Coronavirus Update

As I posted in my last blog, many states as well as the federal government are making temporary changes to tax filing deadlines, unemployment insurance requirements and other matters during this pandemic.  The following is a recap of the latest updates that have crossed my desk this week:

Note:  I will be offering a webinar on the payroll related items occurring during this pandemic.  See info at bottom of blog for more details.

Federal: the U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the U.S. Department of Labor (Labor) announced that small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees. This relief to employees and small and midsize businesses is provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Act), signed by President Trump on March 18, 2020. For full details see IRS website’s Coronavirus webpage.

The following states are providing filing or deposit penalty relief or extending deadlines due to the Corona Virus:

 

Unemployment Insurance Update: The following states are waiving waiting times or making other temporary changes:

The following is provided by these states:

San Francisco, California: Workers and Families First Program will provide paid sick leave to impacted workers.

New York: Guaranteed sick leave for New Yorkers under mandatory or precautionary quarantine

I will be offering a webinar/lecture on major impacts that affect payroll professionals due to the pandemic.  It will be held on Friday, April 10, 2020 from 10 am to 11:30 am Pacific time.  More details will be available next week.

Register Today for Our Next Lecture and Receive a 10% Discount

Our next lecture Payroll Lecture Series 102: Multistate Employees: Taxes & Wage Hour Law & Garnishments…Oh My! will be held on Monday, March 30, 2020 from 10 am Pacific to Noon Pacific. This webinar/lecture will cover the difficult areas for compliance when processing payroll for employees who live in one state and work in another or who work in two or more states.  This lecture includes:

  • How to determine state withholding liability
  • Who is a resident
  • How reciprocal agreements affect taxation of wages
  • Resident and nonresident taxation policies
  • The four factor test for state unemployment insurance
  • Income and unemployment taxation of Fringe benefits
  • What wage and hour laws must be followed
  • How to handle income and unemployment insurance taxation for employees working in multiple states
  • How working in multiple states could affect withholding for garnishments
  • Withholding requirements when an employee is in a state temporarily
  • Which states require the use of their own Withholding Allowance Certificate, which states allow either theirs or the Form W-4, and which states don’t have a form
  • Reporting wages for multistate employees on Form W-2

We are an APA approved provider for 2020. This lecture has been submitted to the APA for 2.0 RCHs.  As with all my lectures, my subscribers will receive a 10% discount by using the coupon code EFVMPZC9 at checkout.  But you must register before March 25, 2020 to receive the discount.

Our Next Webinar/Lecture…Multistate Employees

Our next lecture Payroll Lecture Series 102: Multistate Employees: Taxes & Wage Hour Law & Garnishments…Oh My! will be held on Monday, March 30, 2020 from 10 am Pacific to Noon Pacific. This webinar/lecture will cover the difficult areas for compliance when processing payroll for employees who live in one state and work in another or who work in two or more states.  This lecture includes:

  • How to determine state withholding liability
  • Who is a resident
  • How reciprocal agreements affect taxation of wages
  • Resident and nonresident taxation policies
  • The four factor test for state unemployment insurance
  • Income and unemployment taxation of Fringe benefits
  • What wage and hour laws must be followed
  • How to handle income and unemployment insurance taxation for employees working in multiple states
  • How working in multiple states could affect withholding for garnishments
  • Withholding requirements when an employee is in a state temporarily
  • Which states require the use of their own Withholding Allowance Certificate, which states allow either theirs or the Form W-4, and which states don’t have a form
  • Reporting wages for multistate employees on Form W-2

We are an APA approved provider for 2020. This lecture has been submitted to the APA for 2.0 RCHs.  As with all my lectures, my subscribers will receive a 10% discount by using the coupon code EFVMPZC9 at checkout.  But you must register before March 25, 2020 to receive the discount.

The Most Common Mistakes People Make With Payroll and How to Avoid Them on a Global Scale

I have a guest blogger today who is addressing general issues for a global payroll.  I thought you would find it very informative. It is submitted by Lingappa Amiyappa, General Manager–Payroll Operations, Paybooks Technologies India Pvt. Ltd. Their website is www.paybooks.in. 

Every business which has employees must have a process in place to handle payroll, deductions, paying taxes to the state and central government, on time. The payroll process must work like a well-oiled engine – it is one of the most under-appreciated aspects of running a business but the most important. Not to mention that when mistakes happen, then the impact on a business can be bad.

The good thing is that most of the common errors which crop up during processing can be avoided by planning well, getting the right tools, and hiring the right people for the job. Training on an ongoing basis will also help payroll specialists keep up with the changes in the tax structure, learn how to catch mistakes early, avoid or fix them as needed.

That said, here is a look at some of the common payroll mistakes and how to avoid them.

  1. Incomplete records: This is one of the major reasons for mistakes in payroll. Though the requirements vary from country to country, employers are required to maintain employee records for multiple years. These should include hours worked, rate of payment, date of disbursement, etc. Having incomplete and less information like misspelt names, wrong ID numbers, etc. can result in penalties as it takes many man-hours to fix these problems.
  2. Incorrect employee classification: With more temporary employees, contractors, and consultants becoming part of the workforce, it is essential for a company to keep proper records. Proper classification makes it easier to send out paychecks as well as determine tax reporting.
  3. Missed deadlines: Since payroll activity is carried out regularly, it is essential that the payroll team marks the calendar for reporting deposits and paying payroll taxes to the central and state governments on time.
  4. Tax-related forms not sent: All employees, especially contractors must receive Form 16s every quarter so that they can file their tax returns. In the process of trying to do payroll and send out information, payroll teams have missed sending these forms out.
  5. Wrong calculations on overtime payments: Companies have guidelines in place on determining overtime pay. If it is not calculated properly, then it can cause problems and unhappy employees. This can happen if the employee classification is wrong. In some cases, the employees don’t get the overtime payment they are entitled to.
  6. Overdependence on software: There are excellent software products which are used to do payroll activities. As always, results depend on the person putting in the information. In the process of trying to do things quickly, some information gets left out and subsequent calculations are incorrect. The software can prompt the user for information, but this may not always be the case.
  7. Unsaved payroll records: Even though requirements vary from state to state, every company should save payroll records for a minimum of 5 to 6 years.
  8. Lack of confidentiality: Payroll teams should not share private and sensitive information with other employees as this can cause disagreements. Only senior managers and people in the payroll department can have access to this information.
  9. Inadequate personnel: Payroll teams should have enough people to carry out related tasks. When there is just one person to do the job and he/she falls sick, the work comes to a stop and causes delays. Not just that, it is always sensible to have back-up systems which can be used in case of computer failure.

 Tips on avoiding errors while doing payroll

 There are many things a payroll processor can do to avoid the errors listed above. Including the following tips into the payroll process will help you note and avoid errors before they creep in. A little care and attention go a long way in making the process fast, accurate and easy.

  • Getting the right tools – Don’t want payroll mistakes disrupting your company and employees? Do some research and find the right payroll and HRIS packages. These must be integrated so that the HRIS manages vital employee information like ID numbers, bank account numbers, wages, hours worked, deductions etc. and these can be used by the payroll system every month to pay wages/salaries. Payroll systems, when synced with the HRIS, will automate tedious tasks. Payroll software does critical tasks such as file taxes, distribute paychecks, automate leaves, etc.
  • Stay current on information – Many payroll errors occur because payroll processors don’t have enough or the most updated information. As laws and tax codes change frequently, it is important for them to stay updated. This is even more important if the organization has a global presence. Requiring payroll admins to do regular checks on employee status and other information can reduce error rate drastically.
  • Analyzing Reports – Payroll software have a reports feature and generating one before sending out paychecks can cut down on mistakes. Getting the following reports will reduce error rate – deductions, payroll register and company’s cash requirements.

If payroll with errors has already been processed, fix it by reporting the error to the tax authorities. Your company may have to pay penalties, but it could get worse if the problem is not fixed. In case of minor errors, you could do one or all of the following:

  • Cancel the current payroll and reissue once updates are done
  • Run payroll manually in addition and adjust only for those employees whose payroll has errors
  • Ensure that corrections have been made so that they don’t occur in the next payroll cycle

Summary

Once payroll errors have been noticed, figuring out where they are and fixing them will ensure a smooth process every pay period. Processing payroll is not the easiest job considering the number of things that must be correct. Incorrect or late payroll can have a big effect on employee morale, so it is important to do it right every time.

More DOL Opinion Letters Issued

The U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced that it issued two new opinion letters that address compliance issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  As a review, an opinion letter is an official, written opinion by the Department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the person or entity that requested the letter. The opinion letters issued are:

  • FLSA2020-1: Addressing calculating overtime pay for a non-discretionary lump sum bonus paid at the end of a multi-week training period.
    • The background: the employer informs its employees in advance that they will be eligible to receive a lump sum bonus of $3,000 if they successfully complete ten weeks of training and agree to continue training for an additional eight weeks. You acknowledge that the bonus is nondiscretionary. The employee does not have to complete the additional eight weeks of training, however, to retain the lump sum bonus.
    • The opinion: As an initial matter, the lump sum bonus paid to your client’s employees must be included in the regular rate of pay as it is an inducement for employees to complete the ten-week training period. Because the employer pays the lump sum bonus to employees for completing the ten-week training and agreeing to additional training without having to finish the additional training, the lump sum bonus amount must be allocated to the initial ten-week training period. Based on the facts provided, it is appropriate for the employer to allocate the lump sum bonus of $3,000 equally to each week of the ten-week training period. Each week of the ten weeks counts equally in fulfilling the criteria for receiving the lump sum bonus, as missing any week (regardless of whether the employee worked overtime in that week) disqualifies the employee from receiving the lump sum bonus.
  • FLSA2020-2: Addressing whether per-project payments satisfy the salary basis test for exemption.
    • The background: the company employs educational consultants to provide services to schools and school districts throughout the country. These educational consultants are assigned to projects lasting various periods of time. The Department of Labor assumed that educational consultants meet the duties tests of the administrative or professional exemptions. The company will determine educational consultants’ compensation on a per-project basis regardless of the amount of time required to complete the project. The company will make payments for the project in “equal pre-determined installments” biweekly or monthly. The company provided two examples with the opinion request.
      • Example 1: for developing a new literacy curriculum, the educational consultant will receive a predetermined amount in 20 biweekly installments paid throughout the district’s academic year. That the amounts of these payments will not vary from week to week or month to month based on the number of hours worked by the consultant on the project and, for purposes here, the DOL presumed they will not vary based on the quality of the work performed. As a result, this payment structure satisfies the requirement that employees be paid a predetermined amount constituting all or part of the employee’s compensation” paid weekly or less frequently, provided the payments are not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed.
      • Example 2: the same educational consultant in example 1, is assigned to a second eight-week assignment (Project Two) while continuing to work on the original assignment. For completing the second project, in addition to payments received for work on the first project, the consultant will be paid $6,000 in four $1,500 biweekly installments, for a total of $5,500 per pay period during the eight weeks in which the projects overlap. The employer’s payments for the second project also satisfy the requirements as “extra” compensation under the regulations.
    • The Opinion: Both examples met the requirements for payments under the salary basis rule.

Lock In Letter Guidance Updated by IRS

The new Form W-4 just keeps on providing more and more info for us payroll professionals.  We now turn to handling lock-in letters.  The IRS has updated its FAQs to explain how to handle the lock-in letters using the new 2020 Form W-4.  As a quick review on the background of lock-in letters.

If the IRS determines that an employee does not have enough withholding, they will notify the employer to increase the amount of withholding tax by issuing a “lock-in” letter that specifies the withholding arrangement permitted for the employee. The employer will also receive a copy for the employee that identifies the withholding arrangement permitted and the process by which the employee can provide additional information to the IRS for purposes of determining the appropriate withholding arrangement. If the employee still works for for the employer, the employer must furnish the employee copy to the employee. If the employee NO LONGER WORKS for the employer, NO ACTION IS REQUIRED. However, if the employee should return to work within twelve (12) months, the employer should begin withholding income tax from the employee’s wages based on the withholding arrangement stated in this letter. The employee will be given a period of time before the lock-in rate is effective to submit for approval to the IRS a new Form W-4 and a statement supporting the claims made on the Form W-4 that would decrease federal income tax withholding. The employee must send the Form W-4 and statement directly to the IRS office designated on the lock-in letter. The employer must withhold tax in accordance with the lock-in letter as of the date specified in the lock-in letter, unless otherwise notified by the IRS. The employer will be required to take this action no sooner than 60 calendar days after the date of the lock-in letter. Once a lock-in rate is effective, an employer cannot decrease withholding unless approved by the IRS.

The new FAQs include:

  • how to handle revised W-4s after the lock-in letter is received
  • How to handle a modification letter
  • Handling employee self service portals and lock-in letter

The site still includes info on how to handle lock-in letters using the 2019 and prior forms.

 

Last Day for Discount Registration to Upcoming Webinar

Only one day left to register for our upcoming webinar Payroll Lecture Series #101: Handling IRS Forms in 2020 and receive your 10% discount as a subscriber to my blog.  You don’t want to miss this information-packed webinar on the IRS forms for 2020 including the new and improved (?) Form W-4.  Register today and use coupon code VVJECAXH at checkout to receive your discount.

IRS Issues Proposed Regs for Withholding

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service have issued proposed regulations updating the federal income tax withholding rules to reflect changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and other legislation.

In general, the proposed regulations, available now in the Federal Register, are designed to accommodate the redesigned Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, to be used starting in 2020, and the related tables and computational procedures in Publication 15-T, Federal Income Tax Withholding Methods. The proposed regulations and related guidance do not require employees to furnish a new Form W-4 solely because of the redesign of the Form W-4.

Employees who have a Form W-4 on file with their employer from years prior to 2020 generally will continue to have their withholding determined based on that form.

To assist with computation of income tax withholding, the redesigned Form W-4 no longer uses an employee’s marital status and withholding allowances, which were tied to the value of the personal exemption. Due to TCJA changes, employees can no longer claim personal exemptions. Instead, income tax withholding using the redesigned Form W-4 will generally be based on the employee’s expected filing status and standard deduction for the year.

The Form W-4 is also redesigned to make it easier for employees with more than one job at the same time or married employees who file jointly with their working spouses to withhold the proper amount of tax.

In addition, employees can choose to have itemized deductions, the child tax credit, and other tax benefits reflected in their withholding for the year. As in the past, employees can choose to have an employer withhold a flat-dollar extra amount each pay period to cover, for example, income they receive from other sources that is not subject to withholding. Under the proposed regulations, employees now also have the option to request that employers withhold additional tax by reporting income from other sources not subject to withholding on the Form W-4.

The proposed regulations permit employees to use the new IRS Tax Withholding Estimator (discussed in our previous blog)  to help them accurately fill out Form W-4. As in the past, taxpayers may use the worksheets in the instructions to Form W-4 and in Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, to assist them in filling out this form correctly.

The proposed regulations also address a variety of other income tax withholding issues. For example, the proposed regulations provide flexibility in how employees who fail to furnish Forms W-4 should be treated. Starting in 2020, employers must treat new employees who fail to furnish a properly completed Form W-4 as single and withhold using the standard deduction and no other adjustments. Before 2020, employers in this situation were required to withhold as if the employee was single and claiming zero allowances.

In addition, the proposed regulations provide rules on when employees must furnish a new Form W-4 for changed circumstances, update the regulations for the lock-in letter program, and eliminate the combined income tax and FICA (Social Security and Medicare) tax withholding tables.

Treasury and IRS welcome public comment on these proposed regulations. See the proposed regulations for details. Updates on TCJA implementation can be found on the Tax Reform page of IRS.gov.

Discount on Upcoming Webinar for Blog Subscribers

Our first lecture/webinar of 2020 will be held on February 28, 2020. The topic is Handling IRS Forms in 2020.  My blog subscribers will receive a 10% discount if you register before February 21, 2020.  The price of this webinar is $149.  The topics covered include:

  • Completely new and revamped 2020 Form W-4, step by step review
  • 2020 Form W-2, box by box review
  • 2020 Form 941, line by line review
  • How to correct the 941 using the 941X
  • Correcting the Form W-2 with Form W-2c

This lecture will be held on Friday, February 28, 2020 from 10am Pacific to Noon Pacific.  It has been submitted to the APA for 2.0 RCHs.

As with all my lectures, my subscribers will receive a 10% discount by using the coupon code VVJECAXH at checkout.  But you must register before February 21, 2020 to receive the discount.

IRS Tax Estimator Gets Latest Update

The Internal Revenue Service has launched a new and improved Tax Withholding Estimator, designed to help workers target the refund they want by having the right amount of federal income tax taken out of their pay. The Tax Withholding Estimator, now available on IRS.gov, incorporates the changes from the redesigned Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, that employees can fill out and give to their employers this year. The IRS urges everyone to see if they need to adjust their withholding by using the Tax Withholding Estimator to perform a Paycheck Checkup. If an adjustment is needed, the Tax Withholding Estimator gives specific recommendations on how to fill out their employer’s online Form W-4 or provides the PDF form with key parts filled out.

To help workers more effectively adjust their withholding, the improved Tax Withholding Estimator features a customized refund slider that allows users to choose the refund amount they prefer from a range of different refund amounts. The exact refund range shown is customized based on the tax information entered by that user. Based on the refund amount selected, the Tax Withholding Estimator will give the worker specific recommendations on how to fill out their W-4. This new feature allows users who seek either larger refunds at the end of the year or more money on their paychecks throughout the year to have just the right amount withheld to meet their preference.

The new Tax Withholding Estimator also features several other enhancements, including one allowing anyone who expects to receive a bonus to indicate whether tax will be withheld. In addition, improvements added last summer continue to be available, including mobile-friendly design, handling of pension income, Social Security benefits and self-employment tax.

Starting in 2020, income tax withholding is no longer based on an employee’s marital status and withholding allowances, tied to the value of the personal exemption. Instead, income tax withholding is generally based on the worker’s expected filing status and standard deduction for the year. In addition, workers can choose to have itemized deductions, the Child Tax Credit and other tax benefits reflected in their withholding for the year. It is important for people with more than one job at a time (including families in which both spouses work) to adjust their withholding to avoid having too little withheld. Using the Tax Withholding Estimator is the most accurate way to do this.

As in the past, employees can also choose to have an employer withhold an additional flat-dollar amount each pay period to cover, for example, income they receive from the gig economy, self-employment, or other sources that is not subject to withholding. For more information about the updated Tax Withholding Estimator and the redesigned 2020 Form W-4, visit IRS.gov.

Keep up on all the latest payroll news for 2020.  Subscribe to Payroll 24/7 today.  Only $149 per year to keep totally informed.  What a Deal!!

 

Our new payroll lecture series for 2020 is here.  Our first lecture is on IRS forms for 2020, including Forms 941, W-2 and W-4.  It will be held on Friday, February 28, 2020 from 10am Pacific to Noon Pacific.  Cost is only $149 for this 2-hour lecture, which has been submitted to the APA for 2 RCHs.  My blog subscribers receive a 10% discount if you register before February 21st. Use coupon code VVJECAXH at checkout to receive your discount.