Monday, February 23, 2015

Taxing Times in the USA: What the IRS Says You Should Know If You Changed Your Name

Dr. Franklin is spot-on as always.


In today's Taxing Times in the USA news, it came to my attention this morning that there are rules regarding name changes -and what that means for tax filing purposes. 

As a newly-licensed and ordained wedding performer and officiant in the State of Hawaii -as of this past Thursday- newly married couples may go through the motions of changing their names. If you are one of them this will certainly get your attention. 

"All the names on your tax return," says the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), "must match Social Security Administration records. A name mismatch can delay your refund." Yikes!  





Then there is this: "Did you get married and are now using your new spouse’s last name or hyphenated your last name? Did you divorce and go back to using your former last name? In either case, you should notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of your name change. That way, your new name on your IRS records will match up with your SSA record."


Then there is the topic of dependent children. Yes, the IRS has stipulations for them, too. For example, "Notify the SSA if your dependent had a name change. For example, this could apply if you adopted a child and the child’s last name changed."

For more information go to this link to the Internal Revenue Service in the USA. 


Sincerely yours,

Jeffrey Bingham Mead
President,
The Pacific Learning Consortium, Inc. 

Worlds Away Photography Tours: Hawaii, Paradise of the Pacific



Have you ever dreamed of magical sunrises and sunsets, of year-round gentle breezes and warm smiles, of stepping back in time to a special place embracing East and West, and of a treasure trove of unforgettable natural beauty? 

The Grand Hall, Iolani Palace, Honolulu. 

Hawaii. The name and its legendary Aloha Sprit conjures up all these things and much more -and you and your camera are invited to savor the images and flavors of America's Paradise of the Pacific in this not-to-be-missed adventure of a lifetime!

Christopher Semmes Photography and The Pacific Learning Consortium have collaborated to bring you this unique seven-day tour that belongs on every photographer's bucket list. 


Focused on the main island of Oahu ("The Gathering Place"), you'll be reaching for your cameras as you discover a cornucopia of subjects to photograph. There is something for every photographer's genre and desire. A visual feast for the eyes and the heart will engage your senses as never before. 

Photographers, spouses/significant-others and families are welcomed. If they are not "photo-inclined" they're welcomed to spend their time exploring Oahu's nooks and crannies, or just relaxing on the gentle shores and beaches of Waikiki.

Our photographers will enjoy free-time to explore on their own. We're more than happy to offer recommended destinations. And at the end of the day you'll be welcomed to gather together and to swap stories.


For centuries people from around the world have fallen in love with Hawaii. Many keep returning. A wondrous, magical tour to one of the planet's most photogenic places awaits!

Let us welcome you to Hawaii with our unique aloha-inspired friendliness. 

Reserve your spot today by calling 1-808-721-0306 or by email at PacificLearningConsortium@gmail.com

Friday, February 20, 2015

Please Support the 2015 Annual Hawaii History Bee and Bowl Championships



As reported on the news-blog of History Education Hawaii, Inc.,  the Hawaii affiliate of the National Council for History Education:

Last week we announced that the 2015 Hawaii History Bee and Bowl State Championships would be held on Saturday, February 28 at Iolani School. 


Both History Education Hawaii and The Pacific Learning Consortium have been co-sponsors of this fantastic event. It's fun, and the students are quite passionate. The competition is modeled after the TV 'Jeopardy' game show. 



You'll be pleased to hear that Iolani School's winning team placed among the top-five competitors in last year's national championships! 

We're asking for your help in raising funds to underwrite the cost of lunch and soft drinks for the students and teachers who donate their time and efforts to make this event successful. 

Our goal is to raise $250-$300 in donations. We can accept cash, checks or electronic transfers via this Eventbrite link

Check this out:

1) For a $25 donation your name -or that of your business- will be featured in a "thank you" acknowledgement on History Education Hawaii's news-blog as well as the Pacific Learning Consortium's. 

2) For a $50 donation we will feature your name or your business in the two news-blogs as well as a personally signed 'thank you' card or letter by the winning team's members. 

3) For a $75 or more donation you will receive both of the above and I will send you a bag of Hawaiian-blend coffee -good for those of you in colder winter climes across the U.S. mainland!

Our deadline for receiving donations is Thursday, February 26 at 4:00 p.m., Hawaii Standard Time. 

Paper check payments will be processed by The Pacific Learning Consortium. Please send your donation to the PLC at P.O. Box 183, Honolulu HI 96810-0183. 

Here's a suggestion for those of you on Oahu. We invite you to provide a potluck food and/or drink selection for the students and teachers. 

You'll be invited to attend the competitions, too. Bring your cameras! Be prepared to have fun!

Comments? Questions? Please contact us at HistoryEducationHawaii@gmail.com or call 808-721-0306.

Taxing Times in the USA: Beware of Online Tax Scams



On February 18, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) "warned return preparers and other tax professionals to be on guard against bogus emails making the rounds seeking updated personal or professional information that in reality are phishing schemes." (Click here)

“I urge taxpayers to be wary of clicking on strange emails and websites,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “They may be scams to steal your personal information.” 

What is phishing? "Phishing is a scam typically carried out with the help of unsolicited email or a fake website that poses as a legitimate site to lure in potential victims and prompt them to provide valuable personal and financial information. Armed with this information, a criminal can commit identity theft or financial theft." 



We also pass along this story from Hearst Reporter Anne Semmes of the Greenwich Time (Connecticut) newspaper, citing local police reports of scam artists emailing taxpayers with false requests for private information. (click here)

Needless to say, identity theft issues are among the issues facing taxpayers and tax preparation professionals. The IRS does not request personal or private information via email, text messages or social media services. 

Should you receive such a request for confidential information do not hesitate to contact the IRS directly at phishing@irs.gov.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Taxing Times in the USA: IRS Tools for Faster Service Available Now


We hold these truths to be self-evident...

If you live or work in the USA chances are rather high that there's more on your mind than just polar vortexes, snow removal, the current President's Day holiday and just getting through the day.

You know what I am alluding to, of course. Taxes. Filing them. Paying them. Getting your refund. Getting the information you need. Oy vey indeed!

On February 11 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) "reminded taxpayers the Presidents Day holiday period typically marks one of the busiest weeks of the tax filing season for its phone lines. There are other alternatives to help taxpayers find answers to commonly asked tax questions." 

I've received word that 24 million tax returns have already been filed. That's double the number of returns filed at this time last year. Impressive!


For the past two years I've worked in the wonderful and often convoluted world of tax preparation for   individual, family and business clients. This year I am stepping away from my duties and focusing instead on educating the public, including you, of course. Dr. Benjamin Franklin said it rather succinctly that, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." You'll gain the best education in our current tax season by educating yourself. Your local tax professionals will be grateful, and so will your state and the federal authors at the IRS. There's nothing more wonderful than having all your trains running on-time, so to speak.





Many media sources and online publications will be featuring all sorts of "need to know" type articles  from various "experts" on all-things this-and-that regarding tax filing. Anything and everything that we will feature here will come from the IRS itself.

If you are not sure about the interpretation and application of what the tax authorities might quite you here's a revelation! You can contact the IRS yourself! Just remember to be polite, patient and friendly.  Also -and this is important- the IRS representatives do not make policy. Their jobs are not easy. Be kind; it will be reciprocated.

Without any further delay let's get down to business with some helpful links, all courtesy of the USA's Internal Revenue Service:
Want to know where your refund is?
More than 90 percent of refunds are issued in less than 21 days. IRS representatives will not provide individual refund information before then. Taxpayers can easily find information about their refund by using the Where’s My Refund? tool. It’s available on IRS.gov and on the Smartphone app, IRS2Go. Where’s My Refund? provides taxpayers with the most up-to-date information available. Taxpayers must have information from their current, pending tax return to access their refund information. Refund information is updated just once a day, generally overnight, so there’s no need to check more than once a day.
Didn’t get a W-2?
Employers are required to send to their employees a Form W-2, Statement of Earnings, by January 31. Employees should allow enough time for their form to be mailed to their address of record. If form W-2 is not received by the end of February, employees should first contact their employer to ensure they have the correct address on file.
After exhausting all options with the employer, employees may contact the IRS and we will send a letter to the employer. However, we would urge you to wait until the end of February to avoid long wait times on the telephone.
Need a copy of your tax return or transcript?
Taxpayers can easily order a return or transcript on the IRS.gov website, or by mailing us a completed Form 4506-T. See our Get Transcript application to immediately view, print or download your transcript. More information on these options is available at IRS.gov.
Ordering a tax return or tax transcript does not mean a taxpayer will get their refund faster. The two are not connected in any way. IRS transcripts are often used to validate income and tax filing status for mortgage, student and small business loan applications and to help with tax preparation.
Wondering how the Affordable Care Act will affect you?
This year almost all taxpayers must do something related to new health care reporting requirements. The majority of taxpayers - more than three out of four – will simply need to check a box to verify they have health insurance coverage. For the minority of taxpayers who will have to do more, IRS.gov/aca features useful information and tips regarding the premium tax credit, the individual shared responsibility requirement and other tax features of the ACA. Publication 5201, The Health Care Law and Your Taxes, also provides a snapshot of ACA requirements.
Need answers to tax law questions?
Questions about what filing status means, whether to file a tax return or who can be claimed as a dependent? There’s the Interactive Tax Assistant that takes you through a series of questions just like one of our customer service representatives would. You can also do a keyword search on IRS.gov; use Publication 17, the annual, searchable income tax guide; or the IRS Tax Map, which allows search by topic or keyword for single-point access to tax law information by subject. Taxpayers can even call TeleTax at 1-800-829-4477 for recorded information on a variety of general and business tax topics.
Can’t pay a tax bill?
For taxpayers whose concern isn’t a refund, but rather, a tax bill they can’t pay, the Online Payment Agreement tool can help them determine in a matter of minutes whether they qualify for an installment agreement with the IRS. And for those whose tax obligation is even more serious, the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier can help them determine if they qualify for an offer in compromise, an agreement with the IRS that settles their tax liability for less than the full amount owed.
Need help preparing your taxes?
Free tax return preparation help is available nationwide from volunteers and on IRS.gov with Free File. Local community partners operate roughly 13,000 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites nationwide. Find a location nearby by searching “Free Tax Help” on IRS.gov.
IRS Free File is offered by 14 tax software companies that make their brand-name products available for free to the 70 percent of taxpayers who earned $60,000 or less last year. Free File Fillable Forms is available for households whose earnings are more than $60,000 and are comfortable preparing their taxes.
Taxpayers may also use our searchable directory on IRS.gov for help on finding a tax professionalwith credentials and select qualifications to help them prepare their tax returns.









Friday, February 13, 2015

Hawaii History Bee and Bowl Championships are coming! Feb. 28, at Iolani School

The Hawaii History Bee and Bowl Championships are coming! They will be held at Iolani School, 563 Kamoku Street, Honolulu on Saturday, February 28. Doors open at 8:00 a.m., with the opening meeting scheduled for 8:45 a.m. Question Set B will be used. The rounds will conclude on or before 5:30 p.m.

This the tournament does NOT require prior qualification! The tournament schedule is posted here, while the registration is here



Students are welcome to compete with a parent or other adult chaperoning them, or, if they come just for the History Bee and/or the exams during the lunch break, they don't need a chaperone at all. Note that there is a separate middle school division for this tournament.



During the lunch break at 12:45 p.m., the National Qualifying Exams for the United States History Bee and the United States Geography Olympiad will be administered. Each Exam costs $10 per student. Students may sign up on the day of the tournament or can pre-register for the Exams at this link,  and here for the olympiadwww.geographyolympiad.com

This tournament will also feature a Middle School division for the Bowl (middle school students will compete as JV in the Bee). For more information, please visit the Middle School Bowl site.

We are accepting donations to underwrite lunch for the students. Please contact us at PacificLearningConsortium@gmail.com or call (808) 721-0306. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Classiness -It's More than Just a Word

"Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." Luke 18:14. 


"Show class, have pride, and display character. If you do, winning takes care of itself."

I like classiness. I like it even when I encounter it in those I disagree with, who are competitors -and especially when I see it in those who could afford to be anything else and get away with it. 

Jim Tressel, with Chris Fabry, offers these observations of what it means to "do it with class." This comes from The Winners Manual: For the Game of Life. 

Ready? Check this out:

Class is respect for others. It is deep and genuine respect for every human being, regardless of his (or her) status in life.

Class is having manners. It is always saying "thank you" and "please." It is complimenting people for any and every task done well.

Class is treating every other person as you would want them to treat you in a similar situation.

Class never makes excuses for one's own shortcomings, but it always helps others bounce back from their mistakes.

Class never brags or boosts about one's own accomplishments, and it never tears down or diminishes the achievements of another person.

Class does not depend on money, status, success or ancestry. The wealthy aristocrat may not even know the meaning of the word, yet the poorest man (or woman) in town may radiate class in everything he (or she) does.

If you have class, everyone will know it, and you will have self-respect. If you are without class -good luck, because no matter what you accomplish, it will never have meaning. 

Classiness, or being classy, is more than just a word. Those who truly and sincerely aspire for greatness carry themselves onward and upward with class. 

We live in a time in which popular culture is seemingly dominated by a type of talent that is characterized as tacky, disrespectful, and obnoxious. Their prominence seems electrifyingly sexy, right? They build themselves up at the expense of others. 

But such displays have a short shelf-life -as do those who personify them. 

Class is about attitude. It's an attitude that transcends time. It's a first-nature form of elegance that weaves humility and graciousness. 

Being classy is means that you have everything to flaunt -but you choose not to show it. It reflects a polished soul that bears no need to struggle for recognition. It casts an honorable light, the kind that causes others to nod and smile. 

It's a matter of choice, isn't it? 

Another Red Envelope Special! Skills for University Success

It's beginning to look like Chinese New Year... everywhere you go! 

Rise and shine! It's time for another Red Envelope Special from The Pacific Learning Consortium. 

*Free one-year membership with The Pacific Learning Consortium if you enroll on or before Chinese New Year, February 19, 2015. 


Skills for University Success focuses on assisting university-level students who and intent on succeeding in their studies -but who need a discreet, behind-the-scenes boost. 

Together, we will work together to establish a personalized learning-for-success plan that will aid you in acquiring and improving upon the essential skills and proficiencies you need to succeed. 

Issues covered include:
-  Identifying your reasons for going to school.
-  Determining and discerning personal learning styles.
-  Ascertaining a student’s roles and responsibilities.
-  Describing and applying critical, analytical thinking skills.
-  Personal management: Time and stress management; effective study skills; self-assessment; and setting realistic expectations. 
-  Communication: Oral presentation skills; using visual aids effectively; communication strategies; self-review and peer review processes.
-   Establishing research skills and techniques.
-   Recognizing plagiarism and how to avoid it. 
  • Establishing collaboration skills with peers and instructors.
  • Reviewing the writing process, citation, documentation and style guides. 

Participants will receive a Certificate of Completion after the conclusion of the program. 

You will be notified by email and/or USPS mail if there are any changes to the program including change in venue, date, or cancellation. 

Choose from Three Payment Plans:
*Full Payment: US$400 for all until February 19, 2015 (Formerly US$550 Consortium members; US$600 non-Consortium students.)

*Advanced Installment of 4 payments: US$110 each for a total of US$440.

*Extended Weekly Installment of 6 payments at US$125 each for a total of US$750 plus a $75 nonrefundable deposit due with the first installment at the start of the course for a total of $US825. 

Make check out to 'Pacific Learning Consortium' and mail it to The Pacific Learning Consortium, P.O. Box 183, Honolulu HI 96810-0183. 

Go here for our Eventbrite page and register here. 

Registration and Contact
PacificLearningConsortium@gmail.com or call 808-721-0306. 

Time
This course meets weekly for six weeks. It includes lectures, topical lessons, coaching, discussion and constructive feedback. One-on-one sessions with the instructor are available online, by phone and/or in-person by mutual agreeable appointment and venue. 

Tax Deduction
If the purpose of attending a program is to help you maintain or improve skills related to employment or business the expenses related to the program may be tax-deductible according to I.R.C. Reg. 1.162-5. Please consult your tax advisor. 

Your Instructor
Jeffrey Bingham Mead is the president of The Pacific Learning Consortium. He is an experienced blogger, published author, historian, featured speaker, lecturer and dedicated educator. He has been a high school and university-level instructor/facilitator for over 20 years.  He is the president of History Education Hawaii, the local affiliate of the National Council for History Education and manages its news-blog. Mead is the founder of its Hawaii Lyceum of History program, including the Hawaii History Blog Project. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Red Envelope Special! The Writer’s Life: Cultivating Inspiration Through the Written Word.




Next Course: Starts February 19, 2015; Concludes June 4, 2015  (15 Weeks) 

One-year membership with the Pacific Learning Consortium is included! (Value: US$95)



The arts of writing and composing features many thoroughfares of discovery and direction. This course will help you develop your passions so that you may further express yourself as a writer. We will explore together the process of writing, of discovering more about yourself while reaping inspiration from the worlds within and around you. 

As with any sacred quest, the doors to new dimensions of emotion, imagination, understanding and spirit will unfold. You will learn that it is your fears and self-judgment that are your greatest stumbling blocks to creative expression, that courage is one of the keys to genuine authenticity, and that showing up on the page is liberating. 

Each learning experience covers new and stimulating topics. Never been published before? Unsure of what area of writing interests you? This creative writing program might be your best choice. 

Who knows what it may lead you to? Each door you open through this course is a voyage of discovery. 

Participants will receive a Certificate of Completion after the conclusion of the program. 

You will be notified by email and/or USPS mail if there are any changes to the program including change in venue, date, or cancellation. 

Choose from Three Payment Plans:
1) Full Payment: US$350. 

2) Advanced Installment of 3 payments: US$150 each for a total of US$450. 

3) Extended Weekly Installment of 15 payments at US$37 each for a total of $555.  

Tuition payment must be received on or before Thursday, February 19, 2015. 
Make check out to 'Pacific Learning Consortium' and mail it to The Pacific Learning Consortium, P.O. Box 183, Honolulu HI 96810-0183. 

Registration and Contact
PacificLearningConsortium@gmail.com, call 808-721-0306, or go to Eventbrite here

Time
This course meets online weekly. It includes lectures, topical lessons, contemplations, discussion and constructive feedback. One-on-one sessions with the instructor are available online and/or in-person by mutual agreeable appointment and venue. 

Tax Deduction
If the purpose of attending a program is to help you maintain or improve skills related to employment or business the expenses related to the program may be tax-deductible according to I.R.C. Reg. 1.162-5. Please consult your tax advisor. 


Your Instructor
Jeffrey Bingham Mead is the president of The Pacific Learning Consortium. He is an experienced blogger, published author, historian, featured speaker, lecturer and dedicated educator. Mead has been blogging since 2009. His blogs include Travel Rocks My WorldMy Dad the U.S. China MarineTESL Teachers Rule My WorldZhihui (Wisdom), Hallowed Grounds, and The Writings of Jeffrey Bingham Mead. He is the president of History Education Hawaii, the local affiliate of the National Council for History Education and manages its news-blog. Mead is the founder of its Hawaii Lyceum of History program, including the Hawaii History Blog Project. 

Adventures in Blogging: Chinese New Year Celebrations in Honolulu, Hawaii USA!

Happy Chinese New Year! This is one of our Red Envelope Special deals from The Pacific Learning Consortium! 

Chinese New Year (CNY) is fast-approaching! If you are here in Honolulu, Hawaii, we'd like to take you for an auspicious, colorful outdoor adventure as we mark the start of the Year of the Goat in Honolulu's Chinatown. 
There's no snow and ice to get in the path of your Chinese New Year celebrations in the Aloha State. This excursion is open to everyone from novice to advanced bloggers -or to those you who simply want to enjoy the celebrations in the company of others. 

Honolulu's Chinatown Cultural Plaza comes alive this coming Friday night, February 13 from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., and again on Saturday, February 14 from 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. 
Our group will meet at a designated spot and enjoy the celebrations together. You will be encouraged to capture as many images as you wish! We'll be coaching you on how to use your experiences in the form of texts and images to blog on your blog site, Facebook or your favorite social media platform. It's your chance to share with the world your adventures in Honolulu's Chinatown. You'll also make new friends and make cherished memories. 

We're limiting space to up to 15 participants. This is open to all for the same value, whether you are a Consortium member or not. 

Payment: $55 per person. Payment accepted via PayPal/Eventbrite, cash or check. If you are paying via printed check please make check out to 'Pacific Learning Consortium' and mail it to The Pacific Learning Consortium, P.O. Box 183, Honolulu HI 96810-0183. 

Tax Deduction: If the purpose of attending a program is to help you maintain or improve skills related to employment or business the expenses related to the program may be tax-deductible according to I.R.C. Reg. 1.162-5. Please consult your tax advisor. 

Your Facilitator: Jeffrey Bingham Mead is the president of The Pacific Learning Consortium. He is an experienced blogger, published author, featured speaker, lecturer and dedicated educator. Mead has been blogging since 2009. His blogs include Travel Rocks My World, My Dad the U.S. China Marine, TESL Teachers Rule My World, Zhihui (Wisdom), Hallowed Grounds, and The Writings of Jeffrey Bingham Mead. He is the president of History Education Hawaii, the local affiliate of the National Council for History Education and manages its news-blog.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Happy Chinese New Year! We're Introducing 'Red Envelope Specials'


We unapologetically confess that Chinese New Year -or the Spring Festival- brings us lots of reasons to smile each year. 

It's a colorful, uplifting time where reunions and renewal sprinkles the air with auspiciousness, a sense of renewal, anticipating new beginnings, food galore, dragon and lion dances, and best wishes for good health and longevity -and much more! 




We're so happy that we will be announcing here on our news-blog 'Red Envelope Specials.' 




These are discounts on selected products and services effective now through the festival day, February 19. 

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Xin Nian Kuai Le! Stay tuned! 
smile emoticon