BC-US--Business Features Digest, US

The business news enterprise package planned through Dec. 18. For comments or questions, call Joseph Pisani at 212-621-1975. For questions about photos, call ext. 1900. For questions about graphics, call ext. 7636. Repeats of stories are available from http://apexchange.com or the Service Desk, 1-800-838-4616.

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WASHINGTON â¿¿ President Barack Obama's plan to increase taxes on top earners would have only a small impact on the economy, according to congressional estimates. But don't tell that to the 940,000 small business owners who would get hit by it. Together, they are expected to account for more than half the $1.3 trillion in business income reported on individual returns next year. That, their Republican allies say, makes them a big engine for economic growth and job creation. By Stephen Ohlemacher.

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NEW YORK â¿¿ With higher tax rates for stock dividends expected to kick in Jan. 1, some companies are declaring special payments to shareholders before the end of the year. It sounds great for investors, but beware: Some companies are borrowing a lot of money to do it, resulting in at least one credit downgrade, and others are doing it primarily to reward large shareholders, including their own directors. By Daniel Wagner.

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SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. â¿¿ Coastal areas of New Jersey and New York that lost their boardwalks to Superstorm Sandy's surge are racing to rebuild them in time for tourist season â¿¿ in some places, without the boards. For reasons both practical and environmental, some communities are proposing to replace their wooden boardwalks with more durable synthetic materials or even concrete. That is raising objections from those who say nothing else looks, feels or even smells quite like a true wooden boardwalk. By Wayne Parry.

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