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Are These Four Companies Really the Best Places to Work?


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Where are the best places to work in the U.S.? There's no lack of lists claiming to answer this question. Earlier Tuesday, Business Insider released its list of the 50 best places to work. It has little in common with Fortune's annual list of 100 best companies, released in January.

The lists have very few similarities and different methodologies. Fortune utilizes company surveys collected by the Great Place to Work Institute. Business Insider's methodology ranked companies in the Fortune 500 using PayScale's salary and survey database, looking at six criteria factors: high job satisfaction, low job stress, high work-schedule flexibility, high job meaning, experienced median pay, and salary delta.

Meanwhile, Outside Magazine compiled its own list of 100 best places to work with the help of the Outdoor Industry Association, a trade group, and the Best Companies Group. For that list, companies with at least 15 employees in the U.S. filled out confidential employee satisfaction surveys about benefits, compensation, job satisfaction, environmental initiatives and community outreach. Companies in Outside Magazine's list are smaller and tend to lean toward employees with a penchant for the outdoors.

Here are the four firms that show up in more than one of the three lists:

Google, Inc.
Headquarters: Mountain View, Calif.


Tech giant Google has repeatedly appeared at the top of Fortune's list, but was only number eight in Business Insider's rankings.

Though Google has dropped from the number-two spot last year, Business Insider noted employees' high rates of work-schedule flexibility (83 percent) and job satisfaction (81 percent), and median pay is $127,000 after five years, which is "very high compared to industry peers."

Qualcomm
Headquarters: San Diego, Calif.


Semiconductor company Qualcomm was 32nd in Fortune's list but 13th in Business Insider's.

Business Insider pointed out that Qualcomm employees report "high rates of work-schedule flexibility (93 percent) and job satisfaction (80 percent)," while median pay is $113,000 after five years, which is "very high compared to industry peers."

NetApp
Headquarters: Sunnyvale, Calif.


Data and cloud storage company NetApp ranked 33rd in Fortune's list and 16th in Business Insider's.

Fortune wrote, "Employees at this data-management and -protection company enjoy five paid days off a year to volunteer within their community."

Chesapeake Energy
Headquarters: Oklahoma City, Okla.


Chesapeake Energy, which calls itself the second-largest producer of natural gas and the 10th-largest producer of oil and natural gas liquids in the U.S., came in at 51 in Fortune's list and 75 in Outside's rankings.

Outside Magazine wrote back in August: "Chesapeake has the largest corporate mentoring program in Oklahoma. Now starting its 19th year, mentors meet weekly one-on-one with more than 500 students to help with homework and serve as positive role models."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Stocks End Higher After Unsteady Trading


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stocks took a roller-coaster ride Tuesday. Despite big gains after the opening bell, the markets were in a free fall by mid-session. Stocks advanced again by the close.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 89 points at 16,262.56. The Nasdaq Composite rose 11 points to end at 4,034.16. The S&P 500 added 12 to end at 1,842.98.

More U.S. companies are turning in their latest financial results. Strong sales of non-carbonated drinks pushed Coca-Cola's latest numbers up, and Johnson & Johnson rose 2 percent on higher profits. Homebuilders, however, fell following a survey showing weak sentiment among builders.  Earnings from Apple, Yahoo and Netflix were short of expectations.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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'Bud and Breakfast' Joins Emerging Marijuana-Friendly Colorado Hotels


iStock/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- Travelers heading to Denver with a desire to "wake and bake" will have a new lodging to consider this May, when a local hospitality group launches the latest in a handful of marijuana-friendly accommodations in the area.

The MaryJane Group has announced that it will be taking over the Adagio Bed and Breakfast, a longstanding inn located in the Wyman Historic District, and relaunching it as "the first all-inclusive Bud and Breakfast," catering to clients who desire a fully immersive cannabis-infused vacation.

"When the previous owner Helen [Strader] ran it, she allowed it to be 420 friendly but all of the smoking was done outside the premises and she didn’t advertise it," Dawn Schiermeyer, the new director of lodging at the property, told ABC News. "So it’s been an easier transition for us because some people are already aware of it. But we’re in the process of modernizing the space to make it appealing to a younger crowd."

On the way out: all of the antique Victorian furnishings.

On the way in: fully renovated, themed guest rooms, marijuana-edibles from a local dispensary as well as a "humidor smoking room" on the third floor.

The Adagio 'Bud and Breakfast' joins just a handful of properties in the Denver area that have braved this uncharted travel territory. But despite such small numbers, the options are diverse.

Get High Getaways, a clothing-optional, marijuana-friendly environment, advertises a raucous yet private environment complete with female staff wearing pot-leaf pasties on its website.

Meanwhile, The Cliff House, a historic property in nearby Morrison that was built in 1864, offers eight romantic cottages and also entreats those who indulge in cannabis.

"Even with the legalization of 'Mary Jane,' finding a friendly hotel environment might not be as easy as you think," reads a blog post on The Cliff House Lodge's website. "It may take some time before others join in, but until then, we have no problem being the leader in this movement! Cliff House Lodge welcomes the responsible connoisseur."

For gourmands whose tastes extend beyond hashish, The Adagio Bud and Breakfast will also be employing an in-house chef, said Schiermeyer.

"We'll begin with a basic breakfast menu and then expand to lunch and dinner options," she said, adding that dispensary sample packages, drivers and add-on tours will be available by the beginning of May.

"Our concept is to provide our guests with a complete all-inclusive package where they can enjoy the marijuana lifestyle without having a care in the world," said Joel C. Schneider, president and CEO of The MaryJane Group, in a statement. "The Adagio is our pilot project in the marijuana-friendly lodging industry. If our concept is successful, we intend to expand through the leasing or acquisition of additional inns and bed and breakfast establishments."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Odd Tax Write-Offs the IRS Must Accept


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It's April 15, time to assess whether your 2013 federal tax bill was too high. You may be surprised to learn that the IRS allows tax breaks for some unusual reasons. With the help of Laura Scherler from MyFreeTaxes, ABC News made this list of offbeat tax write-offs. And remember that you can file an amended return if, per chance, you overlooked one of these this year.

1. Sex-Change Operations

Individuals diagnosed with gender-identity disorder, where individuals experience strong discomfort with one’s assigned sex and persistently identify with the opposite gender, can file for tax deductions for a sex-change operation and additional hormone therapy.

Expenses for breast augmentations, however, cannot be considered for tax deductions, according to the IRS, because these are cosmetic surgeries and are not essential to the general improvement of one’s health.

In the case of Robert Donovan, a male who wanted approximately $22,000 in tax deductions as a result of out-of-pocket medical expenses, the tax court did in fact award him $14,500 for his hormone treatments and surgery.

2. Significant Others

Couples who can claim their significant other as a dependent can also use them as a tax break. In order to do so, couples must have lived together for an entire tax year and the significant other must have an annual salary of less than $3,900. Also, the individual claiming the tax break must show they have paid for more than half of their significant other’s expenses.

A total of $3,900 can be claimed if all the qualifications are met.

Wes Fuco had supported his girlfriend, Danielle Wissbroeker, for more than 10 years. Wissbroeker took care of their three children but earned no income. This tax break, paired with Fuco’s ability to claim his children as dependents, allowed Fuco to receive more than $8,000 each year for the 10 years he was with Wissbroeker.

3. Babysitters

Babysitting expenses may also be used as tax deductions if a child’s mother is performing charitable deeds during the time she is away.

Generally, babysitters are considered as personal expenses. However, a mom challenged this when she deducted payments for child care expenses when she was volunteering for a qualified organization. The tax court ended up supporting her claim by overruling the initial IRS decision against her.

4. Lawn Care

If the home and the workplace are one and the same, tax deductions can be made for paintings and repairs, utilities and lawn care.

In order to claim that one’s home is also one’s workplace, part of the home must fall under one of the IRS’ requirements. It must be a place completely set aside exclusively for business purposes. This does not include bedrooms that double as studios or occasionally working from home.

If the office occupies 10 percent of the home, tax deductions for paintings, repairs and utilities can only be applied to 10 percent of the utilities.

If an individual is able to demonstrate that the state of their lawn has some relevance to the performance of their business, then one can receive tax deductions for any landscaping costs. This includes showing a lawn if an individual is part of a lawn-care business.

5. Sport Utility Vehicles

Entrepreneurs can also get a tax break if they can claim their SUV is pertinent to their business. SUVs like Chevrolet Silverados or the Ford F Series must be over 6,000 pounds in order for a person to receive a deduction on its full purchase price.

Initially this rule was intended for small farmers who purchase heavy machinery. The rule has since changed to prevent self-employed professionals such as doctors and lawyers from taking advantage of it. Now one must file a corporate tax return to claim this deduction.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Cocktails, Free Food and Other Tax Day Deals


Arbys(NEW YORK) -- On Tax Day, corporate America feels your pain.

Providers of everything from French fries to cocktails to hotel rooms to apple-scented urinal screens reading "Abolish The IRS" will be going out of their way Tuesday to try to make you feel better (or less bad, at least) about having to fork over your money to Uncle Sam.

"No taxation without relaxation" says one sympathetic hotel chain's slogan.

Some upscale deals are aimed at "the one percent," others at "the 99 percent." You'll find a wide assortment of deals, freebies and limited-time offers listed below. Some apply only to April 15, while others run longer.

For details and restrictions, and to find out whether or not a coupon may be required, we suggest you contact each provider to confirm what terms apply.

Food: Takeout and Sit Down

  • For the fourth year running, Arby's will be offering free snack-sized Curly Fries on April 15 to customers who have downloaded a coupon from Arby's website.
  • Orange Leaf Yogurt, at all of its 300-plus locations, is offering a soothing tax day deal on any flavor yogurt, including flavor-of-the-year, New Banana. You get a full cup for just $4.15. Customers must download a coupon to be eligible.
  • $10.40 will get you a "Tax Day Deal Chicken Meal" for two at Boston Market on tax day. Each consists of half a rotisserie chicken plus a choice of two sides and cornbread. (No coupon needed.) Company CEO George Michel says in a press release that, "while no one enjoys 1040 forms," the deal gives customers something to feel good about.
  • For any taxpayer willing to sing, the Hard Rock Cafe is offering a special deal on selected entrees on April 15. The "Sing For Your Supper" promotion applies to guests willing to take to the stage and sing a complete song.
  • One day after tax day, Kona Ice, purveyors of gourmet shaved ice in 41 states, won't just give you a complimentary (and refreshing) cup of ice on April 16, they'll throw in a complimentary Hawaiian lei. Look for Kona Ice trucks that will be parked in community parks.

Hotels

  • In honor of tax day, the mixologists at the Burritt Room in San Francisco's Mystic Hotel by Charlie Palmer have created a special cocktail -- The Tax Man -- made of gin, thyme liqueur, Aperol, lemon, strawberry and seltzer. Price: $12.
  • The Hotel Monaco in Chicago has an IRS (Imbibe, Relax and Save) special, which includes: $25 beverage credit, $50 in room spa credit, and no taxes on your room rate. Mention rate code "NOTAX."
  • The Hotel Monaco in Portland, Ore., meantime, is offering complimentary in-chair massages to tense taxpayers during the cocktail hour on the 15th. Champagne will be on hand, should you have a refund to toast. To receive a complimentary cocktail at the adjacent Red Star Tavern, customers must present their tax return.

Novelties, Miscellaneous Services

  • What better time to incorporate than right after you've had to pay a confiscatory personal tax rate? On tax day, MyCorporation is offering a promotion where filers can form either an LLC or their own corporation for free. The offer is good in all 50 states.
  • On April 16, the day after tax day, Southern California's South Coast Air Quality Management District opens registration for an annual exchange program that gives the energy-conscious 75 percent off the cost of a brand-name electric lawnmower for any gas-powered mower they bring in.
  • MVPee.com, which makes apple-scented urinal covers, is giving away 1,000 covers emblazoned with the words "Abolish the IRS" to the first 1,000 taxpayers who request them.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Social Security Administration Ceases Old Debt Collection


zimmytws/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After objections by some taxpayers, the Social Security Administration has decided to stop trying to collect on taxpayers’ debts that are more than 10 years old.

Until now, the U.S. Treasury was seizing state and federal tax refunds that were due to be sent out to hundreds of thousands of people.

The Washington Post said the cases involved children of those who owed money because of over-payments of Social Security benefits.

Many of these debts were decades old. Some of the taxpayers who had their refunds seized said they had never heard of money being owed to the government.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Detroit Launches eBay-Like Site to Buy Abandoned Homes


BuildingDetroit.org(DETROIT) -- In the amount of time it took you to click on this story, you could be on your way to purchasing a house in Detroit.

The city launched a new website Tuesday allowing users to bid for homes on auction as if they were items on eBay.

Well, almost. The houses have been acquired by the city after being left vacant and in disrepair by their owners and then forfeited through court procedures, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Bidders will be required to show the city signs of restoration and occupancy within a short time frame following the purchase in order to keep the homes -- ensuring that the houses help repopulate neighborhoods, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said at a news conference announcing the program.

“Were laying another huge piece in place in Detroit’s strategy to fight blight,” Duggan said. “It is not enough to just demolish."

The city will auction off a home each day on the site www.buildingdetroit.org. Bidding will take place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Buyers then have 60 or 90 days to complete the purchase, depending on the price.

All bids start at $1,000.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Want a Bargain Wedding? Try a Sewage Plant


King County WTD(KING COUNTY, Wash.) -- For hundreds of dollars less than typical venues, you can host your wedding at a Washington state sewage plant.

“Need a place to party?” the King County Wastewater Treatment Division wrote on its Facebook page last week. “With a full catering kitchen, state-of-the-art AV equipment, dance floor, ample parking, beautiful outdoor grounds, and room for up to 260 people, our LEED Platinum certified Brightwater Center has everything you need for your wedding reception or special event.”

Weddings start at $400 for eight hours outside the building, which includes trails and a garden, and $2,000 for eight hours inside one of the buildings.

An added bonus: the facility is a “zero odor” waste treatment center.

Although the center has no weddings scheduled yet, there is a spot available for later in the year, and the division center rents out its facilities regularly to the community, Wastewater Treatment Division spokeswoman Annie Kolb-Nelson said.

She added that the room rentals help fund the division’s community programming, which offers environmental education opportunities to kids.

It’s so nice, Kolb-Nelson said, that wedding guests won’t even know they’re at a sewage center.

“The center itself is on the treatment plant campus site, but it’s not actually part of the wastewater treatment facility,” she said. “You can’t even see the treatment plant from the education facility center.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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No Time to Waste on Tax Returns


robeo/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The clock is ticking down on the deadline to file your 2013 tax returns.

You must file something by midnight Tuesday or face a penalty. April 15 is when the bill is due for any taxes owed.

“The late payment penalties that accrue when you file late can be substantial,” says Eric Smith with the Internal Revenue Service.

And the charge for filing late can be even worse.

But you can easily get more time to fill in the forms. Using form 4868 “you can file the extension and give yourself piece of mind,” says tax accountant Janice Hayman. That will give you an additional six months to do the paper work.

“It gives people the chance to do things properly,” she says.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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New Yorkers Hate State Taxes the Most


Scott Rothstein/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With the moment of reckoning having arrived, millions are trudging to the Post Office or their computers on Tuesday to file their tax returns.

In addition to what's owed to the federal government, there are also state taxes to contend with. Gallup decided to ask residents of each state the question, "Do you consider the amount of state taxes you have to pay as too high, or not to high?"

People in the tri-state New York area griped the most about it while the fewest complaints came from folks in Wyoming.

Here's a list of the percentage of residents in the top five states who replied "too high":

  • New York: 77
  • New Jersey: 77
  • Connecticut: 76
  • Illinois: 71
  • Rhode Island: 70

And the bottom five:

  • Florida: 33
  • Nevada: 28
  • South Dakota: 27
  • Alaska: 21
  • Wyoming: 19

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Nearly One-in-Five Say Personal Data Online Was Stolen


scyther5/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Americans are clearly concerned that their online privacy can be easily compromised.

According to a Pew Research Center report, 18 percent of 1,000 adults polled in late January said they've had personal information swiped off the Internet that included their Social Security numbers, credit card data or information about their bank accounts.

The problem appears to have gotten worse in a relatively short time because when Pew asked the same question last July, just 11 percent reported a breach of personal information.

Meanwhile, 21 percent reported that online data pertaining to their email or social media accounts has been attacked, about the same as it was six months earlier.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Get Your Google Glass, One Day Only


Google(NEW YORK) -- Google plans to make its wearable Internet device, the Google Glass, available to any adult in the U.S. on Tuesday but for one day only.

According to a release from Google, the device will be sold online for $1,500, which includes a pair of frames.

In a release, Google said that a limited number of these pricey gadgets will be available but didn't specify numbers.

Until now, Google Glass had only been made available to select individuals, mostly developers and people who were randomly selected after applying through one of a number of methods.

Google Glass is also accompanied by some controversy. There has been an outcry among some non-users who object to the possibility of being videotaped without their permission.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Stocks Finish Higher; Top Execs Out at GM


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Shoppers were out in full force last month, pushing retail sales up more than 1 percent.  That got investors in a buying mood Monday, along with a better-than=expected quarterly report from Citigroup.  

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 146 points to close the session at 16,173.24. The S&P finished at 1,830.61, up about 15 points. The Nasdaq Composite added 22 points, ending at 4,022.69.

Meanwhile, General Motors is shaking up its management. A spokesman says it is not the result of a string of recalls and federal investigations. Rather, the changes are part of CEO Mary Barra's effort to build her own team.  

The automaker announced Monday that John J. Quattrone would replace Melissa A. Howell at Sr. Vice President of Global Human Resources.  Selim Bingol, Sr. Vice President of Global Communications and Public Policy, is also leaving the company. According to a statement, Howell and Bingol are both leaving GM "to pursue other interests."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Why Google Just Bought a Drone Company


Hemera/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Google acquired Titan Aerospace, a drone company, Monday, just one month after it was reportedly being eyed by Facebook.

“It’s still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation,” a Google spokesperson told ABC News in a statement confirming the deal.

“When manufactured, it would have 3,000 solar panels producing about 7 kW of electricity and would be above the clouds, so it would be exposed to sunlight constantly during daylight hours,” the company said in a news release. “One is scheduled for completion next year.”

The tech world has long been buzzing about drones and how they can put them to use.

Last month, Mark Zuckerberg announced that a team at Facebook was working with a group from U.K.-based drone company Ascenta to work on developing drones that could help improve and expand internet access around the world.

In 2013, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also announced his vision for a drone delivery service.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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With Gas Prices Rising, California Drivers Are Hurting the Most


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Gas prices are skyrocketing in some areas of the country, but California is seeing the biggest jump.

In California the price of regular unleaded has jumped 13 cents in the past week -- 16 cents higher than at this time last year. The state's average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas is now at $4.16, according to new numbers from the U.S. Energy Department.

With many areas of the state more expensive than the average, California remains the only state where drivers are paying more than $4.00 per gallon. The West Coast average has climbed 10 cents in the past week.

The national average for regular unleaded fuel is up 6 cents in the past week to $3.66 per gallon.  That’s now 11 cents higher than at this time last year.
 
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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