Strovek Writes


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A story of stuff

I just went through the 20 minutes video of The Story of Stuff. The video was very entertaining and informative how our consumption is affecting the world.

I found the video from the following blog.

This is a quote from the site on the video:

The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.
I complete agree with the above.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Paying Income tax online

With the deadline for the income tax coming to a close, there is pressure to complete by April 30. So submitting the return online helps - eFiling. However, that is only part of the equation, the other portion is to pay any excess tax.

I found this good article on the web which shows a step by step process.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Appreciating Botanical Garden

Botanical is the first garden established in Malaysia in 1796. The history can be found here. I love jogging there surrounded with beautiful flowers and trees.

I thought I'll share of the beauty here:

There is also a stream right through the garden:

This is just outside Botanical Garden a site usually used by scouts for camping:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

In Memory of Nurin Jazlin



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

26 Ways to save on Malaysian Taxes

I recently received this from a friend. I do not know who compiled it but the logic looks sound so decided to post it here.

26 Tax-Saving Moves

They are legal and permitted by Inland Revenue Board ( IRB )

1. Save for your Child’s Education
  • Since 2007 , any amount that is deposited into a savings account for your child under national Education Savinds Scheme ( Skim Simpanan Pendidikan Nasional ) allows you to claim tax deductions.
  • There is a limit of RM 3000 for this deduction but spouse who file separate tax returns can each claim this amount.
  • Tax Deduction : RM 3000 per individual
  • For Mr A : As he falls in the 24% tax bracket , this deduction translates to a tax saving of RM 720 ( RM 3000@24%)
2. File Separate tax returns
  • A separate assessment allow each spouse to claim personal tax relief of RM 8000 while a joint tax return allows one spouse to claim a wife or husband relief of RM 3000
  • Tax Deduction :
    • Each spouse earning Taxable income can claim personal tax relief of RM 8000 by filling separate tax returns.
3. Ask your employer to increase your EPF contributions
  • Contributions to the employees Provident Fund (EPF) by employers are tax-exempt for the employees.
  • To reduce your taxable income , ask your employer to reduce your EPF monthly salary but increase your EPF contributions by the same amount.
  • Tax Deduction :
    • The deductible amount from your taxable income is dependent on the arrangement between you and your employer.
  • For Mr A : Mr A agrees to takle monthly pay cut of RM 1000 for an equivalent increase in his EPF contributions by his employer.At the end of the year , he receives an additional RM 12000 in his pension fund but his taxable income is reduced by the same amount.
  • The tax saving that he makes is RM 2880 ( RM12000@24%)
4. Change your cash remuneration to cash reimbursement
  • Fixed allowances given by your employer each month for entertainment and housing or parking fees are taxable at your tax bracket.
  • Change this to a “ reimbursement “ based on receipt and you are not taxed on the amount received.
  • Tax Deduction :
    • The deductible amount from your taxable income is dependent on the arrangement between you and your employer
  • For Mr A : By Changing a yearly fixed allowance of RM 6000 to a reimbursement of the same amount and supported by receipts , Mr A makes a tax saving of RM1440 ( RM 6000@24%)
5. Ask for a company car
  • A car given by your employer is regarded as a benefit-in kind ( BIK ) and taxable.
  • However , a company car is advantageous for taxpayers because the preset tax scale for cars is much lower than the actual cost of buying and maintaining a car.
  • According to the Public ruling for BIKs , the tax payer must pay RM 3600 in taxes every year, for a car worth RM 75000
  • If the employer pays for fuel , the tax payer is taxed an additional RM 1200 for this BIK
  • Tax deduction :
    • Whether you benefit from a company car depends on the value of the car and your current tax bracket. Do the calculations to ascertain your tax deduction.
6. Make charitable contributions
  • A gift of money to an approved charitable organisation entitles you to a tax deduction for the amount given.
  • From 2008 onward , this amount cannot exceed 7% of your aggregate income.
  • However Charitable donations that were made in 2007 are not subject to this limit.
  • Tax deduction :
    • Up to 7% of your aggregate taxable income can be reduced with this deduction.
  • For Mr A : With his taxable income of RM 90000 , Mr A can make a donation of RM 6300. This deduction results in a saving of RM 1512 ( RM 6300@24%)
7. Take Up postgraduate studies
  • A relief of RM 5000 per year for any course of study at the Master’s or doctorate level , the government announced in 2007 Budget the widening of the scope to all postgraduate studies.
  • The course does not have to be done full time , but “ must be in an institution or professional body in Malaysia recognized by the government or approved by Minister of Finance
  • Tax Deduction :
    • RM 5000 per individual
  • For Mr A : As he completes his master’s degree . Mr A can enjoy tax saving RM 1200 from his taxable income ( RM 5000@24%)
8. Read , Read , Read
  • nStarting from YA 2007 , taxpayers can claim a personal tax deduction to RM 1000 for purchase of books, journals , magazines and other publications.
  • n
  • nTo maximise this generous deduction , consider giving books as gifts.
  • n
  • nTax Deduction : RM 1000 per individual
  • n
  • nFor Mr A : With book purchases of RM 1000 Mr A saves RM 240 ( RM 1000@24%)
9. Get Sporty
  • You will get a deduction of RM 300 for each year of assessment for the purchase of sports and exercise equipment for any sports activities defined under the Sport Development Act 1997 “
  • Tax Deduction : RM 300 per individual
  • For Mr A : By buying RM 300 worth of sports equipment , Mr A makes a saving of RM 71 ( RM 300@24%)
10. Buy Life Insurance
  • The maximum tax relief is RM 6000 a year for premiums paid to an insurance company for life Insurance or deferred annuity plans.
  • This Limit is shared with your contributions to the EPF, other employer schemes and contributions under any written law relating to widows or orphan pensions
  • Tax deduction : RM 6000 per individual ( shared with your EPF contributions )
11. Take out a Medical or Education policy
  • You can claim deductions of up to RM 3000 a year for education and medical insurance ( combined limit for both )
  • This includes medical coverage that is part of life insurance policy( the limit for life insurance is in move 10 )
  • A policy of this kind can be written for you , your spouse or your child.
  • Tax deduction :
    • RM 3000 per individual
  • For Mr A :After acquiring an education policy for his children , Mr A makes a saving of RM 720 ( RM 3000@ 24%)
12. Pay your parents’ medical bills
  • You are able to claim up to RM 5000 for payments towards your parents’ medical bills.
  • Tax deduction :
    • RM 5000 per individual
  • For Mr A : By paying his parents’ medical bills , Mr A makes a saving of RM 1200 ( RM5000@ 24%)
13. Medical
  • Claim a deduction of up to RM 500 per tax year for a full medical examination and RM 5000 for medical expenses for yourself, spouse or child for serious disease.
  • If you have also spent money on full medical in the same year, your claim will be reduce the RM5000 available for serious disease.
  • A separate tax reduction of up to RM5000 a year is given for necessary basic supporting equipment for disabilities suffered by yourself ,spouse, children or parent
  • Tax Deduction :
    • RM 500 per individual for full medical check-up.
    • RM5000 for serious diseases or basic supporting equipment
  • For Mr A : He claimed for a full medical check-up .The deduction give him of RM 120 ( RM 500@24%)
14. Pay Zakat
  • If you are a muslim ,paying any amount in zakat , fitrah or other obligation Islamic dues will entitle you to a tax rebate.
  • Tax deduction :
    • The Amount of zakat that you pay
15. Buy a Computer
  • A deduction of up to RM 3000 can be claimed once every three years for the purchase of computers , printers and bundled software .
  • The similar i9ncentive given previously in the form of a tax rebate was withdrawn with effect from 2007
  • Tax deduction : RM 3000 once every three years.
  • For Mr A : Getting a computer for RM3000 gives him a saving of RM 720 ( RM 3000@24%)
16. Hire a Tax Consultant
  • Consider hiring a tax consultant to explore ways your remuneration package can be structured to maximize your tax savings.
  • Those who are earning at least RM5000 every month should be able to justify the cost of hiring a tax adviser with their tax savings
  • Tax saving : this is dependent on your personal circumstances and the deal that you negotiate with your employer.
Tax – Savvy Investments
  • You may be looking at some investment this year.
  • There are savings to be made from certain investments , from a tax point of view.
  • However , some moves may be advantageous if you fall into a higher tax bracket .
  • Besides looking for tax-exempt investment , here are four investment moves to explore
17. Buy property valued below or at RM250000
  • Stamp duty must be paid on all property transactions that involve a change of legal ownership.
  • Last year’s budget ( 2008 ) announced a 50% stamp duty exemption for the purchase of houses that do not exceed RM250000
  • The maximum tax savings that can be found here is RM2000 ( for a house worth RM250000 )
  • This exemption is only given for one house per individual and applies to sale and purchase agreement signed between September 2007 and December 2010
18. Buy Similar property
  • Similar property can be grouped together for income tax purposes.
  • The IRB has indentified categories such as residential , commercial and vacant land.
  • If you own two property in the same category , you can reduce the taxable profit made from one property with the loss, if any incurred from the other.
  • Property investors are also exempt from real property gains tax for all disposals on on or after 1st April 2007.
  • However , taxpayers who are trading property – buying and selling in order to generate income – are liable to income tax.
    • “ This exemption is meant for taxpayers who invest in property for a passive income”
  • Tax deduction :
    • Taxable income received from renting out a property in a particular grouping such as residential can be reduced if a loss was incurred by another property in the same group.
19. Buy shares
  • Invest in dividend-yielding shares if your tax bracket is above 26%.
  • A new single-tier system was established under the national Budget for dividends received by shareholders.
  • Companies pay tax of 26% (YA2008) and shareholders receive a net dividend that is exempt from tax and does not need to be filed with the IRB “Shareholders who fall into higher tax brackets [higher than 26%] are essentially [getting a] saving on the difference.
  • “The single-tier dividends is intended to simplify the tax filing process for individuals,” says Chua Tia Guan, executive director and head of tax and financial planning at Great Vision Wealth Management Sdn Bhd.
  • “In the past, refunds had been slow. From now on, there is no need to declare or apply for a refund. And as corporate taxes are falling, companies will be able to pass on more profits to their shareholders [in the form of dividends],” he says.
  • However, not all companies will go under the single-tier system immediately as some of them might have imputation tax credits left, which they can use till 2013.
  • Shareholders who receive dividends from companies using the imputation system will have to report the amount received and claim a tax refund if his personal tax rate is lower than the company’s tax rate (27% in YA2007, 26% in YA2006).
  • Shareholders can identify the system used by the company as it is stated in the dividend vouchers.
  • Tax Deduction
    • Your tax saving is the difference between your tax bracket and 26% (the corporate tax rate). This is only applicable to dividends given out by companies using the single-tier system.
20. Invest in REITs
  • You can go into real estate investment trusts ( REITS )if your tax bracket above 15%.
  • There are 11 REITs listed on the Main Board.
  • The tax on dividends given out by these property-related investments are taxed at 15% as compared to tax on dividend at 26% ( under the new single –tier dividend system )
  • Only tax brackets exceeding 15% would enjoy some tax savings by investing in REITs
  • Since the distributions received by individual taxpayers have been subject to that 15% , the taxpayers are not required to declare the amount in their tax return.
  • Tax deduction:
    • Your tax saving is the difference between your personal tax bracket and 15%
Moves for Business Owners
  • The first rule that small-business owners should implement with regards to their taxes is to take it seriously.
  • Spend some time strategising for your business activities to save hundreds or thousands ringgit.
  • Here are six
21. Maintain books and records from Day 1
  • Keep separate bank accounts for personal and business transactions and establish a basic accounting system.
  • The inland Revenue Board recognizes business income on an accrual basis .
  • This means that as long as a transaction is completed, either a sale of goods or a provision of service , its value is immediately treated as business income and is taxable.
  • However , unpaid transaction can be reduced your taxable income.
  • Any expenses made fro the business can be deducted from the business income.
  • The General rule is that expenses can be deducted if it is wholly and exclusively incurred in earning your business income.
  • So Keep the receipts for all supplies that you buy for your business
  • However there is no deduction for capital expenditure although some assets will qualify for tax relief by way of capital allowances
22. Time the purchase and use of your fixed assets
  • Capital allowances are permitted for certain business assets such as equipment , machinery , vehicles computers and software.
  • The amount of allowances permitted each year depends on the category that asset falls into .( refer to Public Ruling No 2/2001 for the deductible rate of your assets.
  • The first capital allowance is given for the accounting year in which the asset was purchased and used by the business.
  • If you are contemplating a purchase , try to do it before the end of the accounting year, instead of just after , to claim the capital allowance against your business income.
  • If you are buying the asset with a hire-purchase loan, allowance can only be claimed as and when repayments are made to the lender.
23. Buys a company car
  • If you are a sole trader or a partner in a business, any car or vehicle that is used for business purposes can bring about tax deductions.
  • “The business income is reduced by the car’s financing cost if you buy the car on hire-purchase.
  • You are also deduct a certain amount for capital allowances every year,
  • Before implementing this tax-saving technique, business owners must identify a percentage of the car’s use that is for private activities.
  • As there is no definite ruling on how to determine this proportion for private use, business owners must apply a fair and reasonable figure that can withstand scrutiny.
  • “Estimating private mileage is an exercise that must be undertaken in accordance to the facts on your actual usage.
  • And remember to record all running expenses to make these deductions,” says Thornton.
24. Hire your spouse or family member
  • An effective tax-saving strategy is to hire a spouse or family member.
  • “For example, a husband who is a business owner can hire his wife. The wife’s salary is tax deductible but you must be able to show that she is doing something to earn it,
  • In this situation, you would have to contribute to your wife’s Employees Provident Fund (EPF) savings and that amount entitles her to tax relief.
  • Another option is to make your spouse or family member a partner in your business.
  • This allows you to divide the income made by the business between the both of you.
  • As a partnership has no tax liability, both partners are liable for tax for the respective portion of business income that each earns.
  • “By opting for separate tax assessments, a husband and wife who are partners in a business can each claim individual tax relief.
25. Implement a process to ‘chase after’ unpaid debts
  • Unfortunately, small business owners can complete a sale or service but might not receive payment, in full or in part.
  • At the end of an accounting year, a debt, which is estimated to be wholly or partly irrecoverable, can be deducted from your business income and this lowers your tax bill.
  • “Tax authorities tend to look closely at bad-debt write-offs and provisions (for debts that are expected to be partly recoverable).
  • So put in some effort to recover the debt before deeming it irrecoverable and you must evaluate each debt separately.
  • The process that you put in place to recover your unpaid debts should be documented and any conclusion that you make should be supported with documentation as well.
  • For example, you must show why it it not cost effective to take legal action against a customer.
  • However, if you eventually recover bad debts that have been written off or partially written off, you must include this amount in your taxable income for the year that you received payment.
26. Dedicate a space in your home office
  • Working in your own house can result in tax deductions for the costs related to your “home office”.
  • This includes electricity, telephone bills, quit rent and service charges of apartments.
  • The best way to claim for these deductions is to dedicate a room or place as the working environment.
  • “A dedicated area helps to identify expenses that are specifically for business purposes and can be claimed in full.
  • Items that are used by the business as well as personal use, such as electricity, must be apportioned.
  • One way to do so is on the basis of floor area.
  • If the business owner pays rent for the working area, this expense can be deducted from the business income.
  • This applies to rent that is paid to a spouse who owns the home but is not involved in the business.
  • However, this is strategy is only effective if the spouse who is not involved in the business is taxed at a low tax rate as rental received must be declared as taxable income.
  • If this is an appropriate strategy for the business owner, A tenancy agreement that specifies rental for a specific part of the house at the prevailing market rate.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Mind at a Time

I am currently reading the book A Mind at a Time (actually more listening since it is an audio book). I found this to be a very interesting book in helping understand myself and my children.

A couple of things I took from the book are:
  • Some people are visual thinkers - for these people, it is difficult for them to absorb if you provide too many words to them.
  • We have three types of memory, short term (works only for 2 seconds), middle term and long term.
    • For cases where the short term is faulty, it may sometimes cause the person not to be able to grasp input that is too fast.
    • Sometimes, our memory is selective, so some people have very good recollection in certain subjects but not in others (I believe I fall into this category).
    • Our long term memory is potentially unlimited but sometimes the way we store it may cause them to be unretrievable.
  • Many times due to certain mental development dysfunction, people misunderstood. For example, a person may be very intelligent but because of problem with language, his mind may become overloaded and be mistaken as slow.
    • Too many times, we place our own perception on other without understand the challenges they face.
  • Mel Levine also brought up the case of mental memory. For some people, this mental memory may not be sustainable and may be susceptible to power failure/brownouts. I have had cases of such failures. Also one thing I noticed is if I use too much mental memory, my body tends to overheat and will need hours to cool down.
    • Hmmm, I wonder how many calories are used in the process. Maybe another way of burning calories to maintain the body weight.
I found that by listening to this book, it provides me a better understanding about myself as well as others. It also helps me a appreciate the precious gift that we have in the mind. The complexity and the load that is placed on our children. Often times, the expectation we place on our children is many times more than what is required in most daily expectations at an workplace.

Finally, based on the mental development of each person, each will have certain jobs that they are best suited for. It helps us appreciate diversity, otherwise, we will not enjoy the richness of live - music, technology, arts, sciences etc.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Woe to the Flat Foot

Living with a flat foot all my life, I was unaware that there are treatments out there.

However, recently when two of my colleagues were injured during the running sessions. They went to for physio-therapy. It was then I found out that there are more "flat footers" around me.

They were each sold some insoles for support together with the therapy. I decided to visit the therapist to "check it out" and was also sold the insoles - one for walking and one for sports. The one used for walking is 3/4 length and the sports one is full length.

The one for walking works in reducing pain in my bunions but the sports one gave me blister instead (but only in one leg).

A few things I read from the leaflet from the insoles. Flat foot causes some of the following problems - (also listed here):
  1. Bunions
  2. Callous
  3. Other pains
So lesson learned was:
  1. Just because you are suffering this all your life doesn't mean that there is no relieve out there.
  2. Your problems is not unique. There may be others who share your problem. (that is why there is also shoes for pronation).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I thought I would write about the origin of Interloper and Strovek.

Interloper is the character I used to play in the AD and D (Advanced Dungeon and Dragon) role-playing board game in college. Interloper is an elf specialized as a Rogue. Rogues are well known for the stealth, speed and good and finding traps. However, since this was the first time in such a game, I tried to look for traps. This frustrated my fellow players to no end. It was later that I realized that looking for traps is not a matter of scanning but a very tedious process of checking which delays the whole game.

Strovek is a Vulcan from another Role Playing board game - Star Trek. For those of you unfamiliar with Star Trek, Vulcan is a alien race that is responsible to help us (humans) start star exploration and was also key in the formation of the Federation. At the time (when I played this game), we had a very keen following to Star Trek: The Next Generation. We had characters everybody hated and characters everybody loved. However, Strovek is actually based on the character from the original series - Spock. Strovek is known for his logical thinking and is able to compartmentalize his various parts of his live.

There are now too many variations of the Star Trek series so I have lost interest. However, I found there is a lot that can be learned from the original series.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Which spending model is better? - JIT vs Bargain Stocking

I have been debating which is a better model to manage expenses. The following are two which I have been trying:
  1. JIT - Just in Time purchasing. Which means only purchase items only when we need it.
  2. BH - Bargain Stocking/Hunting. Which is to stock up items when they are on sale.
To help better explain the model, let us go through some scenarios:

Junk Food

For those with children, one of the things we usually buy are ice cream and candies. In the case of JIT, you will only buy the individual ice cream cone or bar when they request. So you will go to places like 7-Eleven, McDonalds etc. Same with lolly pop and candies.

In the case of BH, you will purchase the tub of ice cream or even the multi pack from the supermarket. In the case of lolly pop and candies, you will buy party packs.

Pro for JIT: From experience this actually reduces the consumption of the ice cream and candies since they will only request when the urge strikes or when they see other consuming it. The candy and ice cream will be fresher.

Cons for JIT: The cost of the candies is more expensive then the party packs. A tub of ice cream is only RM 6/- vs individual cone from McDonald's is RM 1.05 each.

Pro for BH: The party packs are a lot cheaper (possible as much as 40% cheaper.

Cons for BH: This tends to increase consumption or waste. With the ice cream readily available in the fridge, then the children will ask for it more frequently. When purchasing party pack, we may choose the wrong flavor so may actually result in waste (thrown away so it may be more expensive).

Health Food

When I was trying to achieve my ideal weight, I was trying to increase my metabolic rate buying eating more frequently. I was also looking into ways to reduce calorie intake so I purchased Essence of Chicken which had very little calorie (40 calories for 70 gms) but lots of protein. I bought one case (6 bottles) and only intended to practice JIT. However, my family, wife and mother saw that I was consuming this and started buying more cases when the Essence of Chicken were on sale.

After a while, we had too many cases and end up some of them expired before I could consume it.

In this particular case, we could save up to 20% in price but end up we may throw more away.

Foot Massager
When the foot massager first came out, it was promoted everywhere. I looked at some and found the more expensive one and then there are the imitations.

In order, to save money, I bought one of the imitations. After using it for a while, I found it totally ineffective. I ended up giving it away and then buying the more expensive unit. The imitation was RM 60/- vs the expensive one was RM 1,300/-.

I am still using the expensive unit. So in this case, BH actually cost more.

A couple of years back, my daughter had a little "accident" and as a result her pants were soiled. I was unable to contact anyone in my family and I did not have a spare change for her. Also, we were late for a show.

As a result, I had to go to the nearest shop to buy her new pants. The pants cost me RM 99/-. I could have gotten a similar pants for RM 20/- else where. In this case, JIT clearly was more expensive. Incidentally, she grew out of the pants in less than a year.

Dry Fit Shirt
I like running with dry fit shirt so I went shopping to purchase more. However, in trying to get one I bought one for RM59/- which at first I thought was a bargain - it was on sale. However, after speaking to a colleague, I found that it was too expensive. He recommended a few places where they usually had sale.

Later, I bought another one on sale for only RM 29.50 which of a higher quality (but from a lesser known brand). In this, case patience and bargain hunting pays off.

Additional Notes

I have found in a lot of cases, where I forcefully try to exercise JIT, I was able to avoid purchases of things that turn out to be unnecessary. Even though, the cost of purchases where higher but the savings from purchases useless junk significantly offset the extra cost.

In the cases of Bargain Stocking, we end up with a full refrigerator and also cupboard. As a result, sometimes, we don't know we already have the item already and will buy some more. Also because some of the items may end up towards the back of the cupboard, we do not use it before the expiration date.

In the case of JIT, we sometimes, may end up not being able to find the item when we need it - store may be out of stock or it may be inconvenient, we need the item early in the morning or late at night when the shops are closed. Also, we may spend more money on gas for trips to the store.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Beach Front Property

Staying on the island, we sometimes forget about the beach. Luckily for me, my children sometimes remind us.

Here is a view of some who get to enjoy the beach every day - they stay on the beach.

The view:

You could be in the apartments like this:

or a house like this. There is a hotel in the background.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Reflexology is getting very popular in Malaysia. In Penang, most of the major shopping centers around the country have shops providing such services. The cost is also pretty reasonable - RM30/- for 45 minutes.

This compared to Genting Highlands which is RM 60/- for 40 minutes.

You have to be very careful, not all the of them are equal. If you are lucky and get one who is experienced and knowledgeable, s/he will be able to tell you what you are suffering from. Most of these shops provide foot reflexology but some will also provide hand reflexology too.

For those of you who are interested in knowing more about reflexology, click here. The following was taken from the website. This is the best I have seen.

Click the pictures below to access interactive reflexology charts.

Interactive Reflexology Foot Chart

Alternatively, you can purchase massage machines from Ogawa and Osim. Only word of caution, for those who have not done this before it can be very painful.

So far, I found this too be helpful especially in eliminating the pain in my heel after my weekend run.