Payroll Legal Alert

The standard mileage rate, which employers may use to reimburse employees who drive their own cars on business, remains 55.5 cents a mile for 2012. You can also use the standard mileage rate to value employees’ personal use of moderately priced company cars.

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Darn that groundhog! If it knew what payroll administrators know about looming W-2 deadlines, it would never come out of its den. Paper W-2s are due to the Social Security Administration by the end of the month; e-filed forms are due by April 2.

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You couldn’t have direct deposit or online banking without the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network. Unfortunately, online banking through the ACH network has generated a new cyber crime—ACH fraud. Payroll, which uses the ACH network for direct deposits and other transactions, is particularly vulnerable.

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To offset the cost of three new free-trade agreements, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act of 2011 requires states to beef up their unemployment and new-hire reporting laws. Both provisions will affect your payroll operations.

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Employees must be paid for their pre-shift or post-shift activities, if those activities are integral and indispensable to the performance of their principal jobs. That can stretch a workday and possibly require you to pay for employees’ commuting time. But not all pre-shift or post-shift work is the same.

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If you use an accrual method of accounting and allocate money to a bonus pool, you can breathe a sigh of tax deductible relief. The IRS has concluded that employers can take a current tax deduction for a fixed amount of bonuses that will be paid to employees during the next year.

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Payroll doesn’t have time to shake off any lingering holiday blues, since it’s down-to-the-wire time for W-2s. Here are two tax questions about gift cards and staff discounts:

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According to the IRS, the same rules that apply to employees’ tax-free use of cellphones and smartphones also apply to tablets, such as iPads.

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The time to confirm employees’ Social Security numbers is when they’re hired, not when you’re slapped with a lawsuit for unpaid overtime and minimum wage violations. A federal trial court has ruled that an employer was out of bounds in requesting this information.

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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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