Here's what many of us are rushing through today:

If line B is less than $6,400 but more than $18,400, subtract line C from line F and add $4,400. If line F is less than line B, but not more than line C, add back line A from Form 1080-D, version 3. That number is found on your 1992 tax form 1130-Q. (You do still have that form, right?)

However, filing is getting much easier, thanks largely to technology.

As recently as 1998, fewer than 10% of annual taxes were filed electronically. By 2007, Congress wants the number to be greater than 80%. With the help of tax filing software, including Intuit's(Nasdaq: INTU) popular TurboTax, this just might happen, saving hassle and money. For additional help, keep The Motley Fool Tax Center (sponsored by the Fed's own "Electronic Federal Tax Payment System") on tap, and scan Roy Lewis' April 15 Survival Kit.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

J&J Looks Invincible

Health-care conglomerate Johnson & Johnson(NYSE: JNJ) might appear invincible, but don't be lulled into comfort by quarter after quarter, and year after year, of stellar performance.

Like any company, J&J will have less impressive years -- it did as recently as 1997 and 1998. With a firm as consistent and experienced as J&J, those slower years are usually buying opportunities. Since 1998, the stock has doubled.

In contrast, investors buying today will need to pay up. The company reported record first-quarter results, and announced that 2003 is shaping up solid -- meaning about 13% earnings-per-share growth. At $56, the stock trades at around 28 times estimated free cash flow (a new cash flow statement is not available yet), which is a premium to the approximate 19 multiple of the S&P 500.

J&J's premium price comes on the heels of a business without any bad news to report. All three of its primary divisions (pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and consumer products) are growing gangbusters. Often, at least one of these divisions has lackluster (or mid-single-digit) sales growth, but in the first quarter, each division grew sales at least 11% on a reported basis.

Any schmoe can recite numbers from the company's press release, so let's do that. First-quarter sales rose 12.3% from last year, to $9.8 billion, while net income increased 12.9% to $2 billion. The number that most people watch (although it's free cash flow that should matter more), earnings per share, jumped 16.9% to $0.69.

J&J continues its acquisitive ways, acquiring biopharmaceutical company Scios for $2.4 billion this quarter, and recently buying 3-Dimensional Pharmaceuticals for $88 million. The company is a case study in decentralized management: Its strategy of having hundreds of independent operating units share knowledge and "best practices" has worked wonderfully for years.

We'll close with praise and criticism. It was a delight to see CEO William C. Weldon explain the importance of free cash flow in his opening paragraphs of the 2002 annual report, and then discuss how J&J is managed for long-term value creation. Excellent.

However, it's a big disappointment to not have a balance sheet with quarterly results. Investors need it to check things that really matter and aren't readily apparent in the press release, including accounts receivable and inventory levels. Additionally, a quality company such as J&J should provide a cash flow statement with quarterly results, as do eBay(Nasdaq: EBAY) and Amazon(Nasdaq: AMZN), but few others.

How about it, J&J? We need these statements earlier for many reasons, including to look for any cracks that might hint at a slower quarter or two ahead -- meaning, a potential buying opportunity at lower prices.

Quote of Note

"Taxation WITH representation ain't so hot either." -- Gerald Barzan

Big Blue's Little White Lies

It bears noting that International Business Machines(NYSE: IBM) shares the same acronym as the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

I mention this in passing only to alert you to the fact that both IBMs have been masters of the illusion. IBM has used smoke and mirrors to blur financial results in the past, and it's at it again.

Of course, last night's feat of using currency exchange gains to boost results is petty parlor magic compared to some of the company's past tricks of burying asset sale gains as operating cost savings. Actually, IBM was kind enough to roll up its sleeves this time and reveal the secret to its $20 billion quarter.

So, while the company's earnings from continuing operations grew by 8% to $0.79 a share, there's a good reason not to read too much into its 11% gain in revenue over last year's first-quarter showing. It was inflated by a weak dollar that made overseas transactions much more potent than they actually were. This is perfectly legal, of course, but it bears pointing out that if we were to remove the foreign currency fluctuation, IBM's top-line gain was just 4%.

IBM is clear on that front. It has always reported revenue, with the constant dollar result in parentheses. But while it offers up that 4% figure, it never bothers to work the simple math anywhere in last night's press release. In constant currency, adding the 4% gain to last year's $18 billion quarter produces revenue of just $18.8 billion.

Yes, these are baby steps in the right direction from last year. In this cold business climate, any headway deserves the toast of a raised glass. But just as it reiterated its comfort with 2003 analyst projections, which are calling for the company to earn $4.32 a share on nearly $88 billion in revenue, one has to wonder the obvious: Does IBM really think it can grow its top line by 8%, or will it be banking on a little backstage magic from a falling dollar to get there?

And, while we're at it, as impressive as $4.32 per share in earnings this year may appear to be, it's actually less than the company posted in either 2000 or 2001. Getting there will take a crash course in levitation -- one of the few magic skills that IBM has yet to develop.

Discussion Board of the Day: IBM

Is Big Blue still a worthy blue chip? Is it a more credible company now that hardware continues to serve up a smaller slice of its revenue pie? Have you forgiven IBM for its past accounting indiscretions? All this and more -- in the IBM discussion board. Only on

GM's Rough Ride Ahead

General Motors (NYSE: GM) posted higher first-quarter earnings this morning, but it's the auto maker's dim outlook for the rest of the year that got investors' attention.

Earnings for the world's largest car manufacturer jumped to $1.48 billion, including a one-time gain of $505 million from the sale of its defense division. Stripping out that gain, and results from Hughes(NYSE: GMH), a chunk of which GM recently unloaded, the company earned $978 million, or $1.81 a share. That compares to $791 million, or $1.39 a share, on the same basis last year.

Its total revenues rose 6.9% to $49.4 billion. Excluding Hughes, sales were up 4.8% to $46.3 billion, evidence that the company's extensive incentive campaign is still driving demand for its cars and trucks, though at a slower rate.

Its automotive operations earned $546 million during the quarter, ahead of the prior period's $496 million. But its North American operations slipped, earning only $548 million versus $654 million, indicating that Detroit's 0% price war is finally eating into bottom-line results, at least for this division. Its U.S. market share also weakened, down to 26.6% from 28.2%.

The financing impact could spread to the rest of its results, based on the company's outlook for its second quarter and the rest of the year. GM said it anticipates earning $1.00 a share for Q2, while analysts expect an average of $1.54 a share. The company earned $2.63 a share last year.

For all of 2003, GM also isn't certain it will earn the expected $5.00 a share for the year, blaming "uncertain economic conditions around the globe." You have to wonder if perhaps it should blame itself a little, since it started the aggressive financing campaign after Sept. 11, 2001 and continues to up the ante for the industry.

Managing Life's Little Zingers

Here at, we spend a lot of time talking about investing in the stock market. But that's for your long-term savings -- money you won't need for at least five years, right? Right! What about those unpredictable zingers life throws at you at the worst times? Why, that's why you need a stash of short-term savings. Let us tell you how to start saving today.

Quick Takes

SEC Chairman William Donaldson will reportedly nominate New York Federal Reserve Bank President William McDonough to chair the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. McDonough is an experienced banker, but not an accountant by training. His new job pays $556,000 a year.

Shares of No. 1 hospital chain HCA(NYSE: HCA) ended up in the emergency room this morning, plummeting up to 20% after the company announced Q2 EPS of $0.81 to $0.83, excluding one-time gains and losses. This was below the $0.88 analyst consensus from Thomson Financial, though GAAP EPS will still be up 15% over last year to a range of $0.89 to $0.91. The company attributed the results to, among other things, fewer Q1 hospital admissions from influenza.

Continental's (NYSE: CAL) chief says the war in Iraq cost his company $250 million, but that transatlantic booking are beginning to recover. Bankrupt United Airlines said it would cut its schedules another 12% due to the war and SARS. Meanwhile, American Airlines(NYSE: AMR) pilots approved labor concessions, while the company rejected the flight attendants' request for more time to think about their deal. And Delta Air Lines(NYSE: DAL) low-cost Song Airways began flights today. Oddly, the big four airline stocks -- Northwest(Nasdaq: NWAC) completes the list -- all scored big gains.

No. 1 newspaper publisher Gannett Co. (NYSE: GCI) posted Q1 EPS of $0.93 on $1.55 billion in revenues, slightly up from the year-ago $0.91 on sales of $1.51 billion. The company said that the quarter started with strong advertising revenues, but they later fell during the Iraq war. Shares hardly budged from yesterday's $74.65 close.

And Finally...

Today on

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Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim