In case you hadn’t heard Congress is working on a tax bill! Yes, a bit snarky there. But this new tax bill does have a direct effect on payroll, especially our year end and year beginning updates. Normally by now we would have received the Notice that gives us the 2018 tax charts, the Form W-4 would have been finalized etc. But we were notified in the monthly IRS payroll industry phone conference call, on Thursday Dec. 7, that these items are on hold until the tax bill is passed or abandoned. Now since it is unlikely this bill will just be abandoned, the massive changes to tax charts, taxing of fringe benefits etc. is going to require extensive updates for the IRS to incorporate. So even if the bill is effective January 1, 2018, which it is indicated to be, don’t expect the new charts immediately. The IRS needs time to “review and implement” the required changes. So what will probably happen is that we will have an “implementation period” as we did in 2009, when new tax legislation was passed. Employers will continue to use the 2017 charts and guidance until the info is received. This may pose a problem as many of the fringe benefits that we currently offer such as transportation passes, educational assistance and relocation may have tax status changes from nontaxable to taxable. So be sure to track these payments or benefits so they can properly taxed if need be when the final bill is implemented.
Nina Olson is with the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS). This is an independent organization within the IRS that assists taxpayers who are experiencing “troubles” with the IRS in getting issued resolve through the “normal channels”. During recent congressional hearing she was asked what seemed like simple questions concerning the types of IRS guidance taxpayers can rely on. But the answer was not simple. She has written a blog; IRS Frequently Asked Questions Can be a Trap for the Unwary on July 26, 2017, that contains excellent information for those of us who need to research tax questions and rely on tax guidance from the IRS. I recommend reading it to ensure you know what you can and cannot rely on when researching the IRS website for tax guidance.
When conducting my webinars on the FLSA requirements one area always seems confusing to attendees and that is the eight types of payments that can be excluded when calculating regular rate of pay. The one found most often to be confusing to my attendees and maybe to you as well is the one that is for bona fide overtime premiums. Bill Pokorny has done an excellent blog post on this subject that I know you will find helpful on this topic. Please take the time to check it out if you offer this type of payment or to improve your general payroll knowledge.
The Department of Labor (DOL) has just announced that they will reinstate the issuance of opinion letters. The action allows the department’s Wage and Hour Division to use opinion letters as one of its methods for providing guidance to covered employers and employees. An opinion letter is an official, written opinion by the Wage and Hour Division of how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by an employer, employee or other entity requesting the opinion. The letters were a division practice for more than 70 years until being stopped and replaced by general guidance in 2010.
“Reinstating opinion letters will benefit employees and employers as they provide a means by which both can develop a clearer understanding of the Fair Labor Standards Act and other statutes,” said Secretary Acosta. “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to helping employers and employees clearly understand their labor responsibilities so employers can concentrate on doing what they do best: growing their businesses and creating jobs.”
The division has established a web page where the public can see if existing agency guidance already addresses their questions or submit a request for an opinion letter. The web page explains what to include in the request, where to submit the request, and where to review existing guidance. The division will exercise discretion in determining which requests for opinion letters will be responded to, and the appropriate form of guidance to be issued.
California has long had a day of rest requirement. In fact it has existed long before overtime and minimum wage. It guarantees an employee “one day’s rest therefrom in seven”. But which employees and what exactly is one day in seven? This was really never litigated before the current case of Mendoza v. Nordstrom in which the ruling was just handed down on May 8th. Rather than my trying to explain the entire court case in a blog, I will, instead, urge you to read the recap of the case as presented by Sheppart Mullin Richter & Hampton’s Brian S. Fong for the Mondaq News Update Service. It is an in-depth look at the ruling and the impact on employers.
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Got a great blog post yesterday from Bill Pokorny, with Wage & Hour Insights concerning paying employees for charity work. During this time of the year this question comes up a lot for payroll professionals. In his June 7th blog he has given a clear and concise answer on when charity work could be considered hours worked. Check out his blog today.
A recent article from RIA told of the following problem:
Mike McGuire from IRS Modernized e-File (MeF) told listeners to the May 4 payroll industry telephone conference call that the IRS has been rejecting “tens of thousands” of 2017 first quarter electronically-filed Forms 941, Schedule B (Report of Tax Liability for Semiweekly Schedule Depositors) because the total tax liability on Schedule B does not agree with the total tax liability on Form 941, line 12 (Total taxes after adjustments and credits). Prior to the 2017 tax year, the total tax liability on Schedule B had to agree with Form 941, line 10 (Total taxes after adjustments), or the IRS would reject it. However, the IRS revised some of the line numbers on Form 941, beginning with the 2017 tax year, to take into account that “qualified small businesses” may now elect to claim a portion of their research credit as a payroll tax credit against their employer FICA tax liability, rather than against their income tax liability. Beginning with the 2017 tax year, the total tax liability on Schedule B must agree with Form 941, line 12 (Total taxes after adjustments and credits) rather than line 10. Some electronic filers have not adjusted their programs to take this change into account. Rejected returns have to be resubmitted to the IRS.
Make sure your system has made this change.