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Taxes; mutual funds; car insurance; Medicare



That secret way to skip paying taxes? It's a scam

Using an offshore credit card or other financial transaction to avoid paying income taxes is one of the most common, but illegal, tax scams, warns the IRS in an annual consumer alert. Opening an offshore bank account is not a legitimate way to avoid reporting income or to claim additional deductions on your tax return. If you're caught, you'll have to pay the skipped tax, plus interest and penalties, and you could face criminal prosecution. If you've been duped and want to make things right with the IRS, call 215-516-3537 and ask for the Offshore Voluntary Compliance Initiative.


Investing in your conscience doesn't carry a price

Socially screened mutual funds perform as well–or as badly–as conventional funds, says a study of US, German, and British mutual funds by three Maastricht University professors in the Netherlands. The study examined fund performance from Jan. 1990 through March 2001 and found no statistical difference in risk-adjusted returns between funds that screen out companies that violate social or ethical concerns and those that don't. Socially screened funds typically invest only in companies with policies favorable to the environment, human rights, labor relations, or community development. Investors put $1.5 billion into socially responsible mutual funds in 2002, says the Social Investment Forum, a trade association for social investment firms. Nearly two-thirds of the 51 funds tracked by the forum earned high ratings from Lipper or Morningstar.


2003 car insurance rates

 Annual premiums*
Los Angeles3,341
Long Island, NY2,454
Newark, NJ2,341
New York2,303
Hartford, CT2,222
Bridgeport, CT2,197
Worcester, MA2,122
Eau Clair, WI$670
Burlington, VT726
Lubbock, TX763
Dayton, OH787
Grand Forks, ND809
Austin, TX813
Bismarck, ND814
Cincinnati, OH825
Knoxville, TN831
Topeka, KS832

Source: Runzheimer International


Does higher spending equal better care?

Patients who live in areas that spend more on Medicare services don't necessarily receive better quality care, researchers say. Indeed, researchers found that patients in the highest-spending regions are less likely than those in lower-spending regions to receive some preventive services. Moreover, there were no differences in the rate of decline in functional status across spending levels, and no consistent differences in patient satisfaction.

Researchers analyzed, among other factors, end-of-life expenditures across the United States, death rates for patients hospitalized for hip fracture, colorectal cancer, or acute myocardial infarction (1993-1995), and a representative sample drawn from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (1992-1995). The study, in two articles, was published in the Feb. 18 Annals of Internal Medicine.


Yvonne Wollenberg. Online UPDATES.

Medical Economics