What the experts say

Tax refunds up in the air; Landing a small-business loan; Re: In the event of my death

Tax refunds up in the air

Travelers who bought airline tickets before the Federal Aviation Administration was shut down last month by congressional bickering may be entitled to a tax refund, said Lisa Caruso in Bloomberg.com. The FAA’s authority to collect an estimated $30 million a day in airline taxes expired at midnight on July 22. Those taxes are typically passed on to passengers in ticket prices, so the IRS says passengers who bought tickets before July 22 and travel before Congress acts should get their money back. But just how to get the refund is still up in the air. The IRS has instructed passengers to ask airlines for the refund, though the carriers aren’t required to pay it. Some airlines are sending consumers right back to the IRS. “We are puzzled by the IRS guidance,” an industry spokesman said. In the meantime, many airlines have raised their fares by the amount of the missing taxes and pocketed the difference.

Landing a small-business loan

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Small-business owners “have to be ready to bare it all, financially speaking,” if they hope to get a loan in this economic climate, said Cyndia Zwahlen in the Los Angeles Times. With small-business loans down 3 percent nationwide for the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2010, potential borrowers should “expect to explain and justify every aspect” of their businesses. Banks are paying as much attention to character as they are to collateral. That means investigating not just whether a borrower is able to repay if the business goes south but also whether he or she is willing to do so. They’re also interested in how well a business has weathered the downturn. If owners can show they’ve been aggressive at finding smart ways to survive in tough times, they stand a better chance of walking out with a loan.

Re: In the event of my death

Make sure your heirs know where to find your online passwords, says Kelly Greene in The Wall Street Journal. Estate planners say taking time to write down log-in and password information for e-mail and financial accounts, online bills, and social-media and photo-sharing sites “can prevent weeks of headaches and struggles” for those left behind after a death. Some companies, such as DataInherit and Legacy Locker, provide secure storage for your “digital assets,” for a fee. But even a written inventory will help your loved ones navigate winding down your online life after your earthly one has ended.

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