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Payroll Legal Alert

It’s not quite time to declare victory over year-end 2011. By Jan. 31, employees must receive their W-2s, and the IRS must receive your fourth-quarter Form 941, and Forms 940 and 945. Here’s what Payroll must do now:

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Congress has repealed the dreaded withholding provision under which state and local governments would have been required to withhold 3% of payments made to any payee for goods and services. The provision was slated to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

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Employees can take a lot of the guesswork out of their 2012 income tax liability by ensuring that their W-4s are accurate. Those who need to file new forms due to changes in their personal finances now have the inflation-adjusted figures on which to base those decisions.

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Question: An employee signed up for a cafeteria plan health flexible spending account (FSA). Last February, she had back surgery, which meant that she was reimbursed for the full amount of her annual election. She quit before the balance of her elective deferral could be withheld from her pay. Must we report the amount paid out to her from the FSA, but not yet deducted from her pay, on her W-2?

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W-2s can give you aggravation, sleepless nights, you name it. Here are the critical due dates, as well as six common W-2 errors and easy tips to avoid them:

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Employers that have a noncompensatory business purpose for providing cell phones or related equipment—that includes smartphones and personal digital assistants—to employees may treat their business use as a tax-free working condition fringe benefit and their personal use as a tax-free de mini­mis fringe benefit.

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States, which need to repay the federal loans they took out to pay regular unemployment benefits, are slapping tax surcharges on experience-rated em­­ployers. But if you’re willing to budget just a little bit more to pay so-called voluntary contributions, you may actually come out ahead.

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If dealing with year-end 2011 hasn’t caused enough anxiety, lurking just around the corner is W-2 reporting of employees’ health benefits. If you’ll be filing at least 250 W-2s for 2012 and don’t have a self-insured plan that’s not subject to COBRA, you’re on the hook for health care reporting, beginning next year.

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Winter isn’t a challenging season just because of the lousy weather. It’s tough on payroll staff, who must ensure that the company’s pay policies jibe with the Fair Labor Standards Act when employees leave early, arrive late or just stay home because of snow. Here are the rules for nonexempts and exempts.

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Regulations have re­­stored the FICA/FUTA exemptions for employing family members and members of religious orders in LLCs and other disregarded entities that didn’t elect to be treated as corporations for federal payroll tax purposes. The regs became effective Nov. 1, 2011, but you may apply them to wages paid beginning Jan. 1, 2009.

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