Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

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Student Chefs Cooking Up Change:

In Culture,Education,Entertainment on June 25, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , ,

MH900212101A New Recipe for Cafeteria Lunches

Who better to make cafeteria food better than those who know it best? High school students recently proved that they can teach us a thing or two about the culinary arts. On June 10th, the U.S. Department of Education hosted student chefs from eight high school culinary programs as part of Cooking up Change, presented by the Healthy Schools Campaign. On the menu: create a savory lunch that meets nutrition standards while on a shoestring budget.

The results revealed that today’s youth know how to think outside the milk carton box. For example, Team Los Angeles, hailing from West Adams Preparatory High School, produced a Tex-Mex Corn Bread and Black Bean Mountain, Cucumber Salad, and Warm Pear and Raisin Delight. And Team Denver conjured up a Chicken Panini Wrap, Coleslaw with Dijon Vinaigrette, and Jalapeño-Infused Peach Crumble. Keep in mind that these dishes were made by teenagers.

MH900229019More impressive is that these delicious masterpieces were produced based on strict guidelines of only 10 ingredients. The teens also didn’t have a lot of dough to work with: they had to stick to a budget with the same constraints schools currently face. And when all the cooking was said and done, each team had to serve up an explanation about the challenges of the process and the inspiration for their meal – many cited their regional culture as the main ingredient for their dish.

Every team did well, but the top chefs were Cesar Amezcua, Cecilia Magana, and Carlos Ortiz from Team Orange County. These Valley High School culinary students took home the bacon for their healthy and scrumptious “Pita Packs a Punch,” with Hot and Sweet Slaw and Delicious Apple Crepes.

MH900349109This was so important to us because we want to make a difference in our school,” said Amezcua. And indeed, these grade-A student meals are gracing school lunch menus across the country, including the teams’ very own cafeterias. The fact that these teens dished out such nutritional and tasty cafeteria lunches should give schools continued food for thought.

Sufen Wang, M.S. Accountancy, Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793

Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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Man Up and Manage Your Health:

In Culture,Education,Family on June 15, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , ,

MH900326848June 10-16 is National Men’s Health Week

Father’s Day is Sunday but men should already be celebrating themselves. This week is Men’s Health Week, a time for males to learn to take control of their health. They certainly need the extra encouragement: men were 24% less likely than women to see a doctor last year.

That’s a shame considering that 1) heart disease, 2) cancer, and 3) accidents (unintentional injuries) are the top causes of death for men. Obviously you can’t predict an accident, but you can prevent and treat things like colon cancer and heart disease with earlier diagnosis. That’s why men need to man up and begin having regular checkups and screenings.

MH900442289Health screenings vary based on age, so if you want to find out more about what you’re in for before you check-in, check this out:

Screenings for men, ages 18-39
Screenings for men, ages 40-64
Screenings for men, ages 65 and older
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And here are five more steps every man can take to clean up his bill of health:
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MH9002344781)  Be physically active and make healthy food choices. Take more than a bathroom break from your basketball video game to go outside and shoot hoops at the local park. And instead of ordering takeout as a reward for exercising, take yourself out to the market and buy an apple or two a day.  

MH9002176082)  Get to your healthy weight and stay there. You don’t have to be as bulky as the Hulk. First find out which weight best suits your body and then figure out how to maintain x amount of pounds. It won’t happen in a day, but pretty soon your suit size won’t change. 

MH900290958

3)  Become tobacco free. This one should be self-explanatory, but just to clarify, don’t smoke, don’t smoke, don’t smoke. Avoid everything tobacco-related like it’s the plague – because it actually is as deadly as the plague.

MH9000230264)  Drink only in moderation. There’s nothing more unattractive than a handsome man who reeks of liquor everyday. Not only is alcohol bad for your body, it causes even the best of us to make stupid decisions, which often results in accidents (see above for the #3 cause of death). If you drink, drink responsibly and save your dignity, your liver, and your life.

MH9004276305)  Manage stress. People who say they never stress out are lying. Stress is inevitable, but the key is to not let anxiety get the best of you. Don’t wait until the last minute to combat a panic attack: take control of your own reactions in general, and focus on what makes you feel calm, cool, and collected. Mental and physical exercise are effective stress relievers, so pick up a book or go for a run – or if you’re really ambitious, try reading while running. 

Men’s health week is the perfect time to learn how to be a man – and that means managing your health before you end up as a man down.

MH900213415Sufen Wang, M.S. Accountancy

Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793

Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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IRS Hasn’t Been Pennywise:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Entertainment,Taxes on June 11, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , ,

MH900185740Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) Audit Identifies Excessive Spending at IRS Conference

The IRS might need to brush up on its coupon clipping skills after TIGTA’s recent audit of the agency’s spending at conferences from 2010 to 2012. Let’s just say that although every penny counts, the Internal Revenue Service hasn’t been counting every penny when it comes to planning out-of-office events.

TIGTA’s audit focused on a certain very expensive Small Business/Self-Employed (SB/SE) Division’s All Managers Conference in Anaheim, California in August 2010. Held at the Marriott, Hilton, and Sheraton hotels, this event was attended by 2,609 SB/SE Division executives and managers and reportedly cost $4.1 million – yikes! Because IRS management didn’t have to track and report actual conference costs at the time, there’s no way to double-check that number. It doesn’t matter though – TIGTA found plenty of splurging anyways.

MH900310838First of all, the IRS didn’t use available internal personnel to find the best deal in town. Instead, SB/SE management hired two non‑governmental event planners to choose a location for the conference. This non-IRS pair obviously wasn’t looking out for the IRS’ (and the taxpayer’s) pocket book, they were looking to get paid. And – what do you know – the event planners received an estimated $133,000 commission from the three hotels based on the cost of rooms paid for by the IRS.

MH900023026It’s safe to assume those planners didn’t do much hotel room bargain hunting online. Still, some bargaining did occur. They made sure to negotiate a bunch of concessions for the managers and executives at the conference. Attendees got daily continental breakfast. And a welcome reception with two drink coupons. And there were lots and lots of suite upgrades.

And that’s not all folks – TIGTA also found other very fishy expenses like“planning trips” held before the conference, the production of a Star Trek parody and “SB/SE Shuffle” video, a keynote speaker who painted portraits of Michael Jordan and Abraham Lincoln, an information corridor that raffled off baseball tickets, and various promotional gifts given to IRS employees.

Sure, brief bags and hard-covered spiral journals replete with imprinted logos are nice souvenirs to bring home, but they’re definitely not necessary costs. The IRS could have got a much lower lodging rate for the conference by using governmental event planners and eliminating those extra hotel amenities.

MH900363294Accordingly, TIGTA had more than a few budgeting tips for the IRS, which the IRS agreed to follow: verify that conference-costs and attendance are being tracked, use IRS personnel to plan future conferences, evaluate whether there should be hotel upgrades, ensure that taxable travel is identified and that Forms W-2 are issued to applicable employees, etc. Excessive Federal spending is a hot topic right now, so the IRS is going to have to start saving money if it wants to save face.

Sufen Wang, M.S. Accountancy

Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793

Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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Determining Your Correct Filing Status

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Taxes on April 27, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

MH900151049Single, Married, or Head of Household?

Okay, seriously, now that the tax deadline, April 15, had passed, and tax extension had filed; you really need to start working on your returns!

What’s your status? No, not your Facebook status, your income tax return filing status. Filing status can impact the tax benefits you receive, the amount of your standard deduction, and the amount of taxes you pay. It can even – drum roll please – affect whether you have to file a federal income tax return.

MH900019119Classifying your relationship as “It’s Complicated” will only annoy the overworked IRS Agent. You must choose from five filing statuses on a federal tax return, with the three most common being “Single,” “Married Filing Jointly,” and “Head of Household.”

MH900237191Your marital status on the last day of the year is your marital status for the entire year. So even if you had a New Year’s Eve wedding, in tax return terms, you were married for all of 2012. A married couple can either file together using the Married Filing Jointly status, or separately, in which case each person’s filing status would be Married Filing Separately. Pretty self-explanatory.

If your spouse died during 2012, you usually can still file a joint return for that year. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child status applies only ifyour spouse died during 2010 or 2011, you have a dependent child, and you meet certain other conditions.

MH900237195If you aren’t married, divorced, or legally separated, in general your filing status will be Single. However, you might be able to file as Head of Household, which has a higher standard deduction and lower tax rates than the Single filing status. To claim Head of Household, you can’t be married and you must have paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home for yourself and a qualifying person. Head of Household is the status most often claimed in error, so make sure you meet all of the requirements.

You can and should shop around for the best income tax deal. If more than one filing status fits you, choose the one that allows you to pay the lowest taxes. IRS e-file will help you determine the correct filing status, and you can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant at IRS.gov.

Sufen Wang, M.S. Accountancy

Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793

Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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Holiday Guide Part 2:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Entertainment,Family,Taxes on December 14, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

MH900363532Seasonal Strategies for Your Small Business

‘Tis the season to spend time with family, but also ‘tis the season for shoppers to spend money on lots of presents. That means small businesses have to get down to business right now if they want the extra holiday business, especially since Super Saturday (December 22nd)– one of the biggest shopping days of the year – is close at hand.

MH900082871Special offers can easily increase your sales volume. Everybody likes any kind of discount, so come up with deals like “purchase one product and get the other at half price” or “buy one at full price and get a free gift to give.” A business that doesn’t sell seasonal products can be just as successful as one that does, as long as you promote your products as suitable gifts. You can also donate a portion of the price of your product to a charity so that customers feel they too are contributing to that charity. Hand out samples in exchange for customer’s e-mail addresses so you can send them promotions and keep them coming back after the holidays. Finally, get shoppers in the holiday – meaning spending – spirit by decorating your store and offering a free gift wrapping service.

e-Filing BagIf you have a store website and social media pages, also decorate those with festive graphics and designs. Organize merchandise so that it’s easy for online buyers to find holiday gifts – for example, “Gifts for Him,” Gifts under $50,” etc. Use email, blogs, and web banners to make gift suggestions, and to showcase popular items and why people have to have them this holiday season. Offer downloadable gift certificates when holiday shipping deadlines have passed and use your site to make people want to visit your brick and mortar store.

Budget CutYou should also be aware of several business-related tax credits and deductions that you’ll want to take advantage of before New Year’s Day. For example, did you know that you can get a tax credit for hiring an unemployed veteran before December 31, 2012? Or that Section 179 of the tax code provides tax benefits for equipment purchases made before the end of the year? Now would be a good time to review your equipment so you can replace any obsolete assets.

You can read this U.S. Small Business Administration bulletin to find out many more holiday marketing tips, answers to your small business tax questions, and more details on the above tax credits and deductions. If you feel stressed out in the coming weeks, just keep in mind that being busy is always a good thing when you’re a small busyness owner.

MH900354203Happy Holidays!

Sufen Wang,

Wang Solutions

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Holiday Guide Part 1:

In Accounting & Finances,Culture,Entertainment,Family on December 13, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

MH90025087910 Holiday Tips for a Merry Season…

Celebrate on a budget:

Before you buy everything on everybody’s Christmas list, write your own list of how much you can afford to spend on gifts, travel, decorations, and other holiday expenses. Then keep track of your spending as you go. If you’re on a budget too tight for comfort, look around for seasonal employment. Businesses need extra help during the holidays, and if you’re good enough at your job, you could start the new year with a permanent position!

Save money, save your house, and save the planet:

MH900408841When coming up with a budget, don’t forget to figure in the wintertime electricity bill. Using LED holiday lights will save you energy and money, and since they’re cooler than incandescent bulbs, they reduce the risk of fires. Just to be safe though, don’t overload electrical sockets and make sure your smoke alarm has new batteries. You should also buy rechargeable batteries for all of those electronic gifts to help reduce the amount of harmful materials thrown away. Finally, after the holidays, look for ways to recycle your tree instead of just sending it to a landfill.

Buy age-appropriate toys:

Although we know that every kid ends up playing with the cardboard box instead of the actual toy, you should still remember that toys have age-labels for a reason: it’s not safe to give a two year old something meant for children ages 7+. So don’t give toys with small parts or sharp edges to small children. And if you buy your child a bike or skateboard, please don’t forget the helmet.

MH910217103Give yourself the gift of health:

With the holidays, comes lots of food, and with lots of food, comes gaining weight. Listen to your heart before you add an extra-large slice of apple pie to the extra-large slice of pumpkin pie already on your plate: it will tell you to avoid those extra calories. If you do decide to indulge, balance it out by taking a walk with your family after dinner. And make sure you put away the leftovers as soon as you get back from walking. To save all that still-good food safe from nasty bacteria, never leave it sitting out for more than two hours and store it in shallow containers at the appropriate temperature.

MH900155008Give the gift of service:

Last week’s blog brought up ways you can help foster children. However, there is so much more that needs to be done, especially during the holiday season. Instead of rushing to open presents on Christmas morning, take two hours to help out at a local soup kitchen or food bank. Not only will this will cheer you up if you’ve got the holiday blues, you’ll also ensure that other people have a happy holiday. 

MH900410591Happy Holidays!  

Sufen Wang,  

Wang Solutions

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Families… Come in different shapes and sizes…

In Culture,Education,Family on December 5, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , ,

MH900435055What You Should Know About Adoption

November was National Adoption Month 2012 – a month dedicated to raising awareness about adoption and drawing attention to the 104,000 children in foster care who still need good homes. But just because November is over, doesn’t mean you have to wait another year to find out more about adoption. In fact, if you’re thinking of adopting, now is the perfect time to start educating yourself about the challenges and steps involved in the adoption process.

For example, you must prepare to be patient. After you first contact an adoption agency, it usually takes about a year for a child to be placed with you. During that time you’ll need to complete an adoption home study, which explores your motivation to adopt and the type of children you are both willing and able to parent. Next, after expressing interest in a child or sibling group, the possible match will go through a series of reviews. If all goes well, the child/children will eventually be placed with you, but the adoption will not be legally final for at least another six months after this placement.

MH900382585While there is no ideal adoptive parent, you should be able to provide a happy, balanced home for the new member of your family. As long as you have stable housing, it does not matter if you rent or own your living space. You must also have adequate income to meet your family’s needs. Just as importantly, you must be a mature and responsible adult. So if you don’t have a job, you live in your parents’ garage, and you play computer games all day, you probably shouldn’t consider adoption – at least not for right now.

MH900183052If you feel ready for both the adoption process and the adoption itself, it can be an incredibly rewarding change in your life. However, even if you aren’t prepared to take that big step, you can still have a positive impact on a child’s life. Many children in foster care have been removed from their homes for their own protection, due to abuse and neglect. As a volunteer for a non-profit organization such as CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Orange County, you would be assigned to consistently spend time with one of these children, building a relationship and ensuring that he or she receives the necessary support while going through the foster care process. In fact, this one-on-one relationship between the volunteer and dependent child is often the only stable, positive relationship that child has. If you want to help, then consider dedicating your time to becoming a friend and advocate for a foster child.

Mother and DaughterOn The Family, 
Sufen Wang,
Wang Solutions

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Tax Relief for Hurricane Sandy Victims…

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Family,Insurance & Liability,Taxes on November 23, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Hurricane Sandy Qualifies as a Disaster: Victims Given Much-Needed Tax Relief

Just because Hurricane Sandy has disappeared from the Doppler radar does not mean its aftermath dropped off the map. Almost a month has passed, but many East Coast residents are still picking through debris on their lawns and others will be homeless for the holidays. The storm really was a disaster in many ways – which is why it has been designated as a “qualified disaster for federal tax purposes.”

That’s actually good news: victims can exclude qualified disaster relief payments received from their employer (or anyone else for that matter) from their taxable income. So any payments used to repair homes or repair/replace the contents not covered by insurance, would not be included in the individual recipient’s gross income. This is also the case with any payments received for uninsured personal, family, living, or funeral expenses resulting from the storm. As a result, hurricane victims won’t have to worry about paying extra later when they’ve already lost so much.

Hurricane Sandy being named a “qualified disaster” will also help anybody trying to help the storm’s victims. Now, employer-sponsored private foundations can provide disaster relief to employee-victims in areas affected by the hurricane without having to worry that their tax-exempt status will change. An official list of those affected areas can be found here.

This tax relief is nice, but assistance for Hurricane Sandy victims shouldn’t stop there. Every cent does count, so donate whatever you can. Or if you don’t have a lot of money, volunteer a little of your time. It’s the season of giving after all.

Happy Thanks–Giving…. 

Sufen Wang 

Wang Solutions

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Smartphone Users Beware!

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Education,Entertainment on November 4, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , ,

 Your Identity is at Risk

Smartphones got their name for a reason: they let us send e-mails, login to social networks, buy products, check our bank account balance, and do countless other things – all from the palms of our hands. Thus, it’s not an exaggeration to say that for many people, their smartphone is their life. After all, it contains all of their most important personal information.

You probably know where this is going. While it’s a good thing to have your credit cards, contacts, passwords, etc. all on one handy-dandy device, it becomes a really bad thing if you lose your phone. Whereas in the past an identity thief would have to break into your house and steal a huge stack of papers from your file cabinet, now all they have to do is turn the phone on that you accidentally left at the bus stop.

That’s probably why a recent study by Javelin Research found that smartphone users are 33% more likely to become victims of identity theft than non-users. And things are made worse by the fact that 62% of smartphone users don’t use password protection. If you think it’s annoying to enter a pin whenever you use your phone, just think how much more annoying it will be to change every single password and to deal with fraudulent debts on your credit. Secure your smartphone with a pin – preferably something more difficult to guess than “1234.”

You should also be wary of any apps you download. Many have access to all of your personal files – right down to your billing address and Visa number – and they can even install malware on your phone. In fact, you might consider getting an antivirus just to be safe. Either way, make sure you always surf reputable sites and that they have a “padlock”symbol (meaning they are SSL secure) when you’re entering any financial information.

Speaking of security, never connect to open Wi-Fi connections on your smartphone. If you plug into the wrong network even for a minute, you’re basically giving hackers your personal information on a silver platter. And finally, cover your back by clearing your tracks: don’t store login information for websites on your phone. If you’re smart about your smartphone, you can outsmart anyone who wants to steal your identity.

On the Money, Sufen Wang, Wang Solutions

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Fake Online Pharmacies:

In Culture,Education,Family on October 28, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , ,

A Good Deal Can Be Bad for Your Health

Speaking of flu season, your local pharmacy is probably not a pretty sight right now with long lines of people coughing and clutching their stomachs. With all of those germs out there, switching to an online pharmacy might seem like a good idea.

It’s not – unless you do your research – because 97% of online pharmacies don’t follow U.S. pharmacy laws. In other words (or numbers), only 3% of all online pharmacies are legitimate. For all you know, that cheap pharmacy you found through Google could be run by Fred the drug dealer from down the street.

But how can you be sure you’re getting medicine from a trustworthy pharmacist and not Fred’s trench-coat? First and foremost, any legit pharmacy will require a prescription from your doctor. Yes, that means there are places online where people can get drugs without a prescription – however, if you care at all about your health, don’t try it. You’ll get counterfeit or contaminated drugs that can make you even sicker than before.

Also stay away from online pharmacies which have no contact phone number, are located in some remote part of Canada, and which aren’t licensed in the United States. Safe online pharmacies will always provide a physical US address and phone number, and they must have a license with your state board of pharmacy. Otherwise, you could be getting imported prescription drugs which aren’t FDA approved.  Say all you want about our country’s regulations, without them, the product or the prescription can kill you.

You should also be able to get answers straight from the pharmacist’s (virtual) mouth. Just like you can talk to your local Walgreen’s pharmacist, legitimate online pharmacies will always provide a licensed pharmacist to answer your questions.

And, like most things in life, the cheapest pharmacy isn’t always the best pharmacy. The medication is available at such a low price usually because something is wrong with it: it could have been stored improperly, is expired, is not potent enough, or it could even be too potent. What good is a discount if it kills you?

Finally, look for the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) seal of approval. These sites have been thoroughly reviewed and credited by the NABP (National Association of Boards of Pharmacy) – and the NABP knows what it’s talking about when it comes to pharmacies.

Follow these tips so you don’t cough up your personal and financial information to fake online pharmacies!  Better be Safe than Sorry!!!

On Your Health,  Sufen Wang,  Wang Solutions