Money Minute: A Big Push Against Cigarettes; Chinese IPO Fever

Some of the nation's biggest retailers are under pressure to stop selling cigarettes. Attorneys general from more than two dozen states are urging Walmart (WMT), Walgreen (WAG), Rite Aid (RAD), Kroger (KR) and Safeway (SWY) to remove cigarettes from stores that also sell prescription drugs. According to the New York Times, a letter from the attorneys general said there is a contradiction in selling these products in the same stores that service our health care needs. They want these companies to follow the lead of CVS (CVS), which recently said it will drop tobacco products from its store shelves.

Two of China's biggest Internet companies are coming to the U.S. -- or at least, their stocks are. Alibaba and Weibo are preparing for U.S. IPOs. Alibaba is an e-commerce giant and its offering could be valued at $15 billion or more, which would be in line with the amount Facebook (FB) raised with its 2012 IPO. Yahoo (YHOO) will one of the big winners; it owns a big stake in Alibaba. Weibo seeks to raise much less, but it's no slouch -- its messaging service has 130 million users.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal says the all-American company GoDaddy is planning to go public. The company, known for its somewhat racy commercials, helps businesses set up websites.

Here on Wall Street last week, the Dow Industrials (^DJI) tumbled 387 points, a drop of 2.4 percent. The Dow fell every day last week, the first time that's happened in nearly two years. The S&P 500 (^GPSC) and the Nasdaq (^IXIC) both lost about 2 percent.

Under a Senate plan to abolish the mortgage giants Freddie Mac (FMCC) and Fannie Mae (FNMA) within five years, the government would continue to play a major role in insuring U.S. home mortgages. The bipartisan Senate proposal would create a new federal regulator to oversee and guarantee pools of mortgage bonds. It would be comparable to the FDIC, which insures our bank deposits. And what would happen to Fannie and Freddie shareholders? Well, that's likely to end up in court.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

8 Zen Tips for Tax Time
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Money Minute: A Big Push Against Cigarettes; Chinese IPO Fever

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, 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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