care of children under age 13 count.)

You can't double dip. Expenses paid through a plan can't also be used to generate the tax credit. But get this: Although only $5,000 in expenses can be paid through a tax-favored reimbursement account, up to $6,000 for the care of two or more children can qualify for the credit. So, if you run the maximum through a plan at work but spend even more for work-related child care, you can claim the credit on as much as $1,000 of additional expenses. That would cut your tax bill by at least $200.

Estate tax on income in respect of a decedent

This sounds complicated, but it can save you a lot of money if you inherited an IRA from someone whose estate was big enough to be subject to the federal estate tax.

Basically, you get an income-tax deduction for the amount of estate tax paid on the IRA assets you received. Let's say you inherited a $100,000 IRA, and the fact that the money was included in your benefactor's estate added $35,000 to the estate-tax bill. You get to deduct that $35,000 on your tax returns as you withdraw the money from the IRA. If you withdraw $50,000 in one year, for example, you get to claim a $17,500 itemized deduction on Schedule A. That would save you $4,900 in the 28% bracket.

State tax paid last spring

Did you owe tax when you filed your 2011 state income tax return in the spring of 2012? Then, for goodness' sake, remember to include that amount in your state-tax deduction on your 2012 federal return, along with state income taxes withheld from your paychecks or paid via quarterly estimated payments.

Refinancing points

When you buy a house, you get to deduct in one fell swoop the points paid to get your mortgage. When you refinance, though, you have to deduct the points on the new loan over the life of that loan. That means you can deduct 1/30th of the points a year if it's a 30-year mortgage. That's $33 a year for each $1,000 of points you paid -- not much, maybe, but don't throw it away.

Even more important, in the year you pay off the loan -- because you sell the house or refinance again -- you get to deduct all as-yet-undeducted points. There's one exception to this sweet rule: If you refinance a refinanced loan with the same lender, you add the points paid on the latest deal to the leftovers from the previous refinancing -- and deduct that amount gradually over the life of the new loan. A pain? Yes, but at least you'll be compensated for the hassle.

Jury pay turned over to your employer

Many employers continue to pay employees' full salary while they serve on jury duty, and some impose a quid pro quo: the employees have to turn over their jury pay to the company coffers. The only problem is that the IRS demands that you report those jury fees as taxable income. To even things out, you get to deduct the amount you give to your employer.

But how do you do it? There's no line on the Form 1040 labeled jury fees. Instead the write-off goes on line 36, which purports to be for simply totaling up deductions that get their own lines. Add your jury fees to the total of your other write-offs and write "jury pay" on the dotted line.

American Opportunity Credit

Unlike the Hope Credit that this one has temporarily replaced, the American Opportunity Credit is good for all four years of college, not just the first two. Don't shortchange yourself by missing this critical difference. This tax credit is based on 100% of the first $2,000 spent on qualifying college expenses and 25% of the next $2,000 . . . for a maximum annual credit per student of $2,500. The full credit is available to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less ($160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return). The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above those levels. If the credit exceeds your tax liability, it can trigger a refund. (Most credits can reduce your tax to $0, but not get you a check from the IRS.)

Deduct those blasted baggage fees

In recent years airlines have been driving passengers batty with extra fees for baggage and for making changes in travel plans. All together, such fees add up to billions of dollars each year. If you get burned, maybe Uncle Sam will help ease the pain. If you're self-employed and travelling on business, be sure to add those cost to your deductible travel expenses.

Credits for energy-saving home improvements

It's widely believed that tax credit for energy saving home improvement have expired. And that's true for the credits that encouraged homeowners to replace windows and doors, add insulation and upgrade air conditioning and furnace systems to more energy-efficient units. But the most valuable credits still exist ... and will through 2016. These credits effectively refund 30% of the cost (including labor) of installing l qualified residential alternative energy equipment, such as solar hot water heaters, geothermal heat pumps and wind turbines. If you installed such a system in 2012, be sure to let Uncle Sam lend you a hand with the cost.

Additional bonus depreciation

A break that allowed business owners -- including those who run businesses out of their homes -- to write off 100% of the cost of qualified assets placed in service expired at the end of 2011. Although Congress did not extend this break retroactively as part of the fiscal cliff deal, bonus deprecation didn't disappear completely – it's available at the 50% level for qualified assets purchased in 2012.

Perhaps more valuable is a break Congress did make retroactive for 2012 purchases. The lawmakers restored a supercharged “expensing” provision -- which basically lets you write off the full cost of new assets in the year you put them into service. While the dollar limit for expensing had fallen to $139,000 worth of assets for 2012, the fiscal cliff deal boosted the cap to $500,000. Note that the right to use expensing phases out if you put more than $2 million worth of assets into service in 2012

Break on the sale of demutualized stock

The year 2012 brought another court victory for taxpayers battling the IRS over the issue of demutualized stock. That's stock that a life insurance policyholder receives when the insurer switches from being a mutual company owned by policyholders to a stock company owned by stockholders. The IRS's longstanding position is that such stock had no tax basis, so that when the shares were sold, the taxpayer owed tax on 100% of the proceeds of the sale. But after a long legal struggle, a federal court ruled in 2009 that the IRS was wrong. And this year, a federal district court sided with taxpayers, too. The courts haven't said what the basis of the stock should be, but many experts think it's whatever the shares were worth when they were distributed to policyholders. If you sold stock in 2012 that you received in a demutualization, be sure to claim a basis to hold down your tax bill.

Tax-free transit subsidy

The fiscal cliff deal signed by President Obama's autopen on January 2 brought a retroactive break for commuters who use public transit to get to work in 2012. Last year, folks who drove to work could receive up to $240 tax-free from their employers to cover the cost of parking. But, due to a glitch in the law, workers who used mass transit were limited to $125 a month tax-free to pay for their bus, subway and train rides to the job. The new law brings parity to the tax break, hiking the tax-free limit for transit expenses to $240 ... retroactive to January 1, 2012.

At this writing, it's unclear exactly how transit riders will be able to claim this money-saver. But if your employer offers a transit-subsidy program and you spent more than $125 a month in 2012, you could be due a refund of both income and Social Security taxes. Check with your human resources office.

July 7, 2012
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Actress Tempestt Bledsoe says she's thrilled to be returning to network television on a show that portrays "a positive black family" similar to the long-running hit sitcom she was part of for roughly eight years — "The Cosby Show."

"That show was my childhood," said Bledsoe, who played middle child Vanessa Huxtable in the NBC show that also starred Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Lisa Bonet and Keshia Knight Pulliam. "It did so many things. It greatly influenced the kinds of projects I did. It helped form my core values, like my work ethic."

Bledsoe and actor Anthony Anderson spoke Friday at the Essence Music Festival about the new show they're starring in, "Guys with Kids," which premieres this fall on NBC.

In an interview after their appearance, the co-stars told The Associated Press they were thrilled the show will spotlight a "positive black family on network television."

"We just don't have that right now, not on network television," said Anderson, who has two children of his own. "Like the Cosby Show, this will be an opportunity to see the love, support, humor and beauty of a black family on TV."

The show, produced by Jimmy Fallon, is about three 30-something new dads trying to hold on to their youth. "Guys With Kids" will also star Jamie-Lynn Sigler of "The Sopranos" and actors Zach Cregger and Jesse Bradford. One of the characters is a single dad, another is a working father and Anderson's character is a stay-at-home dad raising four young sons.

Bledsoe, who plays Anderson's working wife, chuckled as she spoke about his character's daily challenges wrangling the children, including twins under the age of 2.

"There's nothing funnier," Bledsoe said. "This role was tailor-made for Anthony."

Anderson said he was drawn to the role for several reasons, including his strong feelings about the importance of having a father figure and that his character "chooses" to stay at home with his children rather than being forced to do so because he lost his job.

He said he also recognized that in these tough economic times, more dads are choosing to stay home in part because of child care costs.

"A lot of them get funny looks because it's not what people are used to seeing, and this show reflects this new dynamic in the American family," he said.

Other celebrities appearing at the festival included actor Russell Hornsby, who played on "Lincoln Heights" and currently stars in the NBC supernatural drama "Grimm"; Bern Nadette Stanis, who played Thelma on the hit 1970s show "Good Times"; comedian and "Think Like a Man" author Steve Harvey; and Malik Yoba, who stars on the SyFy network's drama "Alphas."

On Saturday, Essence planned to screen Viola Davis' newest film, "Won't Back Down." The movie also stars Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who is known for her role in "Without a Trace."

Later Friday, singer and "Desperate Housewives" actress Vanessa Williams participated in a discussion with her mother, Helen, about relationships. The pair recently released a book, "You Have No Idea," which gives fans insight into the actress' upbringing and touches on her life as Miss America, her marriages and subsequent divorces, her entertainment career and motherhood.

"If anyone can glean anything from my life, I'm willing to share," Williams said. "At this stage of my life, I believe my role is that of teacher. This book is my manual. It's a love story about mothers and daughters and relationships."

Although Williams was not scheduled to sing at Essence, Friday's lineup for its nightly concerts at the Superdome include performances by Charlie Wilson, D'Angelo, Trey Songz, Keyshia Cole and The Pointer Sisters.

Wilson said he was excited about his elevation to the night's closing performance. In previous years, he was among the main stage acts, but had never closed a show.

"This is amazing, the best feeling for me," Wilson said. "I'm headlining. All the others times were great, but this one, my fifth, is special. Every year I come back and get such an overwhelming response it just fuels me and gives me energy. I perform as if it's my last, as if I don't have a tomorrow and I know the fans feel that," he said.

Essence Fest is one of the premier music festivals celebrating black culture and music. It's been held every Independence Day weekend since 1995, when it marked the 25th anniversary of Essence magazine. The festival continues through Sunday and also will feature Mary J. Blige, Kevin Hart, Tank, Ledisi, Aretha Franklin, Fantasia, Estelle and others

July 7, 2012
Wimbledon 2012: Serena Williams wins fifth singles title

By Mike Henson

Serena Williams overcame a resurgent Agnieszka Radwanska to clinch a hard-fought 6-1 5-7 6-2 victory and earn her fifth Wimbledon singles title.
The American, a winner in 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2010, had eased through the opener with Radwanska rarely threatening to pierce her defenses.

But the Pole regrouped as rain delayed the second set, and clawed back a break before swooping late to win the second.

Williams broke twice in the decider to finally kill off Radwanska's comeback.
It is the 30-year-old's 14th Grand Slam title and her first since spending almost a year out of action between summer 2010 and 2011 with a leg injury and subsequent pulmonary embolism.

"I can't even describe it. I almost didn't make it a few years ago," she said after her win, referring to her health problems.

"I was in hospital but now I'm here again and it was so worth it. I'm so happy.
"Aggie played so well and that's why she's had such a great career and she's so young."
Such an absorbing finish seemed highly unlikely as Williams demolished Radwanska in the opening set, raising the fear that her opponent was struggling with a respiratory illness that forced her to call off a news conference on Friday.
The world number three seemed to lack the energy to realise her hopes of countering Williams's clubbing baseline power with guile and touch.

A brief rain shower appeared to have opposite effects on the pair however, as Radwanska emerged revitalised and Williams's forehand grew increasingly erratic.
Williams broke to love in the third game with a walloped return winner, but her nerves tightened and Radwanska raised her game just in time to avert a seemingly inevitable straight-sets win.
Radwanska forced break point for the first time in the match to level at 4-4 and the crowd threw their support behind her renaissance.

Suddenly Radwanska's scurrying and fetching was asking questions and Williams, apparently beset by mental demons, crashed into the net from midcourt to send the match into a decider.

The American had lost only four of the previous 194 Grand Slam matches in which she won the opening set however, and reasserted her authority to protect that record and accelerate away from Radwanska.

Radwanska saw off two break points to hold for a 2-1 lead, but Williams served out in less than a minute in the following game and was not to be denied in the next.

A cute drop shot moved her a double break and 5-2 clear and Williams kept any lingering jitters at bay to serve out before dropping to the turf in delight.

Her victory is the first time the title has been won by a woman over 30 since Martina Navratilova's triumph in 1990 and restores Victoria Azarenka, the Belarussian she beat in the semi-final, to the world number one spot.