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What Employers Should Know About Meal Expense Deductions

meal expense deductions

Nov 16th, 2017 by TRAXPayroll

In the past, employers that chose to cover the meals of their employees who were traveling on business could only deduct a maximum of fifty percent of these expenses through income. However, a new ruling has changed this, giving employers the ability to deduct the complete amount for meal costs. Below are additional details regarding this rule and what it means for employers.

How The Ruling Came About

The American Tax Court ruled that the NHL Boston Bruins owner would be able to deduct the complete amount that was paid for meals for staff members and players during their away games. The court also concluded that the meals for the Boston Bruins fell under the exception of the 50 percent deduction for meal expenses which is listed under the 274 tax code section.

In order for an employer to qualify, they must show that the food was given in a place that is near the business premises of the employer and were distributed before, during or after the workday. The court also pointed out that the NHL requires their teams to play 50 percent of their games outside their hometown and that it is mandatory for players to attend the pregame breakfast. In fact, players can actually be fined and prevented from participating in a game if they’re absent or even late.

Past Court Decisions

In the past court decisions gave employers within the entertainment business the ability to claim deductions for meals. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1999 made a ruling that an owner of a casino in Las Vegas could completely deduct the meal expenses for their employees. The reason for this is due to the costs, which were considered to be in association with an important business purpose which maintained employees on the premises.

However, this has opened a door to whether small businesses in other industries can also claim these deductions. Many of these businesses find it challenging to determine the meal deductions since the meals may not be directly involved with the work schedules of the employees, as compared to traveling athletes or performers, who will do business in a company form.

Records Are Necessary

When costs for food are deducted, you need records to support your claims. Officially, no deduction is possible unless these records are present, but there are some exceptions to the rule. The IRS carefully reviews deductions for food costs since it has a high likelihood of abuse, and if a return is scrutinized, you will be asked to show records. These records must show where, why and when the meal was consumed. You must also provide receipts for the expenses, with the only exception being not having to keep receipts for meals that cost under $75. There are a number of apps that can make it easier to maintain good records, which allow you to input the location, time and date.

The Importance of Communication When Switching Pay Cycles

switching pay cycles

Nov 14th, 2017 by TRAXPayroll

Employees don’t like to be left out of the loop, particularly when it comes to pay cycles. An employer that plans on making a switch should communicate early and frequently, so that employees are aware of what is happening. Most businesses will switch their pay cycles for greater efficiency.

How Employers Should Communicate With Employees

When preparing to change pay cycles, employers should utilize the 5 Ws, which are why, where, what, who and when. Employees should know who is affected by the change, why the change is being implemented, when it will go into effect, and where. People are naturally wary and resistant to change, so it is critical for employers to alleviate anxieties and demonstrate that the switch is important for everyone.

Proposed changes should also be posted to bulletin boards, websites, brochures and other places where employees are likely to read them. Announcements could also be made at company meetings. Changes regarding the delivery dates of paychecks and the days within a pay period will usually result once the new pay cycle is initiated. Employers should understand the calculations that can occur whenever a pay cycle is switched.

How The Pay Cycle Should Be Implemented

A team will need to be formed which will be responsible for planning and executing the next pay cycle. This team will typically consist of members from departments such as finance, information technology and human resources. It is also helpful to include an ombudsman in the group who will not be affected by the change and can therefore make suggestions which are unbiased.

The team will next need to assemble a calendar which demonstrates dates for payment, as well as cutoff times for processing and direct deposit. Everyone on the team should unanimously agree on milestone as well as checkpoint dates. Details are important for this process, as the group will need to assess the effects of moving pay dates backwards or forwards, and should review the deductions and earning codes so that communication can be facilitated regularly and early.

Other Things To Consider

Many states have laws on the books regarding the switching of pay periods, so it is important for employers to be aware of this. It is one of the reasons why many businesses switch to bi-weekly payments from semi-monthly payments, due to requirements from FLSA and other state laws. Some states only allow bi-weekly payments at the maximum, so employers should find out what rules apply to their area of operations.

Another factor to consider is benefits deductions, and the way in which they should be managed. Employees will have concerns regarding deductions from dental or health insurance benefits, so employers must decide how they will approach these. Some choose to switch to twenty six periods, while others choose to skip the deductions for the first payroll or remain at twenty four periods and skip the third payroll two times a year.

Recent Paid Leave Laws Are Being Scrutinized

paid leave laws

Nov 9th, 2017 by TRAXPayroll

New paid leave laws have been recently passed in the states of Washington, Arizona and the District of Columbia. However, these laws have also become the subject of scrutiny, with new developments occurring regularly. Below are some things that employers based in these states should know.

Washington

The Department of Labor in this state, in preparation for the new law which will go into effect in January 2018, has established the 1433 Site to provide the public with guidance as it mandates the two rule sets which will be used to describe and enforce the new law. 1433 is an initiative which received approval in 2016 that requires businesses to give paid sick time to the majority of their workers. It also increases the minimum wage automatically for a number of years consecutively.

Those employed in the state of Washington are expected to gain one hour of paid sick time for each forty hours they work, which gives them time to take care of themselves and members of their family. Public hearings for the first group of rules, which pertain to reporting requirements, notification procedures and the management of records, were held in August. Various businesses in Washington are opposed to this measure and have begun protesting it.

Arizona

The Chamber of Commerce in Arizona has challenged the requirement that businesses based in the state give employees a minimum of three days of paid sick time which went into effect in July of 2017, which resulted from a measure that was approved by voters. The constitutionality of the law has been challenged, to the extent that business owners and the Chamber of Commerce filed suit to block implementation, stating that it is a violation of state law. Their argument is that the ruling is a violation since it mandates the state to use funds without specifying a source of revenue.

District of Columbia

Washington D.C. passed its Universal Paid Leave Act in 2015, which went into effect in April of 2017 and is expected to be funded completely by the fiscal budget for 2018. Regardless, a minimum of five repeal measures are now being reviewed by the D.C. council, particularly the UPLA Amendment Act, which was revealed on June 20th. This measure focuses on alternative ways of establishing paid leave, such as lower payroll taxes for small businesses and employer mandate for larger businesses, or exempting those employers who already give paid leave to their employees.

The UPLA is expected to be funded through at payroll tax of 0.62 percent that employers will pay into a pool which is administered through the government of the District of Columbia, which will distribute the benefits to employees working in the area. The duration of sick leave remains the same, which is 8 weeks for parents who have recently had a child and six weeks to provide care to sick relatives.

 

Managing Payroll For Expats

payroll for expats

Nov 7th, 2017 by TRAXPayroll

It is important for employers to establish a process for recording the noncash and cash payments to ensure that the correct taxes are withheld for expat employees. A number of businesses employ individuals who live overseas, and it is important to ensure that their payroll is properly managed.

An Introduction To Expatriate Payroll

Electronic systems which are used to record the payments which are made to expats must account for the payroll systems which are used in their host countries. This includes transactions which are accounts payable as well as expense reports. The job positions within the company should be specified which are responsible for offering data which is related to the compensation of expats, as it allows for accumulation tracking and procedural documentation.

The problem with using the names of employees as opposed to job positions within the procedural documents is that any requests which are made for payroll could be incorrectly sent to parties that are no longer responsible for tracking the payroll data of expatriates.

Compensation Accumulation

Compensation accumulation is one of the most important aspects of expatriate payroll management. It allows for payroll filings to be accurately completed and is essential for the completion of expat tax returns. Furthermore, compensation accumulation makes it simple to build an administration process. If a company doesn’t do a great job at this, or lacks formal procedures, compensation accumulation will be problematic to say the least.

Procedures and systems for audits which are used for expat payroll must be able to recognize and eradicate any errors in regards to data collection, as these will cause problems that necessitate the filing of adjustment forms or paying extra to fix. It is best for these audits to be performed at regular intervals.

The Role Of Payroll Staff

Payroll staff must be responsible for carefully reviewing the taxability for the various payment types which are tracked for compensation accumulation, and they must be able to recognize the payments which must be taxed differently due to the host country where the expat is based and the home country where they originate. This is necessary to guarantee compliance with the nation’s tax code as well as their filing requirements.

A number of employers outsource the compensation accumulation for expats to third party firms, but should carefully scrutinize the ability of these vendors to account for the procedures and tax laws for both the home and the host country when payment data is processed. A vendor that does not correctly track the nuances between host and home country taxation could cause mistakes which the business that hired them will end up being responsible for.

Businesses that develop plans for expat payroll must recognize that treaties may exist between host and home countries which could determine how the expat employees are taxed. Employers must carefully study double taxation laws, which in many cases will use a 183-day period as the maximum number of work days within a year that an employee working overseas can go without being taxed by the host country.

How To Prepare For 2018 Unemployment Tax Adjustment Rates

unemployment tax adjustment rates

Nov 2nd, 2017 by TRAXPayroll

The fourth quarter of 2017 is near, which means that more states will begin revealing the new rates for unemployment tax which is expected in 2018. States may alter their unemployment tax so that they can maintain the balance of their trust fund. Below are some things employers should know so that they’re prepared.

The unemployment tax is federally mandated and imposes a tax on employers which are used for the purpose of funding workforce agencies. Employers are expected to send this tax yearly, usually by completing Form 940 which is then transmitted to the Internal Revenue Service. The unemployment tax will cover a portion of unemployment insurance administration, as well as job service systems in each state. It also pays a portion of unemployment benefits which are extended, but like most taxes it is subject to change over time.

How Unemployment Taxes Are Structured

Some states will set up a single range for tax rates, which is referred to as a rate table or schedule. From these every employer is given a rate which is determined by their unemployment in association with their yearly payroll. Other states instead maintain multiple schedules, which are determined by the balance of their trust fund. Those which are expected to finalize their unemployment taxes for 2018 include South Dakota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Georgia and Arkansas.

Variations For A Single Schedule

Oklahoma and Georgia both have multiple schedules which are determined upon a primary group of rates. Georgia actually uses 6 schedules which are essentially altered versions of the primary schedule, where every schedule denotes a percentage for which the employer’s primary tax rate schedule may be adjusted.

Oklahoma could utilize basic rates from either one of the four factors which are conditional, or from the unadjusted range which is 0.1 to 5.5 percent. The conditional factors will typically go into effect whenever the state’s trust fund balance is beneath a specific level. Every factor which is conditional will denote assessments which will be added for the tax rate of every rate group.

States Which Use A Single Schedule

New Hampshire and Arkansas both have a single set of rates for employers that are experienced, and for the most part these rates won’t change. Additional surtaxes, rate reductions or assessments can be applied to the basic rate of employers depending on trust fund balance and whether the employer has a negative or positive rating.

South Dakota and Wisconsin

Both Wisconsin and South Dakota will use multiple schedules. These schedules will go into effect based on the balance of the trust fund for unemployment. South Dakota is expected to select rates from up to two schedules for the very first time next year, under measure H.B. 1097 which was signed in March by Governor Daugaard.  To learn more about unemployment taxes which are scheduled for release in 2018, review the Unemployment Insurance Chart.

How Technology Is Fueling Payroll Fraud

payroll fraud

Oct 31st, 2017 by TRAXPayroll

Technology is truly miraculous. It has brought us wireless computing, networking and greater access to information than our ancestors could have dreamed of. However, this technology is not without its downsides. Payroll fraud has become a serious problem for businesses of all sizes, and it is being fueled by technological advances.

How Payroll Fraud Occurs

Fraud involving payroll occurs in many different ways, and as technology continues to advance, criminals will come up with new ways to exploit it. This is why employers must be vigilant, keeping abreast of industry changes and implementing the proper measure to ensure that sensitive data is never compromised. Some fraud is connected to attendance or time, while others involves the counterfeit of benefits, or gaining access to balances and checks for processing.

Fraud can be either external or internal, meaning parties outside the organization attempt to gain access to unauthorized information, or it may be internal, where employees within the organization leak information or use it for their own benefit. Many argue that internal fraud is the most dangerous, as this comes from individuals which the company trusts, who have greater and easier access to information than nonemployees.

The Dangers of Smartphones

While smartphones have provided a number of benefits to both employers and employees, they are also being used to commit payroll fraud. This is possible with the camera that is now installed in most of these devices. An employee can surreptitiously take photos of checks using their smartphone, which can then be used for deposits.

Smartphones have many other capabilities, which are why many high security buildings and installations require them to be placed in a container near the entrance, as visitors are prohibited from carrying them around the premises. Due to the fact that employees working in payroll have access to sensitive documents, companies should consider prohibiting them from carrying their smartphones into these secured areas, as this prevents them from taking photos of documents.

Processing Payroll In-House

Employers that handle their payroll in house should review their security measures carefully, particularly when it comes to password protocols. Both copiers and printers should be situated in areas that are secure, and access to them and the payroll department itself should be restricted. It is highly recommended to implement an automated clearing house if you don’t already use one.

Processing Payroll Through A Third Party

Many small businesses choose to use a third party firm in order to process their payroll. This saves them time and energy, but also places them in a position where a mistake made by the payroll processor could have disastrous consequences. Those who use third parties for their payroll should learn about the security measures they have in place to prevent fraud, and should not do business or provide their payroll data to firms that do not have or maintain adequate security protocols.

How Recent Hurricanes Reinforce The Importance Of Data Backups

data backups

Oct 26th, 2017 by TRAXPayroll

Recent storms such as Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria have reinforced the need for small businesses to prepare by backing up their data. This is true even for companies that are not in hurricane zones. Important records must be safeguarded and emergency plans should be established to help the organization maintain its continuity in the face of the unexpected. Below are some tips for doing this effectively.

Secure Your Sensitive Documents

Companies should make a habit of duplicating documents which are critical, such as bank statements, payroll records and tax returns. They should be stored in containers which are waterproof and which are stored in locked areas which are separated from normal documents. Documents should also be stored electronically and placed on a flash drive, DVD or other forms of removable storage. Storage technology will change and advance over time, but the need to store data won’t.

If You Use Third Party Payroll, Find Out If They Offer Fiduciary Bonds

If your company uses third party payroll, it is critical to find out if they provide fiduciary bonds. The reason for this is because these bonds will protect your company in the event that the payroll service defaults. Many companies make use of third party services to process their payroll more efficiently.

Know The Threats of The Area In Which You’re Based

Hurricane season starts around June and ends by November 30th, so companies which operate in Florida, the Gulf Coast or Caribbean should be aware of this and prepare accordingly. But preparation isn’t limited to companies that operate in Hurricane zones. Natural and manmade disasters can occur anywhere and jeopardize the operations of businesses which are present in the region.

For instance, any company based near an active volcano should be prepared for the possibility of an eruption. Any businesses that operate in California, which has a history of earthquakes, should be prepared for that eventuality. Organizations which operate in unstable countries known for political upheaval or terrorism should have contingencies set in place to rapidly evacuate and protect employees and valuable data.If a nationwide disaster occurs which is federally declared, companies may contact the IRS at 866-562-5227 to talk with someone trained to respond to such emergencies. Employers have the option of asking for backup copies of tax returns which were filed in the past, along with attachments such as tax statements and W-2 forms. This can be done by completing Form 4506.

The Consequences of Not Preparing

Companies that fail to prepare for the unexpected runs the risk of being completely destroyed when disaster occurs. The recommendations here are more for smaller businesses than larger businesses, as most fortune 500 and 1000 corporations have elaborate contingencies including underground vaults and bunkers. It is small and medium sized businesses that have a greater tendency to be lackadaisical when it comes to preparedness, which may partly stem from having access to fewer resources. Regardless, businesses of all sizes must prepare the best way they can.

Forming A Lasting and Lucrative Vendor Relationship

vendor relationship

Oct 24th, 2017 by TRAXPayroll

Maintaining a good relationship with your vendors is important. The company will benefit by having someone that will provide an affordable delivery cost and enhanced service levels. The human resources department will benefit since the vendor’s solution won’t generate extra or distinct payroll work with regard to the delivery model. Below are some ways in which a stronger relationship with vendors can be fomented:

Successful Management Comes From Three Teams

There are three teams whose input is essential for strong relationships with vendors, and these three teams are executive steering, service implementation and delivery, and relationship management. Executive steering is responsible for creating and strengthening the strategic direction of thelarge business, and will provide various assets while managing relationships with clients. Some of their assets consist of equipment or consultants, along with employees.

The implementation and service delivery team is responsible for daily procedures, and will monitor change initiatives while evaluating performance. This team will communicate with vendors regarding updates that need to be made as well as how they should be implemented. Prior to implementation, the client and vendor will need to perform a product overview and create flow charts to show how improvements will occur.

It is also important for clients and vendors to have trust, respect and mutual benefit in working together. Any relationship where these three components are not present will not last. Trust should be considered the foundation of the relationship, and mutual benefit involves the advantages that each party gains by working with the other. Vendors are notorious for over promising and under delivering, so this is something that every business has to consider when deciding if it wants to collaborate with them.

The Importance Of Service Level Agreements

Both parties will need to establish an agreement so that the services which will be rendered can be defined. It is also important to note the time period which the agreement covers. The agreement must designate a specific service level which is agreed to by both parties, and it should identify every fee to be incurred as well as the responsibilities of both groups.

A good agreement will always consist of a provision for disaster recovery. It should be kept up to date and receive the approval of an external auditor, and should include a provision which specifies how sensitive information will be handled in the event of the termination of the agreement. It can be helpful for the vendor and client to establish an advisory board which is comprised of a consortium of clients who will be responsible for giving support and guidance on key issues.

A good advisory board could consist of approximately 5 to 10 people who would serve terms of two years each. It isn’t necessary to have a board which is even numbered since it is the client who would have the final say.

How To Achieve Secure Payroll Processing

secure payroll processing

Oct 19th, 2017 by TRAXPayroll

Payroll is without a doubt one of the most confidential things that small and large businesses are responsible for managing. Should this data fall into the wrong hands, the consequences can be both far reaching and detrimental. Therefore, knowing how to secure payroll processing is essential, and below are some tips which will show you how to do it.

How Can Payroll Be Compromised?

Payroll data entails information involving your employees, such as their Social Security Number, birth dates, home address and bank account numbers. Clearly, if this information is acquired by identity thieves or other criminals it leaves both you and your employees vulnerable to payroll fraud and identity theft. There are two ways in which payroll is compromised, and this is either internally or externally.

Your employees are arguably the greatest potential threat, since they have direct access to the information, particularly if they work in the HR department. Even employees who do not have access to payroll may still attempt to steal it from their co-workers. Even if you believe your employees can be trusted, research shows that small businesses are much more susceptible to payroll fraud than larger institutions. External threats involve criminals and groups that attempt to acquire information through phishing, malware or computer hacking.

How To Protect Your Payroll

Payroll should be processed in a secured room that only authorized employees have access to. The room should be locked and also have security cameras present which show who enters the room and when. By restricting payroll to only a handful of employees, if the data becomes compromised you can quickly narrow down the most likely culprits.

The computers which are used for payroll processing should be equipped with the latest firewalls, and should be regularly updated. Any passwords which are used to secure the computers should be robust, and should be changed regularly with employees who have been recently terminated denied further access. Computers responsible for payroll processing must also use a professional, corporate level anti-virus scanner to ensure they do not become infected. Every company computer should use filters for email spam and employees should be kept up to speed on phishing schemes.

You will also want to regularly perform an audit for payroll. An internal audit is one which is conducted by someone within the organization, while an external audited is carried out by someone outside the company. The purpose of an audit is to ensure the process and numbers are accurate. Employees must also be instructed never to share their personal details with others, even their co-workers. Some companies still maintain their payroll data in physical paper documents, and while these are protected from cyber thieves, you still have to worry about traditional theft. Therefore, physical payroll documents should be placed in filing cabinets which are locked and only accessible with certain keys. Only specific people should have keys to these cabinets and a paper shredder should be used when physical documents need to be disposed of.

How Small Businesses Can Reduce Labor Costs

labor costs

Oct 17th, 2017 by TRAXPayroll

Controlling costs is a fundamental aspect of running a small business, and nothing can increase them faster than labor. For many corporations labor costs will be their most significant expense, and while many attempt to mitigate the issue by paying their employees less, at best this is a temporary fix that will create long term issues. Below are some ways to maintain reasonable costs for labor over long periods of time.

Recruit Freelancers For Work That Is Short Term

There are some projects which do not require the work of a full time employee, and can be delegated to a freelancer instead. Examples of this include website redesign or tax management. Freelancers don’t require the benefits that many employees must receive by law and as such are responsible for their own healthcare and other things of that nature. Recruiting freelancers can save you substantial amounts of money over the long term.

Provide Employees With Cross Training

Employees who prove themselves to be responsible, ambitious and quick learners should be cross trained, or taught multiple skillsets simultaneously. While we live in a society that is increasingly moving towards specialization, being a generalist has its benefits, particularly when it comes to lowering labor costs. An employee that can perform multiple tasks and roles reduces the need to bring in new workers, which keeps costs for labor low.

Use Profit Sharing To Reward Employees Who Sell Your Products

While profit sharing may not seem like a way to reduce your costs for labor, it is. Consider how much you spend on advertising and marketing. What if your employees were offered the opportunity to market and sell the products or services on your behalf, with the understanding that they would receive a cut of the profit by doing so? This would be much more cost effective than hiring new workers, and you would also reduce marketing and advertising costs.

Whereas with advertising and marketing you’re required to spend money up front with the expectation that the exposure will result in increased sales down the road, with profit sharing you only pay employees “after” they’ve already sold your product or service, which is far more efficient and lucrative. While many employers foolishly attempt to keep their costs of labor low by paying their employees less, with profit sharing you can keep your costs low by paying your employees more.

Organize And Streamline Your Work Schedule

The times in which your employees work are just as important as how much they get done. If your weekly schedule is disorganized, you will actually end up paying more than you should be. You should have specific employees working on specific tasks at certain times and if they are cross trained they can focus on different tasks on different days, perhaps rotating with other employees. Time management is a key component in being able to lower costs of labor. The better your time and that of your employees is managed, the more money you’ll hold onto.

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