Payroll Legal Alert

The Affordable Care Act requires employers of 50 or more full-time em­­ployees to offer them affordable health benefits—or pay free-rider penalties. Benefits are affordable if employees’ contributions don’t exceed 9.5% of their household income and employers pay at least 60%. The IRS has created three optional affordability safe harbors.

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Q: An employee had pretax deductions made from her pay for mass transit passes. She terminated in the middle of January with a balance in her account, which she now wants refunded. Can we do this? If we can, how do we tax the refund?

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The health care reform law required employers to begin notifying employees on March 1 about the availability of state-based exchanges as an option for buying health insurance. But acknowledging the obvious—that the state exchanges are nowhere near ready to go live—the Department of Labor has temporarily rescinded the notice requirement.

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The next 2,000 Forms 941 to audit as part of the IRS’ National Research Project (NRP) have been selected and all audits are open, said Faris Fink, commissioner of the IRS’ Small Business/Self-Employed Division. Fink said the Payroll NRP has shown high rates of compliance, but problems have become evident—notably, problems involving company cars.

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The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the IRS’ request to rehear its decision in U.S. v. Quality Stores, Inc. Having run the gamut at the appellate level, it’s likely that the IRS will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. A petition to the Supreme Court is due April 4.

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While everyone else is watching college basketball’s “March Madness,” paper W-2 filers will be at their desks sorting through those forms for errors and preparing to file W-2c forms. W-2 e-filers have until April 1 to file their original W-2s with the SSA, but even this extra time won’t be enough to avoid the W-2c hook if errors are discovered after filing.

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It’s a frustrating fact of payroll life: Employees lose their W-2s. Here are tips for controlling the reissued W-2 process.

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Q: We have some very thick payroll files, so we’re wondering what we need to keep and for how long. We’d also like to confirm that time cards must be kept for seven years.

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If you didn’t provide employees with notice regarding the health insurance exchanges by March 1, you’re off the hook. The DOL has postponed this notice requirement until late summer or fall, which coincides with the exchanges’ open enrollment period.

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A key portion of the Affordable Care Act health care reform law is the employer play-or-pay provision, also known as the employer mandate. Regulations, which are proposed to become effective for months after Dec. 31, 2013, implement this provision. You may rely on these regs until final regs are issued.

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