Taxes, TV, Consumers, Loans
Just how much can you deduct for that bag of used suits you dropped off at The Salvation Army bin? Two software packages can help you figure out the market value of clothing and household items. Donation Guide, available at www.bigwriteoff.com for $19.95, and ItsDeductible ($29.95 at www.itsdeductible.com) list the fair market value of hundreds of items in good, fair, or poor condition. The programs also will print out a completed version of the appropriate federal tax form.
Cable TV prices rose by 7.5 percent last year to an average of $37 a month for basic and expanded service, says the Federal Communications Commission. The report tracked cable prices from July 1, 2000 to July 1, 2001. Cable operators say increased programming costswhich had risen by 6 percent a year earlieris once again to blame for the hikes.
The federal government has a new consumer hotline for information about a wide variety of programs, benefits, and services. Consumers can get answers about mortgages, postage rates, national parks, and how to write to President Bush by calling toll-free 1-800-FED-INFO (1-800-333-4636). The number connects you to the Federal Consumer Information Center, which prepares reams of popular publications for consumers. You can speak to a staff member Monday through Friday, 8 am to 8 pm, Eastern time.
A new online service can show you what home mortgage and car loan interest rates you should qualify for based on your credit risk score. Fair, Isaac and Co., which computes the widely used consumer credit ratings known as FICO scores, offers the service at www.myfico.com, along with a calculator to show you how much you could save in borrowing costs by improving your credit score. It will cost you $12.95 to get your credit report and score; theres no charge to use the calculators.
Yvonne Wollenberg. ONLINE News Briefs.