Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Articles

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

Articles

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

Articles

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

Articles

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

Articles

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

Articles

Turn Off the TV and Video Games…

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Education,Entertainment,Family on September 21, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Kids.gov: Where Your Family Can Have Fun Learning!

Kids these days have it easy. Instead of learning about our government only from boring textbooks and worksheets, now kids get their very own government website. Not surprisingly, it’s called Kids.gov. However, don’t be fooled by the name: there’s something here for everyone.

That’s why the site is divided into three age categories: Kids (K-5), Teens (Grade 6-8), and Grown-Ups (Teachers/Parents). In the Kids’ area, there’s cool stuff like a down loadable “How to Become President of the U.S.” poster. If your six year old is really enthusiastic about becoming president, you can even order a free print copy.

Even better, Benjamin Franklin makes a special guest appearance on the Kids’ website with “Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids.” Using cartoons to help him, he explains everything from citizenship to how laws are made. Speaking of Founding Fathers, there’s also a “Constitution Day Activity” where you (and your child) can test your historical document trivia skills.

And this government site isn’t only about government. Kids can watch a video on the “Art of Video Games”, learn how to read music, learn how to read with Reading Planet, or create money with “Design Your Own Bill.” And whether your child wants to play a game about Colonial Williamsburg, acid rain, or washing their hands, Kids.gov has it.

The Teen section has many of the same activities, but also more complicated offerings, such as “Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity”, “Werner Heisenberg and the Uncertainty Principle”, algebra basics, and “Shakespeare Online.” Later, if your middle school student needs a break from all of that info, have them play “YouAreHere”, a virtual mall game that helps them become better shoppers.

Grown-ups can also learn a lot from Kids.gov. For example, “Distraction.gov” explains why it’s bad to text and drive. Some of the most popular Grown-Up pages are “Talking to Your Kids About Money” and “Helping Your Child Write a Book Report.” And if you’re hungry, check out “Thomas Jefferson – A Day in the Life – Ice Cream at Home Activity.” Although you might want to visit the “Nutrition and Fitness” page after eating.

Instead of letting your child watch TV all day, change things up a little and show them Kids.gov. It’s a safe place to learn and play!

On the Money, Sufen Wang, Wang Solutions

Articles

Gamble Responsibly:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Entertainment,Taxes on September 8, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Your Winnings are Taxable Income

Welcome home from your Summer vacation.  A special welcome home to all of you who spent your vacation in Las Vegas or at any of its alike gambling town.  By now you should know that everything that happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas. Hotel bills with hidden fees, a marriage at the Little White Wedding Chapel, and taxable gambling winnings which you must report on your income tax return, will all follow you back home. But hey, you win some, you lose some – and vice versa – you can also deduct your gambling losses.

A “gambling income” is exactly what it sounds like: any money you win from lotteries, raffles, horse races, casinos, etc. Even those lucky $20 grocery store scratch-offs count. And there’s no way to avoid the system. If you pass on the cash and choose a new SUV or 7-day trip to Cancun, you’ll still owe taxes on the fair market value of your prize.

In general, you should record all your gambling winnings on the “Other income” line of Form 1040. So that’s where you’ll put down your $20 pay out from the grocery store scratch-off. But although all gambling winnings are taxable, some require extra paperwork. If you receive a certain amount of winnings or have any that are subject to federal tax withholding, you must get Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings, from the payer. For example, you’ll need Form W-2G if you won $1,200 or more from bingo or slot machines.

Now for something that will make your bank account feel a little better. You can claim your gambling losses (up to the amount of your winnings) on Schedule A, under “Other Miscellaneous Deductions.” So that’s where you would report the $20 bucks you spent on scratch-off lottery tickets before you finally won. If you do decide to deduct, don’t guesstimate; make sure you have documentation of your losses and winnings.  So, folks, save all of your “losing” lottery tickets and scratchers!

To find out more about gambling and taxes, check out IRS Publication 529 on Miscellaneous Deductions. Remember that if Lady Luck is on your side, Uncle Sam will be waiting on your other side.

On the Money, Sufen Wang, Wang Solutions