dealbook@nytimes.com

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An Argument for Investing Where the Return Is Social Change

Getting a market-rate return is something impact investors are comfortable with, but a lower return makes it harder to attract enough investors, said Trenton Allen, managing director and chief executive of Sustainable Capital Advisors. “It’s not impossible,” he said. “But you’re narrowing the number of investors you have access to.”

Traditional impact investors also argue that accepting different returns for different investments is already happening. Consider bondlike returns for fixed-income types of risk.

“Impact investing is a big tent and should be a big tent,” said Nancy Pfund, managing partner at DBL Partners, an impact venture capital fund. “The challenge is, we shouldn’t muddy the waters and think impact-first is the only kind of investment. We also don’t want to step backward and deal with biases about returns that we have spent at least 10 years fighting.”

Even those who have taken the approach agree that it is a luxury.

“If the organizing priority is impact, that’s a privilege, but you have to have a deep tolerance for risk,” said Margot Kane, chief investment officer of Spring Point Partners, which is a social venture fund created by the Berwind family of Philadelphia, whose wealth dates to 19th-century coal mining.

For anyone considering taking the middle ground, here are the two key questions: How do you determine if an investment qualifies as impact first? And since impact, not return, is the primary motivation, how do you measure it?

Let’s start with selection.

“One of the things we ask ourselves when we’re doing due diligence on one of these projects is, ‘Is this a really great catalytic investment or a very bad market-rate investment?’” said Liesel Pritzker Simmons, co-founder and principal of Blue Haven Initiative and a member of the family whose wealth derives from Hyatt hotels.

“Honestly, it tends to come down to what is the problem they’re trying to solve and is the nature of that solution super-scalable or not?” she said.

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Greensill Capital: The Collapse of a Company Built on Debt

LONDON — The courthouse should have already been closed for the day.

At a hearing that began at 5 p.m. on March 1, lawyers for Greensill Capital desperately argued before a judge in Sydney, Australia, that the firm’s insurers should be ordered to extend policies set to expire at midnight. Greensill Capital needed the insurance to back $4.6 billion it was owed by businesses around the world, and without it 50,000 jobs would be in jeopardy, they said.

The judge said no; the company had waited too long to bring the matter to court. A week later, Greensill Capital — valued at $3.5 billion less than two years ago — filed for bankruptcy in London. An international firm with 16 offices around the world, from Singapore to London to Bogotá, was insolvent.

Greensill’s dazzlingly fast failure is one of the most spectacular collapses of a global finance firm in over a decade. It has entangled SoftBank and Credit Suisse and threatens the business empire of the British steel tycoon, Sanjeev Gupta, who employs 35,000 workers throughout the world. Greensill’s problems extend to the United States, where the governor of West Virginia and his coal mining company have sued Greensill Capital for “a continuous and profitable fraud” over $850 million in loans.

At the center of it is Lex Greensill, an Australian farmer-turned-banker, who in 2011 founded his company in London as a solution to a problem: Companies want to wait as long as possible before paying for their supplies, while the companies making the supplies need their cash as soon as possible.

The Australian newspaper that he did the same for President Barack Obama in the United States.

Eventually, Mr. Cameron would become an adviser to Greensill. Julie Bishop, Australia’s former foreign minister, also joined the company as an adviser.

Greensill Capital’s defining year was 2019, when SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the $100 billion investment vehicle built to make huge bets on disruptive technology companies, invested $1.5 billion. On the day the first of two SoftBank investments was announced, Mr. Greensill told Bloomberg TV that his company would have “multiple opportunities” to work with SoftBank and the other companies in their portfolio.

Mr. Greensill had become a billionaire.

Carillion in 2018 and the Spanish renewable energy company Abengoa, which filed for insolvency in February. Abengoa, an early customer of Greensill, narrowly escaped bankruptcy in 2015 when its huge debt load — billions of euros — was revealed.

Regulators, auditors and ratings agencies have grown concerned about the lack of transparency that can make company balance sheets look stronger than they are. In June, the Securities and Exchange Commission asked Coca-Cola to provide more details about whether it was using supply chain finance after noticing an increase in its account payables of $1.1 billion.

After pleas from accounting companies, the rules might be tightened in the United States. In October, the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board said it would start developing stronger disclosure requirements, though two months later, an international accounting board decided not to do the same.

For Greensill Capital, signs of trouble began appearing in 2018, the year before SoftBank made its big investments.

GAM, the Swiss asset manager, rocked the London financial community when it suspended one of its top fund managers, Tim Haywood. He later lost his job for “gross misconduct,” Bloomberg reported, after an internal investigation raised questions about investments he made in companies tied to Mr. Gupta, who was fast-becoming a steel and metals tycoon. The middleman in the deals, Bloomberg said, was Mr. Greensill.

The next year, Mr. Greensill’s debt funds were attracting unusual interest from SoftBank. Even as the Vision Fund was investing in Greensill, a different arm of SoftBank poured hundreds of millions into the Credit Suisse funds, according to people with knowledge of the transactions. That arrangement put SoftBank in a complex position: One division was Greensill’s largest shareholder and another was a lender to Greensill, via the Credit Suisse funds.

BaFin said it had uncovered evidence that assets linked to Mr. Gupta listed on the bank’s balance sheet did not exist.

insolvency proceedings for Greensill Bank.

an 18 million euro state-backed loan in December from Greensill Bank. But two days later, the bank abruptly pulled back the funds, said Jean-Philippe Juin, a member of the Confédération Générale du Travail labor union representing the factory, where 600 people work.

While GFG said it had “strong cash flows” across the group, the workers at the Poitou plant were warned last week that there might not be enough money to pay their salaries for March, Mr. Juin said.

“Mr. Gupta presented himself to us as a savior, with hopeful words and many promises,” Mr. Juin said. “In the end, he turned out to be an empty shell.”

Michael J. de la Merced, Stanley Reed, Matthew Goldstein and Raphael Minder contributed reporting.

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Athletes Pitch Wall Street’s Hot New Toy, but Not Just to Their Fans

He and his partner in Slam Corp, the hedge fund manager Himanshu Gulati, are looking to acquire a business in the sports, media, or health and wellness industry — but not a sports team, he said. (Mr. Rodriguez was also an investor in the telehealth company Hims and Hers, which went public in a SPAC transaction valuing the firm at $1.6 billion last year.)

Rich Kleiman, manager and business adviser to Kevin Durant, the All-Star forward for the Brooklyn Nets, said having an athlete on an advisory board of a SPAC might help get a meeting with a company. Mr. Durant, he said, had been approached about such an arrangement but decided against it because he would have little control over the company’s direction.

While Mr. Durant, who with Mr. Kleiman runs a growing media and investment company, Thirty Five Ventures, has fielded suitors, other athletes are reaching out on their own.

Forest Road, an investment firm, was the entry point for Mr. O’Neal, who was already an investor there when he contacted its chief executive, Zachary Tarica, about getting involved in its growing SPAC business. Mr. O’Neal was an adviser on its first SPAC, which last month announced plans to buy Beachbody, a digital fitness company, at a $2.9 billion valuation. He’s now an adviser on a second Forest SPAC.

Kevin Mayer, a former Walt Disney and TikTok executive who advised the first SPAC and is helping lead the second, described Mr. O’Neal as “a real businessman,” although he cautioned against investing in a particular venture just because a famous person was involved.

“If anyone were to ask me, I say you should definitely not invest in this SPAC because there’s a sports star or any single person,” he said. “They should look at the totality of the investment.”

Securities regulators have taken notice of the celebrity-endorsement trend, which has also attracted nonathletes ranging from Sammy Hagar to Jay-Z. The Securities and Exchange Commission put out an investor alert on March 10 cautioning retail investors not to buy shares of a SPAC simply because some boldface names are attached to it.

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Biden’s Task: Overhaul the Economy, as Fast as Possible

WASHINGTON — After a two-month, $2 trillion sprint to pass aid for an economy still hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic, President Biden is finally set to detail his “Build Back Better” agenda next week in Pittsburgh. Its name, carried over from the 2020 campaign, has become a catchall phrase that cabinet officials and junior aides use to describe all manner of plans to overhaul American capitalism.

In the weeks ahead, the president’s strategic choices will show the country what “building” really means, to him.

Mr. Biden’s forthcoming proposals, which aides and documents suggest could cost as much as $4 trillion over the next decade, are a pivot to the core economic agenda he campaigned on: rebuilding infrastructure, revitalizing America’s competitiveness in emerging industries and reducing the barriers that hold back men of color and women in the workplace.

Mr. Biden will have the benefit of momentum in pushing them, and of a political moment that seems ripe for another large spending bill. Democrats are riding high on the public approval ratings for their coronavirus relief bill across the country. Even the most conservative Democrats in the Senate are eager to spend big again to address infrastructure concerns that have festered for a decade, and to combat widened income inequality that has helped fuel the rise of populist politicians in both parties.

low-carbon energy economy.

toured the Mississippi River to celebrate projects built with money from an $800 billion economic stimulus bill that had passed seven years before. He stopped at a port, a bus and train terminal, and a rail yard where he declared, “I’m a railroad guy.”

In his campaign, he spoke frequently of the need to build more in the United States to improve the economy and better compete with international rivals like China in a host of emerging industries like fifth-generation cellular networks, known as 5G, and advanced battery manufacturing. Like President Donald J. Trump before him, he has set ambitious goals to reverse a decades-long slide in American factory employment, pledging to create at least five million new jobs in manufacturing and innovation. Aides say he is particularly fond of repeating his pledge to install 500,000 electric-car charging stations across the country.

The “Build Back Better” plan that his economic advisers recommended Mr. Biden pursue this week would lead with those physical investments: a combination of spending and tax incentives on traditional infrastructure, high-growth industry cultivation and carbon-reducing energy investment that documents suggest could top $2 trillion.

But Mr. Biden’s economic advisers emphasize that the economy needs more than construction to increase productivity and achieve the president’s goals. They argue that it also needs investments in education, like universal prekindergarten and free community college, and in efforts to relieve the burdens of caring for family that often hamper working women. Those initiatives are included in the second half of the proposal that aides took to Mr. Biden this week, along with extensions of newly expanded tax credits meant to fight poverty.

 stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more.

Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read more

This credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.

There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.

The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.

“This next package is really about investing in our future and making the kind of smart investments that we know will increase growth,” Ms. Rouse said at a White House news briefing. “And we want that growth to be widely shared.”

“These aren’t simply women’s issues,” she said. “They affect all families, the ability of our economy to recover and our nation’s competitiveness.”

Inside the administration, aides disagree on the likelihood that both halves of the plan — the physical piece and the human piece — could pass Congress this year. Some see hope that Republicans, spurred by the business community, could join an effort with Democrats to muster 60 votes to pass a bill that spends heavily on roads, bridges, water systems and other traditional infrastructure. Some Democrats, like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key swing vote, have insisted that Republicans be involved in the effort.

But most Democrats in and outside the White House see little chance, if any, of a large bipartisan bill taking shape. They point to early opposition from Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, who has called the proposals a likely “Trojan horse” for tax increases, and whose aides have begun labeling them a “Green New Deal” in disguise, even before Mr. Biden releases the details.

Lobbyists following the process closely expect Mr. Biden to allow Senate moderates to effectively test the proposition, giving them a fixed time to line up 10 Republicans behind an ambitious infrastructure bill that would almost certainly need to be financed by something other than the tax increases on the wealthy and corporations that the administration favors.

At the same time, Democratic leaders will most likely prepare to move at least one part of Mr. Biden’s plans quickly through the budget reconciliation process, which allows senators to skirt the filibuster and pass legislation with a bare majority, as they did for the coronavirus relief bill. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the Finance Committee, said in an interview that he is drawing up legislative text for tax increases to fund the Biden spending: “I’m going to start rolling out specific proposals so that people can have ideas about how they might proceed,” he said.

Moving on a party-line basis could leave all or most of the “human” programs behind, some in the administration fear. But analysts in Washington suggest many of them could eventually be rolled into an epic, single bill, perhaps costing $3 trillion and offset in part by tax increases on corporations and the rich, which would pass with only Democratic votes.

The idea, said Jon Lieber, a former aide to Mr. McConnell who is now managing director, United States, for the Eurasia Group in Washington, is that by moving fast and aggressively, Mr. Biden might be able to strong-arm even reluctant Democrats, who see their political fates tied to the continuing success of the administration in the polls.

The odds of a large bill passing this year, Mr. Lieber said, are “very, very, very, very good. What would stop them?”

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Coinbase Users Say Crypto Start-Up Ignored Their Pleas for Help

“Coinbase, by going public and being subject to greater regulatory oversight, is moving more into the light where there is, or will be, greater visibility and comfort,” she said.

One of Coinbase’s most frustrating aspects, some users said, is that a real person does not appear to be reading their complaints.

“There’s nobody on the other side,” said Cheryl Hung, a marketing consultant in Los Angeles.

Ms. Hung said she and her fiancé, Paul Hwang, started investing in cryptocurrencies in 2019 and picked Coinbase because it was a “big, reputable company” with security. But in January, someone stole $26,000 of cryptocurrencies from their account. They said they did not have any idea of how that happened.

“We just lost all the money we could have been using to work on a house or move our life forward,” Mr. Hwang said.

The couple asked Coinbase for help, but they said they received perfunctory email responses. Trying Coinbase’s phone line got an automated response. After The Times inquired about their case, Ms. Hung said they got another email from the company with more information about their account.

Coinbase said real customer support agents respond to inquiries.

For most Coinbase users, legal recourse is also limited. Under the company’s terms of service, users agree to settle disputes through private arbitration or small claims court, rather than pursuing a class-action lawsuit.

That did not deter Mr. Pierre from suing. Mr. Pierre, who worked for Coinbase between 2017 and 2018, said he initially found the decentralized format of digital currencies “exciting.” But after he lost his Coinbase savings, he said he saw the value in traditional, regulated institutions like banks to fall back on “for times like this.”

“I’m less excited now,” he said.

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Investors distance themselves from the photo-sharing app Dispo after controversy.

Some investors have started distancing themselves from Dispo, a fast-growing photo-sharing app, after its co-founder, the YouTube creator David Dobrik, became embroiled in controversy.

Dispo, which launched in 2019, is a photo-based social platform similar to Instagram that mimics the experience of using a disposable camera. Photos taken through the Dispo app take 24 hours to “develop” and appear on a user’s feed.

In October, Dispo raised $4 million in a funding round led by Seven Seven Six, the firm of Alexis Ohanian, the Reddit co-founder. In February, the company garnered an additional $20 million in a financing led by Spark Capital; the funding valued Dispo at $200 million.

But in an investigation by Insider that published last week, Mr. Dobrik was accused of playing a role in a sexual assault scandal involving a former member of his “Vlog Squad.” He later told The Information that he would leave Dispo and step down from its board. And some of Dispo’s investors have also started backing away.

posted on Twitter.

On Monday, Mr. Ohanian and Seven Seven Six also issued a statement calling the accusations against Mr. Dobrik “extremely troubling” and “directly at odds with Seven Seven Six’s core values.” Mr. Ohanian posted to Instagram that he and Seven Seven Six supported Mr. Dobrik’s choice to step down from the company.

Seven Seven Six also said on Twitter that it would donate any profits from its investment “to an organization working with survivors of sexual assault.”

Maitri, which is focused on helping South Asian survivors of domestic violence.

become enamored with the influencer world. “I feel like something has palpably shifted in the past year among investors, and it seems like everyone is talking about the creator economy now and investing in creator tools,” Li Jin, founder of Atelier, a venture firm investing in the creator space told The New York Times in December.

But several popular YouTube stars have come under fire over the past year for scandals involving racism and sexual assault.

Mr. Dobrik is one of YouTube’s most popular creators, with more than 18.7 million subscribers on his primary channel. After gaining fame on Vine, the short-video app, he and a group of friends called the “Vlog Squad” began creating short, comedic content often involving stunts for sites such as YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.

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A Way to Close a Big Tax Loophole

Bruin is investing in TGI Sport, an ad tech company that’s currently owned by the Australian firm Quadrant Private Equity. (A person briefed on the matter said that Bruin was investing about $100 million.) Currently a part of QMS Media, which provides outdoor advertising like digital billboards, TGI focuses on sports advertising — with a twist. Its “parallel ads” technology allows teams to display different ads on and around the field of play for audiences in different geographies. It has been used by Major League Soccer, New Zealand Rugby and others.

“Why should a fan in New York look at Boston advertising?” asked George Pyne, the founder and C.E.O. of Bruin. As broadcast audiences are getting smaller and more fragmented, sports franchises want to build more of a direct relationship with viewers, and then persuade advertisers to pay to reach those fans.


— Mike Winkelmann, the artist known as Beeple, speaking on the “Sway” podcast about the frenzy for digital art via nonfungible tokens, or NFTs. He auctioned an NFT-linked image this month that sold for $69 million.


The Chinese social media company Renren went public in the U.S. in 2011 with great fanfare, fizzled, and soon spun off its investment platform. The spinoff included shares in the SoftBank-backed fintech company Social Finance, or SoFi, in a deal criticized by some Renren shareholders. They sued Renren, its executives and others in New York State Court for $500 million in 2018, in a case that last week survived attempts at dismissal just as they were filing an amended complaint detailing allegations against additional defendants, SoFi and SoftBank.

The plaintiffs accuse insiders of stripping Renren of its value, their lead attorney, Bill Reid, told DealBook. Executives took the company’s billion-dollar investment portfolio in a complex arrangement that “split up the spoils,” he argued. He alleged that SoFi and SoftBank helped unfairly get the best of Renren.

SoFi is going public via a SPAC, in a deal that values it at more than $8.5 billion. Renren’s founder and a defendant in the case, Joe Chen, is on the board of SoFi, which is in the process of merging with Social Capital Hedosophia, a blank-check firm run by Chamath Palihapitiya. In a statement to DealBook, SoFi’s general counsel, Rob Lavet, said, “While as a matter of policy we do not comment on ongoing litigation, we do believe the charges against us are meritless and we look forward to vigorously defending ourselves in court.”

SoftBank and Social Capital did not respond to requests for comment.


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U.S. Distillers Bitter Over 25% Tariffs Set to Double in June

Tariffs levied by the Trump administration dented U.S. sales of single-malt Scotch for more than a year, so when they were suspended this month Euan Shand and his colleagues drank to the occasion.

“We raised a glass of whisky to celebrate,” said Mr. Shand, chairman of liquor merchant Duncan Taylor in Huntly, Scotland, whose brands include the Black Bull scotch that Mr. Shand imbibed to toast the occasion.

There was little to cheer about some 4,000 miles away in Kentucky’s Bourbon Belt. U.S. whiskey makers still face 25% tariffs on spirits they export to the U.K. and the European Union. What’s more, the EU levies are set to double to 50% in June.

“We are literally frozen,” said Amir Peay, owner of James E. Pepper Distillery in Lexington, Ky., who says the tariff hit just as he had started investing heavily to take advantage of what had been rising sales in Europe.

The woes troubling American whiskey makers reflect both the complications of global trade and the penchant by warring sides to target iconic products in disputes. The U.S. placed tariffs on Scotch and French wine, and the Europeans taxed Harley-Davidson motorcycles and American whiskey, although the underlying disputes had nothing to do with those products.

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The Triple Tax Break You May Be Missing: A Health Savings Account

The federal government’s pandemic relief program expanded what H.S.A.s can pay for, including nonprescription medicine like pain relief and allergy pills, and menstrual products like tampons and pads. (The I.R.S. has a full list of eligible items.)

Some employers match contributions to H.S.A.s as they do retirement savings. But self-employed people and contractors can open them, too.

People often confuse H.S.A.s with other types of health accounts, such as flexible health spending accounts. But unlike F.S.A.s, health savings accounts are portable: If you change jobs or leave the work force, you keep the account. Contribution limits are higher for H.S.A.s, and there is no deadline to spend the cash. Unspent money can be invested for health needs in retirement.

A study published last summer in JAMA Network Open, a journal from the American Medical Association, found that many people with high-deductible insurance didn’t have a health savings account. And more than half who had one had not contributed to it in the previous year. People with health plans bought through a government exchange were more likely to not have an H.S.A., even though the average deductible in the federal marketplace is high enough.

How Has the Pandemic Changed Your Taxes?

Nope. The so-called economic impact payments are not treated as income. In fact, they’re technically an advance on a tax credit, known as the Recovery Rebate Credit. The payments could indirectly affect what you pay in state income taxes in a handful of states, where federal tax is deductible against state taxable income, as our colleague Ann Carrns wrote. Read more.

Mostly.  Unemployment insurance is generally subject to federal as well as state income tax, though there are exceptions (Nine states don’t impose their own income taxes, and another six exempt unemployment payments from taxation, according to the Tax Foundation). But you won’t owe so-called payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and Medicare. The new relief bill will make the first $10,200 of benefits tax-free if your income is less than $150,000. This applies to 2020 only. (If you’ve already filed your taxes, watch for I.R.S. guidance.) Unlike paychecks from an employer, taxes for unemployment aren’t automatically withheld. Recipients must opt in — and even when they do, federal taxes are withheld only at a flat rate of 10 percent of benefits. While the new tax break will provide a cushion, some people could still owe the I.R.S. or certain states money. Read more.

Probably not, unless you’re self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig worker. The tax law overhaul of late 2019 eliminated the home office deduction for employees from 2018 through 2025. “Employees who receive a paycheck or a W-2 exclusively from an employer are not eligible for the deduction, even if they are currently working from home,” the I.R.S. said. Read more.

Self-employed people can take paid caregiving leave if their child’s school is closed or their usual child care provider is unavailable because of the outbreak. This works similarly to the smaller sick leave credit — 67 percent of average daily earnings (for either 2020 or 2019), up to $200 a day. But the caregiving leave can be taken for 50 days. Read more.

Yes. This year, you can deduct up to $300 for charitable contributions, even if you use the standard deduction. Previously, only people who itemized could claim these deductions. Donations must be made in cash (for these purposes, this includes check, credit card or debit card), and can’t include securities, household items or other property. For 2021, the deduction limit will double to $600 for joint filers. Rules for itemizers became more generous as well. The limit on charitable donations has been suspended, so individuals can contribute up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income, up from 60 percent. But these donations must be made to public charities in cash; the old rules apply to contributions made to donor-advised funds, for example. Both provisions are available through 2021. Read more.

The findings suggest that health plans, employers and financial advisers could do more to explain how H.S.A.s work, simplify their use and encourage contributions, said an author of the study, Dr. Jeffrey T. Kullgren, associate professor of internal medicine and health management and policy at the University of Michigan.

“Anything that makes it easier would be a good thing,” he said.

H.S.A. providers increasingly are cutting fees and using technology to encourage use. Fidelity Investments this month will test an app that will allow clients with employer H.S.A.s to track account balances, contributions and spending. The app will also let users scan products to check if they are H.S.A.-eligible.

Others are focusing on workers in the gig economy. Starship, a start-up, promotes its accounts through affiliations with ride-hailing and delivery companies. Its app allows workers to automatically invest contributions in low-cost index funds and exchange-traded funds. Because there is no required minimum balance, users are able to invest all of their contributions. But that would also leave no cash available to cover medical costs, unless the investments are sold. Starship sets the default minimum threshold before investing at $2,000, but users can lower it to zero, said Sean Engelking, the company’s chief executive.

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