The taxman cometh

Ready or not, tax time is almost here. The good news is that you can still lower this year’s tax bill before Dec. 31 by following a few simple tips from Fred Grant, senior tax analyst at TurboTax:

* Get organized. Figure out where your finances stand so there will be no surprises come April 15. Review your income and deductions and compile any business expenses in advance.

* Defer income. Due to the new tax laws, individual tax rates will be lower in 2002. Pay year-end bonuses in January instead of December, so the bonus will be considered income for 2002.

* Take last minute deductions. Study up on the ways you can still save money. If you itemize, now is the perfect time to help your favorite charity while reducing your tax bill. With the new tax laws, deductions this year will be worth more than the same deductions next year, so consider prepaying some of your major deductions, such as childcare, education, medical bills or mortgage interest.

* Sell! Sell! Sell! If you have a big capital gain, consider selling some of your underperforming stocks. You can erase your tax liability on the gain with a corresponding loss.

* Remember your 401(k). Invest money in your retirement account. Since the money is tax-deferred, your piggy bank can keep growing, but you do not have to pay an extra cent in taxes until you take the money out of the account.

* Keep tabs on your mutual funds. Selling your mutual fund before the distribution date will help you save on capital gains and large dividends.

Wireless world

More than ever, consumers are bringing their wireless phones with them wherever they go, according to a survey by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Half of wireless phone owners (48 percent) report carrying their phones with them at all times, compared to only one-third (33 percent) just one year ago.

The results of the “Wireless Device Usage” survey also found that a majority of consumers (57 percent) report using their phone primarily for social purposes rather than business. In addition, despite the offerings of large amounts of free minutes, most consumers (71 percent) limit themselves to less than 400 minutes of airtime per month.

IDS lands big contract

Innovative Data Solutions (IDS), a Cleveland-based credentials verification organization, landed an agreement to offer services throughout Minnesota to streamline the medical practitioner credentialing process. The plan makes Minnesota the only state in the country to offer a one-stop shop for credentialing.

IDS, with its credentialing service, Credential OneSM, was unanimously selected by the Minnesota Joint Purchasing Coalition (MJPC) after a nationwide search that included the evaluation of 16 credentials verification organizations. The coalition, consisting of the Minnesota Hospital and Healthcare Partnership, the Minnesota Council of Health Plans and the Minnesota Medical Association, marks the first time hospitals, health plans and physicians have joined to develop a single-source credentialing system.

The agreement between IDS and the MJPC was completed in June. As of mid-September, some 40 hospitals and health plans had signed up. The agreement includes services to hospitals, health plans and other health care organizations in Minnesota as well as in adjoining regions of Iowa, Wisconsin and North and South Dakota.

Dave & Buster’s targets business events

Skip the bland hotel conference rooms and stale donuts for your next employee recognition event. Try Dave & Buster’s, which just opened a 58,000-square-foot restaurant/entertainment complex in Westlake, the 31st store in the nationwide franchise.

“Take a lot of energetic exercise, toss in some skill and leadership games, then add way too much fun, and you’ve created a recipe for corporate success,” says Dave Corriveau, one of the founders of the Dave & Buster’s restaurant chain. “At Dave & Buster’s, we’ve created a new way — a modern way — to build team spirit within corporate America.”

According to co-founder Buster Corley, “The D&B Company Challenge relies on fun and game-playing to bring employees closer together, removing the barriers that build up in today’s lean, mean corporate environments.”

The Dave & Buster’s Company Challenge is designed to benefit companies of all sizes, from the mom-and-pop enterprise to the Fortune 500 industry leader. The three basic steps are:

Step 1: Picking teams

Each “team” receives a printed score sheet, a detailed explanation of each game, and if desired, team T-shirts.

Step 2: Accepting the challenge

Once team captains are appointed, teams play games such as pocket billiards, shuffleboard, skeeball, basketball freethrow, “Daytona” and others.

Step 3: Rewarding the winners

With the Company Challenge, the goal is to make everyone winners. Awards, trophies and gift certificates can be offered to all participants to help extend their new team spirit beyond the doors of Dave & Buster’s and into the boardrooms and back offices for years to come.

For more information, contact Dave & Buster’s, (440) 892-1415.