DOL Issues Three New Opinion Letters

The U.S. Department of Labor announced that it issued three new opinion letters that address compliance issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA). An opinion letter is an official, written opinion by the Department’s Wage and Hour Division on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the individual or entity that requested the letter.

The opinion letters issued are:

FMLA2019-3-A: Addressing whether an employer may delay designating paid leave as FMLA leave due to a collective bargaining agreement;

FLSA2019-13: Addressing the ordinary meaning of the phrase “not less than one month” for purposes of FLSA section 7(i)’s representative period requirement; and

CCPA2019-1: Addressing whether employers’ contributions to employees’ health savings accounts are earnings under the CCPA.

Our subscribers to Payroll 24/7 E-Alert received the news of the 2020 wage base the same day it was released by the SSA. Don’t wait for important payroll news, subscribe today for only $149 per year.  That’s hundreds of dollars less than our nearest competitor.  And our news is strictly payroll related. 

Reminder:  The early pricing for our next payroll lecture ends on October 23rd.  Register for our lecture on the 2020 Form W-4 and receive a 60 day free subscription to Payroll 24/7.  A $37 value free with your registration.  And just in time for all the latest year end news.

SSA Announces 2020 Social Security Wage Base

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has released the 2020 Social Security changes.  The social security (or Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI)) wage base for 2020 will be $137,700. The rates will remain the same at 6.2% for social security and 1.45% for Medicare.  There will continue to be no limit on Medicare.  The Additional Medicare Tax, started under President Obama, will continue with the same wage base, $200,000 and the same rate, 0.9% with no employer matching.

 

Back on May 8th we posted the social security wage base projects that were issued by the Social Security Administration in their 2019 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Fund.  There were three estimates, low, medium and high.  The rates ranged from $136,800 to $137,100.  So the final wage base coming in at $137,700 was not too far off.

Our subscribers to Payroll 24/7 E-Alert received the news of the 2020 wage base the same day it was released by the SSA. Don’t wait for important payroll news, subscribe today for only $149 per year.  That’s hundreds of dollars less than our nearest competitor.  And our news is strictly payroll related. 

Reminder:  The early pricing for our next payroll lecture ends on October 23rd.  Register for our lecture on the 2020 Form W-4 and receive a 60 day free subscription to Payroll 24/7.  A $37 value free with your registration.  And just in time for all the latest year end news.

Not a Great Milestone to Reach

2019 is the year of a milestone concerning the minimum wage on the federal level.  This past June marked the longest period in our history (since 1938 when the minimum wage was established) that has not seen an increase in the federal minimum wage.  The last time Congress passed an increase was in May 2007 that was effective July 24, 2009.  That marks 10 years!  The impact of this lack of increase actually decreases the purchasing power according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The EPI explains that when the minimum wage remains unchanged for any length of time, inflation erodes its buying power.  When the minimum wage was last raised to $7.25 in July 2009, it had a purchasing power equivalent to $8.70 in today’s dollars. Over the last 10 years, as the minimum wage has remained at $7.25, its purchasing power has declined by 17 percent. And, since its historical peak in February 1968, the federal minimum wage has lost 31 percent in purchasing power—meaning that full-time, year-round minimum wage workers today have annual earnings worth $6,800 less than what their counterparts earned five decades ago, EPI said.

The current session of the House of Representatives has grappled with this issue but there is little hope, at this time, of it coming out of committee in the Senate.  But this 10-year drought has not gone unnoticed in most states.

As of 2019, 29 states, plus the District of Columbia have a higher minimum wage than the federal.  14 states are equal, 2 states are lower, and 5 states still have not enacted a minimum wage. In addition, many “high cost” cities or counties have enacted their own minimum wage different from the state level. This includes at least 27 cities in California; New York City; Chicago, IL; Minneapolis, MN; four counties/cities in New Mexico; three entities in Washington state; two counties in Maryland; and Portland, ME among others.

The growing trend among the states is to link the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index. At least 12 states, including AZ, CO and NV, have used this method to ensure that the level of the minimum wage keep up with inflation in their own state.

With 2020 just around the corner, the states are already announcing increasing to the minimum wage. These include South Dakota, Vermont, Montana, Ohio and Connecticut. New cities or entities are also adding a minimum wage for the first time, including Houston airport area in Texas and the city of Novato, California. (Be sure to subscribe to our payroll update news service, Payroll 24/7 to keep up with the latest minimum wage increases for 2020).

But how does the United States stack up against the other industrialized countries. Well taking currency adjustments into account, we are quite a bit lower on the national level.  Even with higher costs of living most cities or countries come in higher than we do. They generally range from $10 an hour to $13 an hour in U.S. dollars. However, this does not take into account that citizens in those countries also have paid for medical care and do not have to pay for health insurance out of that minimum wage in most cases.

Upcoming payroll lectures:  Our next payroll lecture is on the 2020 Form W-4.  Be sure to join us on October 30, 2019 as we review the massive changes to this form in decades. Get a free 60 day subscription to Payroll 24/7 if you register before October 23rd.

Virtual Lecture on 2020 Form W-4

I am holding another virtual payroll lecture in October.  This time on the new and totally revamped Form W-4 for 2020.  Join me on Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at 10 am Pacific for this 2 hour lecture.  The lecture will take you through the major changes to the form for 2020 including the worksheets.  I will also be covering the Publication 15-T which is used in conjunction with the form. Because this is a lecture rather than a webinar, I will have a hands on, follow along, segment where you will fill out the form with me.  Of course, there will be a Q & A session where hopefully I can answer questions you may have. I hope you will join me for this informative lecture on first major changes to the Form W-4 in decades.  The cost is only $149. If you register before October 23, 2019 you will receive a free 60-day subscription to Payroll 24/7, my email news update service exclusively for payroll professionals. If you are already a subscriber to Payroll 24/7 then please use coupon code w420% at check out to receive a 20% discount. This lecture has been submitted to the APA for 2 RCHs.

DOL Proposing Rules for Tip Credit Provisions

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced a proposed rule for tip provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The proposed rule would implement provisions of the Conso

Still life of a full tip jar

lidated Appropriations Act of 2018 (CAA). The proposal would also codify existing Wage and Hour Division (WHD) guidance into a rule.

According to the announcement: The CAA prohibits employers from keeping employees’ tips.  During the development of those provisions, the Department provided technical assistance to Members of Congress. DOL’s proposed rule would allow employers who do not take a tip credit to establish a tip pool to be shared between workers who receive tips and are paid the full minimum wage and employees that do not traditionally receive tips, such as dishwashers and cooks.

The proposed rule would not impact regulations providing that employers who take a tip credit may only have a tip pool among traditionally tipped employees. An employer may take a tip credit toward its minimum wage obligation for tipped employees equal to the difference between the required cash wage (currently $2.13 per hour) and the federal minimum wage. Establishments utilizing a tip credit may only have a tip pool among traditionally tipped employees.

Additionally, the proposed rule reflects the Department’s guidance that an employer may take a tip credit for any amount of time an employee in a tipped occupation performs related non-tipped duties with tipped duties. For the employer to use the tip credit, the employee must perform non-tipped duties contemporaneous with, or within a reasonable time immediately before or after, performing the tipped duties. The proposed regulation also addresses which non-tipped duties are related to a tip-producing occupation.

In this notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the Department Proposes to:

  • Explicitly prohibit employers, managers, and supervisors from keeping tips received by employees;
  • Remove regulatory language imposing restrictions on an employer’s use of tips when the employer does not take a tip credit. This would allow employers that do not take an FLSA tip credit to include a broader group of workers, such as cooks or dishwashers, in a mandatory tip pool.
  • Incorporate in the regulations, as provided under the CAA, new civil money penalties, currently not to exceed $1,100, that may be imposed when employers unlawfully keep tips.
  • Amend the regulations to reflect recent guidance explaining that an employer may take a tip credit for any amount of time that an employee in a tipped occupation performs related non-tipped duties contemporaneously with his or her tipped duties, or for a reasonable time immediately before or after performing the tipped duties.
  • Withdraw the Department’s NPRM, published on December 5, 2017, that proposed changes to tip regulations as that NPRM was superseded by the CAA.

After publication this NPRM will be available for review and public comment for 60 days. The Department encourages interested parties to submit comments on the proposed rule. The NPRM, along with the procedures for submitting comments, can be found at the WHD’s Proposed Rule website.

Happy Labor Day!

Wishing my all followers a Happy Labor Day! Monday marks the 125th celebration of Labor Day as a national holiday in the United States.
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. The history of the holiday is interesting. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed in 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During 1887, four more states – Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York – created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. Who actually started the day is still disputed but it appears that of the two men generally credited with its beginnings, Peter J. McGuire and Matthew Maguire, the better claim for the credit for the holiday goes to Matthew Maguire, secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, NJ. Regardless of who had the idea, 125 years later it is still going strong. So Happy Labor Day!
 

Opinion Letters Issued

Despite all the “turmoil” that is going on over at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the work is still continuing. The DOL has issued three new opinion letters that address compliance issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). An opinion letter is an official, written opinion by the Department’s Wage and Hour Division on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the individual or entity that requested the letter.

The latest opinion letters are:

  • FMLA2019-2-A: Addressing whether attending a Committee on Special Education meeting to discuss a child’s Individualized Education Program qualifies as FMLA leave;
  • FLSA2019-11: Addressing the application of the section 7(k) overtime exemption to public agency employees engaged in both fire protection and law enforcement activities; and
  • FLSA2019-12: Addressing the employment status of volunteer reserve deputies who perform paid extra duty work for third parties.

Be sure to keep up with the latest rule changes and opinion letters from the DOL with a subscription to Payroll 24/7.  Only $149 per year for all the latest payroll news right to your inbox.

IRS Launches New Tool for Estimating Taxes

The Internal Revenue Service has launched the new Tax Withholding Estimator, an expanded, mobile-friendly online tool designed to make it easier for everyone to have the right amount of tax withheld during the year. The Tax Withholding Estimator replaces the Withholding Calculator, which offered workers a convenient online method for checking their withholding. The new Tax Withholding Estimator offers workers, as well as retirees, self-employed individuals and other taxpayers, a more user-friendly step-by-step tool for effectively tailoring the amount of income tax they have withheld from wages and pension payments.

“The new estimator takes a new approach and makes it easier for taxpayers to review their withholding,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “This is part of an ongoing effort by the IRS to improve quality services as we continue to pursue modernization and enhancements of our taxpayer relationships.” The IRS took the feedback and concerns of taxpayers and tax professionals to develop the Tax Withholding Estimator, which offers a variety of new user-friendly features including:

  • Plain language throughout the tool to improve comprehension.
  • The ability to more effectively target at the time of filing either a tax due amount close to zero or a refund amount.
  • A new progress tracker to help users see how much more information they need to input.
  • The ability to move back and forth through the steps, correct previous entries and skip questions that don’t apply.
  • Enhanced tips and links to help the user quickly determine if they qualify for various tax credits and deductions.
  • Self-employment tax for a user who has self-employment income in addition to wages or pensions.
  • Automatic calculation of the taxable portion of any Social Security benefits.
  • A mobile-friendly design.

In addition, the new Tax Withholding Estimator makes it easier to enter wages and withholding for each job held by the taxpayer and their spouse, as well as separately entering pensions and other sources of income. At the end of the process, the tool makes specific withholding recommendations for each job and each spouse and clearly explains what the taxpayer should do next.

The new Tax Withholding Estimator will help anyone doing tax planning for the last few months of 2019. Like last year, the IRS urges everyone to do a Paycheck Checkup and review their withholding for 2019. This is especially important for anyone who faced an unexpected tax bill or a penalty when they filed this year. It’s also an important step for those who made withholding adjustments in 2018 or had a major life change.

Those most at risk of having too little tax withheld include those who itemized in the past but now take the increased standard deduction, as well as two-wage-earner households, employees with nonwage sources of income and those with complex tax situations.

 

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Our First Payroll Lecture is Here

I am offering my first payroll lecture of the year next week on June 18th.  The subject will be travel pay. The lecture is two hours from 10:00 am to Noon Pacific time.  It is approved by the APA for 2 RCHs.  The nominal charge for the webinar is $99.  You can register under our Shop on our website. 

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the FLSA requirements for paying an employee who travels
  • Comprehend the best practices for tracking and paying for travel pay
  • Understand the IRS requirements for taxing travel pay reimbursements including per diems and accountable plans.

EFT, ACH and EDI are Different and It Matters

In payroll we tend to use the terms EFT, ACH and EDI interchangeably.  But in actual practice they are quite different.  To help explain these important differences the National Automated Clearing House Association or NACHA has provided some guidance on their April 29, 2019 blog, written by Rober Unger.   It is helpful to payroll professionals to understand these terms and use them correctly.  I found this blog extremely helpful and I hope you do to.