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More firms offering help with gas costs

As drivers become accustomed to higher gasoline prices, more employers are providing compensation to offset their workers' costs. At least that is the finding from a recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management, which found that 28.5 percent of companies are giving added compensation in some form to help workers adjust to the extra gas money they are spending. Last year, 19 percent were providing assistance. An increasing number of companies are offering public transportation discounts. Employers also say they are organizing additional carpools and offering telecommuting, which would allow an employee to work at home. In some cases, employers are offering to give away gas cards as awards for performance, provide extra cost-of-living pay and even change work schedules to four, 10-hour days a week. The largest change this year is in companies opting to pay the maximum per-mile reimbursement allowed by the Internal Revenue Service mileage cap. The IRS allows individuals to deduct 44.5 cents a mile when using their vehicles for business - many companies use this as a guide to reimburse workers who use their cars for business. The surveys were made up of e-mail responses from members of the human resources group. The survey numbers for this year are based on responses from 380 human resources professionals and has a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

Pat McGlone


Plan deficits signal tax rise, S&P; says

Federal pension plans are underfunded by $4.5 trillion, credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's said last week. With plans at the state level also underfunded, taxpayers could be forced to make up the difference by paying higher federal, state and local taxes. S&P; calculates that state pension plans are underfunded by $284 billion and corporate pensions are underfunded by $140 billion. "The cost of supporting retirees will fall on the work force," says David Wyss, S&P;'s chief economist. "The problem arose because companies and especially governments were willing to use pensions as part of employee compensation, but discovered that they could get away with underfunding those pensions. The fact of life, however, is that everything retirees consume in retirement must come out of current consumption. And this must be done either through taxation, asset sales or interpersonal transfers." The biggest contributing factor to the underfunding is demographics, especially as the baby boomer generation retires and life spans lengthen.

Associated Press

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