Payroll Legal Alert

Final medical loss ratio (MLR) regulations, which took effect Jan. 1, 2012, require group health in­­surers to spend between 80 and 85 cents of every pre­­mium dollar on medical care and health care quality improvement. Insurers that fall short must make rebates to participants, beginning Aug. 1, 2012.

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This isn’t good news for employees named Chris, Pat or Robin. The Social Security Administration has announced that it has removed the verification of gender from its Social Security Number Verification Services (SSNVS).

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Under the IRS’ Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP), you may change workers’ status from independent contractors to employees for future years. One major concern with VCSP has been potential liability for reclassified workers under the FLSA or state wage payment laws.

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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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