Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

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Get Help with The Old College Try:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Education,Taxes on June 13, 2016 by Sufen Wang

Tax Credits for Higher Education

College

It’s back to college, that special time of the year when Twin XL bedding and mini-fridges are hot commodities, and kids get one last haircut from mom before they head off into the real world – though they always manage to return with copious amounts of dirty laundry. Higher education costs more than a fistful of dollars, but college-bound folks (or their parents or spouse) can alleviate some of the financial burden with education tax credits.

A biggie students can claim on their tax return is the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), which is worth up to $2,500 each year, and is available for the first four years of college. Forty percent of the AOTC is refundable, meaning that even if you don’t owe any taxes, you might be eligible to get up to $1,000 of the credit as a straight-up refund.

CollegeMoneyGraduate students and beyond will have more to rejoice about with the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC). Worth up to $2,000 on your tax return, you can claim the LLC for every single year you’re an eligible student. Now go ahead and get your seven-year PhD on!

But as with most things, you can’t have your Instant Lunch and eat it too. Each student can only get one type of education credit per year. However, parents out there with two qualifying kids can claim a different credit for each student. Those lucky folks are welcome to flaunt their children’s tax achievements with a Proud Mom of an AOTC Student AND an LLC Student bumper sticker.

collegeboundThe fine print starts here. The higher ed credit is based on qualified education expenses: tuition costs, student activity fees, etc. For the AOTC, you can also count money spent on books and supplies you must have to study – and boy, are textbooks expensive! Unfortunately, things like room and board, transportation costs, and plastic cups for a kegger are not qualifying expenses. Also, you have to actually be studying at a higher ed school to get a higher ed tax credit. Local coffee shop book groups are not education institutions, however scintillating the literary conversation may be.

Notebook and pens? Check. Satchel instead of a backpack? Check. Coffee, coffee, coffee? Check, check, check! Form 1098-T? What the heck is that!? Your school uses this form to report your qualified education expenses to the IRS and to you, and it should show up in your mailbox and/or inbox by February 1, 2016. Tax credit for pursuing a college degree and a fulfilling life? Check!

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

Articles

YouthBuild Grants Available

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Education on June 12, 2015 by Sufen Wang

Building a Future for Young Adults: $76 Million in YouthBuild Grants Available

Abraham-Lincoln-Quotes-3Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Unfortunately, many young adults never get even the chance to decide their own futures. Luckily, programs such as the U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored YouthBuild exist specifically for this purpose: to give each of these kids the opportunity to invent their futures. Administered by the DOL since 2006, YouthBuild teaches at-risk American youth much-needed job skills in industries such as construction, health care, and information technology.

diplomaIt’s important to remember that not everyone has the luxury of finishing even their K-12 education, let alone going to college. YouthBuild gives such young adults ranging from ages 16-24 the chance to earn their high school diplomas or GEDs, and it also functions as an alternative education program. Participants split time between classroom instruction and learning high-demand occupational skills on-site in the construction field. These skills are honed by actually building housing for low-income and homeless people throughout their neighborhoods. In this way, the benefits of YouthBuild extend well beyond the young adults themselves.

CareerThe benefits are also intended to last beyond the immediate present. YouthBuild is built upon a significant support system for the young adults it helps, such as offering mentoring, follow-up education, employment, and personal counseling services, and participation in community service and civic engagement. Students learn to be community leaders, and prepare for college and other postsecondary training opportunities.

YouthBuild labelCurrently, there are more than 220 DOL-funded YouthBuild programs across 43 states, with more than 6000 youth helped each year. With the signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act last July, the program underwent some important enhancements. These include expanded eligibility for those who previously dropped out of a YouthBuild program and re-enrolled; addition of a fifth key purpose related to improving energy efficiency in buildings serving low-income and homeless individuals and families; increased percentage of grant funds that can be used to build or renovate public spaces; and more.

CareersClipArtAs a clearly great program, YouthBuild deserves to be made bigger and better. Recognizing this, the DOL announced on April 6 that $76 million in funding was available for continuing and expanding YouthBuild programs all across the country. Approximately 76 awards are available for organizations to use for providing employment and education services to disadvantaged youth in their communities. The U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez, explained that, “When it comes to creating these opportunities for young people at-risk, YouthBuild is one of our most successful programs. Today’s announcement strengthens our commitment to helping many young people see the possibilities ahead of them.”

YouthBuild is just one of many programs which deserve greater support. Take some time to reach out in your community and find opportunities to help others have a chance at their dreams!

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

Articles

Get a Break with the Child and Dependent Care Credit

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Education,Family,Taxes on July 10, 2014 by Sufen Wang

The Endless Summer of Child Care:

 

summer loadingIt’s summer! No more waking up early, eating packed lunches, and doing more work once you get home…. Only if you’re a kid on summer vacation, that is…

 

If you’re an adult, chances are you still have to work, despite the fine weather beckoning you to the beach. And you also have to figure out how to keep the kids occupied for the next few months. Leaving them at home with a video game console, the microwave, and free time on their hands is probably not a good idea. However, you might consider placing them in daycare, having them go to summer camp each day, or getting a sitter at your house. 

 

daycampThose are very smart ideas not only because they give you peace of mind about the care of your child, but also because the costs of care may qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit, which can lower your taxes. The credit is up to 35% of the expenses you pay for care, depending on your income. You can receive maximum $3,000 credit yearly for the care of one qualifying person and $6,000 for two or more people. Although this credit isn’t just a summer tax benefit, this summer season is probably when you’ll be spending the most on child and dependent care.

 

zzzzThe bad news is that you can’t get the credit for sending your child off to make smores and tell late night ghost stories at summer camp: overnight camp costs don’t qualify, along with summer school tutoring. Also, if you’re paying one of the older kids around the house (under age 19) to watch the young ‘uns, or having your spouse or other dependent take care of them, those costs won’t qualify either. And if you hired a sitter because you’re off to Vegas for some hot fun, you’re out of luck: to qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit, the expenses must be work-related – meaning that you paid for care in order to work or look for work. Of course, to get a tax credit, you must have earned income for that year, such as from wages, salaries and tips.

 

snoopyThe good news is that expenses for the care of your dependent child/children under age 13 aren’t the only ones that qualify for this federal tax credit. Any married folks out there with a spouse who is going to school full-time needn’t be bitter that they have to sweat to bring home the bacon while their loved one gets to hit the books: expenses for your spouse’s care will qualify any month they are a full-time student. Expenses paid for care if your spouse is physically or mentally incapable of self-care will also qualify. You should remember that your spouse is treated as having earned income for any month that they are a full-time student or incapable of self-care.

 

Why do you need to remember that? Because if you’re married, you must file a joint return to get the credit and when you file a joint return, your spouse must also have earned income. No worries if you’re legally on bad terms with your once-significant other; spouses who are legally separated or living apart don’t have to file jointly.

 

MH900104746As with anything, keep all your receipts and records. To claim the credit on your tax return, you’ll have to provide the name, address and Social Security number or employer identification number of the care provider. If this information is not available to you, you should consider seeking a more reputable source of care – both for safety reasons and so you can enjoy the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

 

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy
www.sufenwang.com
Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793
Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

Articles

Has All Pride Been Swallowed?

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Education on January 23, 2014 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , ,

guys_89_M4Below Average is the New Average

Have you noticed that we take no pride in our actions nowadays? Or is it that we no longer have any shame in our actions – or non-actions?  Maybe the question should be “Have you no shame?”

I recently received a handful of homework assignments from my students, and let me tell you, they were shamefully bad. The writing was barely decipherable, and never mind the numbers and calculations. Oh, and some papers were physically dirty with coffee and food stains. The work was sloppy to say the best and despicable to say the least. I was angry at first, then anger turned into disappointment.

images“Where is our pride? Have we lost it? Why haven’t we strive for ‘excellence’ instead of ‘just okay, that’ll do, happy with passing?’ Why is ‘just getting by’ an actual goal instead of seeking brilliance?”  My students were speechless when I asked them these questions. 

I told them to re-do all of the assignments in a more polished manner. “Pretend those assignments are your financial statements being given to your company’s shareholders, and the retention of your job is dependent upon the appearance of the documents. You should be proud to place your name on the presentation!”

motivational_quote_work_hard_and_be_proud_of_what_your_achieveWell, my soap-box speech reached 50% of my class, which was more than I had hoped for. And I was pleased with that 50%. Wait, did I just lower my expectations to meet the mass “I don’t care” generation?  Shame on me!

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

Articles

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Education,Human Resources on October 23, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , ,

MH900325732Make a Difference By Nurturing Diversity: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

By Presidential Proclamation, October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Put your party shoes on because this national campaign celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. Okay now take your party shoes off and listen up because NDEAM also raises awareness about disability employment issues that continue even as we speak. I mean as I speak. I mean as I write and you read.

How about we just let President Obama speak for himself:

“During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we nurture our culture of diversity and renew our commitment to building an American workforce that offers inclusion and opportunity for all… I urge all Americans to embrace the talents and skills that individuals with disabilities bring to our workplaces and communities and to promote the right to equal employment opportunity for all people.”

2013PosterEnglishFrontAppropriately, the theme for 2013 is “Because We Are EQUAL to the Task.” And here’s your first task: spread the word. You could start by sprucing up the décor around town with NDEAM Posters. Or if tape and paper is too old school for you, then post about NDEAM on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. And while you’re at it, leave a NDEAM link trail wherever you go. Look – here’s one: http://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/ndeam/. And wait, what’s this? It’s another link with great ideas on how to get people to think about equal employment! http://www.dol.gov/dol/media/photos/slideshows/20131001-NDEAM.htm.

But you can’t be promoting NDEAM’s message if your own company isn’t up to scratch when it comes to disability awareness. So use October to review company policies, train supervisors, and educate employees about fostering a workplace culture inclusive of people with disabilities. National Disability Employment Awareness Month is above all a reminder to work together and appreciate everyone’s differences – ahem, members of the House of Representatives. When that happens, there’s no task that we’re not equal to. 

MH900436025Sufen 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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Representative Please!

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Education,Taxes on October 7, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

MH900056119TIGTA Audit Ensures Taxpayers’ Rights are Front and Center

Did you know IRS personnel are required to stop an interview if the taxpayer wants to consult with a representative and they also can’t bypass a representative without supervisory approval?

MH900251655If you didn’t know, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has your back. Each year TIGTA hones in on an IRS office that regularly interacts with taxpayers and their representatives. This time around they scrutinized the folks who work in the Office of Appeals to make sure they’re contacting taxpayer representatives during key actions. The results of that audit, the Fiscal Year 2013 Statutory Review of Restrictions on Directly Contacting Taxpayers, are in and…

 MH900442430..the Office of Appeals did so-so. In 11 of 96 sampled cases (out of 72,239 total cases closed by Appeals), Appeals personnel skipped major steps. They either tried to call the taxpayer directly or didn’t send copies of very important papers to the authorized representative. It’s possible that those who broke the rules just made honest mistakes – maybe they were in a hurry to get home for dinner – but the policies are in place for the taxpayer’s protection.

And, what’s more, the bigwigs in the Appeals office didn’t do their part to ensure that the workers were following procedure. Accordingly, TIGTA offered some stern advice: the Chief of Appeals should “provide additional guidance to first-line managers and Appeals personnel that will reinforce the importance of ensuring that taxpayer representatives are involved in all case activities.” In other words, put in work at the top of the line so all the proper paperwork gets done down the line.

MH900289960Of course the IRS agreed with TIGTA’s recommendation. The agency’s first move will be to update the Internal Revenue Manual and front-line managers will have homework to do to brush up on their responsibilities. If you want more reading material yourself, check out the full Statutory Review here: http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2013reports/201330080fr.html

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

Articles

The Lost Art of Writing:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Education on August 9, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

It’s Not Too Late to Learn How to Communicate!

MH900439943Texting, tweeting, e-mailing – writing is a part of our everyday lives, right? But the question is, is it good writing? NO!

We’re rapidly losing the art of composition in this digital world. What happened to our thought process?  Specifically, what happened to knowing by heart the basic guidelines of the APA writing style?  Here’s a refresher course in case you can’t seem to remember…

MH900089202The APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. APA formatted essays always include four major sections: the Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References. When formatting a paper in APA style, you’ll need to pay attention to mechanical details such as typeface, line spacing, margins, and page headers. Another major part of APA style is reducing bias in language. The goal is to provide scientific info that’s unbiased, specific, and sensitive to group labels.

MH900445122APA writing guidelines are like DMV driving guidelines.  We have to learn the DMV rules in order to drive, just as we must learn APA guidelines to write. APA rules help drive our thoughts into well-written text on a piece of paper. Unfortunately, not everybody is aware of the importance of the APA writing style (and DMV rules too, but that’s another story for another day).  

MH900357981Recently I posed a final project to my accounting class. It was about a business man manufacturing bird cages, dog houses, and cat castles. The focus was on products, not the actual animals. You can see where this is heading. After three weeks of analysis of the profit margin, the break-even point, and the difference between variable and fixed cost, the final question was:

“What do you see as the role of accounting in managerial decision-making? Defend the use of cost-related accounting for planning and decision-making purposes.”

Below is the answer I got from one of my students:

 “I think that John should invest  in taken care of birds because they are less messy and not much to do with  them to maintain them and feed them and is able to let them out to fly around they will not make a mess, like the dog or a cat would by tearing the couches up and eating  on the shoes”

Did I mention this was a college class? And that this is a direct quote? My student could not even place a final period to finish the “thought.”

MH900212041The carelessness of thought and the uninspired minds of our society are overwhelmingly frustrating to me. I think it’s time we think just a little harder – it’s not that hard, really, everyone should give it try. Obviously, you don’t have to write an essay every time you send an e-mail or text, but these are good places to learn how to be even a bit more eloquent. College writing is just a test of how well you can articulate yourself in the real world, and it pays off to be conscious of how you communicate. If we stop being so sloppy in our writing, we’ll be able to understand each other better, and have more meaningful, more productive conversations.  

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