I Am Attending Virtual Congress…Are You?

I just completed my registration for the American Payroll Association’s 2017 Virtual Congress & Expo.  This is a free event for APA members which is held every year.  This is the 8th year for the event and the 6th one I will be attending.  This is the online companion to the Annual Congress.  But for me it is the only one I can usually attend.  I love attending the live, real world congress.  I get to meet up with associates, network and gain valuable knowledge.  However, my schedule just doesn’t permit me to take the time off to attend most years. But virtual congress is different. I can attend in the morning, take time to do one of my webinars and be back in the afternoon.  I still get to network with old friends and make new ones using the networking lounge’s chat boards.  I get to see all who are attending and can even contact attendees directly to say hello.  The webinars are always educational.  This year we are looking at such subjects as:

  • State Unemployment Rates: How Did They Arrive at Our Rate?
  • Is this Taxable?
  • Global Payroll
  • Calculations Your High School Teacher Never Taught You

I am really looking forward to these webinars.  Virtual congress is the next best thing if your work schedule or budget just won’t let you attend Congress.  So I hope to “see you there”.  By the way did I mention that you can earn up to 15 RCHs for attending the webinars.  And if you register but can’t attend everything, after the virtual congress concludes, the webinars are then open as on-demand webinars until August.  This is great for me. I can catch up on the ones I had to miss due to work or that were scheduled at the same time as another topic I wanted to check out.

For more info check out the APA website.

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Taxation of Wellness Programs

The Office of Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service has issued a memorandum on “Tax Treatment of Wellness Program Benefits and Employer Reimbursement of Premiums Provided Pre-tax Under a Section 125 Cafeteria Plan”.  Not quite a catchy title I admit but it does contain guidance that is useful.  The two questions  that were at issue are as follows:

  1. May an employer exclude from an employee’s income under section 105 or section 106 cash rewards paid to an employee for participating in a wellness program?
  2.  May an employer exclude from an employee’s income under section 105 or section 106 reimbursements of premiums for participating in a wellness program if the premiums for the wellness program were originally made by salary reduction through a section 125 cafeteria plan?

The conclusion reached by the Chief Counsel was no on both counts. 1. An employer may not exclude from an employee’s gross income payments of cash rewards for participating in a wellness program. 2. An employer may not exclude from an employee’s gross income reimbursements of premiums for participating in a wellness program if the premiums for the wellness program were originally made by salary reduction through a section 125 cafeteria plan.

For those of you who need to research this closer I included the link to the memorandum issued on April 14, 2016 and released on May 27, 2016.  They review three different situations and then provide the law and analysis you may need if this affects any benefits you are offering.

 

Last chance to register for early-bird pricing for our next webinar How to Finally Write Those Payroll Procedures.  Early-bird pricing of only $99 ends at 5pm PDT today.

 

Yes I Have Tests for Tax Law As Well

In the last couple of weeks I have done a couple of blog posts about my white papers on training your employees. The first white paper I did was just on the concept of providing training and how it was a good idea to test your employees to see exactly what training they may need. But the requests kept pouring in for sample tests to use for this purpose. So last week I provided tests on federal and state wage and hour law. This week I’m going to finish up my three-part white paper series on training your payroll staff with a couple of quizzes on tax. There’s a 25 question quiz on federal taxation including supplemental tax rates, deposit periods, Form W-4, and tax rates in general. There is also a 10 question state taxation quiz. I provide the answers for the federal quiz of course, but the state answers would depend on the state so those answers are left blank. I hope you find these quizzes useful in determining the training your employees need. You can request the white paper by going to my website.

 

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Virtual Congress…Almost Like Being There But Without Having to Leave Your Office

Every year the American Payroll Association holds its annual Congress.  Workshops, speakers, exhibit halls all loaded with gads and gads of payroll related topics and products.  Five days of communing with fellow payroll professionals and, of course, earning upwards of 25 RCHs towards recertification.  But that doesn’t come cheap.  Congress alone this year is $1,800, not including travel. Plus it is five days plus travel out of the office. So is the purpose of this blog just to complain about Congress? Emphatically NO! It is a wonderful experience and should be attended whenever circumstances allow.  But what about those of us who either don’t have the budget to attend, or in my case, can’t be out of the office for five days plus travel.  How do we get to enjoy this educational and professional experience?  Why by attending Virtual Congress, of course! The APA has offered a virtual Congress for several years now. I have attended 3 of them and plan on attending again this year. In fact, I just registered this morning when registrations first opened up. What does Virtual Congress offer that compares with Congress?  Well just about everything. You have two general sessions, eight 90- minute educational workshops, a virtual expo, great speakers, the opportunity for up to 14 RCHs and of course, virtual networking with hundreds of other payroll professionals. All of this online and in your office.  And you are not in a vacuum while you attend. You can chat and discuss in between workshops just like at live Congress.  In fact, I find I “meet” more people at Virtual Congress than I did at live Congress because of the way the chats are set up.  And of course, I run into long time associates and old friends.

So what does Virtual Congress cost? Actually it is free if you are an APA member. 14 free RCHs and wonderful educational workshops all while staying in your office. It is actually compatible with iPhone and Android so you can attend on the go if you need to. Virtual Congress is being held May 18-19 so register today.  I know you will find it a rewarding experience just like I have.  I can’t wait!

 

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Training Your Payroll Staff

There is more to running a payroll department than just producing X number of payroll checks every X number of weeks and passing them out.  Payroll not only has to meet the payday deadlines but each and every paycheck must be 100% correct.  Not just mathematically but it must also comply with every federal, state and local wage and hour or tax law that applies to it specifically.  Of course, we can’t forget that is must be process properly through the payroll system itself to ensure that all wages, taxes, employee benefits, other deductions such as garnishments, are reported and paid according to all the rules and regulations that govern them.  So how does a payroll department, whether it is a party of one or twenty, ensure that it is in compliance with this myriad of laws and regulations?  The answer to that question is actually fairly simple.  Make sure the staff is trained in every facet of their individual job duties and that the training is thorough and current.

But just saying out loud my staff needs training is not going to resolve the issue.  Questions arise as to how to set up a training program. These include:  where do I get this training, how do I pay for it with my limited budget and most critical of all, which staff member needs or should receive training on what subjects?  My white paper this week, that is available on my website, deals with  these exact questions and many more when it comes to staff training.  Please stop by and request your copy today. I know you will find it useful.

Early Bird Pricing Closes Today

The early bird pricing for our first webinar of the year, How to Handle Abandoned Wages, closes today. You need to register by 5pm today in order to lock in the $99 price.  Starting tomorrow the price goes back up to $149.  So don’t miss out, register today! This webinar, as with all our webinars, is approved for 1.5 RCHs by the APA.

Studying for the CPP Test Can Be Fun!

Okay so I have roped you in with the title of this blog post, but believe it or not studying for the CPP test can be at least not overwhelming.  I am often asked, as a matter of fact just this morning, “how should I study for the CPP test?”.  And my answer is always the same.  So I thought I would take a few moments and share my thoughts on how to study for this important test without stressing yourself out so much that you flunk the test just from nerves.  Or worse yet, studying some parts too much while only skimming over other parts. Again leading to flunking the test. There are several steps to take to ensure you study what you need, calmly and efficiently. So let me share those with you.

Before you get started you need to get organized.  I recommend creating an excel spreadsheet as a study planner.  Get the test outline from the APA website.  For example under section I Core Payroll Concepts it covers: Worker status; Fair Labor Standards Act; Employment Taxes; etc. List each one of these on the spreadsheet in the first column.  Then locate one or more sources that provides you with information on that subject.  For example, page xxx of Publication 15.  This way you know you are studying every facet of the test and not just those you “like” or “feel comfortable with”.  It also helps you get to know your sources you will be using.  As to those sources:

  1. Get a good source to study as the principle guide.  What do I recommend?  It is the APA test so use the APA guide.  It is that simple.  The Payroll Source is an excellent reference manual but it is an exceptional study guide.  Since the APA touts it as one of the sources you should use why not do so. It has the info, test questions and test quizzes.
  2. Don’t rely just on the one guide.  Read all the publications that apply from the IRS and DOL.  For example read, and I mean actually sit and read, Publication 15, 15-A and 15-B cover to cover at least three times. Also publication 525 is helpful.  DOL has several but the best resource is their website.  Read up on exempt employees and how to calculate overtime. In fact, they have an overtime calculator you can use.  Create an employee with a time sheet that shows 40 hours reg and xxx of overtime at a certain wage.  Give him a bonus discretionary and non-discretionary.  You do the math and then check your math against their calculator. If you don’t match within a penny or two, find out what went wrong. Maybe you don’t understand regular rate of pay. Practice until you can do it in your sleep.
  3. Use the APA website resources such as the Webinar On Demand-Preparing for the 2016 CPP and FPC Exams which is free.  Again it is their test so use their resources.
  4. Create or buy flash cards.  Take the questions in the APA book and write them on one side of a 3×5 card.  Put the correct answer on the back.  These work great when you are at lunch, standing in line at the bank or just want to take a few extra minutes to study without lugging a heavy book around.  Plus by creating the cards you also learn the info.
  5. Record the info and listen to it when you can.  I did this and found it one of the most useful tools.  I would record just one section at a time by basically reading the book, the IRS publication etc., one section at a time and playing it back when I was driving to work and driving home.  Just record enough for the drive.  Once you got that part down go on to the next section.
  6. Do practice tests with full proctoring.  Take the test in the Payroll Source, sit down at a table with a normal chair, have someone time you, and take the test. No distractions, no talking, bathroom breaks count on your time.  It helps relieve real test nerves and gets you use to doing the test under a time deadline.
  7. Chapter study groups. If you do better studying in a group or need others to keep you on track, this would work for you.  They usually have an outline and follow it meeting once or twice a week for several months to cover all the info.  Costs vary but you should check it out if you prefer to study with others.

And finally, but most important, give yourself time to study.  Three months is usually minimum. This is one of the most important business tests you will take.  Do not take it lightly.  Tell family and friends you are taking the test and make sure they understand this isn’t just some silly test, but one that will advance your career. They and you need to take it that seriously.  Don’t try to “squeeze in” a bit of studying here and there. If your life (whether work or home) doesn’t allow for the time to study, then take the test another time.  Remember people who study for the bar exam, the CPA exam or any other type of certification do not do so in their spare time. They make it a major part of their life and so should you.

I hope you find these tips helpful.  If you have any tips that helped you pass the test, please share them.

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