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How to Use Your Tax Return for Travel

Those looking to travel domestically could take a full two weeks to visit the Pacific Northwest (think: Seattle, Portland and the surrounding area.
Couples can spend a week in Sedona, Arizona hiking the red rocks, or lounge on the beach in Florida’s Key West, with airfares in the low $300s roundtrip from many East Coast airports, according to Jauntaroo.
International destinations are still a possibility for couples on a $2,400 budget, including getaways to Croatia, where roundtrip airfare can be found from $483 per person and hotels can be booked for less than $100 per night. (Sadly, outside the capital, there arent a ton of points hotel options.) Theres also Budapest, Hungary. Hunt for a roundtrip flight just over $400 and boutique apartment rentals for $60 per night on Airbnb.
$2,700 to $2,850For international vacations, Midwest residents can head to Spain from the Midwest for just $481 roundtrip per person, or take a quick flight to the island of Aruba for just $371, according to Skyscanner. Entire families can enjoy a trip here by using points to reserve a stay at one of the islands many great points properties.
Photo by Tashka / Getty Images.$3,000 to $3,150The average tax return has historically been about $3,000 per person, and most states land in this range, from Alaska to Georgia, Maryland and Nevada.It’s still a sizable return, and even travelers who don’t want to spend their entire tax return on a trip can find great options within this budget.For residents of Nevada, Alaska, or any of the other western states, the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington are a short flight and boat ride away.
The rural archipelago is filled with state parks and greenery, making it the perfect option for nature lovers who want to hike, kayak, swim or watch for orcas starting in May. Flights originating from the west can be as low as $103 per person, according to Skyscanner, and hotels on the islands usually run from $70 to $150 per night.For international locations, residents of the West Coast can fly to parts of South America in just a few hours. Flights from California to Sao Paolo, Brazil are usually less than $500 in May.
East Coast residents can turn to the British Isles for a great getaway, where flights to Scotland are $499 round trip and flights to London are just $341, according to Skyscanner. Travelers can splurge on the recently renovated Ritz-Carlton in London, or stay at the highly rated Hilton Metropole for less than $150 per night.(Cash in your points for an award night, and youll have plenty of your tax return left over for food, beverages and activities.)$3,700 to $3,850States in the Northeast see some of the highest average tax refunds, with Connecticut taking the number one spot of $3,844, according to Smart Asset.
Travelers in the highest tax return bracket could jet off to Bali for two weeks to visit ancient Hindu temples. Flights from New York City to Bali can get as low as $481 roundtrip in the month of May (though if you want to book something quick, its not difficult to find flights in the mid-$700s) and hotels run in the low hundreds per night.North African temperatures tend to be relatively mild in the spring, making it a great time to visit Morocco or Egypt (one of our top places to travel this April). Flights to Africa tend to run on the more expensive side, regardless of the time of year, but flights to Casablanca can be found in the low $600s roundtrip.Visitors can rent entire homes near Casablanca for roughly $50 per night — and some even include their own pools.For the latest travel news, deals and points and miles tips please .

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Most Controversial Fashion Choices Made By the Royal Family

Prominent members of the British royal family have become pillars for fashion trends, especially the younger generation.But with a set royal dress code they are supposed to follow, its no surprise they get it wrong sometimes and raise eyebrows in the process.
From Kate Middletons fly-away skirt to Prince Harrys bad costume choice, heres a look at 15 of the most controversial fashion choices
Next: Last but not least 15. Kates repeat ensemblePrince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge arrive at Los Angeles | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)Constantly having eyes on what youre wearing means sporting a new ensemble every time you step in front of the camera.
But Duchess Catherine has bucked that trend by sporting the same lilac Roksanda dress on multiple occasions. Not only does the dress look great on her, but it shows that even royal have favorite pieces they like to wear on repeat regardless of what the royal fashion rules are.
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Albany reconsiders pied-à-terre tax, could tax real estate sales instead

The state is now considering a tax increase on real estate transactions instead, Politico reported, citing five sources close to the negotiations.One source said the pied-a-terre proposal isn’t dead yet but is “headed there.” Its not immediately clear what a change in real estate taxes would look like.Gov.
Andrew Cuomo continued to push for the pied-à-terre tax in a radio interview on Monday morning, but the tide appeared to have turned by Monday afternoon.Another source told Politico that the tax proved to be too “onerous,” and would further complicate New York Citys already convoluted property tax system.
A recurring topic in city and state politics, the idea of a pied-à-terre tax was put forward again this month as a way to fund the MTA, as it became clear that a plan to legalize and tax marijuana would not come together in time. Albany lawmakers already agreed to a congestion pricing plan on Monday, with revenues earmarked for MTA repairsThe pied-a-terre proposal was poorly received in the real estate world, with the Real Estate Board of New Yorks John Banks saying it would throw a huge wet blanket over the entire industry.

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Big Tobacco’s push for Big Vape

Citizens’ initiative calls for vaping to be treated differently from traditional smoking – and is backed by industry associations.
By Katie Jennings2/26/19, 7:58 PM CET2/27/19, 10:01 AM CETAll major tobacco companies are moving into vaping | Niklas Hallen/AFP via Getty ImagesAll major tobacco companies are moving into vaping | Niklas Hallen/AFP via Getty ImagesLinkedInWhatsAppCommentPrintBig Tobacco has a new lobbying tactic in Brussels — people power.
A petition calling for vaping products to be treated differently from tobacco was this month registered with the European Commission, using a process that’s designed to give the public a say in decision-making.However, the campaign received a €10,000 contribution from U.K.-based Imperial Brands, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, and the individuals listed on the application include Imperial’s head of EU corporate affairs and representatives from national vaping industry lobbies.
As EU rules put the squeeze on cigarette sales, tobacco companies are expanding into vaping products and the industry is making huge efforts to ensure they avoid the regulatory fate of traditional smoking.The petition, which calls for looser controls on vaping products by having them treated separately from tobacco products, is part of that drive.Under the rules of the European Citizens’ Initiative process, the petition’s organizers have a year to collect 1 million signatures from at least seven EU countries. If that happens, the Commission must consider their request (although it can reject it).
The involvement of individuals with direct ties to the tobacco and vaping industries “reduces the [citizens’ initiative] tool to absurdity” — Olivier Hoedeman, researcher The Commission declined to name those behind the initiative — called “Let’s demand smarter vaping regulation” — when it was announced on February 12.But the subsequent registration listed Dustin Dahlmann and Mosè Giacomello, representatives of the German and Italian vaping industry associations, and Valerio Forconi, head of EU corporate affairs and a registered lobbyist for Imperial Brands.Also On Politico  Amsterdams Brexit bonanza Naomi OLearyAlso On PoliticoCancer and corruption: In Romania, its the same fightSarah Wheaton Forconi said Imperial is supporting grassroots activism by funding the campaign, and the individuals that registered the initiative said they are acting in a personal capacity.However, a corporate watchdog group called the petition an “abuse” of the system.
Tobacco companies are taking a different approach toward regulators with e-cigarettes than they did with traditional cigarettes | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images“Imperial Brands has vested commercial interests in getting vaping products excluded from the Tobacco Products Directive and is abusing a democratic tool for citizen participation,” he said.Imperial Brands (which used to be Imperial Tobacco Group and sells Gauloises cigarettes and Montecristo cigars) expanded into vaping through its subsidiary Fontem Ventures, which makes the brand Blu.
The U.S.and U.K.are its two biggest markets, and the company has also introduced the products in France, Germany and Italy.The petition argues the Commission needs to come up with a vaping policy that ensures “access to tobacco-free less harmful alternatives,” through “bespoke, evidence-based legislation” that takes vaping products away from the shadow of Big Tobacco.
A Commission spokesperson said that while companies cannot launch citizens’ initiatives, there is nothing in the rules to prohibit employees doing so in a personal capacity.Organizations “can promote or support initiatives provided that they do so with full transparency,” the Commission said.Flipping the playbook From the 1950s onward, tobacco companies worked to emphasize scientific uncertainty and downplay links between smoking and lung cancer, and nicotine and addiction.With vaping they are flipping the playbook.
All major tobacco companies are moving into vaping, including Altria (parent company of Philip Morris), British American Tobacco and Japan International Tobacco. In tandem with vaping industry associations, tobacco companies are relying on public health arguments to make the case that electronic cigarettes are “less harmful” than traditional ones.
“What [tobacco companies] were doing in the past was saying that there was no real evidence. In fact, it’s almost .
turning on its head at the minute,” said Martin McKee, a professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.“We want to reduce the health impact of tobacco by encouraging smokers to switch to products with lower health risks like vaping ones” — Valerio Forconi, head of EU corporate affairs at Imperial BrandsVaping devices contain nicotine but not tobacco, heating a tank of liquid containing the addictive chemical to create a vapor that can be inhaled.
The EU cracked down on both tobacco and nicotine products as part of the 2014 Tobacco Products Directive, which limited the size and strength of e-cigarette tanks, restricted advertising and set rules on packaging.The Commission is scheduled to review the directive before May 2021.One of the aims of the citizens’ initiative is to repeal Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive, which outlines the regulations on vaping products, and have them dealt with under separate rules.“We want to reduce the health impact of tobacco by encouraging smokers to switch to products with lower health risks like vaping ones.
We support proportionate evidence-based regulation that encourages smokers to use alternative products that have the potential for reduced harm,” Forconi said.Several scientific studies have found vaping to be less harmful than traditional smoking.While England’s public health body has strongly endorsed e-cigarettes to reduce health harm, other researchers and officials, including European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, are urging caution.European Commissioner for Health Vytenis Andriukaitis | John Thys/AFP via Getty ImagesThe industry bolsters its argument by citing a 2015 review by Public Health England that found e-cigarettes are “around 95 percent safer” than traditional cigarettes.
“That figure has no credibility whatsoever,” said McKee, who co-authored a commentary in medical journal The BMJ challenging the methodology of the national health body’s review. “England is completely out of line with the rest of the world,” he said.Australia and Singapore have banned e-cigarettes and the U.S.is cracking down on flavored products, saying they appeal to kids.Vaping may not bring the same risk of lung cancer as smoking “but there are serious questions about cardiovascular disease and there are enough questions there that I think the precautionary principle should be adopted,” McKee said.An alternative, McKee said, would be to regulate e-cigarettes as a medicine, if there is evidence to show they could get people off nicotine completely.“I see no justification for rolling them out as consumer goods, that’s a completely different ballpark,” McKee said.Industry opposes this route, since it would mean much stricter regulatory scrutiny. The petition states that vaping should be considered separately from pharmaceutical products.‘Time is money’Imperial’s €10,000 has gone toward building a website on which people can add their signature to the petition, and which is expected to launch in a few weeks, according to Brandon Mitchener, a managing partner for consultancy Instinctif Partners, based in Brussels.The tobacco company contracted the consultancy to provide “monitoring and strategic advice on a number of issues but mainly related to vaping,” according to Imperial’s Forconi.
That contract was worth between €50,000 and €99,000 in 2018, according to an entry in the EU’s transparency registerImperial spent more than £700 million investing in next generation products through 2018, according to a company report.“Time is money and everyone is contributing a significant amount of time to ensure the success of this initiative” — Dustin Dahlmann and Mosè Giacomello, vaping association representativesForconi said it is “hard to predict” how much money Imperial would spend promoting the petition, adding the campaign “will mainly run through social media instead of using the traditional communication touchpoints.”Giacomello and Dahlmann, who represent national vaping industry associations in Italy and Germany, said they expect their associations and others from Ireland, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic and France “will contribute to the campaign according to [their] individual means.” “Time is money and everyone is contributing a significant amount of time to ensure the success of this initiative,” Giacomello and Dahlmann said in a joint statement, adding that their associations’ investments would likely be more than €10,000, and would meet the EU’s transparency requirements.Andriukaitis’ office declined to comment on the petition or the involvement of the tobacco and vaping industries. The health commissioner has previously said e-cigarettes should be included in smoke-free legislation, and branded the argument that e-cigarettes should be freed from regulation because they help people quit smoking as “ridiculous.
”This article is part of POLITICO for a complimentary trial.

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