Steps to Address Employee Theft

Employee theft2

There are many forms of employee theft. Some of which include theft by stealing tangible items (money, products or supplies), confidential information (customer lists, formulas), or time (falsifying time records). All the above have become all-too-familiar for employers. Below are 3 steps you can take to reduce employee theft:

  1. Surveillance
    • Install video cameras in areas that you think might be susceptible to theft.
    • Check the laws in your state for limitations on where you can have video surveillance.
    • Do not place cameras in obvious places where employees expect to have legitimate privacy (i.e. restrooms, changing areas or locker rooms).
      • Be sure to notify your employees of any new surveillance installations.
  2. Timecard Audits
    • Regularly audit employee timecards, reviewing for discrepancies that may indicate falsified time.
  3. Protect Confidential Information
    • Develop company policies and procedures to protect confidential information
      • Put in place a Confidentiality & Trade Secrets Policy
    • Remove any administrative access that employees may have on their computer.
    • Prohibit the copying of company files to anything they can take home with them.

If you suspect an employee of stealing, remember the following:

  1. Investigate
    • Conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the suspected theft and carefully document the results.
  2. Handling Termination
    • Consider how you communicate the reason for termination to the employee.
    • Tell the employee that the reason for termination is because of policy violations, lack of trust, or loss of confidence, instead of telling the employee that he/she is being terminated because of theft.
  3. Withholding Pay
    • Under no circumstances should an employer withhold the value of the lost property from the employee’s pay. Instead, consult with an HR Professional (aka HR Strategies) to determine the options available to you to recoup lost property.

If you have any questions, or would like HR Strategies to help you put a Confidentiality & Trade Secrets Policy in place, please call your HR Consultant at 770-339-0000, option 3.

ITIN Renewals Begin in October

ITIN2

The Internal Revenue Service today announced important changes to help taxpayers comply with revisions to the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) program made under a new law. The changes require some taxpayers to renew their ITINs beginning in October.

The new law will mean ITINs that have not been used on a federal tax return at least once in the last three years will no longer be valid for use on a tax return unless renewed by the taxpayer. In addition, ITINs issued prior to 2013 that have been used on a federal tax return in the last three years will need to be renewed starting this fall, and the IRS is putting in place a rolling renewal schedule, described below, to assist taxpayers.

If taxpayers have an expired ITIN and don’t renew before filing a tax return next year, they could face a refund delay and may be ineligible for certain tax credits, such as the Child Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit, until the ITIN is renewed.

“The ITIN program is critical to allow millions of people to meet their tax obligations,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The IRS will be taking steps to help taxpayers with these changes, and we’re designing this effort to minimize the burden as much as possible. We will be working with partner groups on an outreach effort to share information about these changes to ensure people understand what they need to do in advance of next year’s tax season.”

The ITIN changes are required by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act enacted by Congress in December 2015. These provisions, along with new procedures to help taxpayers navigate these changes, are outlined in IRS Notice 2016-48, which was released today.

Who Has to Renew an ITIN

The IRS emphasizes that no action is needed by ITIN holders if they don’t need to file a tax return next year. There are two key groups of ITIN holders who may need to renew an ITIN so it will be in effect for returns filed in 2017:

  • Unused ITINs. ITINs not used on a federal income tax return in the last three years (covering 2013, 2014, or 2015) will no longer be valid to use on a tax return as of Jan. 1, 2017. ITIN holders in this group who need to file a tax return next year will need to renew their ITINs. The renewal period begins Oct. 1, 2016.
  • Expiring ITINs. ITINs issued before 2013 will begin expiring this year, and taxpayers will need to renew them on a rolling basis. The first ITINs that will expire under this schedule are those with middle digits of 78 and 79 (Example: 9XX-78-XXXX). The renewal period for these ITINs begins Oct. 1, 2016. The IRS will mail letters to this group of taxpayers starting in August to inform them of the need to renew their ITINs if they need to file a tax return and explain steps they need to take. The schedule for expiration and renewal of ITINs that do not have middle digits of 78 and 79 will be announced at a future date.

How to Renew an ITIN

Only ITIN holders who need to file a tax return need to renew their ITINs. Others do not need to take any action.

Starting Oct. 1, 2016, ITIN holders can begin renewing ITINs that are no longer in effect because of three years of nonuse or that have a middle digit of 78 or 79.  To renew an ITIN, taxpayers must complete a Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, follow the instructions and include all information and documentation required. To reduce burden on taxpayers, the IRS will not require individuals renewing an ITIN to attach a tax return when submitting their Form W-7. Taxpayers are reminded to use the newest version of the Form W-7 available at the time of renewal which will be posted in September (Use version “Rev. 9-2016”).

There are three methods taxpayers can use to submit their W-7 application package to renew their ITIN. They can:

  • Mail their Form W-7 — along with the original identification documents or certified copies by the agency that issued them — to the IRS address listed on the form (identification documents will be returned within 60 days),
  • Use one of the many IRS authorized Certified Acceptance Agents or Acceptance Agents around the country, or
  • In advance, call and make an appointment at an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center in lieu of mailing original identification documents to the IRS.

Other Steps to Help Taxpayers

To make this renewal effort easier and reduce paperwork, the IRS will be offering a family option for ITIN renewal. If any individual having an ITIN middle digit of 78 or 79 receives a renewal letter from the IRS, they can choose to renew the ITINs of all of their family members at the same time rather than doing them separately over several years. Family members include the tax filer, the spouse and any dependents claimed on their tax return.

The IRS is also working closely with a variety of partner and outreach groups to share information about the ITIN changes and help raise awareness about the new guidelines. The IRS will be providing additional information and material to share with these groups and taxpayers in the near future.

“We encourage people who need to renew their ITINs to plan ahead and take action this fall to avoid issues when they file tax returns in early 2017,” Koskinen said.

New requirement for dependents whose passports do not have a date of entry into the U.S.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2016, the IRS will no longer accept passports that do not have a date of entry into the U.S. as a stand-alone identification document for dependents from countries other than Canada or Mexico or dependents of military members overseas. Affected applicants will now be required to submit either U.S. medical records for dependents under age six or U.S. school records for dependents under age 18, along with the passport. Dependents aged 18 and over can submit a rental or bank statement or a utility bill listing the applicant’s name and U.S. address, along with their passport.

Other information about ITINs

ITINs are for federal tax purposes only and are not intended to serve any other purpose. ITINs that are only used on information returns filed with the IRS by third parties do not need to be renewed. An ITIN does not authorize one to work in the United States or provide eligibility for Social Security benefits or the Earned Income Tax Credit. ITINs are not valid identification outside the tax system and do not establish immigration status.

IR-2016-100, Aug. 4, 2016

6 Critical Leadership Skills That Will Take Your Career To The Next Level

LightBulb_Leadership

All these skills apply regardless of your current job status, role, title, or position. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting an entry-level position, a manager, or the Vice President of your company. All levels can benefit from these 6 leadership skills.

  1. Embracing Politics
    I know what you may be thinking… Yes, politics in an office can have a negative connotation associated with it, but it can be used for good too. At it’s core, it’s about building relationships with the people you work with. There are many different types of power and influence that exists in an organization, but there are three that stand out when talking about politics in an organization.

      1. Role Power
        This is also referred to as “legitimate power” and is very hard to change in a company. It refers to where you sit in an organizational chart. It asks the questions; who reports to you, who do you report to, and who does your yearly performance evaluation?
      2. Expertise Power
        This refers to who perceives you to be knowledgeable about a certain subject they care about. The key word here is, “perception.” You could be really knowledgeable about a subject but if people don’t perceive you to be knowledgeable in that subject, then you do not have “expertise power.” There may be times when you wonder why a certain individual received a promotion or how that person got into that position. This happens all too often. At some point, someone who had the “role power” to make that decision, perceived these people to be experts, even though they might not be. A lot of times this happens because the person had a relationship with the decision maker, which brings me to the third power,
      3. Relationship Power
        This is the most important power for you to develop, because it transcends the organizational chart. You can develop relationship power with anyone, at anytime. The first step to get them to follow you is to get them to like you. Take the time to get to know other people even outside your own department. Use the people you get to know, but don’t “use” them so that the relationship is one-sided. The relationship should be a reciprocal relationship. Think about yourself as being a service to others. The goal is to fundamentally lift them up to help them succeed. The energy you put out, will come back to you. When you adopt that kind of service mentality, that’s embracing the good kind of office politics.
  2. Picking Your Battles
    This skill goes hand-in-hand with office politics. You have to know when to hold them and when to fold them. You can gain political capital by building relationships, but you can just as easily blow it all by choosing to fight too many battles. Save the political capital up for the times that really matter and those times are when they directly contribute to advancing your priorities. Don’t sweat the small things, instead focus on the things that allow you to get you where you want to go.
  3. Crafting Your Vision
    Battles you choose to fight all depend on what you’re trying to achieve. Great leaders have a plan and need to establish a clear set of goals. It’s important to have a sense of purpose, know what it’s going to take and how to articulate it simply to your team. If you can’t articulate it correctly, they may not jump on board. Remember, just because it makes sense to you, doesn’t mean it will make sense to them. Be Bold. Leaders are meant to inspire people and if you accomplish that, they will be more likely to show up and do their best work.
  4. Build Alignment
    Great leaders bring other people along with them. Companies gain buy-in from different levels of people within the organization. That means communicating the big picture to everyone who needs to be involved. This ensures that everyone who wants to be involved has that chance to be included and anyone who doesn’t, can opt out. Include the reasoning behind your methods and really encourage questions. A lot of people are going to have a lot of ideas and make good points and so it’s important for you to remain open-minded. This is also a chance to look for opportunities to collaborate with them or refine your vision.
  5. Inspiring Execution
    At this point, you know where you’re going, you have your group of people, and now it’s time to see your vision through and to do that, you have to create a tactical execution plan that illustrates what’s expected from each person. Make sure to give feedback along the way and set the example through your own behavior.
  6. Learn To Give Up Control
    How you execute a vision or a plan is critical, but don’t mistake it for micro-managing. Leaders set goals and empower the people around them with the resources and support they need to get the job done. Even if you see them doing something different then what you would do, it doesn’t mean they’re doing it wrong and it doesn’t mean it won’t work. Don’t control them into doing it your way. Instead, ask questions and try to see it from their point of view.

If you don’t achieve your goal or see it through like you thought, you have the opportunity to learn from it and make improvements for the next time around. The only failure that really happens is the one we don’t learn from. Even if you let your people execute it the way they wanted, bring them along with you. They will learn something they didn’t know before. That’s going to set them up for future success. That, at the core, is what being a leader is really about.

Borysenko, Karlyn. “Human Strategies Podcast #11: Six Critical Leadership Skills That Will Take Your Career to the next Level.” Audio blog post. Zen Workplace. N.p., 3 Jan. 2016. Web. 9 Aug. 2016.

Check Your Tax Withholding this Summer to Prevent a Tax-Time Surprise

income tax withholding

Each year, many people get a larger refund than they expect. Some find they owe a lot more tax than they thought they would. If this has happened to you, review your situation to prevent a tax surprise. Did you marry? Have a child? Change in income? Life events can have a major impact on your taxes. Bring the taxes you pay closer to the amount you owe. Here are some tips to help you come up with a plan:

  • New Job. When you start a new job, you must fill out a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, and give it to your employer. Your employer will use the form to figure the amount of federal income tax to withhold from your pay. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov to help you fill out the form. This tool is easy to use and it’s available 24/7.
  • Estimated Tax. If you earn income that is not subject to withholding you may need to pay estimated tax. This may include income such as self-employment, interest, dividends or rent. If you expect to owe $1,000 or more in tax, and meet other conditions, you may need to pay this tax. You normally pay it four times a year. Use the worksheet in Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, to figure the tax.
  • Life Events. Check to see if you need to change your Form W-4 or change the amount of estimated tax you pay when certain life events take place. A change in your marital status, the birth of a child or the purchase of a new home can change the amount of taxes you owe. In most cases, you can submit a new Form W–4 to your employer anytime.
  • Changes in Circumstances. If you are receiving advance payments of the premium tax credit, it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your Health Insurance Marketplace. You should also notify the Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace plan. Advance payments of the premium tax credit help you pay for the insurance you buy through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Reporting changes will help you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance so you can avoid getting too much or too little in advance.

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2016-10, July 25, 2016

How Hobbies Help Your Health

'True, I was all for your taking up a hobby on retirement, but, TIGHTROPE-WALKING...!'

With Summer almost coming to an end, we continue to find ways of having a healthy lifestyle and what better way to stay busy then by doing something we love!

Most people like working out but want to participate in activities that don’t feel like working out. One solution to staying healthy is by doing the things you already love to do or have always wanted to try. That hobby you’ve been wanting to try or have been putting off could be your key for a healthier, happier life.

Hobbies engage you physically and mentally. It’s been proven that people who actively participate in hobbies are at a lower risk for depression and dementia. Hobbies are a way for people to stay engaged on multiple levels. People who have a hobby “are generally healthier,” says Peter Lichtenberg, Ph.D., Director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University. Most hobbies involve at least some level of mental activity and give people a reason to stay connected to other people with similar interests.

sneakers1So you may be asking, “What kind of hobby is best?” Hobbies that require expertise are more satisfying because developing an expertise in something like photography or astronomy requires commitment which results in a higher level of engagement. Hobbies that involve some form of physical fitness such as walking, provides a physical benefit as well. Walking is linked to reducing stress and anxiety.

Hobbies can be thought of on three levels:

  1. Diversion
  2. Passion
  3. Purpose

Hobbies act as a diversion that helps us pass the time and makes us unaware that time is passing. They can also become a passion that we become truly engaged in. And finally, they are something that creates a sense of purpose. We all need that. The ideal hobby is a combination of all three.

If you’re looking for a hobby, many community collages offer classes in activities that range from gardening to watercolor painting. It’s also a great way to meet other people that are also interested in the same activities.

For additional online information and resources about maintaining well-being and wellness, go to http://www.eapconsultants.com and enter your password. If you do not know your password, send an email to benefits@hr-strategies.com and include the name of your employer.

Congratulations HoPe!

Hope House

HR Strategies wants to congratulate David and Angela, the founders of HoPe – Hispanic Organization Promoting Education, on winning the home of their dreams on the episode of Fox’ reality TV show, Home Free.

Thank you for trusting in our Human Resource services. We’re proud to have you as part of our HR Strategies family.

To find more information about their mission and ways you can donate, click here.

IRS Warns of Latest Scam Variation Involving Bogus “Federal Student Tax”

Student Tax Scam

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued a warning to taxpayers about bogus phone calls from IRS impersonators demanding payment for a non-existent tax, the “Federal Student Tax.”

Even though the tax deadline has come and gone, scammers continue to use varied strategies to trick people, in this case students. In this newest twist, they try to convince people to wire money immediately to the scammer. If the victim does not fall quickly enough for this fake “federal student tax”, the scammer threatens to report the student to the police.

“These scams and schemes continue to evolve nationwide, and now they’re trying to trick students,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remain vigilant and not fall prey to these aggressive calls demanding immediate payment of a tax supposedly owed.”

Scam artists frequently masquerade as being from the IRS, a tax company and sometimes even a state revenue department. Many scammers use threats to intimidate and bully people into paying a tax bill. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the driver’s license of their victim if they don’t get the money.

Some examples of the varied tactics seen this year are:

  • Demanding immediate tax payment for taxes owed on an iTunes gift card.
  • Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals (IR-2016-34)
  • “Verifying” tax return information over the phone (IR-2016-40)
  • Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry (IR-2016-28)

The IRS urges taxpayers to stay vigilant against these calls and to know the telltale signs of a scam demanding payment.

The IRS Will Never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money and you don’t owe taxes, here’s what you should do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page or call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission by visiting FTC.gov and clicking on “File a Consumer Complaint.” Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
  • If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.

IR-2016-81, May 27, 2016

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