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Payroll Legal Alert

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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Congress has repealed the dreaded withholding provision under which state and local governments would have been required to withhold 3% of payments made to any payee for goods and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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