The process of choosing and administering a Health Insurance Benefits Plan can be daunting.
Traditionally, Benefits Brokers offer assistance in choosing plans at renewal time, but typically lack the solutions that help companies operate more efficiently, saving more money.
Ultimately, a Benefits Broker should make the job of the business owner and the company’s human resources (HR) department easier. If a broker is not achieving this goal, it may be time to investigate options for a new broker.
What Your Broker Should Be Doing (and PS - it should be free!)
Establishing a comprehensive health insurance package for employees can be a challenging task for any business owner. The array of choices can seem endless.
Enrollment procedures, legal requirements, and compliance dictates are ever-changing and quite complicated. Even seasoned HR professionals may find the tasks overwhelming - which leads many companies to turn to a Benefits Broker.
The workplace is going to look different over the next several years. With people living longer and often postponing retirement for financial reasons, we are entering a phase where four, possibly even five generations will be working side by side. Over the next few years, this change can lead to employers managing a wide age range of employees from any of these five generations: Traditionalists (born prior to 1946), Baby Boomers (born 1946-64), Generation X (born 1965-78), Generation Y or Millennials (born 1979-1997), and the newest to enter the workforce, Generation Z (born 1998 – ongoing). Each generation has distinct characteristics and values stemming from the particular time in history that they were raised. These common experiences affect their attitudes, motivations, and the way they approach work and life. It is important not to stereotype but to take these general differences into account. Here are some best practices and tips to make the multi-generational workplace more productive and harmonious.
Keep the lines of communication open and establish a process for receiving feedback from everyone. You need to be aware of the particular generational issues that exist in your workplace so you can design your strategy to address any particular concerns.
Establish a Culture of Respect
We recommended addressing the performance issue with the employee as soon as possible.
First, feedback is more effective the more quickly it’s delivered. Waiting to provide feedback increases the likelihood that the employee won’t remember what they did wrong and that they may make the same mistake again.
Second, waiting to provide feedback risks sending the wrong message. The employee might feel that their mistake wasn’t that big of a deal since you waited so long to address it. Worse, they might associate their being disciplined with something else they did more recently—like bringing up a safety concern, reporting harassment, or using sick leave or FMLA.
That said, there are legitimate reasons to wait before disciplining an employee. If the employee went on leave immediately following their performance mistake, for example, you would usually want to wait until they returned to work before addressing the issue. You might also need to wait on any disciplinary action if the incident requires an investigation to determine what actually happened.
When the pandemic began, Melissa Villareal was teaching history to middle schoolers at a private school in a wealthy California neighborhood. It was a job and a field she loved. Now, just over a year later, she’s left teaching entirely, to work in industrial design at a large beauty company.
People like Villareal are leaving their jobs – or thinking about it – in droves. A Microsoft survey of more than 30,000 global workers showed that 41% of workers were considering quitting or changing professions this year, and a study from HR software company Personio of workers in the UK and Ireland showed 38% of those surveyed planned to quit in the next six months to a year. In the US alone, April saw more than four million people quit their jobs, according to a summary from the Department of Labor – the biggest spike on record.
There are a number of reasons people are seeking a change, in what some economists have dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’. For some workers, the pandemic precipitated a shift in priorities, encouraging them to pursue a ‘dream job’, or transition to being a stay-at-home parent. But for many, many others, the decision to leave came as a result of the way their employer treated them during the pandemic.
There’s a harsh tax penalty that you could be at risk for paying personally if you own or manage a business with employees. It’s called the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty and it applies to the Social Security and income taxes required to be withheld by a business from its employees’ wages.
Because taxes are considered property of the government, the employer holds them in “trust” on the government’s behalf until they’re paid over. The penalty is also sometimes called the “100% penalty” because the person liable and responsible for the taxes will be penalized 100% of the taxes due. Accordingly, the amounts IRS seeks when the penalty is applied are usually substantial, and IRS is aggressive in enforcing the penalty.
The Trust Fund Recovery Penalty is among the more dangerous tax penalties because it applies to a broad range of actions and to a wide range of people involved in a business.
Here are some answers to questions about the penalty so you can safely avoid it.
What actions are penalized? The Trust Fund Recovery Penalty applies to any willful failure to collect, or truthfully account for, and pay over Social Security and income taxes required to be withheld from employees’ wages.
Who is at risk? The penalty can be imposed on anyone “responsible” for collection and payment of the tax. This has been broadly defined to include a corporation’s officers, directors and shareholders under a duty to collect and pay the tax as well as a partnership’s partners, or any employee of the business with such a duty. Even voluntary board members of tax-exempt organizations, who are generally exempt from responsibility, can be subject to this penalty under some circumstances. In some cases, responsibility has even been extended to family members close to the business, and to attorneys and accountants.
According to the IRS, responsibility is a matter of status, duty and authority. Anyone with the power to see that the taxes are (or aren’t) paid may be responsible. There’s often more than one responsible person in a business, but each is at risk for the entire penalty. You may not be directly involved with the payroll tax withholding process in your business. But if you learn of a failure to pay over withheld taxes and have the power to pay them but instead make payments to creditors and others, you become a responsible person.
Although a taxpayer held liable can sue other responsible people for contribution, this action must be taken entirely on his or her own after the penalty is paid. It isn’t part of the IRS collection process.
What’s considered “willful?” For actions to be willful, they don’t have to include an overt intent to evade taxes. Simply bending to business pressures and paying bills or obtaining supplies instead of paying over withheld taxes that are due the government is willful behavior. And just because you delegate responsibilities to someone else doesn’t necessarily mean you’re off the hook. Your failure to take care of the job yourself can be treated as the willful element. Using a payroll service is always the smart move, but that does not take the responsibility off you as the business owner.
Never borrow from taxes
Under no circumstances should you fail to withhold taxes or “borrow” from withheld amounts. All funds withheld should be paid over to the government on time. Contact your CPA or payroll provider with any questions about making tax payments.
Need a responsible, trustworthy payroll company? Call Pursers Office NOW
It’s still too early to tell how great the “Great Resignation” will be—or if it even lives up to that description. True, lots of employees are considering changing jobs, but there’s a world of difference between thinking about quitting and actively hunting for a new opportunity. There’s no doubt, though, that employees want more out of their work life, and they’re willing to fight for it or leave if they don’t get it.
What more do these unsatisfied employees want? That depends. The best way to learn what your employees want is to ask them. We can’t stress this enough. Check-ins with managers are an ideal time if both managers and their direct reports are comfortable having such conversations. Anonymous surveys are another option. If nothing else, conduct exit interviews.
But while individual desires vary, they tend to fall into a few general themes: greater freedom and flexibility, a bigger say in the workplace, increased safety and security, and better compensation. Employers that can satisfy these desires have an advantage in today’s job market.
Greater Freedom and Flexibility
Most employees who have experienced the benefits of working from home want remote work to remain an option, at least part of the time. Some appreciate being able to pick up kids from school, take a midday exercise break, or use the bathroom without anyone tracking how much time they’re spending away from their workstation. Others feel relieved to have escaped a workplace marked by harassment or microaggressions. Still others enjoy using their commute time for something personally rewarding or for getting work done.
But remote work isn’t the only way that employees desire greater freedom and flexibility. They also want the liberty to decide their own work schedule or at least receive their schedule in advance, the option to take time off when they need it and without worrying about a smaller paycheck, and ample opportunities to advance their career.
Workers who feel constrained or stalled at work are less likely to stick around. And if they do stay, they’re likely to feel frustrated, perhaps even resentful. Neither attitude inclines one to do their best work.
Tip: Talk with your employees to determine what decisions about their work and their development they can make for themselves.
A Bigger Say in the Workplace
When employees at Google announced the creation of a minority union early this year, a lot of people were taken by surprise. After all, tech employees aren’t exactly known for unionizing, and Google is known for being a great place to work. Some of the union’s goals are what you'd expect—fairer wages and more protection from harassment and retaliation. But the union also seeks to influence how the company conducts business—and with whom. Its members want a say in how their labor is used. "As a tech employee, it's a reasonable ask to ensure that this labor is being used for something positive that makes the world a better place,” one employee told NPR.
Employees at other tech companies feel similar. Two employees at Amazon resigned in protest recently after hundreds of employees unsuccessfully petitioned the company to stop selling a book that they said framed transgender identity as a mental illness.
What these employees want is cultural fit. They want their work and their workplace to align with their beliefs and values. They’re willing to leave if the culture doesn’t suit them, but they also believe the culture isn’t only the employer’s to define. As they see it, the culture belongs to them, too. And some of them will organize protests, perform walkouts, and engage in other forms of concerted activity in an effort to influence the culture.
Tip: Consider whose values take priority in your workplace. Does culture come from the top down or is it a collaborative effort? If employees don’t feel comfortable expressing their opinions about what the culture is and what it should be, what could you do to reassure them and encourage fruitful discussions?
Increased Safety and Security
The COVID pandemic has shined a painfully bright light on workplace health and safety practices—or lack thereof. COVID-related risks and violations abound. According to a study from the University of California, San Francisco, five professions saw an increase in mortality rate higher than 50 percent: agricultural workers, bakers, construction laborers, line cooks, and line workers in warehouses were most at risk.
With health and safety on most people’s minds, there’s a big demand for work that’s physically and mentally healthy. Most employees don’t want a job that puts them in danger of getting a serious illness or causes them psychological harm. Workers want to feel safe, and they’re leaving jobs where they don't.
Tip: Following all recommended safety precautions is a lot to keep track of, but it’s also just the bare minimum. Make sure your employees also feel safe—physically and psychologically. Listen to any concerns they have and do what you can to address them.
The desire for higher pay, additional benefits, on-the-job training, and financial relief are by no means new. But right now, in certain industries, employees have the leverage to demand better compensation. In response, employers in these industries are advertising signing bonuses, $15 an hour minimum pay, and other attractive forms of compensation.
Tip: Develop a compensation strategy that’s responsive to fluctuating costs of labor.
What are entrepreneurship characteristics? It’s an important question when you’re considering self-employment. It’s natural to want to know if you have what it takes before you move forward.
Ask yourself these important questions:
Are You a Visionary?
A primary difference between an employee and an entrepreneur is motivation. Some people are perfectly happy doing the same job or working in the same industry until retirement. They find the consistency comforting, but for others it’s not enough.
Entrepreneurs see new or better ways of doing things and won’t settle for the status quo if it ignores a gap in the marketplace or performs less than optimally. This drive for innovation and change can get them in trouble in a traditional job since their bosses may misinterpret their ideas as criticism. Entrepreneurs are often outspoken, opinionated, and demanding.
Entrepreneurs can’t understand why others don’t see their vision and they crave success in many ways, including a better work/life balance.
Are You Satisfied by Your Hard Work?
Many businesses provide education fringe benefits so their employees can improve their skills and gain additional knowledge. An employee can receive, on a tax-free basis, up to $5,250 each year from his or her employer for educational assistance under a “qualified educational assistance program.”
For this purpose, “education” means any form of instruction or training that improves or develops an individual’s capabilities. It doesn’t matter if it’s job-related or part of a degree program. This includes employer-provided education assistance for graduate-level courses, including those normally taken by an individual pursuing a program leading to a business, medical, law or other advanced academic or professional degree.
The educational assistance must be provided under a separate written plan that’s publicized to your employees, and must meet conditions, including nondiscrimination requirements. In other words, it can’t discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees. In addition, not more than 5% of the amounts paid or incurred by the employer for educational assistance during the year may be provided for individuals who (including their spouses or dependents) who own 5% or more of the business.
No deduction or credit can be taken by the employee for any amount excluded from the employee’s income as an education assistance benefit.
If you pay more than $5,250 for educational benefits for an employee during the year, he or she must generally pay tax on the amount over $5,250. Your business should include the amount in income in the employee’s wages. However, in addition to, or instead of applying, the $5,250 exclusion, an employer can satisfy an employee’s educational expenses, on a nontaxable basis, if the educational assistance is job-related. To qualify as job-related, the educational assistance must:
Educational assistance meeting the above “job-related” rules is excludable from an employee’s income as a working condition fringe benefit.
In addition to education assistance, some employers offer student loan repayment assistance as a recruitment and retention tool. Recent COVID-19 relief laws may provide your employees with tax-free benefits. Contact your CPA to learn more.
In its latest annual poll revealing America's most and least trusted professions, rated according to public perceptions of honesty and ethical standards, Gallup ranked accountants sixth highest, topped only by medical professionals, teachers, and police officers. Nowhere is such trust more critical than in the handling of payroll - a field that, directly or indirectly, affects literally everyone nationwide.
Traditionally, payroll is either handled in-house (particularly in small businesses) or outsourced to dedicated payroll service bureaus. But with the constant effort toward streamlining business operations to save time, cut costs and minimize risk, employers are requesting payroll services from their CPAs and other financial professionals that they already know and trust.
Those pros are listening. A recent survey by business and tax consultancy firm, L. Harris Partners, showed that one in three employers use multiple CPA firms to handle various financial aspects simply because none offer all-inclusive services. And an "Accounting Today" study revealed that far more than half of U.S. CPA firms polled offer payroll and many plan to add the service within the year.
For an increasing number of accounting firms, adding payroll to their service menu is a no-brainer as it offers a deep pool of prospective clients and a high ROI. Investment is minimal, technology and support are abundant and revenue potential is limitless. The North American payroll and HCM market recently hit $7 billion and is growing at a rapid pace.
Intrigued? Call us to learn more about how a partnership between Pursers Office and your CPA firm can take you to new levels.