Money Minute: Giving Up Facebook for Lent? Boomer Rock Stars in Demand

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It's not just chocolate, meat and alcohol any longer.

A growing number of people are giving up technology or entertainment for Lent this year. In fact, nearly half of the Protestants surveyed by Barna Group who are giving up something for Lent say it will be technology. That includes abstaining from social networks, smartphones and video games during the 40 days leading up to Easter. If enough people follow through on this, it could hurt Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR), Netflix (NFLX) and others.

Iconic rock bands of the 1960s and '70s sold the highest priced concert tickets last year. TiqIQ says tickets to see the Rolling Stones, The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac ranged from $240 to as high as $624. They were followed by newer artists such as Justin Timberlake and One Direction. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%But the concert schedule for this year includes fewer golden oldies -- even though Bruce Springsteen will be on tour. The website 24/7 Wall St. says contemporary artists such as Jason Aldean, Bruno Mars and Katy Perry are dominating this year's list.

The House this week takes up the long-simmering issue of taxing Internet purchases, but there's little expectation that any legislation will make its way through Congress this year. The Senate did pass a bill, but it has almost no chance in the House. Now the Republican-controlled House takes a crack at it. The big issues are: states want to raise revenue from online sales; can they do that without slowing down the growth of e-commerce; and big national chains with brick-and-mortar stores say they're at a big disadvantage because the law makes them collect taxes while some Internet-only sites don't have to.

Here on Wall Street Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 34 points Monday, while the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) edged just slightly lower.

Finally, the severe winter weather forced the nation's four largest airlines to cancel 74,500 flights in January and February. That's significantly more than usual.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

Money Minute: Giving Up Facebook for Lent? Boomer Rock Stars in Demand

Don't parse every receipt and monthly bank statement, says Wenli Wang, a partner in the tax practice at Moss Adams in San Francisco. "Do some homework, so you know what is deductible and what is not," she says. "When you understand what is relevant to your tax prep, you’ll have a game plan."

"Clients spend a lot of time chasing small deductions. I tell them not to go crazy documenting $5 here or $10 there. Concentrate on bigger expenses that save the most in taxes," Wang adds. "And don’t spend money on unnecessary expenses just to save on your taxes."

Start with one of the many free checklists available. Here are a few from the IRS, its affiliate efile.com, TurboTax, or FreshBooks.

Avoid such audit triggers as running a cash business, claiming large deductions on minimal income, and reporting dependent exemptions for people who may not actually be your dependents for tax purposes, says Ebong Eka, a Washington accountant and author of "Start Me Up: The No-Business-Plan Business Plan."

If you report a business loss year after year, you risk having the IRS declare your company a hobby, says Mark MacLeod, an accountant and chief financial officer for FreshBooks. "Filling in your Schedule C with nice, even, rounded numbers in the hundreds or thousands is another red flag," he adds.

Buy an accounting system that automates your back office tasks, including tracking income and tax-deductible expenses. There are free and low-cost software packages available, too. FreshBooks' MacLeod -- who obviously has a dog in the fight -- advises business owners to steer clear of software that's designed for professional accountants. "If it's too complicated, you won't understand it and then you won’t use it," he says.
Spare your sanity by hiring a professional who will do right by your tax return while you work for your clients or drum up new business. "What is your time worth?" MacLeod asks. "If you're a graphic designer charging $100 an hour or more, do you want to spend hours on taxes?"

Running late and wilting under the pressure? "File an extension," Berger advises. "If you wait until the last minute, you'll make a lot of mistakes and you could miss the deadline anyway."

If you owe money, pay up. Or at least pay part of your liability and get on a payment plan for the rest. "Clients worry about owing money they don't have. But it's important to file your return on time, or file an extension at least," Berger says. Putting it off will only result in fines and penalties down the line -- not a prospect that invites much in the way of zen.

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