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On finance and practice

As if malpractice threats aren't enough

New tax plums for your car...

The exact credit you can claim on your tax form depends on the vehicle's fuel efficiency compared to similar 2002 nonhybrid models and its estimated lifetime fuel savings. The federal energy department will post the allowable tax credit amounts and which hybrids qualify for the program at http://www.fueleconomy.gov when they're available. The program expires at the end of 2009.

...And your home

You can also save money on next year's tax bill by purchasing energy-efficient appliances, buying a new furnace, and even installing solar heating. The new energy law offers tax credits of between $100 and $500 for everything from buying a new dishwasher or clothes washer to installing new windows to upgrading thermostats and caulking leaks. (Purchases must be made in 2006, however, not this year.) A helpful Web site on the energy tax incentives is http://www.energy.gov. Follow the links for the energy bill.

To really boost your energy-saving potential, consider a solar-powered hot-water system for your home. You can get credit for up to 30 percent of the installation costs, with a $2,000 limit. In addition, 38 states offer their own tax incentives for alternative power sources, according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy ( http://www.dsireusa.org).

Feds offer more financial information online

Free information on taxes, credit cards, mortgages, retirement savings, and other financial topics is available at a Web site offered by the Financial Literacy and Education Commission. The Web site, http://www.mymoney.gov, was established after the passage of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, to improve the public's financial literacy and education. The Commission is made up of 20 agencies, including the Federal Reserve, the FTC, and the US Department of Education.

Better 911 service for Web phones

The FCC wants to make sure you can reach a local emergency operator when you dial 911 if you use a Web-based phone service. A new rule that takes effect this summer requires Internet phone providers to give users more reliable access to 911 service. Internet phone companies also have to let emergency operators know your phone number and location, so police and rescue workers can find you. For current customers of some Internet phone services, 911 calls are being routed to nonemergency administrative lines that aren't answered round-the-clock.

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