CAR DONATIONS PLUMMETAutomobile donations have sharply declined since 2004, when Congress tightened the tax rules for claiming charitable deductions, according to an analysis of IRS data by Grant Thornton. Before 2005, taxpayers who donated a vehicle were allowed to deduct its fair market value. Tax legislation enacted in 2004 changed the rules to generally limit vehicle donation deductions of over $500 to either the actual proceeds from a vehicle’s sale or the vehicle’s fair market value, whichever is less.

The analysis by Grant Thornton’s National Tax Office shows that between tax year 2004 and 2005, car donations of over $500 dropped by two thirds. Over 900,000 tax returns claimed deductions for donated automobiles in 2004. In 2005, the last year for which the IRS has detailed data, less than 300,000 tax returns included such claims. The total deducted for all car donations declined from $2.4 billion in 2004 to just a half a billion dollars in 2005, a decrease of over 80 percent. The deduction claimed per car declined by 41 percent.

The number of returns claiming non-car vehicle donations also dropped over 25 percent from 2004 to 2005, and the amount claimed fell from $205 million to $140 million.

INVESTOR HELP SITE UPGRADED

In an effort to assist investors, the 19-member Alliance for Investor Education has launched an updated version of the “one-stop information shopping” site, www.helpforinvestors.org, to put 14 key links onto a single Web page.

The list shows investors where to check out financial professionals, how to report investment fraud, the best help for dealing with other major problems — including broker bankruptcies, identity theft and 401(k) claims — and filing arbitration and mediation claims.

AXA LAUNCHES RETIREMENT SITE

AXA Equitable Life Insurance Co. has debuted My Retirement Shop at www.myretirementshop.com, a retirement lifestyle Web site. The site combines access to resources and services specifically designed for people near or at retirement, with information and tools on how to use them. The site is free and open to anyone to receive information in the following areas: home & family; finance; health and fitness; volunteering; travel; entertainment; financial products and services; and a concierge service, which provides travel information and booking services, as well as access to travel insurance and emergency travel services.

UBS to Discontinue Tax Havens for U.S. Residents

Washington, D.C. — Swiss investment bank UBS plans to stop offering offshore banking to U.S. residents after the bank was questioned about its clients’ tax avoidance practices at a congressional hearing.

At a Senate hearing on tax haven banks and U.S. tax compliance, UBS Global Wealth Management and Business Banking CFO Mark Branson said that the bank is working with U.S. authorities to identify the names of U.S. clients who may have engaged in tax fraud.

UBS will also provide the names of U.S. clients who may have used the Swiss bank accounts to hide their assets from taxation.

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