Are Your Prepared for These Year End Income Tax Issues?

Over the course of the year, I’m sure you’ve noticed the ridiculous way our Congress has acted to update our tax laws. By including tax code provisions in a highway bill, a mass transit bill, and a trade package bill- plus within the Bipartisan Budget Act and the PATH (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes) Acts. (Those last two were, indeed, logical places to regulate taxes.)

There is a chance that the lame duck Congressional session may act on some tax regulations, but given that these folks work about 1 day a week- and then complain how many lazy folks are out across the US not entering the workforce (that is the pot calling the kettle black)- I am not sanguine they will. So, unless they do- this will be the last year that mortgage insurance will be deductible and foreclosed home debt will not be a taxable situation, among a few other items that expire this calendar year.

But, I figured it would be helpful if I combined all these changes into a coherent mass (which our legislators clearly have not), so you can be prepared for the 2016 tax season. (Remember, you file your taxes for 2016 by April 2017. Oh- and if you are a business, the odds are the date your taxes are due, also changed. More on that below.)

Students and Teachers (PATH Act provisions)

Students got a permanent change for deductibility of tuition via the American Opportunity Tax Credit. This provides up to $ 2500 of tax credit for lower-income filers for the first four years of higher education (with a possibility of 40% of the unused credit being received as a refund- if no other taxes are owed). As long as the students are enrolled at least half time for one term of the year and not convicted of drug violations. The real change is that filers must include the EIN of the college or university involved- and demonstrate that they paid the tuition and fees they claim- not what the institutions may list on the 1098-T form.

On the other hand, the tuition deduction for other students will expire at the end of this year. Oh, and that generous (sic) deduction teachers get for buying supplies for their students that schools don’t supply is now permanent- all $ 250 of it. (Most teachers spend at least twice that!)

Pensions and IRA

Folks older than 70.5 years of age no longer have to rush to transfer their IRA (or portions thereof) to charity, because that provision is permanent. (PATH) Please note that the IRS demands that these transfers not be rollovers. One must employ a trustee to transfer the funds; and that trustee cannot hand you the funds to deliver to the charity. If they do, you lose the exemption. No surprises I am sure when I remind you that there must be a contemporaneous acknowledgement (that means a timely receipt) from the charity for that deductible donation or transfer.

Heirs and Estates

While still in the wrong venue, the Highway Bill did fix a big problem. Folks (or entities) that inherit assets from an estate are now required to use the basis filed in the 706 form for their own calculations. (Just so you know, the rules stipulate that estates can value items as per the date of death, or by alternate choice 9 months after that date. Too many “cheaters” would use a different basis for the property they inherited, thereby cheating the tax authorities with alternative valuations.)

To keep this rule in place, executors are now required to stipulate (i.e., file for 8971 and Schedule A of the 706) said value to all heirs and to the IRS. Which means anyone who inherits property- and thought they didn’t need to file Form 706 because the value of the estate was below the threshold for Estate Tax better reconsider. Otherwise, the heirs may be hit with a penalty for using the wrong basis for that inherited asset when they dispose of same.

Why? Because if a 706 form is never filed, the basis of all assets inherited is now defined as ZERO!!!!! It gets worse. Because if an asset were omitted from Form 706, the basis of that property is now determined to also be ZERO. (Unless the statute of limitations is still opened, when an Amended 706 can be filed to correct this omission.)

Another kicker. If the 706 form is filed LATE, the basis of all assets that should have been included are also set at ZERO. Some tax advisors feel this one little provision could be challenged in court. But, let’s just be prudent and file all those 706 Estate Tax returns in a timely fashion. (Filing a 706 when the estate value is below the filing threshold is called a Protective 706 Filing; we’ve been doing those for years. And, we strenuously examine the assets often to the consternation of the heirs- to ensure that all the non-worthless assets are included. You know, that 36 diamond tennis bracelet your grandma promised you would inherit when you turned 16.)

Oh, yeah. Another really big kicker for this little item. Under IRC 6501, the IRS has three years to catch cheaters who misstate certain items (like income taxes [except for continuing fraud], employment taxes, excise taxes, and for this provision- estate taxes and the results therefrom). No more. If an asset from an estate is misstated so that it can affect more than 25% of the gross income on a tax return will now have a SIX year statute of limitation.

Mileage Rates

Not surprisingly, the mileage rates for 2016 are lower than they were last year. Business mileage is now deducted as 54 cents a mile; driving for reasons that are medical or moving are only worth 19 cents each. When we drive to help a charity, we only get 14 cents a mile.

As is normally true, we have no clue what those rates will be for 2017. The IRS normally prepares those well into the calendar year.

Real Estate

The PATH ACT made permanent the ability of taxpayers to contribute real property to qualified conservation charities.

Health and Health Insurance

The Highway Bill (yup) came up with a bouquet of flowers for our veterans and folks currently serving in the military. No longer will they be unable to contribute or use HSA (Health Savings Accounts) should they receive VA or armed service benefits.

Along that same vein, the Highway Bill enabled all those who purchase- or are provided by their employers- high deductible insurances (about $ 1500 for a single person) to use HSAs, too.

Oh, and assuming Obamacare is not overturned, there is a permanent exemption from penalties for those receiving VA or TriCare Health Benefits. (For employers, the Highway Bill also exempts all such employees from being included in determining the 50 employee (full-time or equivalent) threshold provisions.)

Employers

There were more than a few changes for employers. More than the exemption for the VA and armed service personnel from inclusion in Obamacare provisions mentioned above.

Like ALL 1099s and W-2 are now due by 31 January. That’s a big change for many folks who barely get their stuff together to file 1099’s. It means that companies need to contact their tax professionals really early- to let them verify that all relevant contractors and consultants receive those 1099s on time. Because the penalties have also increased.

The Work Opportunity Credit has been extended through 2019. This applies to Veterans (which is why you keep hearing Comcast advertising its commitment to hire some 10,000 veterans over the next few years- they’re no dummies). Other targeted groups include what are termed those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), SNAP (what used to be termed Food Stamp) recipients, ex-felons, and some of those living in “empowerment zones”.

Families and Individuals

The PATH ACt made the enhanced child tax credit (up to $ 1000, income dependent) a permanent provision of the code. As well as the Earned Income Tax Credit provisions that were to expire.

Social Security taxes are not going up per se- but the income basis upon which one pays them is. For the last two years, there was a tax holiday for all wage income (or self-employed income) that exceeded $ 118,500. Next year (2017), the taxes will be collected for totals of up to $ 127,200.

If an employee is working overseas and has income and/or a housing allowance, the exclusion provisions have also changed. For 2016, foreign income of $ 101,300 could be excluded from taxation, as could housing benefits that were $ 16,208 or less. Starting 2017, those exclusions become $ 102,100 and $ 16,336, respectively.

There also is further clarification of these foreign exclusions. In particular, these will affect those in the merchant marine or working aboard cruise lines. Because the IRS now holds that when one is in a foreign port, then one is able to claim foreign income. But… when someone operates in international waters, that is NOT a foreign country. That income must be computed (by the number of days one is on said waters) and is not excludable!

Individuals, Businesses, Trusts, Non-Profits that have Foreign Accounts

Some big changes affect those who must file those FBARs (Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts). It used to be you had to report any holdings in a bank, stock account, commodities or future accounts, mutual funds, or [pay attention to this one] poker, gambling or gaming site account that was not a US domicile by 30 June. (This also means a foreign insurance policy that has a cash value or foreign retirement accounts [including inheritances] is a foreign account.) It also covers recent immigrants to the US! These filings are due at the same time as your income tax return. But, while there never was an extension possible for these forms, now there is – for the same six months that obtains for your personal tax filings.

A foreign account does not mean that using the Royal Bank of Scotland to house funds in New York City; but having a Citicorp account that is based in Jerusalem or London does. The critical consideration is where the local branch is situated, where the account was opened. By the way, accessing foreign funds via PayPal means you have a foreign account.

The FBAR filing uses Form 114 and must be now filed electronically. The requirement to file applies to all taxable entities (individuals and businesses) that have $ 10,000 or more of value on any given day during the tax year. And, the conversion rate for said value is no longer allowed to be daily- but determined by the value on the last day of the tax year.

There is a new interpretation, too. The requirement to file applies not just to the account owner(s), but to anyone with signature authority. So, that means people like me that maintain client accounts overseas will now have to file these forms, because I can issue checks on those accounts. (I am not responsible for about 100 of them where I write the checks for the clients- but have no signature authority.) It also means employees of corporations or businesses or estates that have foreign funds and have signature authority must also file Form 114.

All business entities (and trusts and non-profits) should recognize that all entities – and individuals who work for or at those entities- that have signature authority for a foreign bank account, stock account, gaming or gambling account are subject to these provisions. In other words, all foreign money holdings may subject employees, not just officers of the institutions, to these provisions.

Oh. The IRS also requires those foreign entities where you may or may not have money to file Form 8938, a FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) filing. This covers those financial accounts, stocks, securities, contracts, interests- anything that exceeds the filing threshold. These rules also apply to American entities (individuals, businesses, trusts, etc. that have such interests in excess of the filing threshold! (If one resides in the US, those thresholds are $ 50K for individuals, $ 75$ for married folks on the last day of the year- or $ 100K and $ 150K at any time during the tax year. Those numbers increase by a factor of 4 if one doesn’t reside in the US; the thresholds are $ 200K, $ 300K, $ 400K, and $ 600K, respectively.)

Businesses

The PATH Act changed the 179 (the capital purchases write-off provisions) Election. For good. The maximum Section 179 write-off is now permanent. (It had been extended for a year or two each time Congress had made a change for a while.) That maximum is also to be adjusted for inflation starting this year, which is why it is now $ 510,000. Moreover, there is a phaseout when the amount of new capitalized property exceeds $ 2.03 million, but not to zero.

Real Estate

For real estate purchases, the maximum Section 179 exclusion is now also $ 500K. (Last year, it was capped at $ 250K.) This includes HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), which is a new change. Any recapture of this credit (due to an early sale) is now considered subject to ordinary income taxes.

The time to depreciate real estate is now 15 years for qualified leasehold improvements, restaurants, and retail improvements. Bonus depreciation is also allowed for the first half of said improvement value (through 2017), decreasing in 2018 to only 40%, 30% in 2019 and removed completely by 2020. The PATH Act also let bonus depreciation apply to 39 year property (for improvements that were already in service by the entity).

Automobiles (Luxury)

The depreciation limits for vehicles is limited to $ 3160 or 20% of the basis in 2016. However, this year one can write off up to $ 8000 in bonus deprecation (which is reduced to $ 6400 in 2018, $ 4800 in 2019 and then removed forever by 2020) for new (not used) automobiles. Of course, these numbers apply only to vehicles that are used completely for business. There is a reduction for vehicle use that is not fully attributed to business usage.

Partnerships

The Bipartisan Budget Act (the one that taxes would normally be addressed) has brought a sea change to the way partnerships will be treated, should the IRS find problems with their tax submissions. The changes do not take effect for a few years- but the time to address the changes is really now.

Basically, the Act stipulates that any change that comes about by an audit are to be collected directly from the partnership- unless the partnership elects out of TEFRA (Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982). So, it means that partnership formation, operations, new partner admissions, etc. will all have to be reconsidered.

What changed is this- the partnership can decide to accept an IRS decision that the underpayment is due from the partnership itself or it can elect to have that decision divided up among the partners, according to their percentage ownership or liability percentage. Most advisors are telling partnerships to elect the latter process. If the partnership does not so choose, then the IRS will assess the partnership at the highest tax rate allowed- 39.6%. Of course, if the partnership can prove (to the satisfaction of the IRS) that a lower rate is appropriate, based upon the individual tax rates of the partners, then a lower rate may be allowed. (Don’t bank on the IRS doing so.) However, this underpayment will not be allowed to change the basis of each of the partner’s interests, if the partnership is taxes for the liability.

If the partnership pushes the issues down to the partner level, then each partner is assessed for the tax at its own rate. And, the partnership can issue an adjusted (amended) K-1 for the IRS revisions that will change the basis and avoid the double taxation possibility. The partnership has 45 days from the date of the IRS notice of change to make this election.

There is another change that affects partnerships- the PAL (passive active loss) issue. Why? Because most partners and partnerships do not maintain pristine time records. (This also affects real estate rentals that are reported on Schedule E, page 1.) There are various definitions that set the PAL issues- for real estate professionals it is a minimum of 750 hours of work a year. The IRS has allowed other partnerships to use different designations, such as 500 hours, or the fact that a particular partner does all the work (even if less than 500 hours), or even when a partner spends 100 hours or more on the partnership and no one else does more.

But, the rules to prove how much participation are gelling. One can use a record of cell phone call records, eMails, or credit card charges. Travel itineraries and receipts can prove how much participation was involved. Even affidavits from customers and clients can be used to prove the time one participated in the venture.

Payments Due

The IRS has been starved to death for years by Congress. Partly because one party was angry that the IRS was not automatically granting those “social welfare” organizations (read as political collections and donation farms) tax exemptions without scrutiny. Partly because the IRS is responsible for collecting the penalties for those who don’t comply with Obamacare. (Hoping that this lack of funds would make it harder for them to do so.)

But, in my humble opinion, the solution Congress came up with sucks. The IRS has now been authorized to hire those bottom feeders- the outside collection agents, that harass and subject folks to all sorts of intimidation. The logic behind this choice? After all, folks who owe the IRS must be the scum of the earth. (Of course, no one ever considers the fact that the IRS makes mistakes, chooses random numbers to assess non-filing taxpayers who may actually owe nothing, etc.)

Many clients fall short of having sufficient funds to pay their taxes when due. This entails the taxpayer submitting a form 9465 (Installment Agreement Request). These must be automatically approved if the taxpayer [individual] owes (or will owe) the IRS $ 50,000 or less, with the addition of this request- and all tax forms have been timely submitted. (Businesses are limited to a $ 25,000 maximum, with the same provisos.) However, the fees involved to have the IRS process the request have been increased to $ 120, unless the taxpayer agrees to have the IRS zap their bank account automatically each month. Then, the fees are reduced to $ 52. (The IRS has way too many taxpayers “forgetting” to make timely payments. This is a way to incur fewer manpower issues for the service.) However, no matter how the payment is to be processed by the IRS, all low-income taxpayers (a family of 4, with $60K or less in income) won’t have to pay more than $ 43 to institute a payment plan.

The biggest issue? Any taxpayer who is not in compliance with IRS code, who has no installment agreement in place, and owes $ 50,000 in taxes, penalties, and interest can find his passport revoked IMMEDIATELY. (If one is not yet issued, don’t expect the Department of State to issue one, either.)

Filing Dates

Individuals

There has been no change in the due date for 1040 filing, in that it is still due on 15 April (or the next business day, should the 15th fall on a weekend or legal holiday). Unless you can prove you were out of the country on 15 April- then you have the right to extend the filing date to 15 June. Or, you filed an extension request- that gives you until 15 October (with the same proviso for when it falls on a weekend or legal holiday).

Businesses

Here’s where the big changes arrive. And, it is about time. Because too many pass-through entities have been screwing over their partners, their stockholders by delaying their filing. Oh, sure, they may pay a penalty, but that doesn’t help the multitudes who can’t file their taxes in a timely fashion due to the lassitude of these entities.

So, from now on, all pass through entities- those are partnerships, LLCs, and S entities must no file their tax returns by the 15th day of the 3rd month after the end of their tax year. Recognize that the IRS allows companies that have “good” reasons to not use a natural year (i.e., 1 January to 31 December) to chose another month to end their tax year. But, for most entities, the due date will now be 15 March. Which gives the partners or the stockholders a month to finish their own tax returns. (Firms that operate on the US Government year, which ends 30 September, for example, must file their taxes by 15 November.)

Regular Corporations (C entities) no longer have to file by the 15th day of the 3rd month, but now have until the 4th month. So, for those companies operating on a natural year basis, the due date has been extended (permanently) from 15 March to 15 April. (A similar 15th day of the 4th month after year-end applies for those not operating on a natural year basis.)

Business, Trusts, Non-Profits, and Pension Plan Extensions

There is one more change for C corporations. Their extension is no longer 6 months long- but 5 months. In other words, before when they had to file by 15 March, but could extend the due date until 15 September… still have that same final extended due date, regardless that the original filing date is now 15 April.

Partnerships and S entities still have a 6 month extension- which also falls (for those who use a natural year) on 15 September.

Trusts and Estates of the Deceased file form 1041. The only extension request provided 5 months beyond the due date. Now, the due date is 5.5 months. That means the due date for filing is 15 April, but an extension means the due date can be 30 September.

Non-Profit entities file form 990 on 15 May- or the 15th day of the 5th month after the end of their fiscal year. Extensions used to be provided for 3 months; they now have more time- six month extensions are the new rules.

Employee Benefit Plans (Pension Plans, 401(k), welfare plans) must file their tax returns with the IRS by the last day of the 7th month after their year end. (For natural year plans, that means 31 July). Before the plans could extend that deadline by 2.5 months; now the rule provides for an additional month to 3.5 months.

Late Filing Penalties

The minimum penalty for filing late (more than 60 days) has been increased from $ 135 to $ 205. Except in certain cases, that penalty can be reduced to the amount of tax owed, which ever is smaller. (By 2017, the penalty will go up to $ 210.)

Which entities are affected by this change? Individuals (all forms 1040, including non-citizens). Estates and Trusts (Form 1041). Corporate Files (all forms of the 1120 filing). And, Non-Profit entities that can file a 990-T (they have unrelated business income of $ 1000 or more.)

There are more penalties, too. These were included in the Trade Package Legislation. The act included late filing of 1099 forms, W-2s, and 1095 (Health Care Reporting). You will note that the deadlines for some of these forms have been moved up- so pay attention and file them on time. Because the penalties can be $ 1060 for each delinquent 1099 form- because you have intentionally filed late to the government AND to the payee!

Of course, if you file the 1099 only 30 days late, the penalty is $ 50 (again- for each – the payee and the government). If you get your act together by 1 August, the penalty is $ 100 (again, for each). And, if you miss that date, the penalty is $ 250 each- unless the IRS feels it was intentional (and you know that number is $ 530).

There you have the big changes for the year. Now, you should be ready to file your taxes comes the 1rst of the year. But, don’t expect really fast refunds (as one would have expected before). Because the IRS is going to be checking to make sure the taxpayer is legit- they don’t want all those identity theft and tax fraud situations to obtain.

World Class Attractions and Cuisines Not to Miss in Singapore

Singapore lies South-East of Asia, at the tip of the Malay Peninsula. It is a beautiful city that is also known as the Garden City, the Lion City, and the Red Dot. With its Marina Bay Sands, the Esplanade, and the Merlion, Singapore is known for its world-famous attractions. The towering skyscrapers make the city one of the most popular destinations for tourists. Here are some Singapore travel tips that will make it easy for you to tour around the city.

1. Universal Studios Singapore

Don’t miss visiting Universal Studios, which is a theme park within the Sentosa Island. Some of the activities to enjoy here are 24 rides, attractions, and shows in seven zones. As you Ride the Movies on roller coasters, you will get a feeling of a thrilling world.

The world of entertainment brings the silver screen to life, helping you immerse yourself in seven zones including Hollywood, New York, Madagascar, Ancient Egypt, Lost World, Far Far Away and Sci-Fi City. Universal Studios is popular for the 4D Shrek fairy-tale of the Duloc and its quipster dwellers. In the movie and film studios, you will enjoy blockbuster films like DreamWorks, Giant Journey, Battlestar Galactica, and Tweaker Bell.

Beyond the movies, you will have an opportunity to enjoy the spectacular fireworks displays during the holidays and on weekends, street entertainment as well as shows from award-winning performers.

2. Sentosa Island

Sentosa Island is very popular as a tourist destination. It receives over twenty million visitors every year. You will enjoy taking a walk along the 1.5 mile-long sheltered beach, playing some golf at the golf course, visiting the Merlion, the Resorts, and the theme park.

Sentosa is a word that translates as peace and tranquility, just what you are bound to get while visiting here. If you are looking for a thrilling adventure or a relaxed atmosphere, Sentosa is the place to go. While in Sentosa you can visit the following attractions for even more adventure:

  • Skyline Luge Sentosa

It is a fun-filled adventure activity suitable for riders of all ages and experience levels making it ideal for the entire family. (A luge is a light toboggan for one or two people, ridden in a sitting or supine position and it is a unique wheeled-gravity ride that gives riders full control over their descent on purpose-built tracks.) The Skyline Luge provides an outdoor experience on the Dragon and Jungle trails during the day and at night. From various points you will also enjoy the spectacular view of the Singapore coastline and Sentosa Island.

  • Singapore Merlion

Singapore Merlion is the iconic Merlion which is often used as a symbol of Singapore. It is a mythical creature that is half fish, and half lion. It is symbolic in nature to Singaporeans and is used to represent the city and her people in sports teams, branding tourism, and advertising.

  • Sentosa Express

Enjoy a ride on the monorail line that connects Sentosa Island to the Sentosa Mainland. It makes stops at the Sentosa Station, Waterfront Station, Imbia Station, Beach Station, and Imbiah station. The Waterfront station is where Universal Studios and Resorts World Sentosa are located. At the Beach station, you can enjoy the New Year countdown beach party. The Beach Station is home to the Siloso, Palawan, and Tanjong beaches, ideal for family leisure activities.

3. Singapore Flyer

Towering at 165 meters, the flyer is the largest Giant Observation Wheel in the world. It will leave you with memories that you never want to forget. The Singapore Flyer was designed by Singapore DP Architects and Dr Kisho Kurokawa. It was launched in 2008, and it offers a sensational view that captures the Marina Bay skyline. From the flyer, you can catch a glimpse of the neighboring countries of Indonesia and Malaysia.

4. Marina Bay Sands Skypark

You have not had an adventure in Singapore until you have dined, taken photos, and shopped at the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark. It is a world-class cityscape, with some architectural wonders. The vibrant, colorful gardens by the bay are sceneries you cannot afford to miss. Look out for the following:

  • Observation deck

From the observation deck, you will enjoy a bird’s eye view of the bustling shipping lanes that tell of the rich multicultural history of Singapore.

  • Swimming Pool

The infinity swimming pool makes you feel as though you are floating on top of the world’s largest rooftop. The pool gazes down on the glittering skyline, and if you miss taking a photo here, you will have missed the most spectacular photo-taking session in the whole of Singapore.

  • Spectra – Light and Water Show

A free-to-public show that displays the effects of water and light crisscrossing each other’s paths. It is presented at the Event Plaza along the promenade, and as this spectacular show begins, some beautiful symphonic music will give you a warm embrace. The 15-minute combination of water, light, fountain jets, visual projectors and music is something you do not want to miss.

  • Casino

If you are a casino lover, while still at the Marina Bay Sands, make sure you visit the most remarkable entertainment joint located at the heart of the CBD of Singapore. As a tourist you can enter for free by showing your passport (Singapore residents need to pay $100 Singapore to enter!). You will be awed by the over 600 gambling tables and treated to free drinks.

5. Merlion Park

The national icon for Singapore is the Merlion, (mythical half-fish, half-lion) situated at the waterfront in Merlion Park. It is a symbol of the humble beginnings when the city was just a fishing village known as Temasek, or sea town. The head represents the city’s original name, Singapura or Lion City. The statue stands at approximately 9 meters and weighs over 70 tons. It is a must-see for visitors, and its current location is in front of the Fullerton Hotel (5 Star Hotel converted from the Singapore General Post Office building) after its relocation during the construction of the Esplanade Bridge that blocked its view in 1997.

6. Esplanade

The Esplanade is a waterfront location north of the source of the Singapore River. The scenic Esplanade has a plethora of activities that will keep you occupied, especially if you are not in a hurry to leave for home. It is infected by palpable creative art displays near the entrance. World-class performances are staged here every day.

The shows bring different cultures together, cutting across various genres. Catch a concert by great westerners like the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra or Kuo Pao Kun of the Singapore Chinese theatre. Once in a while, you will enjoy free programs from dance to theatre, all taking place at the Esplanade.

Visitors to the site are also attracted by the scenic outdoor view. It overlooks the Singapore River and stands between the Merlion Park and the Singapore Flyer. Here stands the Esplanade theatre that is 60,000 square meters big, where performing arts are held. The concert hall seats 1,600 and the theatre has a capacity of 2,000.

The design of the building is made up of two rounded space frames that have triangulated glass elements fitted to balance outwards views. The outward appearance of the building looks like a durian head. Other facilities available are recital studio and the theatre studio.

7. Chinatown

Squeeze some time in to visit Chinatown in Singapore and relish the colorful Peranakan shop-houses and myriad of historical attractions that make for an excellent stroll. Chinatown is divided into four main sections known as districts which are; Tanjong Pagar, Telk Ayer, Kreta, and Bukit Pasoh. The primary centers of activities are Pagoda Street and Smith Street. Paroda Street can be accessed through the China MRT Station.

If you are interested in learning about Buddhism, visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. It is the biggest Buddhist temple in Singapore, located in the Chinatown district. It was built in 2007, and the interiors richly exhibit the history of Buddhism and its culture over the past 100 years. The temple got its name from the canine tooth of the Maitreya Buddha, which was recovered during his funeral in Kushinagar in India.

8. Little India

Little India is in the heart of Singapore, near Chinatown. It is immersed in a buzzing neighborhood that is bent on awakening all your senses. The multicolored shop-houses, the pungent food aromas that rent the air when demand for food is at its peak, the spiritual chants from the mosques and temples, and the smiles are what make the town lively and warm. It is a must-visit kind of city.

Serangoon road is where the summary of all adventure is, just on the northeast side of the Financial District. Little India has the best hotels at the lowest rates, the best places to eat, and the cheapest shops from which to buy souvenirs. Other must-visit locations are:

  • Tekka Centre

A landmark in Chinatown known for serving large portions of fresh Indian food. It is located on Serangoon road, a major road stretching from Little India to Kallang.

  • Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

It is one of the oldest temples, and is the focus of early Indian Social Cultural activities. It is also located along Serangoon Road. It is dedicated to Kali, the Hindu goddess.

  • Campbell Lane

It is at the end of Serangoon Road and is mostly used by pedestrians. The spillover of sounds and sights make it a challenge to remain focused on the road. Enjoy the souvenir shops, worship buildings like the Sri Krishna temples, and interesting eateries at this lane that knows no vehicle disturbance.

9. Clarke Quay

The handful of excellent restaurants in Clarke Quay and the surrounding Riverside area are an excellent choice for dining by the edge of the waters any time of the day. Once done with your delicious meal, you can cruise the Singapore River, especially at night, for more splendor.

Old colonial shop-houses and moored junks of Clarke Quay have been beautifully converted into restaurants, chic pubs, and nightclubs. Slightly west of Clarke Quay is Robertson Quay, which has more of the same features as Clarke Quay, but is more tranquil and relaxed. If you can find your way to the mouth of the river, you will find delight in the monuments and architecture of colonial Singapore. Be sure to visit the Singapore River, Trace Club, Zouk, and the beautiful luxury Singapore hotels.

The street performance up the Singapore River has made Clarke Quay a dining and party destination that is home to many of the nightlife institutions that are very much loved by the locals. The G-Max Reverse Bungee is a jump in the reverse direction soaring into the city’s skyline that will leave you with a thrilling urge for more adventure.

10. LEGOLAND

LEGOLAND is located in Malaysia, which is not very far away from Singapore. It is about 50 minutes’ drive from Singapore, through the Second Lin Expressway. However, on a normal working day it will take about one and a half hours by road. Your adventure starts right at the entrance where there is a big shop that offers a great selection of Logo toy products. It is known as the land of adventure and miniland.

You will be surprised to know that LEGOLAND was constructed using only 30 million Lego bricks, as big as it is. The park has five theme parks that will be of interest to you namely Puteri Harbor, The Beginning, Lego technic, Land of Adventure, and Lego Nonjago World. Be sure to visit the Lego Water Park where you can ride the surf, climb and slide down the body slides, and have some flapping wet fun with your family.

If you would like to extend your stay, remember that you can get accommodation at the LEGOLAND Malaysian hotel, located near the park. Remember to carry your passport and Immigration officials will place an entry stamp, known as a social visit pass (visa), in your passport authorizing a stay of up to 90 days. (No visa is required for most nationalities including American citizens visiting Malaysia for social, business or academic purposes.) Lego land is the equivalent of Disneyland in the United States. It is the first LEGOLAND in Asia and the 6th in the world.

11. Night Safari – Wildlife Reserves Singapore

For lovers of wildlife, Nigh Safari Wildlife Reserves is a must-visit while on a trip to Singapore. The site strives to inspire people to conserve biodiversity and wildlife. A journey through the Night Safari will take about 40 minutes, with visitors being taken through seven geographical regions that spread through the Himalayan foothills to the South East jungles of Asia. It is home to nocturnal animals, enabling you to get a deeper understanding of the habitats of these nocturnal animals, as well as an appreciation for wildlife conservation.

Another special attraction is the tribal fire show that is all about an amazing dance by acrobatics. What makes it more interesting is how they play around with fire in their performances.

12. Singapore Cuisine

Food in Singapore is marked with a lot of controversies and contradictions. Food comes from everywhere, but also in another sense, from nowhere. The local cuisine is defined by how it is assembled into something unique.

  • Bak Kuh Teh

Its origin comes from Southern China, and the fish head curry from India, but it is an ordinary food in Singapore. It is a simple dish that contains a variety of mild herbs.

  • Wanton Mee

A noodle dish influenced by Hong Kong cuisine, but which has become entrenched in the Singaporean culture over time. It is eaten dry in Singapore, with slices of pork char siew and wanton dumplings and some soup as an accompaniment. You can have it spicy or otherwise. The spicy type has chili mixed in, while the non-spicy version is mixed with tomato sauce.

  • Fried Carrot Cake

Does not imply a western dessert, but far from it. The Singaporean version is made with eggs, white radish flour cake, and preserved radish (Chai poh) that gives it its dish name. The dish is a favorite in Malaysia as well, but variations include the black version which has sweet sauce (molasses) added. The chopped up version has individual radish cake cubes. The crispy version has a cake fried on top of a beaten egg to create chunks of pie and a crust.

  • Laksa is a Dish

Made from the merging of Malay and Chinese cuisine, also known as Peranakan culture. It comes in two forms – Curry and Asam Laksa. The curry type is more dominant in Singapore, while Asam (sour) is popular in Malaysia. The curry laksa is made from coconut milk, vermicelli, tau pok, shrimp, fish slices, and cockles.

  • Hainenese Chicken Rice

It is known as the national dish in Singapore, but has its origin in Hainan, China. The meal is best made from kampong (village) chicken, which basically refers to chicken reared the traditional way without hormones, etc. as opposed to larger western chicken.

  • Kaya Toast

It is a snack prepared from coconut jam (Kaya), coconut milk, sugar topping, eggs, butter, and pandan. Kaya is served on toast for breakfast but is also very popular as a tea or coffee accompaniment in many homes and coffee houses.

  • Red Bean Ice

Refers to a drink taken as dessert during summer. The ingredients include light rock sugar syrup, adzuki beans, evaporated milk, which is then topped with ice cream to make the red bean ice cream dessert.

  • Fried Durian

Durian is a strongly flavored fruit that is best fried to remove the strong odor. It is rolled in rice paper then dipped into batter and deep fried at very high temperatures to give it a very sweet taste.

Try these cuisines out and see how the people of Singapore can convert simple ingredients into delicious meals. With this Singapore travel guide, there is no reason why you should not visit this remarkable city/country and enjoy many of its highlighted features.

Kick Ass Poker Secrets

As an avid online poker player, especially with Sit&Gos tournament play, and multi-table tournaments such as guaranteed tournaments, I think you’re about to discover secrets I never knew existed! Let me begin by saying that I came across a young man, young by my standards since I’m over 60, and he’s just barely 25.

First let me tell you a bit about his life: It is somewhat inspiring since he’s just a regular guy just like everyone else. He just works really hard at everything he puts his mind to. Ironically, by telling his story, he hopes to inspire other people to set BIG goals and have the discipline and willingness to do whatever it takes… because the only failure in life is giving up.

So here’s this young guy who at a very young age learns to play chess with his dad. Eventually, he gets so good at it that he beats his dad most of the time. He continues playing chess all through middle school and high school.

While in high school (between 9th and 10th grade), he takes up playing trumpet and forms a band. At one point, he suddenly takes trumpet playing very seriously and finds himself playing 6 hours a day. He eventually becomes the best trumpet player in his county and plays at different events between the 11th and 12th grade. This is when he learned a lot about pressure, which was later beneficial to him in poker. Because, when playing in front of crowds you are under enormous pressure, and you need to learn how to fail eloquently.

As he puts it, “most online players have never really accomplished much in their lives, and when start getting good at poker, they don’t know how to control their ego. You need to learn to keep your ego in check. Nobody is that good”.

As a teenager (16 to 17), he had different jobs such as McDonald’s, but eventually landed a job at an airport fueling airplanes. The job came with a lot of downtime which allowed him to study a lot about poker, especially hold’em.

At about 19 years old, he deposited $50 online on a particular site to play poker. He played 25 – 50 limits and grinded it up to about $5000 in bankroll. He then switched to a well known gambling site, 4-tabling 15 – 30 limit tables, and moved up to 30 – 60 limit tables, which at the time were the highest limit tables you could have online. The problem was… he just couldn’t beat them and got very frustrated and depressed about it.

Then one day, he decided he would switch to SitNGos, and although he didn’t know much about it, he ended up winning $10,000 in about a month. Still at the age of 19, he decided to quit his job at the airport because it didn’t make much sense to him to keep working when he was sitting on a bankroll of $15000 playing poker online.

He had also been going to college at the time studying engineering, and found it too hard when all he was doing is spending his free time playing poker. And anyways, it became clear to him that he could never make that kind of money initially as an engineer. Although he admits that everyone should have a back up plan (a college degree), he eventually quit college.

After quitting college, a certain site started making higher and higher limits on SitNGos, all the way up to $2000 SitNGos, which he played quite often. They also had a STEP SitNGo for a cruise to the Mediterranean which he won. By the time he had won this tournament, he was sitting on a bankroll of about $80000.

I think you get the idea… but this story ends that by the time this young man turned 21, he earned over $500,000 playing online poker in multi-table No Limit Hold Em, and at 21 played his first major tournament on the WPT and won. He’s won over $4,000,000. in tournament play by the time he turned 23.

He continues his living in BIG BUY IN tournaments on tour.

The moral here is: Set BIG goals and have the willingness and discipline to learn, and to do WHATEVER it takes… because SUCCESS is never giving up! I’ll add to this at the ripe old age of 62, “that YOUR FEAR OF LOSING is your worse enemy”.

The Bahamas as an Offshore Jurisdiction

Bahamian banking secrecy is somewhat misleading in that that banking institutions are prohibited from divulging a clients or account holders information to a third party without the clear consent of the account holder (think Americans may have to sign waivers when opening an account) or under a Bahamian court order. The bad part is that banking institutions are freely permitted to divulge that a particular person or company does in fact have an account with that bank. While the bank cannot, according to Bahamian law, divulge specific details or account balances, they certainly can divulge who their account holders are. This means wholesale fishing expeditions are a distinct possibility, for example give us a list of every account holder from a certain country. No wonder 45% of the deposits have left Bahamas banks since they went to this new legislation that compromises bank secrecy severely.

Bahamas corporations are not Bearer share and thus not anonymous. Interestingly enough a Bahamas LLC can not engage in business in the Bahamas or own real estate in the Bahamas, more negatives.

The Bahamas gets about 5 cruise ships a day on average with each cruise ship averaging about 2500 people. If we figure that each person on average spends $50 at port and that there is a head tax of about $20 per person coming to the Bahamas we can see why the Bahamas compromised their secrecy and privacy. If they didn’t they would risk losing their tourism business which employs more people than their banking ever did and also generates more revenue. The Bahamas was once a decent jurisdiction but they sold out to protect their largest industry – tourism. They have large beachfront hotels, gambling casinos, fishing, diving etc all more lucrative than their offshore banking was.

Bahamas fails to provide anything resembling a level of privacy that we require so stay away is our advice.

Free Online Poker Games

Free online poker games are everywhere. You can find them on poker stars, absolute poker, full tilt poker etc…FREE OF CHARGE. Now if you are new to poker in general and do not know the poker rules quite yet I definitely suggest you start playing online. If you have been playing poker for years and years at a local casino or a home game, playing free online poker games is MUCH different. Reason being, you can’t actually see someone’s facial expressions and getting a read on an individual’s poker cards is much harder online. Also, catching a bluff online is much harder than in person. The good thing about playing poker online is when you finally get familiar with where to play poker online and how to when playing for play money poker chips you can move into playing for real money.

The first thing you must know when you jump into real money tables is they are MUCH MORE different than playing for play money. Player’s games completely change when money is on the line. Don’t ask me why, but if players don’t have money on the line most of them are just not motivated to try and win. To reach the stage of players trying you have to move into real money games offered on all the same sites that you can play free game online poker on, you can play real money on also. What I suggest you doing is depositing $50.00 if you do not have that much. I was a poor college student starting out when I started playing for real money. It has turned into a house, car, and me being able to quit my job so it is definitely possible. After you deposit this $50.00, many poker sites such as fulltilt poker and poker stars will give you a 100% deposit bonus to match whatever you deposit up to $600.00. That’s great for you, right when you deposit that $50.00 you now have $100.00 bucks to work with. Instead of jumping right into a cash game with this $100.00 I strongly urge you to try out sit n go games. You can’t go wrong with poker tournaments online. If you are unfamiliar with sit n go’s basically they are mini tournaments consisting of 9 players which the top 3 of these players make it to the money. The prize structure is as follows:

3rd place = 20% of the total prize pool offered

2nd place = 30% of the total prize pool offered

1st place = 50% of the total prize pool offered

Looking at these payouts, winning first place in a sit and go is like three 3rd place finishes. It is VERY important to try and get first place each time. A great poker tip you should know is to play tight all the way through until there is 4 players left in which you need to play aggressive. When there is 4 players left everyone will start playing tight but YOU in hopes to hang on for a 3rd place finish and into the money. This is the most perfect time to steal their blinds and cruise your way into a first place finish.