National / International News

Sales tax holidays: A lot of hype for a little saving

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-13 11:33

Even though they are bad for state budgets and aren't necessarily good bargains, Americans love sales-tax holidays. Retailers like them too, because the tax holidays motivate consumers.

“It can be a pretty significant increase in traffic in the store and sales,” says Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman for Macy’s.

So why are tax holidays so popular?

“There’s absolutely a psychological impact here that is bigger than the money,” says Craig Shearman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation.

He says consumers generally hold out for sales offering at least 25 percent off.

“If retailers were to offer 5 or 10 percent off, consumers would laugh at them,” says Shearman. “But when shoppers can save that same 5 or 10 percent by virtue of not paying tax, it goes way beyond the amount of money involved.”

While consumers save money at the cash register, it’s really the states that pay.

“The first time I heard about a state tax holiday, I laughed until I cried,” says Verenda Smith, deputy director at the Federation for Tax Administrators, an association of state tax agencies.

There are 27 tax holidays this year.

“They’re expensive. They tend to distort the economy a little bit. But people love ‘em,” says Smith.

If tax holidays disappeared, would retailers lose much business?

Joy Hyrons, who handles accounting for Miller’s School Supplies in central Florida, says not necessarily.

“Well, to be honest with you, it probably wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference because the people have to purchase these items anyway,” says Hyrons.

On Net Neutrality, California Cares; Texas? Not So Much

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-13 11:33

A geographical analysis of comments to the Federal Communications Commission shows wide disparities on the issue of an open Internet.

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VIDEO: Swiss train derailed in landslide

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-13 11:30
A landslide in Switzerland derails a train at the top of a ravine, injuring several passengers and leaving one carriage hanging over the precipice.

£315m race circuit gets MotoGP

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-13 11:26
A five-year deal is signed to bring the British MotoGP to Wales at the Circuit of Wales track in Ebbw Vale.

VIDEO: Bacall 'very sharp and very funny'

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-13 11:23
Director Jonathan Glazer talks to BBC Radio 4's Front Row about working with Lauren Bacall on the film Birth in 2004.

Bank has Scots vote contingency plan

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-13 11:07
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney says the institution has drawn up currency contingency plans, whatever the outcome of the Scottish referendum.

VIDEO: How the UK is guarding against Ebola

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-13 11:04
The BBC's Hugh Pym is given exclusive access to Porton Down research centre where scientists are working on detecting and minimising the risk of Ebola appearing in the UK

Bieber pleads guilty in Florida case

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-13 11:03
Canadian pop star Justin Bieber has pleaded guilty to careless driving and resisting arrest in a deal that avoided a drugged-driving conviction.

Woman cleared over Syria terror cash

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-13 11:03
A woman accused of trying to smuggle £15,800 worth of euros in her underwear to a Briton fighting in Syria is found not guilty of funding terrorism.

Daughter kept mum's body in bathroom

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-13 10:52
A daughter found dead in a home in Oxfordshire had kept the body of her mother in her bathroom for months, an inquest hears.

Murray eases into Cincinnati last 16

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-13 10:52
Andy Murray reaches the last 16 of the Western & Southern Open but fellow Briton James Ward is knocked out.

Edible Flowers Find A Sweet Companion In Chocolate

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-13 10:52

Chefs and gardeners have long used edible blossoms as a garnish for salads and entrees. Now, food entrepreneurs are giving them a big role in mixed drinks and chocolate.

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What Policing Looks Like To A Former Officer

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-13 10:44

Ronald Hampton — a black former police officer in Washington, D.C. — analyzes the recent spate of violent police encounters in the context of his experiences on the street.

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VIDEO: US actress Lauren Bacall dies at 89

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-13 10:41
David Sillito looks back at the life and career of American actress Lauren Bacall who has died at the age of 89.

What's behind no-interest medical credit

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-13 10:38

A bigger and bigger chunk of the money hospitals get comes from you and me, thanks to a rise in what are known as high deductible health plans, in which consumers are spending more out-of-pocket for their own care.

With millions more people newly insured under the Affordable Care Act holding those plans, hospitals are thinking hard about the best way to collect from us when we can't pay our bills. In some cases, that means no-interest payment plans.

Craig Froude, CEO of CarePayment, says business is booming for his company, which works for hospitals offering patients no-interest payment plans.

We will actually double in revenue in this year,” he says, “and we will probably double again in 2015.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports the number of workers with deductibles has jumped from 55 percent to 78 percent since 2006.  

Froude says that's why hospitals are lining up outside his door.

“And so what we are really seeing patients are having to figure out how they are going to afford healthcare,” he says.

Hospitals do a good job getting money from insurers, but when it comes to what individuals owe, Fraude says it's just about 17 cents on the dollar. And that won't cut it as collections become a bigger part of the business.

“We're trying to get ahead of this curve because we want to be able to continue being financially viable,” says Melanie Wilson of North Carolina-based Novant Health.

Two years ago, Novant stopped offering a payment plan with a 12 percent interest rate and introduced a no-interest option. Wilson says collections bumped up 6 percent.

They see that we are not here to just make money,” she says. “We're here to do the right thing.”

Not all hospitals can go that route. Sandra Wolfskill with the non-profit Healthcare Financial Management Association expects some hospitals to keep using loans or credit cards with interest because those lenders give hospitals money up front.

"I think the hospitals that are financially stressed may be more inclined to go with the credit card option because it moves their cash flow much quicker,” Wolfskill says.

Patients often don't know what they owe until the bill shows up, she says, adding that hospitals need to find a way to make that stop.

Man Utd's Shaw out for four weeks

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-13 10:36
Manchester United and England defender Luke Shaw is ruled out of action for four weeks with a hamstring injury.

'This Is A Congress That's Really Doing Nothing,' Says NYT Reporter

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-13 10:32

Congressional reporter Jonathan Weisman gives his take on the 113th Congress, including how House Speaker John Boehner has little sway, and business in the Senate has virtually ground to a halt.

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VIDEO: Extinct mammoth 'walks on beach'

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-13 10:24
A "mammoth" that last walked on the Norfolk coast more than 700,000 years ago returns to the beach.

Gay Marriages May Begin In Virginia Next Week, After Court Denies A Stay

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-13 10:14

The ruling came from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, which had taken up the case after a district court struck down Virginia's ban in February.

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Swansea criticised over DVA problems

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-13 10:13
A Northern Ireland minister accuses the DVLA staff in Swansea of "dropping the ball" as hundreds of motorists report problems taxing and registering vehicles.
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