W-2 Verification Code Program is Expanding in 2017

I attended the October 5th payroll industry telephone conference call.  On the call Scott Mezistrano, with the IRS Industry Stakeholder Engagement and Strategy, provided the listeners with updated information on the W-2 Verification Code Pilot Program for the 2018 filing season (2017 Forms W-2).

Where the code appears

First just a quick review of the program itself.  It was implemented during the 2016 filing season. Its purpose is to combat tax-related identity theft and tax refund fraud.  It requires a 16-character code be input into box 9 so that the tax filer can be verified when filing taxes electronically.  It only appears on the Form W-2 copies B (filed with the employee’s federal tax return) and C (the employee’s copy).   If the Verification Code (VC) is deemed valid, then the IRS treats the W-2 data submitted with the Form 1040 to be valid, thereby reducing false fraudulently filed tax returns.

For the 2016 Forms W-2 only ADP, Ceridian, Intuit, Paychex, Payroll People, Prime Pay and Ultimate Software participated in the test pilot program. If the taxpayer had a VC it was entered 34% of the time. However, when it was entered, it was validated 97% of the time.

For the 2017 Forms W-2 there will be 10-12 service bureaus or payroll software companies participating in the program. This includes the same companies as in 2016 along with the National Finance Center and a few more payroll service providers.  This should result in approximately 66 million Forms W-2 containing the code.  That results to about 1 in 4 forms that will be filed.

 

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Not All IRS Guidance is as Good as Gold

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.

I Need Your Input: Regular Rate of Pay…Your Payroll System

I recently had a discussion with an associate (also an payroll consultant) about the regular rate of pay and payroll systems in general.  Unfortunately the question we both had, we could not fully answer. So I am turning to my blog followers to help me out.  When I started in payroll we did payroll by hand, including the regular rate of pay calculations.  Of course, systems have improved since 1977.  But my question is…which current systems (whether in-house or service bureau) do regular rate of pay calculations?  For example, I give a bonus to an employee for finishing a project on time (nondiscretionary bonus) and he earned it in the same week it was paid.  For this scenario would your payroll system do the regular rate of pay calculation? Or would you have to do it by hand and add it in?  Second example, an employee receives a monthly commission on sales (hourly employee).  He is paid his commission on July 15th for the month of June.  Would your system be able to recalculate the additional overtime due? Or would you have to do it by hand (Excel spreadsheet)?

If your system does not do the regular rate of pay calculation, did you know this when you bought the system or signed up for the service bureau?

I appreciate any input you might have on the subject.  Please include the name of the system if you can do so. Also please note if you had to have a special  program written to handle the calculations.

Thinking About Getting Your CPP or FPC?

I get a lot of questions on whether or not a payroll professional should get certified and if they should then which certification should they try for first. Should they go right into the CPP exam? Or start off with the FPC and work up to the CPP? Many payroll professionals are even confused as to which certification they could qualify for. In their blog, Payroll News, Symmetry Software has done a very nice and quick comparison of the two certifications offered by the APA. If you are looking to certify but aren’t sure which test to try for, take time to check out the blog today.

Tips vs Service Charges: An IRS Reminder

The IRS wants to make sure that employers understand tax ramifications of the various payments that they make to employees or that their employees might receive.  So the IRS has posted a reminder for employers when it comes to tips verses service charges.  The key difference between the two categories affect the taxation for employees as well as the reporting. So-called “automatic gratuities” and any amount imposed on the customer by the employer are service charges, not tips.  Service charges are generally wages, and they are reported to the employee and the IRS in a manner similar to other wages. On the other hand, special rules apply to both employers and employees for reporting tips. Employers should make sure they know the difference and how they report each to the IRS.

What are tips? Tips are discretionary (optional or extra) payments determined by a customer that employees receive from customers. They include:

  • Cash tips received directly from customers.
  • Tips from customers who leave a tip through electronic settlement or payment. This includes a credit card, debit card, gift card, or any other electronic payment method.
  • The value of any noncash tips, such as tickets, or other items of value.
  • Tip amounts received from other employees paid out through tip pools or tip splitting, or other formal or informal tip sharing arrangements.

Four factors are used to determine whether a payment qualifies as a tip. Normally, all four must apply. To be a tip:

  • The payment must be made free from compulsion;
  • The customer must have the unrestricted right to determine the amount;
  • The payment should not be the subject of negotiations or dictated by employer policy; and
  • Generally, the customer has the right to determine who receives the payment.

If any one of these doesn’t apply, the payment is likely a service charge.

What are service charges? Amounts an employer requires a customer to pay are service charges. This is true even if the employer or employee calls the payment a tip or gratuity. Examples of service charges commonly added to a customer’s check include:

  • Large dining party automatic gratuity
  • Banquet event fee
  • Cruise trip package fee
  • Hotel room service charge
  • Bottle service charge (nightclubs, restaurants)

Generally, service charges are reported as non-tip wages paid to the employee. Some employers keep a portion of the service charges. Only the amounts distributed to employees are non-tip wages to those employees.

All cash tips and noncash tips should be included in an employee’s gross income and subject to federal income taxes.ployers are required to retain employee tip reports, withhold income taxes and the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes from the wages paid, and withhold income taxes and the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes on reported tips from wages (other than tips) or from other funds provided by the employee. In addition, employers are required to pay the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes based on the total wages paid to tipped employees as well as the reported tip income.  Employers must report income tax and Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from their employees’ wages, along with the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, on Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, and deposit these taxes in accordance with federal tax deposit requirements.Tips reported to the employer by the employee must be included in Box 1 (Wages, tips, other compensation), Box 5 (Medicare wages and tips), and Box 7 (Social Security tips) of the employee’s Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. Enter the amount of any uncollected social security tax and Medicare tax in Box 12 of Form W-2. See the General Instructions for Forms W-2 and W-3.

Reporting Service Charges: Employers who distribute service charges to employees should treat them the same as regular wages for tax withholding and filing requirements, as provided in Publication 15, Employer’s Tax Guide. Distributed service charges must be included in Box 1 (Wages, tips, other compensation), Box 3 (Social Security wages), and Box 5 (Medicare wages and tips) of the employee’s Form W-2.

Keep up to date with the latest from the IRS on taxation by subscribing to Payroll 24/7 today.

IRS Looking for Comments on Form 941 Series…Got Any?

Every so often the IRS solicits comments on its various forms. This is an excellent opportunity for payroll professionals to get their two cents in on the forms they must deal with on a regular or sometimes irregular basis.  This time, the IRS is soliciting comments concerning Forms 941 (Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return), 941-PR (Planilla Para La Declaracion Trimestral Del Patrono-LaContribucion Federal Al Seguro Social Y Al Seguro Medicare), 941-SS (Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return-American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), 941-X, Adjusted Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return or Claim for Refund, 941-X(PR), Ajuste a la Declaracion Federal Trimestral del Patrono o Reclamacion de Reembolso, Schedule R, Allocation Schedule for Aggregated Form 941 Filers, Schedule B (Form 941) (Employer’s Record of Federal Tax Liability), Schedule B (Form 941-PR) (Registro Suplementario De La Obligacion Contributiva Federal Del Patrono), and Form 8974 Qualified Small Business Payroll Tax Credit for Increasing Research Activities.

What about the Form 941 or any of the series do you find difficult, needs better explanations, could be revamped or should just be left as is?  Now is the time to speak up.

Written comments should be received on or before July 7, 2017 to be assured of consideration, and should be directed to Laurie Brimmer, Internal Revenue Service, room 6526, 1111 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20224. Requests for additional information or copies of the form and instructions should be directed to Ralph Terry, at Internal Revenue Service, room 6526, 1111 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20224, or through the internet at Ralph.M.Terry@irs.gov.

 

Keep track of all the latest changes to IRS forms by subscribing to Payroll 24/7 today!

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.