Money in a Minute: Headlines for Feb. 9, 2011

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In today's roundup: Tax cheats get a second chance, smart phones get bragging rights, Amway investors get a settlement, Tac Bell customers get a free taco, and couples get sex advice - from economists.

TAXES: IRS reduces penalties if tax cheats come clean

The IRS is giving you a chance to say, “Oops.” If you’ve cheated on your taxes by hiding money in offshore accounts, you may be able to fess up, pay up and walk away. “Tax cheats will have until Aug. 31 to settle up with the IRS or face an ongoing crackdown against Americans who hide assets overseas,” MSNC is reporting. “International tax evaders who come clean will be able to avoid jail and pay reduced fines under a new voluntary disclosure program.”

TECH: Smart phones outsell PCs for the first time

Is the desktop computer dead? “Worldwide, consumer electronics makers shipped 100.9 million smart phones in the last three months of 2010, an 87 percent jump from a year earlier,” the Associated Press says. “PC shipments were weaker than expected, edging up just 3 percent to 92.1 million.”

SCAMS: Many in multilevel marketing sales find it hard to earn much

The term “multi-level marketing” sounds both innocuous and appealing – and many unscrupulous companies tout it as a way to make money in bad economic times. But a recently settled lawsuit with Amway suggests otherwise: “In the settlement, which is awaiting a judge’s approval, Amway agreed to pay $55 million to former distributors, closely oversee high-level distributors who run training businesses, strengthen refund policies and make other changes estimated to cost an additional $100 million,” USA Today reports. “The lawsuit alleged Amway is a ‘pyramid scheme’ — which was changed to ‘illegal scheme’ in an amended version — in which distributors rarely sell products to outside customers, only to other new distributors they bring in, who must bring more recruits in to make money.”

FAST FOOD: Thanks for suing us…here’s a free taco

Try to follow this one: Taco Bell got sued for not putting enough beef in their tacos, so on Facebook, the chain is giving away free tacos. “Taco Bell will offer Facebook fans a free taco as it tries to recover from a lawsuit questioning the content of its taco filling,” MSNC reports.

SEX: Sexless couples need economist in bedroom

Yes, you read that right. Economics can spice up your love life. At least that’s what a new book called Spousonomics claims. It’s “a geeky guide to finding marital bliss through economics,” Bloomberg reports. But does it work?

Stacy Johnson

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