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.

The Social Security Wage Base Projections Are Here!

Every year we, in payroll, wait in anticipation for the social security (OASDI) wage base to be announced. This basically heralds in the year end/year beginning processing time.  But for some, maybe those responsible for employment tax budgets or financial reports, the wage bases for future years is a handy thing to have all at once and not just wait for it at the end of the year. For this reason, the Social Security Administration (SSA) publishes their estimates for the social security wage base each year.  The years 2020-2028 are included in this year’s 2019 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds.   The SSA provides three estimates, high, intermediate and low. For example, for 2019, the actual wage base is $132,900. However, the 2018 report projected $132,300 to $136,800.  The following chart lists the projections estimated by SSA (on page 115 of the report) for calendar years 2020 through 2028:

We still have to wait until October or so for the actual 2020 wage base, but the estimates can be useful in predicting future labor costs.

 

Reminder: Keep up with the payroll news by subscribing to Vicki’s e-news alerts, Payroll 24/7.  The latest payroll news when you need it, right to your inbox.

A Fresh Approach to Payroll Training is Coming Your Way!

I am proud to announce that I am once again offering training webinars but this time with a fresh approach.  We are an approved provider by the American Payroll Association (APA).  This means that my training can earn you RCHs as well as enhance your education.  But my training will be different than the usual fare that you get for webinars, even the ones I conduct for other vendors.  Instead of just listening, my webinars or “lectures” as I call them, will be interactive. Let me explain how this works.  I am an adjunct faculty member at Brandman University and am responsible for their Practical Payroll Online program. I do all of the materials for the program as well as teach the courses.  Each year I record various topical lectures for my students to use in each of the five courses.  These “lectures” are provided live to the students at a certain date and time and are recorded using the Zoom software Brandman provides. Students may attend the live event or may choose to view the recorded version, it is up to them. Because these are related to the course work, they include more interaction than standard or traditional webinars. For example, you can ask questions at any time during the lecture just as you would in a live classroom setting. You may have forms to complete (such as the lecture on the Form 941 or Form W-2) or you may have calculations to perform for the child support lecture. Each lecture is a full two hours, so more time to devote to the information and to related questions.

Students enrolled in the Brandman program are permitted to attend the lectures for free and do not receive RCHs.  However, I have had numerous requests to provide payroll training that gives RCHs so this is how I have decided to offer that training to my non-students.  I will post the latest lecture on my website.  All lectures are during normal business hours and usually held on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.  I cannot offer these lectures for free.  There is a fee for APA certification, but I want to keep the costs within everyone’s budgets.  The introductory cost will be $99 per lecture per attendee.  That is two RCHs for less than $100 and no sales pitches or follow-ups about buying anything.  You may sign up with a personal email or with your business email, whichever you prefer.  And you don’t need to worry about getting your questions answered.  Since this is still a “class-room” style setting I am limited to only 20 additional attendees per lecture. So you won’t be lost in the multitude of other attendees vying for attention.

I will be offering our first lectures in May on Travel Pay, Child Support, Multistate Taxation, and Wage and Hour Law.  June’s lectures will include California Wage and Hour Law, Tax Levies and Creditor Garnishments, Payroll Procedures, and Abandoned Wages.  As each lecture is approved by the APA it will be posted to our website and open for registration. You simply pay online for the lecture and you will receive all the info for how to log into the classroom on the day of the lecture within two business days of registering.  After the lecture, your Certificate of Attendance will be issued once we verify you have completed all the required time in the classroom, the required APA polls, and the survey,  usually within 2 weeks after the lecture.

Unfortunately, although the lectures are recorded for use on the Brandman website, I cannot offer the lecture as an on-demand product or after the fact electronic version.  Only live attendees will be accepted. But you always have the option of signing up for the Brandman course which features the lecture and if you complete the tests and quizzes can receive up to 8 RCHs for $200 per course for APA members. One more way to earn RCHs at a low price.

We are very excited to be offering this learning opportunity to our social media network.  We hope you find our lectures informative and useful. Further announcements for exact dates and topics will be coming.

IRS Revises EIN Application Process…hoping to enhance security

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today that starting May 13th only individuals with tax identification numbers may request an Employer Identification Number, or EIN, as the “responsible party” on the application.  This change will prevent entities, such as employer, from using their own EINs to obtain additional EINs. The requirement will apply to both the paper Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number, and the online EIN application.

Individuals named as responsible party must have either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). The IRS is making the announcement now to give entities and their representatives time to identify proper responsible officials and to comply with the new policy.

This change is part of the IRS’s ongoing security review. It provides greater security to the EIN process by requiring an actual individual to be the responsible party and improves transparency. If the employer needs to change the responsible party, it can complete the Form 8822-B, Change of Address or Responsible Party within 60 days of the change.

Entities such as federal, state, local or tribal governments are exempt from the responsible party requirement, as is the military including state national guard units.

 

Reminder: Keep up with the payroll news by subscribing to Vicki’s e-news alerts, Payroll 24/7.  The latest payroll news when you need it, right to your inbox.

 

 

New DOL Wage and Hour Opinion Letters Have Been Delivered. Let’s Look Inside…

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced on March 14th, that they had released new opinion letters on their website.  These letters address the compliance issues related to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Before we review the new opinion letters for the FLSA, let’s do a quick review of what exactly is an opinion letter.

The Wage and Hour Division issues guidance primarily through Opinion Letters, Ruling Letters, Administrator Interpretations, and Field Assistance Bulletins. They are provided on the DOL website.

An interpretation or ruling issued by the Administrator interpreting the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Davis-Bacon Act (DBA), or the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA) is an official ruling or interpretation of the Wage and Hour Division for purposes of the Portal-to-Portal Act. 29 U.S.C. § 259. Such rulings provide a potential good faith reliance defense for actions that may otherwise constitute violations of the FLSA, DBA, or PCA. Prior rulings and interpretations are affected by changes to the applicable statute or regulation so an employer should always periodically review any relevant opinion letters that it uses as a basis for a policy to ensure that changes have not occurred. From time to time the DOL updates its interpretations in response to new information, such as court decisions, and may withdraw a ruling or interpretation in whole or in part.

Now on to the new letters just recently issued.

FLSA2019-1:  This opinion letter clarifies the FLSA wage and recordkeeping requirements for residential janitors and the “good faith” defense. Discusses what to do if the FLSA and state requirements do not match. In this case the state of New York did not consider the employee subject to minimum wage and overtime but the FLSA does.

FLSA2019-2: Addresses the FLSA compliance related to the compensability of time spent participating in an employer-sponsored community service program.

I always encourage employers to use the opinion letters when formulating policy.  If you don’t see an opinion letter that addresses your issue, you may ask for one to be issued on that policy or question by submitting the request online.  Of course, not all requests submitted result in an opinion letter being issued. Or it may be issued but as a non-administrative letter which holds less weight. But it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Reminder: Keep up with the payroll news by subscribing to Vicki’s e-news alerts, Payroll 24/7.  The latest payroll news when you need it, right to your inbox.

Taxpayer Advocate Annual Report: Payroll is Upfront and Center in this Year’s Recommendations

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS.  Its purpose is to ensure that every taxpayer is treated fairly and to help taxpayers know and understand their rights.  The current Taxpayer Advocate is Nina Olson.  Each year the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) releases their Annual Report to Congress.  This report describes the challenges the IRS is facing. Federal law requires that the NTA’s annual report identify at least 20 of the most serious problems encountered by taxpayers and to make administrative and legislative recommendations to mitigate those problems. The following are the highlights of this year’s recommendations that affect payroll:

  1. Alternative to Form W-4: The report recommends scraping the Form W-4 altogether and analyzing the feasibility of adopting an IRS-determined withholding code. This approach is currently being utilized in the U.S. tax administration.  It also recommends that withholding be expanded at the source to encompass not only wages, but taxable interest, pensions, dividends, capital gains, IRS income, unemployment and even, potentially, certain earnings as an independent contractor.
  2. Furnishing Information Returns Electronically: Information return data to taxpayers should be furnished electronically for direct importation into tax return preparation software or to authorized tax return preparers.
  3. Lower Electronic Filing Thresholds: The report recommends requiring employers with more than five employees to file Forms W-2 electronically.
  4. Form 941 Filing: Recommends requiring Form 941 contain information about each employee’s name, address and social security number. To promote electronic filing, direct the IRS to use the fillable form currently on the IRS website and reformat so the form can be electronically filed, at no cost, directly from the website.
  5. Effects of the new tax law and the shutdown on overall IRS workloads: With all of the new tax forms needed to incorporate the changes to the tax code the IRS was overwhelmed. Add to this the shutdown and the antiquated systems (IRS has two of the oldest IT systems in the federal government) and you have a recipe for potential disaster. Because of these issues the IRS is now having to process more than five million pieces of mail and over 87,000 amended returns. All manually. IT modernization was the number one recommendation in this report.

Whether or not the recommendations are implemented is anybody’s guess.  But as the situation is becoming more intense at the IRS for meeting deadlines and handling the workload with antiquated systems it will be well remembered to monitor this report for any upcoming legislative changes.  Especially in the area of electronic filing, lowering thresholds and replacing the Form W-4.

Reminder: Keep up with the payroll news by subscribing to Vicki’s e-news alerts, Payroll 24/7.  The latest payroll news when you need it, right to your inbox.

Average vs. Weighted Average When It Comes to Calculating Overtime Rates–Another Use for Algebra!

Calculating overtime is always tricky.  What rate is the “regular rate of pay” as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a question that must be answered each time for each calculation.  What can make this even more difficult is when the employee works at more than one rate in the workweek.  What rate do you use for the “regular rate of pay” if the employee has two or more hourly rates during the workweek? Can you simply average the different rates or is something more required?  The Department of Labor recently addressed this situation in Opinion Letter FLSA 2018-28, dated December 21, 2018.

Facts of the letter:  The employer in question wanted to determine if their compensation plan, which pays an average hourly rate that may vary from workweek to workweek, complies with the FLSA. It was concerned in both the area of minimum wage and calculating the overtime rate.  The employer pays a different rate for when an employee is working with a client as opposed to when the employee is traveling between clients.  It makes sure that the typical standard rate of pay is $10.00 per hour and if the employee works over 40 hours in any given workweek, they are paid overtime based on the $10.00 rate.

The DOL agreed that the employer followed the minimum wage requirement as the employer is paying well above the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.  However, the problem for the employer is with the rate used to calculate overtime.  According to the letter:

…If the employer always assumes a regular rate of pay of $10 per hour when calculating overtime due, then the employer will not pay all overtime due to employees whose actual regular rate of pay exceeds $10 per hour. 29 C.F.R. § 778.107. Neither an employer nor an employee may arbitrarily choose the regular rate of pay; it is an “actual fact” based on “mathematical computation.” Walling v. Youngerman-Reynolds Hardwood Co., Inc., 325 U.S. 419, 42425 (1945); 29 C.F.R. § 778.108. That said, the compensation plan does comply with the FLSA’s overtime requirements for all employees whose actual regular rates of pay are less than $10 per hour, as an employer may choose to pay an overtime premium in excess of the statutorily required amount.

So what rate should an employer use to calculate the overtime in situations where the employee is working two or more rates within the workweek?  The rate is determined by what is known as a “weighted average” not an average of the rates. The DOL addresses this method in Fact Sheet #23: Overtime Pay Requirements of the FLSAIt reads as follows:

…Where an employee in a single workweek works at two or more different types of work for which different straight-time rates have been established, the regular rate for that week is the weighted average of such rates. That is, the earnings from all such rates are added together and this total is then divided by the total number of hours worked at all jobs. In addition, section 7(g)(2) of the FLSA allows, under specified conditions, the computation of overtime pay based on one and one-half times the hourly rate in effect when the overtime work is performed. The requirements for computing overtime pay pursuant to section 7(g)(2) are prescribed in 29 CFR 778.415 through 778.421.

Here is an example of a weighted average calculation: The employee has worked the following hours at the following rates for the workweek:

Step 1: To determine the weighted average the following calculations would be required:

Step 2: Divide the total earnings by the total hours worked to determine the regular rate of pay

$475.75 divided by 43 = $11.06 (regular rate of pay)

Step 3: Determine the premium pay for overtime by multiplying the regular rate of pay by .5 (or divide by 2) then multiplying that amount by the number of overtime hours

$11.06 x .5 x 3 = $16.59

Step 4: Determine the total weekly compensation by adding the total earnings (step 1) and the premium pay (step 3): $475.75 + $16.59 = $492.34.  $492.34 is the total weekly compensation.

In closing, it must be remembered that it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the regular rate of pay used for overtime calculations is the correct one.

 

Paying Extra to Exempt Employees

I always seem to get questions this time of year about paying overtime or “extra pay” to exempt employees.  Many departments or companies have this time of year as their busiest and want to make sure that exempt employees can earn extra monies during this time without endangering their exempt status or actually converting those employees to nonexempt.  I want to refer my followers to a great blog by Bill Pokorny of Franczek Radelet written for the Wage and Hour Insights blog that answers this exact question. I hope you find it useful.

Election Day a National Holiday?

Well it’s almost over, the 2018 election. Still having a few counts here and there with a runoff election still to come. But all in all, the 2018 election has come and gone. The only thing that remains, as it does after every election cycle here in the United States, is the discussion of making election day a national holiday. But what exactly does a “national holiday” mean here in the United States?

It appears to me that most people who discuss having election day designated as a national holiday don’t understand how holidays work here in this country. The United States does not have national holidays. It’s that simple. Yes, we have days that are designated as a holiday on the federal level. But these days are not official holidays for all employees in the country. They are, rather, the days that federal employees are given off with pay. I have stated this before, in other blogs, but will state once again. The United States is the only country that does not mandate that employees receive days off with pay in honor of national holidays. When I say other countries, I am speaking of course of industrialized countries. But this list of industrialized countries includes Chad, Peru, Slovenia and Sudan. So, we are not only talking about major European countries such as Germany or France. But if we were just looking at European countries let’s take Germany as an example. Germany has one national public holiday which is their German Unity Day, with the remaining 9 to 13 holidays being regulated by what they call their states even though some of them are held nationwide. Now this is in addition to 20 days of vacation as well as additional dates that the employer may give as a public holiday. Yet despite this they have a very strong economy. Yet here in the United States is not mandated for all employees to have the nation’s birthday, July 4th, off with pay.

Therefore, when local, regional, statewide, and national elected officials talk of having our election day as a national holiday it means nothing to the average worker if it were simply to be added to the holidays we already have. Yes, many employees may get Christmas off with pay, or Fourth of July off with pay, but not all employees are required to be given the day off with pay. It all depends on the company’s or employer’s policy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics workers in private industry in the United States receive an average of eight paid holidays per year based on the latest statistics in 2017. Workers in the manufacturing and information industries are more likely to receive paid holidays (97%). But workers in the leisure or hospitality industry only receive paid holidays 37% of the time. Not all workers receive the same holidays or the same number of holidays. For example, again the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that workers in manufacturing and financial activities receive an average of nine paid holidays per year while workers in leisure and hospitality receive an average of six paid holidays per year. For clarification, there are 10 annual federal holidays with Inauguration Day occurring only once every four years for a total of 11 days.

Before you start the discussion of employees who would not be able to have a day off due to their type of work such as first responders, hospitals and even restaurants, other countries have already addressed this issue quite easily.  It is usual for the employee who must work on a “mandated holiday” to have another day off with pay. So, if on a Monday holiday, I would have to work as a police officer, I might get Tuesday or Wednesday off with pay in addition to my normal days off.

My question to all the elected officials and others who advocate a national day off to vote is this:  Where would this national election day fall? Would it establish our first and only mandated national holiday? Or would it just simply be added to the calendar as another day to shop, BBQ or sleep in, if and only if, my employer decided to give me the day off with pay?