Dollars & Sense

State tax form has some incorrect info

The state agency that prints tax forms says a mistake on some of them could cost California taxpayers. The Franchise Tax Board says early versions of Schedule CA (540), California Adjustments, tell filers

to enter information from the wrong federal tax box. The form is used to make adjustments to federal adjusted gross income and claim itemized deductions. Taxpayers could miss claiming their home mortgage interest, points, mortgage insurance premiums and investment interest, the board said. About 2.4 million of the forms were distributed. The board said instructions in an accompanying booklet are correct.

Food, gasoline lead consumer price rise

Consumer prices rose in 2007 at the fastest pace in 17 years as motorists paid a lot more for gasoline and grocery shoppers paid higher food bills. However, falling prices for clothing and new cars offset some of those gains. The Labor Department reported that consumer prices rose by 4.1 percent for 2007, up sharply from a 2.5 percent increase in 2006. Energy and food prices jumped by the largest amount since 1990. Prices also were up sharply for health care, housing and education. Prices fell for computers, in addition to clothing and new cars. Similar numbers were reported by the Commerce Department on Tuesday.

Fed notes people are more cautious

The Federal Reserve's new snapshot of business conditions around the country, released Wednesday, suggested that the strains from a persistent housing slump and harder-to-get credit are affecting the behavior of individuals and businesses -- making them more cautious. The report comes as a recent string of economic indicators, ranging from a plunge in retail sales to a big jump in the unemployment rate, stokes worries that the country is heading for its first recession since 2001. The Fed report said the economy grew during the survey period, from the middle of November through December, "but at a slower pace" than the previous survey, taken during late fall.

Coming Friday

Stretching old mortgage formulas can push home buyers to the edge, so calculate potential payments carefully -- and conservatively.