Money Matters Monday: Make These Changes Now, New Tax Season Approaching 

By: CoKane 

  Make these changes now: new tax season approaching

Whew! This past tax season was a real joy working with Jackson Hewitt. It’s was my pleasure helping the customers of East Point, Ga and surrounding areas with preparing and e-filing both their federal and state income tax returns. I am always a strong advocate for tax clients and I’d help them in any way possible to avoid the devastating news of “Balance Due.”

Yes. I meant “BALANCE DUE”. This past season was the first tax season where I’ve encountered so many people, young and old, that owed federal and state balances after I concluded their estimate’s. I still found it difficult to explain to a customer that he/she has a balance that must be paid, and as a result, all preparation fees must be paid upfront. Their whole mood changes, and for those college kids who have always heard of big tax refund checks, their entire belief in the IRS fades to black. So much so that they don’t want to file anymore until they’re in their career. If only my tax kiosk could talk…

What are the real reasons behind these balances and low refund amounts, you ask? Sheer lack of tax education and understanding. The problem that I saw most, which tops the list, remained taxpayers not knowing how W4 exemptions tie into W2 federal withholding. 

  Secondly, human resource employees weren’t educating their new hires on the process of claiming exemptions on the W4 form. Another reason I picked up on was parents not educating their children on how to properly fill out the W4 during the hiring process. It could also happen when younger taxpayers don’t know that they won’t qualify for earned income tax credit until the’re 25 years old. Lastly, taxpayers simply weren’t updating their knowledge with new tax laws as well as the do’s and don’t’s.

To break it down, the absence of knowledge on how the W4 directly relates to federal withholding taxes hinders many young taxpayers between the ages of 18 and 24. No one sat them down and explaiend the difference between claiming exempt or claiming ‘0’ or ‘1’ exemption. For tax purposes, one can be exempt from income tax withholding if he or she had no income tax liability last year and expects none this year, income didn’t exceed a certain dollar threshold nor include more than a certain dollar amount of unearned income, and cannot be claimed on another person’s tax return. 

Legally, parents can claim their adult child until he or she reaches the age of 24. Because of that reason, young adults between 18yo and 24yo must claim the correct exemption amount, which is ‘0’ or ‘1’. This will allow the IRS to deduct the appropriate amount of federal witholding taxes throughout the year which helps to possibly increase the tax refund the following year.

 

 In addition to claiming correct exemptions, adults also claimed exempt the entire year and wasn’t properly taxed by their employers. Claiming exempt for the entire year created balance due notifications because taxpayers had too much money coming in and no taxes being paid out. All payroll checks should be taxed at least 15% to avoid penalties and balances. If one incorrectly claims exempt for the year, and has more exemptions on their tax form than what’s actual, the taxpayer will owe the IRS. While it’s not good practice to claim exempt, taxpayers do have six months of every year to claim exempt with no deductions on federal withholding. The biggest thing to remember is GOING BACK AT END OF SIX MONTHS AND CHANGING EXEMPTIONS TO MATCH ACTUAL HOUSEHOLD.

Thirdly, today’s human resource offices don’t bother eduating their new hires on the W4 and claiming exemptions process. I’ve asked many taxpayers if anoyone helped them file out their forms and they all said the same thing: someone from human resource gives them a pakcet of forms to fill out alone with no assistance. This, too, goes with parents not educating their children on how to properly fill out the W4 new hire form. The home is where many lessons are start. If parents fail to sit down with their children and walk through the W4 and W2 form, they’re subjecting their children to being taxed incorrectly, thereby procuring the balances that must be paid. 

During the new hire process explanation, parents should also inform their children that they won’t be able to qualify for earned income tax credit (or EITC) until they’re 25 years old or become a parent. Young adults automatically assume that they’re earned income eligible because that’s what they’ve been told their whole life. It saddens them when they find out that it’s not appliable until they reach age 25. This is the reason why parents can and should claim their children until they reach age 24 unless than child has made over $4,000 in earned income.

 

 To end, taxpayers simply do not update their knowledge on new tax rules and tax laws. Because of the scam that occured over a period of two years that caused the IRS to lose over a billion dollars from fraudulent returns, and with the ongoing attempt of hackers trying to access the IRS tax refund system, new ruels and laws have been established to prevent that type of loss from occuring again. Having your income taxes prepared by a non-tax professional or someone who isn’t a CPA or accountant can lead to refund amounts being inflated through incorrect means. Whether it’s intetnional or unintentuional, that incorrect inflation could cause longterm problems that result in penalties. taxpayers care the responsibility of updating their tax knowledge every year or having their taxes done by trained professionals who were taught the law and made aware of any significant changes.

Yes, that means taking your business to Jackson Hewitt, or one of our direct competitors, H&R Block or Liberty Taxes, to ensure that your taxes are completed correctly and you receive the maximum amount of whatever refund is owed to you. And one service that all three companies advertiser is reviewing previous submitted returns for mistakes or missed credits to see if it’s possible to obtain more money in the refund check. And who doesn’t want more money? It is better to get a refund rather than to owe money especially if you don’t have access to the funds necessary to pay off any balance. When properly filled out, the W4 withholds the correct tax to alleviate any amounts that may be owed. Be smart… ask a tax pro or human resource expert before you go from refund check to balance due.

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Bio:

Co Kane was born and raised in Miami, FL. She worked as a tax preparer for the last three years and a published author for the last year. She began writing poems and short stories while in middle school and continued writing throughout high school. In 1999, she was accepted to Florida A&M University (FAMU) where she obtained an Associate of Arts degree, a Bachelor of Social Work degree and a Bachelor of Criminal Justice degree. She received her Master of Human Services from Liberty University online in September 2014.

Co Kane was a contributing staff writer for the campus newspaper while in attendance at FAMU. She is an avid spoken word artist, hoping to one day publish her poetry to share with the world. She uses her writing skills in her free time, and while it may take some time for her to create her next story, she uses the downtime to try and update herself with the times that she lives in. In June 2015, she established her own publishing company called Co Kane Publications, and she is currently accepting submissions from new authors.

Today, Co Kane currently resides in Florida. All of her work can be found on her website, http://www.KanePresents.com and she can be contacted at CoKanepublications@gmail.com

Andrea Walker Creates Noise In Publishing

and. walkerAndrea Lashon Walker has earned a Master of Science degree in Entertainment Business from Full Sail University, and a creative writing background specializing in Arts & Entertainment fiction writing, interviewing, script writing, and film production. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Media Arts with a focus in Radio/TV/Film, with a minor in History from Clark Atlanta University. Andrea has over 10 years of experience working in social service positions to compliment her constant involvement in community service.  Andrea debuted as a playwright when her project, “To Tell the truth” was selected in the 2011 NAACP theatre festival. She has written and worked on several independent shorts and feature films including winner of the 2014 film, Son Shine which won as the San Francisco festival selection and also for the best actor award in the Underground film festival.

Young Urban Voices Magazine chats with Walker about the books she’s written and her upcoming projects.

Young Urban Voices Magazine: How did your brand Create Noise come about?

Andrea Walker: The create noise brand was started because I wanted to bring diversity to entertainment and use this brand to allow young adults to illustrate their talents in all genres of the arts. In music, miming, drawing, journaling, through dance, music and performing arts. We are working to bring the arts back to public schools and bring diversity to entertainment.

I wanted to encourage young people to read and to also make it fun. I am the oldest of three, raised by a single mother and I felt I didn’t see a lot of positive images that utilize people of color in their material. I created a company that had a strong goal to encourage and motivate diverse characters and tackle social issues at the same time.

YUV: What made you start writing children’s books?

AW: I write books for everyone but I have a special interest in writing for children because they are so interesting and so loving and their minds inspire me. While raising my babies I realized how creative I had to become regarding how I educate them, how I read to them and the energy I have when I work with them and that developed my love for writing for children even more.

mama who is jesus book

YUV: What inspired the story, “Mama, Who’s Jesus?”

AW: The first project, “Mom, who is Jesus?” was inspired by my first-born son Justin. He was intrigued by the lessons that were instructed in children’s church during bible study. I found so much entertainment in the questions that he asked that I really wanted to share them.

YUV: Can you tell us about the new book coming to publication next year?

AW: The new book coming to publication is called, “Never too young to dream” and this book is for a much older audience. This is the story of a young girl named Jordan who comes from a middle class household but they lose everything and they are forced to live in the housing projects during her senior year of high school. Jordan is very talented but she is not aware of her true value. Jordan can draw and she takes all the chaos in the world and she sketches it. She allows fear to limit her gifts from being shared. As Jordan deals with the social aspects of her situation she also finds the nature of self-confidence and faith as she aims for the next journey in her future.

YUV: Briefly, explain your previous projects, “To Tell The Truth,” and “Son Shine.”

AW: To Tell the Truth is a drama and it is also my first play that I have ever written. It was selected for the NAACP theatre play festival and it was produced on stage at the LA theatre in downtown Los Angeles. This production led to being offered an opportunity for me to participate in the Robey theatre playwriting workshop and I was also selected to receive the Robey theatre Scholarship.

To tell the truth is about a nurse practitioner, Doris who is very good at her job but things take a big turn when she gets a little too personal as she cares for one of her clients.

The project Son Shine is a short film written by a friend Katrelle Kindred a USC graduate student who wrote and directed the film for her graduate thesis. This is a dated film about the 1992 riots in Los Angeles in a story that is told through the eyes of a 12 year-old child. I was the script supervisor and apart of the production of the project.

YUV: Where do you see yourself in the next ten or fifteen years?

AW: In the next ten or fifteen years I see my company being a major competitor in the literary world. My goal is o use Create Noise as a tool to allow others to use their voice by way of visual and the performing arts, with theatre arts play productions and 4-5 book series published that cater to children and young adults.

YUV: Do you feel there is a big emphasis on child literacy being held in America?

AW: There is not enough emphasis on child literacy being held in America. There are certain cultural norms such as literacy that plague African Americans far more than any other group in America. This has added to a structured system of despotism. There has been a recent breakdown in education. This system is referred to as “being in compliance,” which canceled reading intervention for a class called ELD which is equivalent to ESL classes for second language learners. Along with elective courses these necessary classes were eliminated and speech and drama were among them.

ELD is a sheltered English class that allows 140 minutes of English instead of 50 minutes so they have more time to practice reading and writing. The majority of these students are natives of the U.S. which should put them at an equal status to second language English learners but there are no programs to recognize these students. Although this new program is being afforded necessary and continued attention there has been no discussion of any particular consideration or subversive activity towards participants who meet the requirements of being in need of remedial reading resources. We now have a new curriculum that is known as “core curriculum” which targets public schools and is set to cater to the students who are in a great need of nurturing and the attention necessary to guide them to the next step in their lives. The gift of literacy is a great issue and must be tackled to broaden a broken education system.

 

YUV: Have you ever considered being a teacher?

AW: I have considered being a teacher and working with teens. I feel this group is often misunderstood and they don’t get sufficient life skills, business preparation and career readiness and goal setting tools to prepare them to be as great as they can be. I would like to teach business ethics and leadership courses to students ages 15 and up.

YUV: What other projects are you working on?

AW: Other projects include: A book titled, “Love, Dad” is about a father name Tim Stewart and this story is a collection of letters between him and his daughter. He is imprisoned and the distance between them forces him to look closer at himself as well as attempt to connect with his daughter who he has left behind. This story is about dealing with deep family wounds and exploring the unbreakable love between a little girl and her father.

I am also working on a feature film, “The Denise Berry story” about a Los Angeles woman who was driving and she took the time to flag down the police and inform them that she was being followed. Once this happened the man following her shot her as she provided a distraction for her 12 year-old son to get away. This is a true story but this film will allow you to see a glimpse in the life of this single mother and whom she was prior to this horrific incident that caused her to perish too soon.

Here’s a link for her vigil after the event: http://ktla.com/2015/04/03/woman-shot-dead-in-front-of-son-12-after-laughing-at-shooter-to-be-honored-at-vigil/

YUV: Where can people reach you or your books?

AW: People can purchase the book on Amazon, http://www.barnesandnoble.com or at indiebooks.com. They may also reach me online: www.createnoise.org -the site will be up by December 10th. I have the following social media links:

Instagram: createnoise1

Twitter: createnoise1

Goodreads: Andrea L Walker

https://www.facebook.com/Momwhoisjesus/

Facebook. /Andrea-Walker-225465787465953/?ref=hl

https://www.facebook.com/Andrea-Walker-225465787465953/

https://www.facebook.com/Create-Noise-Publishing-1444532139171208/?ref=hl

http://andreawalker-andreawalker.blogspot.com/

 

The Fight Over Minimum Wage

dollar dollar billBy Chris Rivera

 

On June 25, 1938 President Roosevelt signed minimum wage into law, this now allowed hourly workers to receive 25 cents per hour. In today’s money that would be the equivalent to $4.18 an hour. The minimum wage was enacted into law to make sure the lowest paid people would receive an adequate level of pay to live on. And it only affected about 20% of the labor force.

Since 1938 the minimum wage has been raised 22 times, with the last time taking place in 2009. But it peaked in 1968, with it reaching, 10.95 an hour in today’s dollars.

There are two sides to the debate revolving around raising the minimum wage. There are those who are for it and see it as an opportunity for minimum wage workers to earn a living wage. Then there are those against raising it, stating it is harmful to the economy. Within this article I will discuss both arguments and let the reader make their own decision.

Let’s first start with those that argue not to raise the minimum wage. They argue that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would cost America 500,000 jobs, according to the CBO. It will not just cost America jobs, but it will force companies to hike up their prices to compensate for higher wages that they are paying their employees. And it will cause companies not to hire new employees because more experienced workers would block younger workers and less experienced workers into entry level positions. It would also cause companies not to take a risk on people with lack of experience and opt for other solutions like technology to do the work.

In an article with the Wall Street Journal, the CEO of McDonald’s, Mr. Thompson, plans to introduce new technology, “to make it easier for customers to order and pay for food digitally.”

But it is not jut McDonald’s that is considering introducing technology in the midst of the debate. NPR reports on Joe Olivo, who runs a small printing press in New Jersey, says higher minimum wage would force him to make cuts.

Olivo mentions how he either has to raise revenues, or find ways to cut expenses. These cuts in expenses would include cutting employees, not hiring new employees, or bringing new technology to cut the number of employees he needs.

Another argument against raising the minimum wage is how it would not benefit the GDP. It is estimated that if the minimum wage is increased it would only equate 1.25% of the GDP, and therefore insignificant.

On the other side, there are those that argue for raising the minimum wage. They argue that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would reduce 4.6 million people from living in poverty. They also argue that 16.5 million low wage workers could see an increase in their weekly earnings. And that the majority of the people who work for minimum wage are not the stereotypical teenagers who are just trying to get an entry level job; the average minimum wage worker is 35, and 88% percent are at least 20 years old. Also half are older than 30, and about a third are at least 40.

Supports for increasing the minimum wage like to mention how it would save tax payers money, because low wage workers are no longer seeking government assistance to help support them. It is estimated that it would save tax payers billions of dollars if the minimum wage is increased.

Supporters of raising the minimum wage claim that it would not cause a loss of jobs and that 85% of small businesses already pay more than minimum wage.

 

 

victorian woman

The Struggle for Education in the Victorian Era

By Joshua Elkridge

victorian schoolAfter 4 years of staggering through the cold desert we call high school, my mother incessantly urged me to enroll for my first semester at Consumes River College. Coming from a family that stresses the importance of education and me being indecisive about the idea, my mother took me by the hand and enrolled me herself. To insure my success, she signed me up for DIOP, a program/club within the school that catered to Black-American subjects. I attended this classes for barely a month before dropping out to pursue a job. If I could go back and tell myself to stay in college and finish the program, I would.

Being a person of color these days has its ups and downs, but that struggle had a lot more push to it back when America was blanketed with the curtain of suffrage and slavery. Although blacks struggled more in the south during the Victorian-era, suffrage was practiced all over the United States and it hit closer to home than one would think. In the year 1850, the first census of California counted 962 Black-Americans in the state with 240 of them residing in the young and developing city of Sacramento. The Black-American population stayed low during the mid-1800’s due in part to the fact that California Homestead laws were in place to dissuade blacks from moving there. Despite the anti-Black-American legislation that sat over Sacramento, the black community in Sacramento were determined to provide education not just for them but for future generations.

During the 1850’s, most Black-Americans in Sacramento lived between 3rd &6th, I &J streets. Black Americans were only granted citizenship so that they could pay taxes. Despite paying taxes, the Black American community in Sacramento didn’t see a single cent from the tax fund as the money was used solely for the purpose to benefit all-white schools. The Black community methodically petitioned the all-white Sacramento City council to build a school for the colored to no avail. It wasn’t until 1854 when Elizabeth Thorne Scott, considered by some as the pioneer in education for colored children in California and educator Rev. J.B. Sanderson established a private school in Ms. Thorne’s home dubbed, “The School for children of African descent‘. They were the only two teachers at the school despite Ms. Thorne’s inability to receive certification due to her being a black woman. Sanderson, a black man, received certification later on. Their salaries were paid by an improvised Black-American Sacramento community. The community also funded school materials.

Late into the year of 1854, after many conventions and petitioning, a driven group of Black-American women obtained a deed for an empty lot that was sold to them by a white man named John Prentice. Their plan was to build an official school house for the Black community of Sacramento. They passed the deed on to a board of black trustees and the black community, led by the church leaders and clergy men, held fund raisers and successfully obtained the money to build a school house on the empty lot. The community was beginning to overcome, however, support from the all-white Sacramento council was needed for the school to continue functioning. It wasn’t until 1856 when the school finally received the funds from the Sacramento Council that it desperately needed to continue operating. With 25 dollars a month, most of the money went to the salary of the teachers. The sum was meager, even for the time, but it was a step forward in the right direction.

By the 1870’s, after many years of racial tension and prejudice, California passed laws ending Anti Black-American legislation. Black men were able to vote and the schools in Sacramento became desegregated. For the first time, Black students were able to obtain the same benefits in education as white ones had. The biggest accomplishment for Black Sacramentans, came in 1894 when Black-American educator, Sarah Mildred Jones, became the first black woman in Sacramento to become principal of fully integrated Freemont Primary School, located today at 24th and N Street. The school, mostly white with an all-white staff was under fire by white parents for the move and 36 of them petioned to reverse the decision to the Sacramento school board. In turn, ninety-eight petitioned to support Sarah Jones. Speaking for herself in front of parents, staff, and the school board, Ms. Jones calmly stated her credentials and asked to be judged not by her skin, but by her abilities and accomplishments. That day in East Sacramento, the board upheld their decision to give Ms. Jones the job as a trial, based on her qualifications and success. A huge positive note for the City of Sacramento.

When I think back about deciding to drop out of school, I think about this information. We need to take advantage of the education provided to us that is scarce in some places of the world today. The Black- American community in Sacramento during the Victorian-era, went through great lengths, hardship, and sacrifice just so future generations wouldn’t have to. The ability to successfully receive your education, whether you’re White, Black, or Asian, would give them the justice they so well deserve.

 

blacks united

Making Community College Free for Everyone

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By Jessica Daniel

Imagine going to college and not having to pay for high tuition costs. For many college students, that is a dream come true.

According to recent reports, President Obama has announced his plan to make community college free for everyone in the U.S, for everyone who is willing to work for it. Obama’s proposal would benefit millions of people nationwide who attend community college for at least two years and who have a minimum 2.5 GPA. This proposal would give many college students the opportunity to save thousands of dollars in tuition costs.

obama-free-college

If President Obama’s proposal is passed by Congress, attending community college would be much easier and possible for students nationwide to receive the education they need.

Sacramento City College student, Chris Daniel thinks the idea of making the cost of tuition free for everyone is a great idea.

“It makes sense because they say that everybody needs an education and in order to make that a reality, it is important to take steps to make it accessible to as many people as possible. The greater price you place ON education, the less people that will BE educated. It’s only common sense.”

The importance of education not only needs to be instilled in our young people, but it also needs to be reachable and affordable to them. For that to happen, Obama’s proposal would need to be taken into consideration by Congress to allow college education to be open for all.

From Massa to Messiah: The Problem with Education Reform

By Jenene

YUV Contributor Jenene
YUV Contributor Jenene

I recently read an interesting article on education reform in the Washington Post, titled, “The education-reform movement is too white to do any good.” It was a very interesting article, and, quite frankly, the title does a good job of explaining, both, the contents of the article and the position of the author. But for those who aren’t too familiar with the education reform movement or why anyone would be critical of it, allow me to explain.

It’s no secret that our educational system is broken. With the average American reading at a seventh grade level and many of our science, engineering, and technology jobs being shipped overseas, with American candidates unable to compete in the global market, it’s clear that there’s a problem, a BIG problem. This problem, however, didn’t just appear out of thin air; we’ve been dealing with it for a while. In the late 1950s, the U.S. was embarrassed on the international stage when Russia beat the U.S. by being the first country to launch a satellite in space. Ordinarily, this might not have been such a big deal, but the U.S. and Russia were at each other’s throats in a silent conflict known as the Cold War. So, essentially, the U.S. was bested by its greatest enemy at the time, which was not a good look.
Consequently, changes were put into effect and out came the reforms in education with science, math, engineering, and technology being at the top of the list.

Today, the same thing is happening. People aren’t buying American products. American students are less marketable in the global economy and seem less prepared when compared to their international counterparts. We’ve all heard the stories about how American students get summers off and attend school for less hours than students in Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world. We get it; we’re behind. There is, however, another part of the story that’s not being as heavily advertised in the media.

Although the entire American educational system is broken and behind in the world market, educational reform is largely confined to inner city schools, where most of the students are Black and Brown. Outside of huge changes in curriculum, such as the movement towards Common Core, most of these educational reforms and reformists, such as Teach for America and other like programs, have been largely pushed on inner schools, students, and communities. Because of this, the perception in America is that only our inner city schools need reform, while such is not the case. Even Hollywood plays a role in fostering this perception with movies such as Dangerous Minds and Freedom Writers. We’ll address that later.

Some may read this and think, “What’s the big deal? If these inner city schools need help, then they should be happy about these reform programs, right?” Wrong. The problem isn’t so much about what is being proposed but more about how it is being implemented. It seems like most of the people making the decisions for what’s best for these communities seem to be people outside of them. As such, the educational reform movement conjures up images of American and European imperialism. Think of the British coming to America and attempting to convert the Native Americans to their rules, their culture, and their norms. Imagine Europeans carving up sections of Africa, the Caribbean, and South America and converting the natives and taking over with no respect for the pre-existing culture(s).

If you can imagine these scenarios then you have a good idea for how educational reform looks in the American inner cities. Schools are closed without input from the community, and when new charters schools are opened, the faculty and administration is filled with people who have no cultural connection or respect for the communities in which they serve. Instead, these educational reformers seem to take on the same attitudes as western missionaries, even at times referring to the schools and communities as the mission field. The attitude, here, is that they are, indeed, messianic figures commissioned to save these Black and Brown communities from their own self-imposed destruction. This is the same image that is portrayed in the aforementioned movies, where we have poor and dejected inner city students who are unable to perform with no one who cares about them. Suddenly, the educational reformer, who happens to be White and from outside of the community, appears to save the day and raise student test scores and overall achievement. These attitudes are ignorant, at best, and extremely racist, at worst. And because of the attitudes and corresponding actions of educational reformists, inner city communities of color have lost respect and trust for the entire educational reform movement. The result is that the intent of the movement is lost in its implementation, which is sad because our schools do need help.

Part of the problem is a belief that these communities lack the skills and knowledge to solve their own issues in education, when such may not be the case. Our inner cities don’t lack the knowledge; they lack the resources and the access. So if organizations are truly interested in educational reform, perhaps they should support the community’s version of it and allow them greater access to resources and funding that would help them without imposing imperialistic stipulations. The Washington Post article made a statement that I believe perfectly captures the point of this article. In the article, Dr. Perry states, “We need less ‘reform’ and more social justice.” My sentiments, exactly.