I get a lot of questions on whether or not a payroll professional should get certified and if they should then which certification should they try for first. Should they go right into the CPP exam? Or start off with the FPC and work up to the CPP? Many payroll professionals are even confused as to which certification they could qualify for. In their blog, Payroll News, Symmetry Software has done a very nice and quick comparison of the two certifications offered by the APA. If you are looking to certify but aren’t sure which test to try for, take time to check out the blog today.
A report released on May 10, 2017 by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) assesses the prevalence and magnitude of one form of wage theft—minimum wage violations. Minimum wage violations is defined in the report as paying a worker an effective hourly rate that is below the legal or binding minimum wage, either state or federal law. The report looked at the 10 most populous U.S. states: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. These states were chosen to limit the focus of the report so EPI could carefully account for each state’s individual minimum wage policies and state-specific exemptions to wage and hour laws. Two of the states chosen, California and New York, actually have anti-wage theft laws on the books. The data for these states provides adequate ample sizes and the total workforce in these states accounts for more than half of the entire U.S. workforce. The results of the study are a bit alarming even if you take into account that the measuring of wage theft is challenging and suitable public data sources are limited. The key findings of the report are that:
- In the 10 most populous states in the country, each year 2.4 million workers covered by state or federal minimum wage laws report being paid less than the applicable minimum wage in their state—approximately 17 percent of the eligible low-wage workforce.
- The total underpayment of wages to these workers amounts to over $8 billion annually. If the findings for these states are representative for the rest of the country, they suggest that the total wages stolen from workers due to minimum wage violations exceeds $15 billion each year.
- Workers suffering minimum wage violations are underpaid an average of $64 per week, nearly one-quarter of their weekly earnings. This means that a victim who works year-round is losing, on average, $3,300 per year and receiving only $10,500 in annual wages.
- Young workers, women, people of color, and immigrant workers are more likely than other workers to report being paid less than the minimum wage, but this is primarily because they are also more likely than other workers to be in low-wage jobs. In general, low-wage workers experience minimum wage violations at high rates across demographic categories. In fact, the majority of workers with reported wages below the minimum wage are over 25 and are native-born U.S. citizens, nearly half are white, more than a quarter have children, and just over half work full time.
- In the 10 most populous states, workers are most likely to be paid less than the minimum wage in Florida (7.3 percent), Ohio (5.5 percent), and New York (5.0 percent). However, the severity of underpayment is the worst in Pennsylvania and Texas, where the average victim of a minimum wage violation is cheated out of over 30 percent of earned pay.
- The poverty rate among workers paid less than the minimum wage in these 10 states is over 21 percent—three times the poverty rate for minimum-wage-eligible workers overall. Assuming no change in work hours, if these workers were paid the full wages to which they are entitled, less than 15 percent would be in poverty.
The report gives a full explanation of the background and previous research into the problems.
A recent article from RIA told of the following problem:
Mike McGuire from IRS Modernized e-File (MeF) told listeners to the May 4 payroll industry telephone conference call that the IRS has been rejecting “tens of thousands” of 2017 first quarter electronically-filed Forms 941, Schedule B (Report of Tax Liability for Semiweekly Schedule Depositors) because the total tax liability on Schedule B does not agree with the total tax liability on Form 941, line 12 (Total taxes after adjustments and credits). Prior to the 2017 tax year, the total tax liability on Schedule B had to agree with Form 941, line 10 (Total taxes after adjustments), or the IRS would reject it. However, the IRS revised some of the line numbers on Form 941, beginning with the 2017 tax year, to take into account that “qualified small businesses” may now elect to claim a portion of their research credit as a payroll tax credit against their employer FICA tax liability, rather than against their income tax liability. Beginning with the 2017 tax year, the total tax liability on Schedule B must agree with Form 941, line 12 (Total taxes after adjustments and credits) rather than line 10. Some electronic filers have not adjusted their programs to take this change into account. Rejected returns have to be resubmitted to the IRS.
Make sure your system has made this change.
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The IRS wants to make sure that employers understand tax ramifications of the various payments that they make to employees or that their employees might receive. So the IRS has posted a reminder for employers when it comes to tips verses service charges. The key difference between the two categories affect the taxation for employees as well as the reporting. So-called “automatic gratuities” and any amount imposed on the customer by the employer are service charges, not tips. Service charges are generally wages, and they are reported to the employee and the IRS in a manner similar to other wages. On the other hand, special rules apply to both employers and employees for reporting tips. Employers should make sure they know the difference and how they report each to the IRS.
- Cash tips received directly from customers.
- Tips from customers who leave a tip through electronic settlement or payment. This includes a credit card, debit card, gift card, or any other electronic payment method.
- The value of any noncash tips, such as tickets, or other items of value.
- Tip amounts received from other employees paid out through tip pools or tip splitting, or other formal or informal tip sharing arrangements.
Four factors are used to determine whether a payment qualifies as a tip. Normally, all four must apply. To be a tip:
- The payment must be made free from compulsion;
- The customer must have the unrestricted right to determine the amount;
- The payment should not be the subject of negotiations or dictated by employer policy; and
- Generally, the customer has the right to determine who receives the payment.
If any one of these doesn’t apply, the payment is likely a service charge.
What are service charges? Amounts an employer requires a customer to pay are service charges. This is true even if the employer or employee calls the payment a tip or gratuity. Examples of service charges commonly added to a customer’s check include:
- Large dining party automatic gratuity
- Banquet event fee
- Cruise trip package fee
- Hotel room service charge
- Bottle service charge (nightclubs, restaurants)
Generally, service charges are reported as non-tip wages paid to the employee. Some employers keep a portion of the service charges. Only the amounts distributed to employees are non-tip wages to those employees.
All cash tips and noncash tips should be included in an employee’s gross income and subject to federal income taxes.ployers are required to retain employee tip reports, withhold income taxes and the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes from the wages paid, and withhold income taxes and the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes on reported tips from wages (other than tips) or from other funds provided by the employee. In addition, employers are required to pay the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes based on the total wages paid to tipped employees as well as the reported tip income. Employers must report income tax and Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from their employees’ wages, along with the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, on Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, and deposit these taxes in accordance with federal tax deposit requirements.Tips reported to the employer by the employee must be included in Box 1 (Wages, tips, other compensation), Box 5 (Medicare wages and tips), and Box 7 (Social Security tips) of the employee’s Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. Enter the amount of any uncollected social security tax and Medicare tax in Box 12 of Form W-2. See the General Instructions for Forms W-2 and W-3.
Reporting Service Charges: Employers who distribute service charges to employees should treat them the same as regular wages for tax withholding and filing requirements, as provided in Publication 15, Employer’s Tax Guide. Distributed service charges must be included in Box 1 (Wages, tips, other compensation), Box 3 (Social Security wages), and Box 5 (Medicare wages and tips) of the employee’s Form W-2.
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Every so often the IRS solicits comments on its various forms. This is an excellent opportunity for payroll professionals to get their two cents in on the forms they must deal with on a regular or sometimes irregular basis. This time, the IRS is soliciting comments concerning Forms 941 (Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return), 941-PR (Planilla Para La Declaracion Trimestral Del Patrono-LaContribucion Federal Al Seguro Social Y Al Seguro Medicare), 941-SS (Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return-American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), 941-X, Adjusted Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return or Claim for Refund, 941-X(PR), Ajuste a la Declaracion Federal Trimestral del Patrono o Reclamacion de Reembolso, Schedule R, Allocation Schedule for Aggregated Form 941 Filers, Schedule B (Form 941) (Employer’s Record of Federal Tax Liability), Schedule B (Form 941-PR) (Registro Suplementario De La Obligacion Contributiva Federal Del Patrono), and Form 8974 Qualified Small Business Payroll Tax Credit for Increasing Research Activities.
What about the Form 941 or any of the series do you find difficult, needs better explanations, could be revamped or should just be left as is? Now is the time to speak up.
Written comments should be received on or before July 7, 2017 to be assured of consideration, and should be directed to Laurie Brimmer, Internal Revenue Service, room 6526, 1111 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20224. Requests for additional information or copies of the form and instructions should be directed to Ralph Terry, at Internal Revenue Service, room 6526, 1111 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20224, or through the internet at Ralph.M.Terry@irs.gov.
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This week the House of Representatives passed The Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017, H. R. 1180. The purpose of this bill is to amend The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to allow employees to receive compensatory time off instead of payment for overtime worked for employees working in the private sector. It sponsors say that this gives employees in the private sector the same flexibility that employees in the public sector have enjoyed for a number of years. In essence, being able to choose between being paid for overtime or getting time off at a later date. I have not yet made a decision on this bill as to whether or not I support it. It has good points but it also has a lot of flaws.
- the bill does require that the employee agree to, in writing, receive comp time instead of being paid for the overtime worked. If the employee would prefer to be paid over time then they have to be paid overtime, at least in theory.
- The bill also requires that the employee be given opportunity to take the comp time when requested, as long as it does not interfere with business operations.
- The bill does require that the employee be cashed out upon termination, voluntary or involuntary, or at the end of a 12 month period. This in theory prevents overtime from never being paid.
- The bill permits an employee to opt out after agreeing in writing to be paid compensatory time and does not permit compensatory time to be as a condition of employment.
- The bill does not allow new employees to be forced to take compensatory time instead of overtime. The employee must work at least 1000 hours for the employer before they can agree to be pay compensatory time.
- The bill sunsets after five years and requires after two years that the GAO submit a report outlining whether or not there were complaints alleging violation of the rules made to the Secretary of Labor or the Department of Labor. It requires an accounting of any unpaid wages, damages, penalties, injunctive relief, or any other remedies that were obtained or sought by the Secretary Of Labor.
However there are flaws:
- first the premise that public sector employees “enjoy” the privilege of compensatory time in lieu of overtime. Public sector employees did not come under the FLSA until 1985 when it was mandated by a court decision. Private-sector employees have been under the FLSA since 1938. The only reason the comp time in lieu of overtime was permitted is because it was written into many cities, counties and states requirements because they were spending public money. It was never something that was negotiated or requested by the employees themselves.
- Many studies in the United States show that employees tend not to take all of the vacation they are due because they can’t get the time off from their employers. So my question is if they can’t get time off to take vacation that has been given them how will they be able to take off using compensatory time? Especially when the bill does not state that they must be given the comp time when requested but only if it does not interfere with business operations. And how many of us have not been able to take our vacation because our boss says I can’t give you the time off right now.
- If not able to take the time off due to business operations then what’s the purpose of having comp time except to delay paying the employee overtime that was rightfully do. I understand that taking time off does affect business operations and if I’m requesting vacation I can understand that my boss can say not at this time. Because in essence vacation is not something that I actually worked for, but a benefit my boss is offering me. But compensatory time off is not the same as vacation although this bill seems to treat it that way. This is money that I’ve already worked for and am already due. It is not a benefit that my boss gets to allow me to take at his or her convenience.
- My biggest problem with this bill is the fact that even though it says that the GAO will present a study on whether or not there were violations the fact is that the Labor Department collects hundreds of millions of dollars each year for violation of simple minimum wage and overtime rules. These rules have been in effect since 1938 and yet employers still violate them on a regular basis. Is this just adding one more area that employees will have to sue their employers through the DOL to get their money? Especially lower paid or minimum wage employees. Is this one more thing the employee will have to be aware of and make sure they are being paid properly?
Compensatory time off bills have passed the house many times in the past but have never gone past the Senate, usually dying in committee. But these are not normal times so we will have to wait and see.
What do you think? Take our poll. Are you for or against The Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017? [polldaddy poll=9738707]
As we all know the Department of Labor (DOL) has been granted another 60 day extension concerning the new OT rules, namely the salary level test. Will it be raised to $913 a week is still anyone’s guess. However, the other two tests that must be met for an employee to be exempt under the executive, administrative or professional categories…salary basis and job duties are still intact and must be followed. Our white paper this time discusses the job duties that must be met for an employee to be exempt under the professional category. We hope you find it informative.
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As many of us who use Facebook know, the grammar police are constantly posting memes about the proper use of commas. Recently the placing of a comma came into play which cause one employer to have to pay back wages for overtime. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has overturned a federal district court opinion and ruled that dairy company delivery drivers are eligible to receive overtime under Maine’s overtime laws. At issue was Maine Rev. State. Ann. §664(3)(F), which provides an exemption from overtime for those involved in the “canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution” of perishable food. The drivers did not dispute that they handled perishable foods, but said that they do not engage in “packing” them, and therefore are eligible to receive overtime. The employer argued that the above provision actually refers to two distinct exempt activities (“packing for shipment,” and ”distribution”), and therefore the exemption from overtime applies to the drivers. The appellate court sided with the drivers. It said that the exemption would have applied to the drivers if the statute had read “packing for shipment, or distribution” rather than “packing for shipment or distribution.” Since the drivers did not pack items for either shipment or distribution, their activities did not come under the statutory exemption [O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy, CA1, Dkt. No. 16-1901, 3/13/17].
So watch out for where the commas are placed if you want to avoid penalties!