3-Step Method for Responding To Employee Concerns


In the world of Corporate America, it’s only natural for employees to feel the need to add their input regarding situations or happenings within the organization. This can be done in a variety of formats such as, engagement surveys, department meetings, and rumors heard in the hallway. Often times company leadership sees this as a negative thing rather than using it to their advantage. Leaders usually discourage employees from sharing information from the front lines.

Ways in which leadership discredits the information:

#1) Criticize. Leaders will criticize the way info is getting to them. In most cases it is considered “unprofessional” for employees to be gossiping.

#2) Minimize. Leaders will minimize the information by saying that it has been exaggerated or that it is inaccurate.

#3) Defensive. Some leaders may even become defensive of the information coming in, which is turn causes those decisions to lose validity.

#4) Excuse. Leaders will excuse the concerns based on having different intentions.

One main objective of leaders is to provide care for the employee’s experience which is why the above responses are natural. More times than not, the concerns are true regardless of the information being exaggerated or misinterpreted. It’s important to know that leaders should and need to respond to the input in some way.

Though these reactions can be completely natural, they can be equally counterproductive because it could imply that the employee input is wrong. This could lead to 1 of 3 things; 1) they are going to go out of their way to find evidence of being right, 2) they will refrain from bringing up any other issues in the future or 3) decide that leadership is disconnected from reality.

Here are 3 different outcomes for leaders to help employees feel heard:

Ask Questions

It’s natural to want to jump to conclusions and immediately respond to employee input by clarifying or defending. If your employees feel comfortable enough to share input with you, be sure to keep the line of communication open so that the employee feels heard. Therefore, respond with questions so that there are no misunderstandings and in turn employees will be encouraged to be more open in the future. As an added bonus, thank the employee for sharing the input with you.

By following these guidelines, you can lead your department or organization with a much more productive environment!

The Power of Giving Back

Relay 4 Life Marketing

We as a company know that there is an understood communal agreement between community and business, and that philanthropy leads to community building. We are proud to support both local and national charities, knowing that it is our corporate responsibility to give back to the community where we work and live. Every year, we sponsor and engage with the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life.

Our family-oriented culture is just one reason we support Relay For Life. Cancer has touched us all, whether it is our personal health or that of a family member or friend. Because of this, our involvement with the American Cancer Society’s Gwinnett Relay For Life has become the flagship of our philanthropic efforts. Relay For Life (RFL) events comprise the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society bringing together companies, schools, and non-profit organizations for a cause. Every year, the RFL movement raises more than $400 million. The American Cancer Society uses these donations to invest in groundbreaking research in every type of cancer and provides free information and services.

Every year we set a goal with consideration to our sponsor donation, the money we raise internally, and the money we make during the day of the event. Thanks to all of our efforts we were able to raise within the company and with the help of our brokers, Wadley Financial Group, we not only met our goal but we surpassed it!

Starting at the beginning of each year, our internal staff begins to raise funds for the spring event. Each May, we gather our team of staff and family members for the all-night event, where we set up a booth to raise additional money. Past slogans have been, “Cancer, You’re Fired,” “Despicable Cancer,” and “30 Years Dedicated Service to Ending Cancer’s Career.” This year, we went with a Star Wars theme due to the recent release of the last film with the slogan, “Cure Wars. The Hope Awakens.”

Our Efforts
As a company gives back to the community and engages in the spirit of giving to organizations that have a personal significance to its employees, the employees themselves are uplifted, and that flows over into the motivation of employees in both their personal and professional lives. We have found that through our philanthropic efforts, we have not only aligned HR Strategies with other businesses in our community that share the same fundamental goals, but have also furthered our employees’ personal and professional lives.

IRS Marks National Military Appreciation Month

be different - business team

Free Tax Guide Focuses on Tax Benefits for Members of the Military

WASHINGTON — May is National Military Appreciation Month, and the Internal Revenue Service wants members of the military and their families to know about the many tax benefits available to them.

Each year, the IRS publishes Publication 3, Armed Forces Tax Guide, a free booklet packed with valuable information and tips designed to help service members and their families take advantage of all tax benefits allowed by law. This year’s edition is posted on IRS.gov. Available tax benefits include:

  • Combat pay is partly or fully tax-free.
  • Reservists whose reserve-related duties take them more than 100 miles from home can deduct their unreimbursed travel expenses on Form 2106 or Form 2106-EZ, even if they don’t itemize their deductions.
  • Eligible unreimbursed moving expenses are deductible on Form 3903 .
  • Low-and moderate-income service members often qualify for such family-friendly tax benefits as the Earned Income Tax Credit, and a special computation method is available for those who receive combat pay.
  • Low-and moderate-income service members who contribute to an IRA or 401(k)-type retirement plan, such as the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan, can often claim the saver’s credit, also known as the retirement savings contributions credit, on Form 8880.
  • Service members stationed abroad have extra time, until June 15, to file a federal income tax return. Those serving in a combat zone  have even longer, typically until 180 days after they leave the combat zone.
  • Service members may qualify to delay payment of income tax due before or during their period of service. See Publication 3 for details including how to request relief.

Service members who prepare their own return qualify to electronically file their federal return for free using IRS Free File. In addition, the IRS partners with the military through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program to provide free tax preparation to service members and their families at bases in the United States and around the world.

IRS-2016-77, May 19, 2016

Tax Season is Over – It’s Time for a PTC Check-Up

Tax Season

While you may be tempted to forget all about your taxes and your premium tax credit once you’ve filed your tax return, don’t give in to that temptation.

When you applied for assistance to help pay the premiums for 2016 health coverage through the Marketplace, the Marketplace estimated the amount of your premium tax credit. Advance payments are based on an estimate of the premium tax credit that you will claim on your federal income tax return. You may be receiving the benefit of monthly advance payments to lower what you pay out-of-pocket for your monthly premiums.  Doing a PTC check-up now will help you avoid large differences between the advance credit payments made on your behalf and the amount of the premium tax credit you are allowed when you file your tax return next year.

The IRS will either subtract the difference from your refund or add it to your taxes owed. If you ended up owing money due to excess advance payments, you should consider adjusting the amount of those payments now to avoid any issues when you file your 2016 tax return next year. Similarly, if you got a refund that was larger than you expected, you could increase the amount of the advance payments of the credit sent to your provider on your behalf, which will lower what you pay out-of-pocket for your monthly premiums.

The Premium Tax Credit Change Estimator can help you estimate how your premium tax credit will change if your income or family size changes during the year. This estimator tool does not report changes in circumstances to your Marketplace. To report changes and to adjust the amount of your advance payments of the premium tax credit you must contact your Health Insurance Marketplace.

For more information, see the Claiming the Credit and Reconciling Advance Credit Payments page on IRS.gov/aca.

IRS Health Care Tax Tip 2016-49, May 5, 2016

What To Do During Your Employee’s First Week To Avoid Losing Them

work office

We all know how time consuming and tedious it can be to fill a vacant position within your company. It is more important than ever to engage them from day one to retain good, hard-working employees. “There is a direct correlation between effective onboarding and employee retention and engagement,” says Susan Vitale, Chief Marketing Officer for iCIMS. Therefore, the time spent before the first day should equal the time spent during the onboarding process of the first month he/she is employed with your company. Stat 3

If a new employee is going to quit due to not feeling engaged or challenged enough, chances are it will happen within the first six months. Studies show that when you lose an employee after the first year, it costs three times the employee’s salary to recruit, hire, and train someone else.

Bad onboarding costs companies lots of money and job turnover. 91% of first year employees are retained in companies that have a formal onboarding program versus those who don’t, who end up with only 50% retained employees. Below are four checkpoints to reach between the onboarding process and the employee’s first 90 days:

#1) Start Before the First Day

  • Try using forms that can be filled out electronically through a portal. (Employees can fill them out from the comfort of their own home.)
  • Get employees engaged by including a video about company culture.
  • Share performance & business objectives and have the employee get acclimated to the company so they don’t come in blind.

#2) Day One

  • Keep the 1st day simple.
  • Provide “survival” information such as; where to park, where to find the coffee, and where the restrooms are located.
  • Introduce them to other employees so they feel welcomed.
  • Teach the employee about what your company does and  how your company is different from the competition.

#3) The First Week

  • Don’t give too much information on his/her first day. Try stretching it out over their first week to avoid overwhelming the employee.
  • Walk through your companies strategic plans such as what your business objectives are for the year.
  • Make sure the employee understands who will play a role in their performance and who those key people are. A good example would be if they had a computer question, who would they call for IT.

#4) The First 90 Days

  • Ask candid questions about their job and their understanding of the job description.
  • Finally, create a 30-, 60-, 90-day plan. Break down the new hire’s overall objectives into sections during a formal sit-down meeting.

Following these steps, allows not only to make sure the employer and the employee are on the same page, but this allows the opportunity for the employee to provide feedback to their employer. From here, the employer may review their plan of action and how they manage going forward.

If you are interested in an online onboarding program, HR Strategies offers their own OnBoarding system that links with the Web Access system you already use. For more information on how the system works, please reach out to Kristen McFarland at kmcfarland@hr-strategies.com or 678-551-6426.

Tuesday Tax Tip: Deducting Business Expenses


Business expenses are the cost of carrying on a trade or business. These expenses are usually deductible if the business operates to make a profit.

What Can I Deduct?

To be deductible, a business expense must be both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your trade or business. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your trade or business. An expense does not have to be indispensable to be considered necessary.

It is important to separate business expenses from the following expenses:

  • The expenses used to figure the cost of goods sold,
  • Capital Expenses, and
  • Personal Expenses.

Cost of Goods Sold

If your business manufactures products or purchases them for resale, you generally must value inventory at the beginning and end of each tax year to determine your cost of goods sold. Some of your expenses may be included in figuring the cost of goods sold. The cost of goods sold is deducted from your gross receipts to figure your gross profit for the year. If you include an expense in the cost of goods sold, you cannot deduct it again as a business expense.

The following are types of expenses that go into figuring the cost of goods sold.

  • The cost of products or raw materials, including freight
  • Storage
  • Direct labor costs (including contributions to pensions or annuity plans) for workers who produce the products
  • Factory overhead

Under the uniform capitalization rules, you must capitalize the direct costs and part of the indirect costs for certain production or resale activities. Indirect costs include rent, interest, taxes, storage, purchasing, processing, repackaging, handling, and administrative costs.

This rule does not apply to personal property you acquire for resale if your average annual gross receipts (or those of your predecessor) for the preceding 3 tax years are not more than $10 million.

For additional information, refer to the chapter on Cost of Goods Sold, Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Businesses and the chapter on Inventories, Publication 538, Accounting Periods and Methods.

Capital Expenses

You must capitalize, rather than deduct, some costs. These costs are a part of your investment in your business and are called capital expenses. Capital expenses are considered assets in your business. In general, there are three types of costs you capitalize.

  • Business start-up cost (See the note below)
  • Business assets
  • Improvements

Note: You can elect to deduct or amortize certain business start-up costs. Refer to chapters 7 and 8 of Publication 535, Business Expenses.

Personal versus Business Expenses

Generally, you cannot deduct personal, living, or family expenses. However, if you have an expense for something that is used partly for business and partly for personal purposes, divide the total cost between the business and personal parts. You can deduct the business part.

For example, if you borrow money and use 70% of it for business and the other 30% for a family vacation, you can deduct 70% of the interest as a business expense. The remaining 30% is personal interest and is not deductible. Refer to chapter 4 of Publication 535, Business Expenses, for information on deducting interest and the allocation rules.

Business Use of Your Home

If you use part of your home for business, you may be able to deduct expenses for the business use of your home. These expenses may include mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs, and depreciation. Refer to Home Office Deduction and Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home, for more information.

Business Use of Your Car

If you use your car in your business, you can deduct car expenses. If you use your car for both business and personal purposes, you must divide your expenses based on actual mileage. Refer toPublication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses. For a list of current and prior year mileage rates see the Standard Mileage Rates.

Other Types of Business Expenses

  • Employees’ Pay – You can generally deduct the pay you give your employees for the services they perform for your business.
  • Retirement Plans – Retirement plans are savings plans that offer you tax advantages to set aside money for your own, and your employees’ retirement.
  • Rent Expense – Rent is any amount you pay for the use of property you do not own. In general, you can deduct rent as an expense only if the rent is for property you use in your trade or business. If you have or will receive equity in or title to the property, the rent is not deductible.
  • Interest – Business interest expense is an amount charged for the use of money you borrowed for business activities.
  • Taxes – You can deduct various federal, state, local, and foreign taxes directly attributable to your trade or business as business expenses.
  • Insurance – Generally, you can deduct the ordinary and necessary cost of insurance as a business expense, if it is for your trade, business, or profession.

This list is not all inclusive of the types of business expenses that you can deduct. For additional information, refer to Publication 535, Business Expenses.

IRS Tax Tip 2016, May 9, 2016

National Small Business Week: May 1-7, 2016

Small Business Week

As the nation celebrates Small Business Week May 1-7, the IRS will host four free webinars. The webinars will help small business owners with their taxes. The IRS also highlights popular products and services available on IRS.gov.

Here are some details about the free webinars:

  1. Tax Tips for Your New Business, May 2. Small business owners and tax professionals with small business clients who may be starting new endeavors are the focus of this webinar. 

    Topics include:

    • Deciding if it’s a business or hobby
    • Selecting a business structure.
    • Understanding business taxes.
    • Recordkeeping requirements.
    • Choosing a tax preparer.
    • Finding out where to go for IRS help.
  2. Staying Afloat: Planning for Emergencies Before they Happen, May 3. Small business owners, tax professionals and payroll organizations learn about emergency preparedness in this broadcast. 

    Topics include:

    • Business continuity planning.
    • How to create an emergency plan.
    • Employee preparedness.
    • Payroll continuity and supply chain protection.
    • Protecting your records and data.
    • What happens after a disaster is declared.
    • IRS resources to help you plan.
  3. Worker Classification: Employee or Independent Contractor? May 4. This webinar is in Spanish. It teaches Spanish-speaking small business owners, tax professionals and payroll organizations how to classifying workers. 

    Topics include:

    • Differences between employees and independent contractors.
    • Common law rules.
    • Form SS-8.
    • Employment tax obligations.
    • Voluntary classification settlement program.
  4. Tip Reporting and Tips vs. Service Charges, May 5. This webinar provides small business owners, employers, tax professionals and payroll organizations with details on tips and reporting.
    Topics include:

    • Recordkeeping and reporting responsibilities.
    • Understanding the difference between tips and service charges.
    • Filing Form 8027, Employer’s Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips.

All four webinars are an hour long and start at 2 p.m. (ET). Live Q&A sessions with IRS experts will be available. To register and to find out more visit the Webinars for Small Businesses page on IRS.gov.

Many other IRS products and services provide small business owners with the help they need. Here are three pages that you can check out anytime:

  • The Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center is your complete tax resource. For example, you can link to a list of free workshops and events offered in your area. Or visit the IRS Video Portal to watch videos on a wide range of topics, including prior live webinars.
  • The Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center is for sole proprietors and others who are in business for themselves. This site has many useful tips and references to the tax rules that a self-employed person may need to know.
  • The Online Learning and Educational Products page has tools that can help you learn about taxes on your own time, and at your own pace. For example, the IRS Tax Calendar for Businesses and Self-Employed has important tax dates for your business.

Visit IRS.gov to get small business forms and publications. You can also call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to get them by mail.

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2016-06, May 2, 2016

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