A Week's Worth
• Tax freedom... Americans can celebrate because they now have earned enough this year to pay off their entire annual tax bill. April 11 marks the earliest Tax Freedom Day in 37 years and, amazingly, came 21 days earlier than in 2000, thanks to the Bush administration's tax cuts, the Tax Foundation says.
• ...and fewer audits: Despite White House assertions of a more aggressive stance, the Internal Revenue Service is auditing fewer businesses and corporations than five years ago. The overall rate fell from 3 audits per 1,000 in fiscal 1999 to 2 per 1,000 last year, according to the nonpartisan Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, affiliated with Syracuse University in New York. For corporations, face-to-face audits saw an even steeper decline (15 per 1,000 to 7 per 1,000). Among the biggest corporations, the rate also fell for the period: from 347 to 290 per 1,000.
• Energy-crisis crime: A federal grand jury has indicted a trading unit of Reliant Resources for manipulating prices by shutting down power plants temporarily. This marks the first criminal case against a company for price-manipulation during California's energy crisis in 2000.
• Mea culpa: Firms that take responsibility for their poor business performance in their annual reports have higher stock prices one year later. And they outperformed by 14 percent to 19 percent companies that blamed outside factors, says Fiona Lee, a management professor at the University of Michigan Business School in Ann Arbor. "Claiming personal responsibility for negative events makes the organization appear more in control," she says.
• Your financial IQ: When American Century Investments quizzed 400 investors about bonds, only four answered all 10 questions correctly and less than a third got at least half of them right. The toughest question: Generally speaking, the longer a bond's maturity, the more (or less) sensitive its price is to changing interest rates. If you chose "more," pat yourself on the back.