Social Securities BSO Key to Accurate Reporting

In a recent press release, the Social Security Administration (SSA) urged employers to utilize the Business Services Online (BSO) Portal to ensure accurate wage reporting for their employees:

Accurate earnings records are vital to the Social Security Administration and to every worker in the United States. If Social Security cannot match the name and Social Security number (SSN) reported on a W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, to its records, the agency cannot credit the earnings to that worker’s record. When earnings are missing, the worker may not qualify for Social Security benefits or the benefit amount may be wrong.

Historically, approximately 10 percent of the W-2s the agency receives each year from employers initially have mismatched name/SSN combinations. There are a number of reasons why reported names and SSNs on W-2s may not match with Social Security’s records, such as typographical errors, unreported name changes, and inaccurate or incomplete employer records. By using more than twenty automated matching routines the agency can identify commonly occurring errors that, when corrected, allow the accurate crediting of reported earnings to the correct worker’s earnings record.

Social Security works hard to educate employers—large and small, at the national and local level—about the importance of accurate wage records and the free tools available to them. The agency works closely with the payroll provider community through organizations such as the American Payroll Association and the National Association of Computerized Tax Processors. Agency employees speak at the Internal Revenue Service’s Nationwide Tax Forums and participate in quarterly meetings with Reporting Agents (large third-party filers). Social Security’s Employer Services Liaison Officers and Public Affairs Specialists educate small business employers throughout the nation through local engagements.

In all of the activities, the agency includes information about its online suite of services, Business Services Online (BSO), at www.ssa.gov/bso/bsowelcome.htm. The tools included in BSO provide employers the opportunity to correct errors before, during, and after the development and submission of their wage reports. These tools include:

AccuWage: Software that tests the accuracy of wage reports before submission by identifying common formatting errors.

Social Security Number Verification Service: A free service to verify that all employees’ names/SSNs match the Social Security Administration’s records before submission.

View Name and Social Security Number Errors: A service for electronic wage reporters to view the processing status and errors (including name and SSN mismatches) after their submission.

“It is extremely important that the Social Security Administration has accurate earnings records for workers throughout the country, and this begins with accurate wage reports from the nation’s employers,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. “I encourage all employers, large and small, to use the free tools on our Business Services Online portal. The earnings record of every worker determines their future eligibility and the amount of Social Security benefits they will receive, so accuracy is vital.”

Commissioner Saul also made the decision to discontinue mailing employers educational correspondence (EDCOR) notices to focus agency efforts on making it a better, easier, and more convenient experience for employers to report and correct wages electronically. EDCOR notices inform employers that name/SSN combinations on a submitted W-2 cannot be matched to Social Security’s records and provides instructions on how to correct the mismatches using tools on BSO. The agency also will continue to seek out new opportunities to educate employers and provide modernized software for electronic wage reporting that informs wage reporters of certain errors in real time as they upload their wage reports.

In addition to Social Security’s work with employers, the agency encourages workers to view their personal earnings records, and submit corrections, online by creating a my Social Security account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.

Through their my Social Security account, people can check personal information and conduct business with Social Security. If they already receive Social Security benefits, they can start or change direct deposit online, request a replacement SSA-1099, and if they need proof of their benefits, they can print or download a current Benefit Verification Letter from their account.

People not yet receiving benefits can use their online account to get a personalized Social Security Statement, which provides earnings information as well as estimates of future benefits. Residents of most states may request a replacement Social Security card online if they meet certain requirements.

The portal also includes links to information about other online services, such as applications for retirement, disability and Medicare benefits.

Weekly, Monthly & More: How Your Pay Schedule Affects You…The Basics of Pay Periods

Editor’s Note: Sometimes it is good to review the basics of payroll. Not only to ensure that the payroll department understands them but that your company’s employees can also understand these sometimes difficult tax or wage hour regulations.  Today our guest blogger from earnin.co is covering the basics of pay periods.  A good review for you, your staff or to help your employees understand the concepts as it affects their daily lives.  I hope you find the blog useful and informative:

Let’s say you had a job as a cashier at your local grocery store that paid every two weeks. You quit that position and got a new job in an office, but this one pays once a month instead. What gives?

There are different kinds of pay schedules that determine when and how often you receive your paycheck. Businesses usually set their pay schedules to benefit themselves. Payroll management entails labor and costs, so companies will go for the option that is more convenient and saves them money. Employees (as opposed to freelancers) don’t normally get to decide how often they get paid, so it’s critical to factor your pay cycle into your weekly or monthly budget, especially if you live paycheck to paycheck. Will you have your money when you need it?

Here are four common types of pay schedules:

Kinds of Pay Schedules

Weekly Payroll

Some businesses pay their employees weekly, which means employees receive their income on Fridays. This schedule is more common amongst freelancers, contract workers, and trade industries like construction and manufacturing. These job types commonly have irregular hours, so it makes sense to pay workers according to a shorter time frame. While weekly schedules are a favorite amongst employees because it means you have more regular access to your money. If you drained your bank account on bills last week because it was the end of the month but want a night out with your friends, no worries — you get paid on Friday, so you can afford that night out as long as you save enough for your upcoming expenses. However, most businesses avoid the weekly system. Payroll vendors frequently charge money every time a company (their customer) runs payroll. Doing so weekly takes extra time to process, so companies will opt for more extended periods to reduce costs and add convenience.

Bi-Weekly Payroll

A bi-weekly pay schedule means you receive your paycheck every two weeks. This cycle amounts to 26 or 27 paydays per year. Many businesses prefer bi-weekly timelines because they save money processing payroll and can calculate overtime more easily (each paycheck accounts for approximately 80 work hours). As such, bi-weekly payroll is more common amongst businesses that pay their employees hourly. Bi-weekly schedules are not challenging to manage, but two months out of the year will have three paydays instead of two. Accountants need to factor in these paydays when calculating voluntary employee deductions, like healthcare, which are equal in a semi-monthly pay schedule.

Semi-monthly Payroll

Semi-monthly pay means your employer pays you twice per month. As such, you might receive your income on the first of and in the middle of the month (likely on the 15th), or in the middle and end. A semi-monthly pay schedule entails 24 payments per year, which makes it distinct from bi-weekly. If you earn $45,000 per year on a bi-weekly cycle, your paychecks (not accounting for taxes and deductions) will be around $1730.77 each, whereas your paychecks will equal $1,875 on a semi-monthly schedule. It’s the same amount of money but divided differently. Semi-monthly payroll is common for salaried employees. Calculating deductions is easy for accountants, and you always know which dates you will receive your income.

Monthly Payroll

You guessed it — monthly payroll means your paycheck comes in once a month. This format is ideal for businesses because it makes accounting easy and reduces processing costs, but it’s disadvantageous for employees and contractors because they have less frequent access to their money. If you work a job that pays monthly, you need to be extra careful with budgeting because you’ll only receive your income in lump sums 12 times per year.

Your pay schedule does not affect how much you get paid in a year, assuming you work the same number of hours either way. However, your pay cycle does influence how often you have access to your hard-earned money, and therefore the way you budget. For example, let’s say you paid all your bills last month and now don’t have much left in your savings. Your job pays you bi-weekly, so you’ll have enough money to pay the first round of next month’s expenses, but your next paycheck won’t arrive in time to pay the rest. Now you’re in a tight spot. One option is to make an early paycheck request from your employer. If your employer agrees, they will provide you all or part of your paycheck before they usually would, allowing you to pay your bills, but it lengthens the time between your next paycheck.

Another option is to use financial apps. Your job’s pay cycle is out of your hands, but you can control when you get paid with apps like Earnin. Earnin allows you to take out up to $500 of your earnings per pay period. This way, you won’t have to worry about missing a bill because your employer’s pay schedule isn’t in your favor, and you won’t have to pay mandatory fees for the convenience. Your pay schedule affects your ability to pay expenses and for recreation, so it’s important to know how often you’ll receive your income when applying for a job or managing your finances. Though your pay cycle might not always work in your favor, there are ways you can control having access to your money.

Restrictions and/or third party fees may apply, see Earnin.com/TOS for details

 This article originally appeared on Earnin.

 

SUI Update

As of today the following states have released or announced their SUI wage bases for 2021.

 

State Wage Base State Wage Base State Wage Base State Wage Base
AK $43,600 KS $14,000 NM $27,000 WI $14,000
AL $8,000 KY $11,100 NV $33,400 WV $12,000
AR $10,000 LA $7,700 NY $11,800 WY $27,300
AZ $7,000 MA OH $9,000
CA $7,000 MD $8,500 OK $24,000
CO $13,600 ME OR $43,800
CT $15,000 MI PA $10,000
DC $9,000 MN RI $24,600/

$26,100

DE $16,500 MO $11,000 SC $14,000
FL $7,000 MS SD $15,000
GA $9,500 MT $35,300 TN
HI $47,400 NC $26,000 TX $9,000
IA $32,400 ND $38,500 UT $38,900
ID $43,000 NE $9,000/24,000 VA $8,000
IL $12,960 NH VT $14,100
IN $9,500 NJ $36,200 WA $56,500

FRAUD ALERT!

I have webinar companies who are stealing my webinars and presenting them as if I were doing it live.  I want my blog followers to be aware of this so they don’t get ripped off.  The latest is ComplainceWorld (that’s how they spell it).  They are advertising a live  6-hour boot camp with me as the instructor on July 1st. I do not work with this company and I am not leading this webinar.  I only found out about it via a spam email I received.  Please do not use this company for your training needs!  One of the other speakers they list has also never heard of them and his webinar was also stolen.  If you see a webinar with my name on it, feel free to contact me via my email, vicki@thepayrolladvisor.com to confirm it is genuine.  I don’t want any of my followers to get ripped off.

Opining on Regular Rate of Pay

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued three new opinion letters that address compliance issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  As a reminder to my readers, an opinion letter is an official, written opinion by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the employer that requested the letter.  The current group of letters issued include:

 

FLSA2020-3: Addresses excludability of longevity payments from the regular rate of pay. This opinion rules that longevity payments made to employees that clearly “must or shall” be paid cannot be excluded and must be used to calculate the regular rate of pay.  However, if the longevity payment is worded as that it may or may not be awarded, up to the discretion of the employer, then it would not need to be included in the calculation for regular rate of pay.

FLSA2020-4: Addresses excludability of referral bonuses from the regular rate of pay. The employer is offering a referral bonus to employees not involved in recruiting or human resources and would be issued in two parts, one immediately and one if the employee is still employed after a year and so is the employee who was referred.  The opinion states that the first portion of the bonus would not be included in the regular rate of pay calculations as it is not remuneration for employment as it is a voluntary program.  However, the second installment of the bonus would be included as it would be considered the same as a longevity bonus. If the employee received the bonus whether they were still employed or not, it would not be includable.

FLSA2020-5: Addresses excludability of an employer’s contributions to a group-term life insurance policy from the regular rate of pay.  In essence, the opinion states that just because a wage paid is subject to federal taxes under the Internal Revenue Code, does not make the same payment includable in the regular rate of pay.

For more information on opinion letters, see the WHD website.

COVID-19 Update

The IRS (including the Social Security Administration) holds a monthly payroll profession phone meeting.  Usually on the first Thursday of the month, it was delayed this month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  It was held yesterday.  As expected, the call centered around the latest updates for the pandemic on the new legislation. Here’s the recap for you:

1. There was a brief discussion on the updates the IRS has released, which include:

  • Notice 2020-21: discusses tax credits
  • Notice 2020-62: retention credits and FAQs
  • Notice 2020-54: HSA adjustments for the pandemic

2. It also discussed the latest forms to be released.  This includes the Form 7200 and its instructions.  This form is used to request tax credits in advance for the Families First Act and the CARES Act.

3. The Form 941 was discussed.  It is in the drafting stage and this draft version should be released by the end of next week.  This will be the form to use for the second quarter and beyond. It is being redesigned to allow for lines to report the various COVID-19 tax credits.  The form will go from two pages to three.  It is still unclear whether or not the Schedule B will be revamped as well.

4. Social Security Administration reminded the attendees that they are also on limited staffing so the employer 800# is not being staffed as it is not able to be accessed remotely by employees.  Employers are urged, instead, to use the email employers@ssa.gov  for any questions they may have.  This can be staffed from home by SSA staff members.  If you have questions on using the Business Services Online (BSO) you should email bso.support@ssa.gov.

The meeting for May will be on schedule and I will have any news from it posted by Friday of the same week.

Wage and Hour Laws–They Are Here, There and Everywhere Part 3

In my previous blog, October 23, 2019, I discussed the complexities of compliance with wage and hour laws.  Which apply…federal or state?  What areas are covered?  When these questions do arise, where do you find the answers? Can a payroll professional simply check the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to find the answer with a quick verification of any state requirement? Or is the state the main source to go to first with the FLSA as the fall back? The answer is not simple.  In this blog series I will be discussing areas where payroll professionals need to ensure compliance by researching wage and hour laws. In Part 2, I covered the first six areas. This time I am reviewing the next set of four areas that may require research to ensure compliance: which includes on call or stand by pay, providing holiday/sick/vacation benefits, statements and payday notices and what is hours worked.

7. Hours Worked-General

The definition of hours worked under the FLSA was is quite broad. By statutory definition the term “employ” includes “to suffer or permit to work.” The workweek ordinarily includes all time during which an employee is necessarily required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty or at a prescribed workplace. What is the state’s definition on what is an hour worked?  Most follow the FLSA. The difficult task is applying the rules to a specific type of hour. One example that comes up frequently is travel time.  If an employee travels for business is it hours worked?  Can a different wage be paid to employee traveling?  If a nonexempt employee travels out of town on business overnight is the entire time considered hours worked including sleeping or just the employee’s normal day?  Compliance here requires that each type of “hour worked” an employee performs must be researched to determine the proper payment.

8. On Call or Stand by Pay

The FLSA and court cases address the issue of on call pay on the federal level.  An employee who is required to remain on call on the employer’s premises is working while “on call.” An employee who is required to remain on call at home, or who is allowed to leave a message where he/she can be reached, is not working (in most cases) while on call. Additional constraints on the employee’s freedom could require this time to be compensated. However, the states may view it differently.  In most states the degree of control the employer has over the employee’s time and whether the employee is free to use his or her time for his or her own purposes is the guiding factor in whether or not the time is compensable.

9. Holiday/Sick Leave/Vacation Pay

The federal government does not require an employer to provide benefits such as these to the employee and does not count them towards hours worked for overtime.  But the state, county or even city could have a different rule in that area. More and more states or local governments are now requiring paid sick leave or paid leave.  The most recent is Nevada. Massachusetts and Rhode Island both have rules concerning mandated holidays. However, none require that it be included in regular rate of pay.

10.Statements and Payday Notices

The FLSA does not require that an employee be given any type of notification upon hire or when being paid.  But the states generally do have such requirements. These requirements could include giving the employee or posting certain notices regarding benefits and wages.  It may require that the date and time of distribution of paychecks be posted.  One common requirement in 42 states is the employee receive a statement or “paystub” with each payment explaining the breakdown of the check. This statement requirement may be as simple as listing only the deductions made from the check as in Idaho or listing everything including the gross to net wages and all rates and dates. The latest area of compliance concern for payroll is providing electronic pay stubs. Most states with this regulation require a written pay stub to be provided and have not yet allowed “written” to be by electronic means.

 

In Part 4 I will be covering the next four areas that may require research including posting requirements, frequency of payments, methods of payments, and termination requirements.

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 December 3rd.  Register for our lecture on the Ringing in the New Year.  If you are a current Payroll 24/7 subscriber you will receive a 20% discount (use coupon code NY20%).  If you are not a Payroll 24/7 current subscriber you will 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.

Wage and Hour Laws–They are Here, There and Everywhere Part 1

Knowing the wage and hour laws and applying them is one of the basic tasks of employers in general and the payroll department in specific. But if payroll must apply the laws then the question must arise—what are the laws, and which one applies? Payroll chat rooms, blogs and classrooms constantly discuss this question.  How do I know I am in compliance if I don’t know all the laws to follow? We all know there are laws governing the minimum wage and overtime but what else is out there?  Are the employees entitled to a break or meal period? Is vacation pay required?   How is on call pay handled?  Can an employer demand an employee use direct deposit?  And when these questions do arise, where do you find the answers. Can a payroll professional simply check the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to find the answer with a quick verification of any state requirement? Or is the state the main source to go to first with the FLSA as the fall back? The answer is not simple.  In this blog series I will be discussing areas where payroll professionals need to ensure compliance by researching wage and hour laws.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) sets the federal standards for minimum wage, overtime, equal pay, recordkeeping and child labor.  But it does not address all the issues that arise when paying an employee.  It is silent (gives no information or requirements) on such items as when an employee must be paid or the method that needs to be used.  It explains what is considered hours worked concerning meal periods but does not actually require that an employee be given a meal period. States on the other hand are autonomous when it comes to wage and hour laws within their own borders.  The state may mirror a federal law, exceed it, have a version of the same law with lesser requirements or no law governing an area at all. In addition, the state may have a requirement in an area that the FLSA is silent on such as paystubs or rest periods.

For a payroll department to ensure that it is in full compliance with the wage and hour laws it needs to first verify every facet of its payroll process and then verify what laws govern it.  It must start with what are hours worked and how that relates to calculating the gross pay for its employees and follow that through to the rules that governing paycheck distribution and timing. Both federal and state laws need to be included.  In this blog series we will review 23 general areas that could be covered under a wage and hour law on the federal side, the state side or both. We will start with the more common areas known such as white-collar exemptions and move into lesser known regulations such as paystubs and payday notices. Some areas on the list are strictly a state function and requirement while others are both federal and state.  If a conflict exists between a federal and state law the law establishing the higher standard applies.  In other words, the law that gives more money or more time or more benefit to the employee is the winner. It is also important to remember that not only should the labor code be verified but in some states wage orders must also be consulted.  Wage orders are a set of wage and hour regulations issued by the state that apply to only a certain industry or group of workers.

In Part 2 of this blog series I will discuss the first six areas to research.

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.