Paperwork with pet

Paperwork with pet - Don't You Dare Deduct These Expenses! - Every tax-filing season, the great quest by filers is to find the most tax deductions. But there are some deductions you should steer clear of.

If you claim these wrong write-offs, you'll deduct expenses that don't meet Internal Revenue Service guidelines.

And that means you'll end up spending time with a tax auditor and paying more in taxes, penalties and interest.

Bankrate doesn't want that to happen to you, so we've put together this list of expenses you might be tempted to claim. Don't you dare!

But don't get too upset. We've also provided some related tax breaks that do pass IRS muster and will lower your tax bill.

Don't deduct homeowners insurance, but ...

The hazard policy you bought to cover damage from fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms and other disasters, as well as for more-routine mishaps, offers peace of mind. What it doesn't provide is a tax deduction for the insurance premiums.

But if you meet some tax law guidelines, you can deduct private mortgage insurance, or PMI on your 2012 tax return. PMI is the insurance your lender requires you to buy if you don't put down a big enough down payment. PMI premiums are deductible as an itemized expense (it goes on Schedule A with your mortgage interest claim) as long as the mortgage insurance policy was issued in 2007 or later. This tax deduction is in effect through 2013.

You also must meet income requirements. If your adjusted gross income is $100,000 or less (or $50,000 and you're married and filing separately), your full PMI premium amount is deductible. If you make between $100,001 and $109,000, the amount of PMI that you can deduct is reduced. And if your income is more than $109,000 ($54,500 married filing separately), you can't deduct PMI at all.

You can figure your allowable PMI deduction using the work sheet in the Schedule A instructions.

Don't deduct a telephone land line, but ...

You can't deduct the cost of your main home telephone land line, even if you primarily use that phone for your business. The IRS says that the first hard-wired phone line in your home is considered a nondeductible personal expense.

But you can deduct as a business expense the cost of business-related long distance charges on that phone.

If you are an employee, they would be claimed as an unreimbursed business expense on Schedule A.

If you are self-employed, you would count the phone calls as an expense on your Schedule C or C-EZ.

And if you install a second telephone land line specifically for your business, its full cost is deductible.

Don't deduct commuting costs, but ...

The cost of getting to and from your workplace is never deductible. Taking public transportation or driving to work is a personal expense, regardless of how far your home is from your office.

And no, you can't deduct commuting expenses even if you work during the commute.

But you might be able to deduct some commuting costs if you work at two places in one day, whether or not for the same employer. In this case, you can deduct the expense of getting from one workplace to the other.

You also can deduct some expenses related to other work-related travel, such as visits to clients (current and potential) and out-of-office business meetings.

If you're self-employed, these expenses would go on your Schedule C or C-EZ.

If you're an employee, travel costs must be claimed as unreimbursed business expenses. As such, your business and other miscellaneous itemized expenses must exceed 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Whatever your business travel situation, be sure to keep good records.

You also could encourage your employer to establish a commuter savings account program. This employee transportation fringe benefit lets workers use pretax dollars to purchase mass-transit passes and pay for parking near work.

Don't deduct your pet, but ...

Yes, your dog or cat is a family member. And yes, some insurance companies now include coverage for Fido or Fluffy in auto policies.

But your affection for your pet or an insurer's willingness to pay for some of your domesticated animal's care doesn't carry any weight with the IRS. So don't dare try claiming your pet as a dependent. Yes, it has been done. And yes, it is disallowed by the IRS when the furry facts are revealed.

You can, however, deduct as itemized medical expenses the costs of buying, training and maintaining a guide dog or other service animal to assist a visually impaired or hearing-impaired person, or a person with other physical disabilities.

Don't deduct Social Security taxes, but ...

You lose a lot of income each payday to Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or FICA, taxes, the money withheld from your checks to pay for your future Social Security benefits. The debate as to whether Social Security will be around when you retire is still raging. But one thing is sure: Don't even think about trying to deduct these taxes.

But if you overpaid this tax, you can get a credit for your Social Security overwithholding. There is a limit on how much FICA taxes can be contributed each year. The tax is withheld on up to the Social Security earnings base, which is adjusted annually for inflation, and which for 2012 is $110,100 and for 2013 is $113,700.

If you had multiple jobs and your combined earnings exceeded the wage base, you probably had too much FICA withheld. You can claim the excess Social Security tax as a credit when you file your tax return.

Don't deduct plastic surgery, but ...

If you simply are following your inner Joan Rivers, the IRS definitely won't let you deduct the costs of your nips and tucks.

The IRS specifically says you generally cannot include in deductible medical expenses the amount you pay for procedures such as face lifts, hair transplants, hair removal (electrolysis) and liposuction.

But if a surgery is medically prescribed, for instance, a nose job to treat respiratory issues, and you just happen to like the look of your new sniffer, then that's OK. The doctor's decision makes it a medical deduction.

The IRS says: "You can include in medical expenses the amount you pay for cosmetic surgery if it is necessary to improve a deformity arising from, or directly related to, a congenital abnormality, a personal injury resulting from an accident or trauma or a disfiguring disease."

Remember, all your medical expenses, including any allowable plastic surgeries, must come to more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income on your 2012 Schedule A before you can claim them. For the 2013 tax year, the medical deduction threshold is 10 percent of your AGI.

Don't deduct dry cleaning, but ...

Looking sharp at work rests totally on your shoulders. A recent U.S. Tax Court ruling reaffirmed this tax law when the judge disallowed a television anchorwoman's deductions for tens of thousands of dollars in clothing she bought to wear on air.

But you can deduct the cost of dry cleaning or laundry of business uniforms. Under the tax code, that means attire you can't wear anywhere else, although with the ways some folks dress today, that designation could be hard to nail down.

When an outfit is "not suitable for everyday use," the IRS says the costs of upkeep for the apparel can be claimed as an unreimbursed business expense on Schedule A.

Also deductible are the cleaning charges for nonprofit uniforms, for example, an outfit required of hospital volunteers or Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop leaders. Here the costs of the uniform and its maintenance would count as charitable deductions, also claimed on Schedule A.

Don't deduct time for volunteer services, but ...

Your time is valuable, but that doesn't matter to the IRS when it comes to volunteering at a charity.

You can't claim the value of your wages for the hours spent helping out at your favorite nonprofit. Neither can you count as a deduction the value of a project you created, such as a poster that you, a graphic artist, designed for the charity.

But you can deduct other costs associated with your charity work. This includes your mileage in connection with the group's work, which can be claimed on Schedule A at the rate of 14 cents per mile.

You also can claim as a charitable deduction unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses.

As with all things tax, keep good records. Track your charitable travel and hang on to the receipts for the poster board and special markers you bought just for the nonprofit's poster project.

Don't deduct OTC medication, but ...

Headache and cold treatments from your neighborhood pharmacy shelves have never been tax deductible. There was some confusion here because for a while, the IRS allowed owners of medical flexible spending accounts, or FSAs, to use money in those pretax accounts to pay for over-the-counter drugs.

That option ended when 2011 began. Now you must get a doctor's prescription for OTC medications before the purchase can be reimbursed with FSA funds.

But you still can deduct diagnostic tests, such as store-bought tests for pregnancy and diabetic blood sugar levels.

And the IRS says moms get a tax deduction on breast-feeding supplies, including pumps and bottles, because, like obstetric care, "they are for the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body of the lactating woman."

Don't deduct kids' overnight camp costs, but ...

When school lets out for the summer, working parents face a child care dilemma: what to do with the youngsters while Mom and Dad are at the office.

Some families send the kids off to summer camp. That's a great experience for the kiddos and eases, at least temporarily, parental child care concerns.

But sleep-away camps, in the summer or any other time of the year, are not tax deductible.

However, if you decide instead to keep the kids at home and simply send them to day camp during the hours you're working, that expense could qualify as a claim for the child and dependent care credit.

If your care costs are for one child, you can count up to $3,000 of care expenses each year toward the credit. The expense amount is doubled for the cost of caring for two or more dependents.

Your actual tax credit can be up to 35 percent of your qualifying expenses, depending upon your income. And while that might not seem like a large percentage, remember that since it's a credit, you get to use it to offset your tax bill dollar for dollar. ( )

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Dove hires FBI to teach women they're beautiful

Dove hires FBI to teach women they're beautiful - Dove's latest "real beauty" campaign just got grittier. No more real women laughing in their underwear or crying with happiness at the site of their image posted on a billboard in Times Square. For their latest efforts in self-actualizing beauty, the company hired an FBI sketch artist to hammer the point home: You’re beautiful. 

In a two-part experiment, Dove and its agency Ogilvy hired Gil Zamora, an FBI sketch artist to draw seven women as they described themselves. The artist wasn't allowed to view the women who sat on the other side of a curtain, he could only ask them questions about what they looked like. Using the information the subjects gave him about their physical traits, he drew their portraits. The women gave descriptions such as, "I kind of have a fat, rounder face," and "I'd say I have a pretty big forehead."

The subjects had also been asked to spend time with strangers who gave the sketch artist a description of the women for him to draw. 

In the end, the sketches produced from women's self-descriptions were less attractive than those drawn from strangers' descriptions. The women’s reactions: "I should be more grateful for my natural beauty," said one woman. "We should spend more time focusing on the things we do like." 

It was a wake-up call for Kela Cabrales, a tech teacher and digital artist featured in the Dove documentary. "I probably beat myself up way more than I should," Cabrales told The Huffington Post, after the video was first posted online. "I see my 8-year-old daughter, and she’s so happy and confident, and naturally exudes this beauty. And when I see her I feel like, 'Oh god, what pitfalls did I fall into, and how can I keep that from happening to her?' I don’t know what they are -- I wish I did. I really want to protect her." 

As of Tuesday, Dove's video had been viewed over one million times on Youtube. By Wednesday, that number mushroomed to four million. On Thursday, it reached seven million. 

Industry-watchers are largely praising the campaign for its innovative approach to a feel-good message. “Watching these women come face to face with the version of themselves in their mind and the version everyone else sees is extraordinary,” writes an Adweek blogger. Brandchannel also commended Dove for offering a "a glimmer of hope for young girls growing up today." 

The 2,000 plus comments under Dove's Youtube video range from exasperated to emotional. “When I saw this, I sat for 15 minutes straight crying so much," wrote one viewer. "The message is crystal clear and powerful, yet I still think of myself the same way these ladies did at the start. I wish I could think differently of myself.” 

Blogger Stacy Bias had an entirely different reaction to the video. She found the ad to be skewed. “These experiences are so plainly curated," wrote Bias. "They chose pretty, well-dressed women of a certain class and they chose people of a similar attractiveness-scale and social class to describe them.” She also made the point that being “beautiful” should probably not be a woman’s main goal. Believing that others see us as beautiful? Believing that we are beautiful? I want people to question their negative self-perceptions, sure. But I would love for that to happen in a context where beauty doesn’t always end up valorized."

Dove's brand reps don't seem too concerned about any possible backlash. "We’re seeing an overwhelming number of positive responses to the 'Dove Real Beauty Sketches' film," a representative told Yahoo! Shine in an emailed statement. "Dove is committed to creating a world where beauty is the source of confidence, not anxiety. We believe that all women are beautiful and are saddened by the fact that only 4% of women don’t think that they’re beautiful. We hope that the Dove Real Beauty Sketches inspires all women to see the beauty in themselves that others do."

It's yet another ambitious attempt by Dove to promote self-love. Their tactics haven't always worked. One past campaign included promising to let users “replace” weight-loss ads that make women feel bad about themselves. According to Business Insider, the ads didn’t fulfill their promise. Another campaign included launching a device that with one click, reversed the applied Photoshop to models. As Business Insider pointed out, the app didn’t work.

In an era of airbrushing, do you think Dove's message of "love yourself" is headed in the right direction? ( Healthy Living )

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Cuban Actors Disappear En Route to New York Film Festival Premiere

Cuban Actors Disappear En Route to New York Film Festival Premiere - In a case of life imitating art, a pair of young Cuban actors who were expected at the New York premiere of their film about defecting to the U.S. have disappeared after landing in Miami.

The film "Una Noche" is about three young Cubans who decide to flee the country on a raft after one of them is accused of assault. The film follows the day they attempt to make it 90 miles across the ocean to Florida. 

All three of the film's stars—Anailin de la Rua de la Torre, Javier Nunez Florian and Dariel Arrechaga—were expected to appear at New York's Tribeca Film Festival for the premiere. But Torre and Florian, both 19, were nowhere to be found the night of the event. 

Cuban Actors Disappear En Route to New York Film Festival Premiere
Cuban Actors Disappear En Route to New York Film Festival Premiere (ABC News)

"Only Dariel Arrechada attended the Tribeca Film Festival premiere screening of 'Una Noche' on Thursday, April 19," a spokeswoman for the Tribeca Film Festival said in a statement. "We have not had any contact with Anailin de la Rua de la Torre or with Javier Nunez Florian." 

Tammie Rosen, spokeswoman for the festival, confirmed to that all of the actors were invited to the festival. 

"We can't say for sure what the status of these guys are," Katie Tichacek Kaplan, spokeswoman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), told "There are a number of things they could be thinking. We just don't know what their plans are." 

Kaplan said that USCIS could not comment specifically on individual cases, but said that people in similar situations that come to the U.S. for asylum have a year to apply. 

A State Department official told ABC News, "We are aware of the reports but we don't have any further information. We have not been in contact with the film festival organizers or the Cuban actors." 

On the Facebook pages for the film and the actors, supporters have left messages of encouragement. 

"Congratulations on making your dream a reality, wishing you much success in the land of the free," one person wrote. 

Another wrote: "I'm glad you were able to get out. May God bless you." 

Representatives of the film did not respond to requests for comment, but Lucy Mulloy, the film's writer and director, told the Huffington Post, "I really was thinking that they were going to come here and enjoy the festival, and I thought they would love to participate in it. They made a decision, I guess." 

The British-born director recently graduated from New York University's graduate film program and "Una Noche" is her first feature film. 

She did not anticipate that her stars would not be at the premiere. 

"It is surprising," she told the website. "I mean, they had all of their family there and it's surprising. But things can be difficult in Cuba. There's an embargo and so there's a lot of challenges for people living in Cuba." 

Arrechada, 21, the one actor who did attend, told reporters he was alone in New York and planned on returning to Cuba, as planned since his visa was going to expire. 

"That's their choice, you know?" Arrechada said of his co-stars, according to the Huffington Post. "That's their way of thinking. No one is forced to stay. And no one is forced to go back. If you want to stay in the United States, I think, well, stay. If you want to go back, go back. Not all of us have to stay and not all of us have to go back. It's about what you want to do with your life." 

He told the website he believed his co-stars would stay in the U.S. 

A similar situation occurred in March when Yosmel de Armas, a Cuban soccer player, defected from his national team while in Tennessee for a game. Armas turned up in Miami earlier this month and is seeking asylum with the help of an immigration attorney. ( Good Morning America )

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Dangerous booby traps found on popular Utah trail

Dangerous booby traps found on popular Utah trail — The 20-pound spiked boulder was rigged to swing at head-level with just a trip of a thin wire — a military-like booby trap set on a popular Utah canyon trail.

Any unsuspecting hiker exploring the makeshift dead-wood shelter could have fallen prey.

Two men arrested over the weekend on suspicion of misdemeanor reckless endangerment told authorities the traps were intended for wildlife, but investigators don't believe the story.

"This is a shelter put together by people, visited by people — anything that would be impacted by their device would have to be humans," Utah County sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said. "It took some time to build these traps. They took rope, heavy-duty fishing line, and they intended what the traps were going to do."

U.S. Forest Service Officer James Schoeffler came across the trip wires last week while on routine patrol on the popular Big Springs hiking trail in Provo Canyon about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City. Having had previous military hazardous device detection training, Schoeffler immediately knew it was a threat. If not disabled, both devices — one set to swing down at head-level, the other designed to trip a passer-by into a bed of sharpened wooden stakes — could have been deadly.

The structure built by the two suspects was easy to see, Cannon said, but the booby traps could have been overlooked by everyone except a military-trained officer like Schoeffler.

"A lot of people go up there after dark, as well," Cannon said. "We're very, very fortunate that it was Officer Schoeffler who found it."

The U.S. Forest Service has not made Schoeffler available for an interview. Authorities said he disabled the traps after taking photos and video of the site.

Cannon said the traps were just a half-mile from a busy trailhead.

"Who goes up this trail thinking, I'm going to have to look out for booby traps?" he said. "A kid could say, 'Oh cool, a shelter,' and run right across the trip line."

Days after Schoeffler made the discovery, a tipster alerted authorities about comments on Facebook that mentioned the traps and the shelter. Detectives then tracked down the suspects, Cannon said.

Benjamin Steven Rutkowski, 19, of Orem and Kai Matthew Christensen, 21, of Provo were booked in the Utah County Jail on Saturday and released on bail.

Prosecutors believed the misdemeanor reckless endangerment allegations were the strongest claims they could pursue without anyone being injured. Charges have not yet been filed.

Rutkowski's father, Steven, declined comment. No phone number was listed for Christensen, and it wasn't immediately clear if either suspect had an attorney. ( Associated Press )

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New species of purple crab discovered in the Philippines

New species of purple crab discovered in the Philippines - Four new species of crab have been discovered in the Philippine island of Palawan. And one of the crabs truly stands out with its unusually bright purple shell.

National Geographic reports that the Insulamon palawanese may use its uniquely colored shell to help identify its own kind.

"It is known that crabs can discriminate colours. Therefore, it seems likely that the colouration has a signal function for the social behaviour, e.g. mating," Hendrik Freitag of the Senckenberg Museum of Zoology in Dresden, Germany told AFP.


"The particular violet coloration might just have evolved by chance, and must not necessarily have a very specific function or reason aside from being a general visual signal for recognition," Freitag told National Geographic. Freitag's report on the new species of crabs was published in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.

Despite the big news, the newly discovered crabs are quite small in stature, each from about an inch to two inches wide.

While many species of crab are known by their red rust hues, some differently colored crab species are quite popular around the world, perhaps most notably the Chesapeake blue crab.

Freitag said the purple crabs likely have several natural predators, including some humans in remote areas. But he said the greatest threat to the species is ongoing forest clearing for farming, mining and home building. ( The Sideshow )

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Death of DARPA's Superfast Hypersonic Glider Explained

Death of DARPA's Superfast Hypersonic Glider Explained - An ultra-fast U.S. military drone that streaked across the sky at 13,000 mph and met its demise in the Pacific was doomed by the excessive heat of hypersonic travel, which literally peeled away the drone's metal skin, military officials have revealed.

A seven-month study by the military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has found that the so-called Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) amazingly recovered from shockwaves that forced it to roll while traveling at Mach 20 (about 20 times the speed of sound) in an August 2011 test. But the unmanned aircraft was unable to cope with damage to its exterior caused by its extreme speed, DARPA officials said.

According to DARPA, "a gradual wearing away of the vehicle's skin as it reached stress tolerance limits was expected. However, larger than anticipated portions of the vehicle’s skin peeled from the aerostructure." 

The entire HTV-2 test flight lasted nine minutes, with HTV-2 actually flying in a controlled manner for three minutes, DARPA officials said.

DARPA launched the arrowhead-shaped HTV-2 flight on Aug. 11 in the second of two tests of a prototype for a hypersonic glider as part of the advanced Conventional Prompt Global Strike weapons program, which is aimed at developing a bomber capable of reaching any target on Earth within an hour. The first test occurred in 2010.

"The initial shockwave disturbances experienced during second flight, from which the vehicle was able to recover and continue controlled flight, exceeded by more than 100 times what the vehicle was designed to withstand," DARPA Acting Director Kaigham J. Gabrielsaid in a statement. "That's a major validation that we’re advancing our understanding of aerodynamic control for hypersonic flight."

The HTV-2 launched atop a rocket from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, then came streaking back to Earth at hypersonic speeds. Hypersonic flight is typically defined as any flight that surpasses the speed of Mach 5.

When HTV-2 reached Mach 20, it experienced temperatures of nearly 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit. NASA's space shuttles, for comparison, flew at speeds of up to Mach 25 when they re-entered Earth's atmosphere.

A DARPA engineering review board found"most probable cause of the HTV-2 Flight 2 premature flight termination was unexpected aeroshell degradation, creating multiple upsets of increasing severity that ultimately activated the Flight Safety System."

That safety system, once it realized the HTV-2 was in an unrecoverable situation, destroyed the vehicle by pitching it into the ocean.

"The result of these findings is a profound advancement in understanding the areas we need to focus on to advance aerothermal structures for future hypersonic vehicles. Only actual flight data could have revealed this to us," said Air Force Maj. Chris Schulz, DARPA program manager.

DARPA officials said that more analysis on the HTV-2 test flight will continue via ground tests and will be used as a resource for future Conventional Prompt Global Strike weapons technology efforts. ( )

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North Korea Fueling Long-Range Rocket for Defiant Launch

North Korea Fueling Long-Range Rocket for Defiant Launch - North Korea has reportedly begun fueling its new long-range rocket for what it says is a benign satellite launch, despite continuing condemnation by the United States and other countries, which see the flight as a defiant missile test.

The rocket, called Unha-3 (Galaxy-3), could potentially launch as early as Thursday (April 12) to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung. North Korean officials have maintained the rocket will launch a small Earth-observing satellite, but observers in the United States, South Korea, Japan and other countries see the move as a military weapons test in disguise.

"Let me make absolutely clear that any launch by North Korea would be a serious, clear violation of their obligations under already-existing U.N. Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874," U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told reporters Tuesday (April 10) after a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba in Washington, D.C.

The United Nations resolutions prohibit North Korea from pursuing military missile launch tests. 

But the reclusive country appears to remain committed to launching the Unha-3 rocket. North Korean space officials began loading the long-range rocket with fuel today and appeared defiant in the face of unwavering foreign criticism, according to Reuters news service.

"We don't really care about the opinions from the outside. This is critical in order to develop our national economy," Reuters quoted Paek Chang-ho, head of the satellite control center for the Korean Committee of Space Technology.

North Korea's Unha-3 rocket is a three-stage booster that stands about 100 feet (30 meters) tall. In photos obtained during a rare presentation to foreign reporters, the rocket appears as a white booster with red detailing (including nose cone) with North Korea's flag and other national markings emblazoned along its exterior.

The rocket will lift off from North Korea's new launch site near the village of Tongchang-ri in the country's northwest, about 35 miles (50 kilometers) from the city of Dandong on the Chinese border. The Unha-3 rocket is expected to launch on a southward trajectory, with its third stage dropping into the ocean near the Philippines, according to press reports.

North Korean space officials have said the rocket will launch the Kwangmyongsong-3, which translates to Bright Shining Star-3. The satellite is reportedly an Earth-watching spacecraft designed to monitor weather conditions and provide imagery to aid disaster relief and other services.

The Unha-3 rocket flight will mark the third attempted space launch by North Korea. The country claimed its most recent attempt, the 2009 test of the two-stage Unha-2 rocket, succeeded in launching a satellite, but outside observers reported no evidence that any craft reached orbit and concluded it failed.

Clinton said any launch will likely be followed by a coordinated international response.

"We are consulting closely in capitals and at the United Nations in New York, and we will be pursuing appropriate action," Clinton said. "But I would just underscore that if North Korea wants a peaceful, better future for their people, it should not conduct another launch that would be a direct threat to regional security." ( )

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