Payroll Legal Alert

Corporate HR departments love nontraditional benefits—perks other than leave, health insurance and retirement benefits—because they’re generally cheap and build loads of employee good will. But many so-called lifestyle benefits are taxable, much to HR’s chagrin.

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Employers should continue to use 2012 withholding tables and personal exemption amounts until further notice.

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The standard mileage rate, which you may use to reimburse employees who drive their own cars on business, increases one penny to 56.5 cents a mile for 2013. You can also use the standard mileage rate to value employees’ personal use of moderately priced company cars.

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The Fair Labor Standards Act is generally a fairly straightforward law—for most of the year. But winter weather—and the delays and closures that sometimes accompany it—can make wage-and-hour compliance more difficult.

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Under the health care reform law, employers of 50 or more full-time em­ployees during the preceding year will pay free-rider penalties if they don’t offer full-time em­­ployees (i.e., those who work at least 30 hours a week) affordable health benefits. How you determine full-time status is the subject of new IRS guidance.

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Negotiations to resolve the “fiscal cliff”—a package of tax increases and spending cuts—that will kick in on Jan. 1, 2013, are taking place at an excruciatingly slow pace. Unfortunately, key payroll issues are caught up in the fracas. Until the impasse is resolved, Payroll can’t begin implementing plans for 2013 operations.

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If you’ve ever been unable to locate former employees who were owed 401(k) plan assets or final paychecks, you’ve probably used the IRS’ letter-forwarding program to try to contact them. No longer.

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Question: We are a public employer. Since employees haven’t had pay raises in more than four years, we will soon be making cash distributions to them. Employees’ survivors will get separate distributions. Are these distributions taxable and how do we report payments made to survivors?

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A federal appeals court has ruled that a bankrupt company’s severance payments qualified as FICA-free supplemental unemployment benefits—also known as SUB pay. Therefore, the court concluded, the company’s $1 million FICA refund claim was proper.

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Commercials for holiday gifts have been running on TV since at least Halloween. So naturally, em­­ployees are making their lists and checking them twice. Perhaps they’re counting on a holiday bonus to pay for it all. If holiday bonuses are in your future, be sure to cover these bases.

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