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Payroll Legal Alert

The IRS keeps track of your company’s tax liabilities as separate modules in its Business Master File. If, say, your corporate income tax module is short, the IRS can offset that shortfall with an overdeposit from your payroll module. Worse: The IRS can make these offsets without telling you.

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Final IRS regulations exclude from taxpayers’ gross income damage awards for personal physical injuries or illness received from a lawsuit or in settlement of legal claims. The regs delete the requirement that to qualify for the tax exclusion, damages must be based on a tort or tort-type right.

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Q. Employees who don’t use all of their paid time off (PTO) lose it at the end of the company’s fiscal year. Management wants to amend this policy to give employees the option of selling back their unused PTO days to the company at their current pay rates or rolling over the PTO days into the next year. Before Payroll gives its final OK to this plan, we’d like to know if we’re missing anything.

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The IRS recently announced that it has begun conducting correspondence audits of employers that took the 6.2% Social Security tax credit authorized by the 2010 Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has concluded that the audit program remains error-prone, and that those errors affect taxpayers’ rights.

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April is the cruelest month not because it rains ­buckets, but because it’s time to file your first-quarter Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return. Here’s help for Payroll:

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A federal trial court has ruled that an auto body shop’s inside CPA/controller was personally responsible for 100% of its unpaid payroll taxes. It was enough, the court said, that the CPA had some authority over the company’s finances; exclusive authority wasn’t necessary.

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The IRS has retired Form 941-M, which is filed monthly by employers with serious payroll compliance problems. Also retired are the special deposit rules, which required deposits to be made into a special trust fund account within two banking days of payday.

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Q. A new employee was mistakenly paid through Accounts Payable for January, so no federal or state taxes were withheld from his pay. It’s still early in the year, so we’d like to take out the taxes that should have been withheld from later wage payments. But we don’t want to leave him with no net pay. According to our calculations, it should take us two months to withhold the additional taxes. Is this OK?

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Allowing wage-and-hour problems to fester can land you in hot water, which puts a premium on performing a self-audit of your company’s pay policies. But be aware that you may have to provide this so-called self-critical analysis to employees’ attorneys, should they sue you. Take these steps to minimize this possibility:

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A federal appeals court has ruled that an employee-tax protester can’t sue his employer and individual employees for withholding taxes. The court also rejected the employee’s Title VII claim that he was unlawfully terminated for complaining about the withholding.

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