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Tax Tip Tuesday

For Letter Rulings and Similar Requests: Electronic Payment of User Fees Starts June 15; Replaces Paying by Check

WASHINGTON — Beginning June 15, taxpayers requesting letter rulings, closing agreements and certain other rulings from the Internal Revenue Service will need to make user fee payments electronically using the federal government’s Pay.gov system.

Pay.gov allows people to pay for a variety of government services online using a credit card, debit card or via direct debit or electronic funds withdrawal from a checking or savings account. In the past, ruling requesters could only make required user fee payments by check or money order. During a two-month transition period, June 15 to Aug. 15, requesters can choose to make user fee payments either through Pay.gov or by check or money order. After Aug. 15, 2017, Pay.gov will become the only permissible payment method.

Rulings described in Revenue Procedure 2017-1 and sent to the Docket, Records and User Fee Branch of the Legal Processing Division of the Associate Chief Counsel (Procedure and Administration) (CC:PA:LPD:DRU) are affected by this change. These include private letter rulings, closing agreements, and rulings using Form 1128, 2553, 3115 or 8716. Determination letters are not affected because they are sent to other offices as described in the revenue procedure.

A letter ruling is a written determination issued to a taxpayer by IRS Chief Counsel in response to the taxpayer’s written inquiry, submitted prior to the filing of returns or reports required under federal law. In general, it concerns the requester’s status for tax purposes or the tax effects of its acts or transactions. Letter rulings and other similar ruling requests interpret the tax laws and apply them to the taxpayer’s specific set of facts. User fees range from $200 to $28,300, depending upon the type of ruling being sought.

Pay.gov is used to accept payments only. The original, signed ruling request and supporting materials must still be submitted by mail or hand delivery to the IRS.

To submit a user fee, visit www.pay.gov and use the IRS Chief Counsel User Fees (or Supplemental User Fees) for Form 1128, Form 2553, Form 3115, Form 8716, Private Letter Rulings and Closing Agreements form. This form can be found by entering “IRS Chief Counsel User Fees” in the “Search the Forms” box or by clicking on the “Agency List” link under “What Federal Agencies Can I Pay?” and choosing Internal Revenue Service.

Once payment is made, print a copy of the completed form and the receipt and include these with the  letter ruling request. Then submit the complete package by mail or hand delivery:

Mail to:
Internal Revenue Service
CC:PA:LPD:DRU
P.O. Box 7604
Ben Franklin Station
Washington, DC  20044;

or

Hand deliver, or if using a private courier service, to:

Internal Revenue Service
CC:PA:LPD:DRU
1111 Constitution Avenue, NW
Room 5336
Washington, DC  20224

In addition, for the fastest processing, please Efax a copy of the pay.gov receipt, the completed form and the ruling request to this eFax line, 877-773-4950.

IR-2017-102, June 1, 2017

OSHA’s New Slip and Fall Rules Might Have Escaped Many Employers

Are you aware of the new standards that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) issued last year? According to a Newsday report, many employers are not aware of the new regulations.

Last year, OSHA updated its Walking-Working Surfaces Safety standards which indicates it will prevent numerous fatalities, thus reducing the 5,000 injuries that occur annually. Fall from heights, and same-level are among the leading causes for these injuries.

“The new guidelines require employers to conduct regular inspections of every surface in the workplace on which people work and walk, including stairs, floors, ladders and other areas. The purpose is to identify trip, slip and fall hazards. The updated standards bring workplace requirements in line with those of the construction industry.”

Though the updated standards became effective in January of this year, many employers have been slow to comply. As of May 17th, employers are expected to have trained employees who use “fall-protection” equipment and systems.

The rule affects a range of workers, from painters to warehouse workers and is used to update general industry standards. Specifically, it updates the “slip, trip, and fall” hazards and adds requirements for personal fall protection systems.

“OSHA estimates that these changes will prevent 29 fatalities
& 5,842 lost-working injuries every year.”

OSHA also states that the updates standards allow employees flexibility in deciding the best way they can minimize safety hazards. One example of a rule change is eliminating the existing rule to use guardrails as a primary fall protection method. This will allow employers to choose from accepted fall protection systems they believe will work best in a particular situation. This approach has been quite successful in the construction industry since 1994.

Advantages:

  •  Advances in Technology
  •  Industry Best Practices
  •  Effective & Cost-Efficient Worker Protection
  •  National Consensus Standards

Employers must stay up to date on OSHA Regulations. Regular inspections are crucial to minimize workplace injuries and fatalities. However, if these safety hazards are ignored, the costs are steep. Your company could get hit with not only OSHA Citations for safety violations, but there are workers’ compensation cost to consider along with possible lawsuits that come with those injuries.

HR Strategies offers our employers help with staying in compliance with new OSHA Regulations.

For questions regarding your Workers’ Compensation Policy, OSHA Regulations, or training, please contact Tanya White at twhite@hr-strategies.com or 678-551-6419.

Uber will test workers’ comp-esque insurance coverage for South Carolina drivers

Dive Brief:

  • Uber, the international ride-hailing firm, is testing workers’ comp-type insurance coverage to give it South Carolina drivers financial protection if they’re injured on the job, reports The Post and Courier.
  • The insurance policies will help cover drivers’ medical bills and replace their regular earnings if they’re injured while transporting customers. The insurance plan, reportedly the first of its kind, is a means of offering wage protection to gig economy workers, says The Post and Courier.
  • Insurance policies will cost drivers 3.75 cents a mile for up to $1 million worth of coverage. Passengers will subsidize the costs through a five cent increase in fares.

Dive Insight:

Offering Uber drivers insurance policies is a step employers might be inclined to take to protect independent contractors and other gig economy workers’ wages.

Employers are facing the dilemma of hiring on-demand workers without worrying about the cost of providing benefits as opposed to offering them wage protections. Recently, Uber drivers have sued the company over what they perceive as lost wages — denied benefits to which they feel entitled — threatening unionization .

The larger issue is the fact that gig workers are projected to outnumber traditional workers by 2025. Their looming numbers are causing Congressional lawmakers to think about revising the decades-old Fair Labor Standards Act to accommodate these nontraditional workers in the labor force. This was the argument made by House Republican Virginia Foxx (NC) earlier in the week.

This post was provided by HR Dive. Click here for the article and a chance to read other hot topics.

 

Missed the Tax Return Deadline? IRS Offers Help

IRS Tax Tip 2017-50, April 19, 2017

The tax deadline for most taxpayers was Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The IRS has some advice for taxpayers who missed the filing deadline.

  • File and pay as soon as possible. Taxpayers who owe federal income tax should file and pay as soon as they can to minimize any penalty and interest charges. For taxpayers due a refund, there is no penalty for filing a late return.
  • Use IRS Free File. Nearly everyone can use IRS Free File to e-file their federal taxes for free. Taxpayers whose income was $64,000 or less can use free brand-name tax software. Those who made more than $64,000 can use Free File Fillable Forms to e-file. This program uses electronic versions of IRS paper forms. Fillable forms work best for those who are used to doing their own taxes. Taxpayers can file — even if they missed the deadline — using free options on IRS.gov through the Oct. 16 extension period.
  •  File electronically. No matter who prepares a tax return, taxpayers can use IRS e-file through Oct. 16. E-file is the easiest, safest and most accurate way to file a tax return. The IRS will send electronic confirmation when it receives the tax return and issues more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days.
  • Pay as much as possible. If taxpayers owe but can’t pay in full, they should pay as much as they can when they file their tax return. IRS electronic payment options are the quickest and easiest way to pay taxes. IRS Direct Pay is a free, secure and easy way to pay a balance due directly from a checking or savings account. Pay any owed amounts as soon as possible to minimize penalties and interest.
  • Make monthly payments through an installment agreement. Those who need more time to pay taxes can apply for a direct debit installment agreement through the IRS Online Payment Agreement tool. There’s no need to write and mail a check each month with a direct debit plan. Taxpayers who don’t use the online tool can still apply on Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request. Get the form at IRS.gov/forms.
  • File as soon as possible to get a refund. Taxpayers who are not required to file may still get a refund if they had taxes withheld from wages or they qualified for certain tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit. Those who don’t file their return within three years could lose their right to the refund.

Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Designing Human-Centered Corporate Culture

naoto-quoteMany companies believe culture is impalpable and cannot be altered. However, policies and practices can be intentionally designed, tested, and changed. Designer Robert L. Peters says, “Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future.” Today some of the most modern companies are engaging employees by designing policies and practices that address four core human needs; physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual; the same factors used in human-centered product design. Below are examples of this human-centered design methodology that may work for your company culture.

Physical

guy-with-weight-2Company policies and practices should be used to promote employees’ health. Sitting at your desk for hours on end can cause a multitude of life-threatening illnesses, yet so many companies support this type of behavior in their culture. Answering questions like; white policies and practices are in place to encourage people to move can help reduce health care costs and sick leave while improving your employees’ health.

Emotional

guy-with-hearts-2Company policies and procedures should make employees feel valued. Being “valued” is a key adjective with the highest levels of performance. Statistics show that employees who agree with the statement, “My manager genuinely cares about my well-being,” are 84% more likely to stay at their current company, 86% more engaged, and 66% more focused than those who disagreed.

Mental

guy-with-team-2Company cultures should be designed to improve or complement our natural cognitive developments. Studies show that multi-tasking actually increases errors and the time required for each task. Even still, employees are often asked to be more responsive than ever. Leaders should focus on the question, “What policies and practices could be altered to help people focus on one thing at a time?”

Spiritual

Many Millennials have put values before money when looking for jobs. guy-meditating-2A study recently found that 1 out of every 2 Millennials actively pursue companies with values similar to their own and is more likely to leave when their values are not aligned. Does your company have an inspiring vision or mission that helps people find greater meaning in their work?

The Result

guy-with-money-2The best corporate cultures actively analyze how they are meeting people’s core needs and then make adjustments to their practices accordingly. People are more committed, more engaged, and more likely to stay at their organization when companies do this. Beyond that, the financial gains appear to follow when companies have human-centered cultures. This alone will be one of the greatest competitive advantages in the age of knowledge work.

2016 EEOC Litigation Data Released

The EEOC recently released the national enforcement data for the 2016 fiscal year.  According to this report, the total number of EEOC charges received in 2015 increased from 89,385 received in 2015 to 91,503 received in 2016.

In addition, according to the report, in 2016, the EEOC resolved 97,443 charges and secured more than $482 million for victims of discrimination in private, federal and state and local government workplaces.

Retaliation claims remain the most popular claims filed. Race claims, Disability claims, Sex/Gender claims and Age discrimination charges round out the top five.  The total breakdown of charges by type is as follows:

Retaliation
42,018 45.9%
Race  32,309 35.3%
Disability 28,073 30.7%
Sex/Gender 26,934 29.4%
Age 20,857 22.8%
National Origin 9,840 10.8%
Religion 3,825 4.2%
Color 3,102 3.4%
Equal Pay Act 1,075 1.2%
Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act 238 0.3%

In addition, the EEOC has also released the breakdown of claims received by state.  The top 10 states are:

Type of Charge
Total Charges Retaliation Race Disability Sex/Gender Age
Texas 9,308 4,633 3,244 2,775 2,765 2,000
Florida 7,610 3,530 2,285 2,221 2,332 1,661
California 5,870 2,937 1,905 1,912 1,560 1,517
Georgia 5,273 2,577 2,165 1,462 1,684 1,028
Illinois 5,072 2,327 2,255 1,466 1,325 1,633
Pennsylvania 4,564 1,964 1,228 1,646 1,255 1,198
North Carolina 4,372 2,077 1,705 1,384 1,265 885
New York 3,740 1,604 1,084 1,061 1,202 865
Alabama 3,371 1,211 1,865 647 934 503
Virginia 2,945 1,242 1,069 921 881 583

Sign up for our upcoming Training on April 27th over these topics and how you avoid them by clicking the link: http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=xnpotodab&oeidk=a07edza8d3u2d970291

Take Steps Now for Tax Filing Season

Get ready today to file your 2016 federal income tax return.
Print Publication 5273, Take Steps Now For Tax Filing Season

Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

What You Need to Know

  • Processing delays are likely for filers with expired Individual Tax Identification Numbers.
  • There are two reasons an ITIN would expire December 31, 2016:
    • If you have not used your ITIN on a U.S. tax return at least once for tax years 2013, 2014 or 2015 or
    • If your ITIN has the middle digits 78 or 79 (9NN-78-NNNN or 9NN-79-NNNN)

What You Need to Do

  • You can renew your ITIN now if it expired and you plan to use it on a U.S. tax return.
  • No action is needed by expired ITIN holders who don’t need to file a tax return next year.
  • There are new documentation requirements when applying for or renewing an ITIN for certain dependents.
  • To avoid delays, ensure accurate W-7 and valid ID documents are submitted.
  • Find more information at IRS.gov/ITIN.

Refunds

What You Need to Know

  • Expecting a refund? Some refunds must be held until February 15.
    • According to a new tax law change, the IRS cannot issue refunds before February 15 for tax returns that claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit.
    • This applies to the entire refund, even the portion not associated with these credits.
  • The IRS will begin to release EITC/ACTC refunds starting February 15. However, the IRS cautions taxpayers that these refunds likely won’t arrive in bank accounts or on debit cards until the week of February 27. Read more about refund timing for early EITC/ACTC filers.

What You Need to Do

  • Be careful not to count on getting a refund by a certain date, especially when making major purchases or paying other financial obligations.

  • You don’t need to wait until February 15 to file your tax return. While the IRS must hold the refund until February 15, it will begin taking the steps it normally does to process your tax return once the filing season starts.
  • File a complete and accurate return and include all known refundable credits with your original return.
  • Check Where’s My Refund on IRS.gov or the IRS mobile app, IRS2Go, after February 15 for your personalized refund status.

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)

What You Need to Know

  • Some taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need to know their 2015 Adjusted Gross Income, or AGI, to e-file their 2016 tax return.

  • When self-preparing your taxes and filing electronically, you must sign and validate your electronic tax return by entering your prior-year AGI or your prior-year Self-Select PIN. Using an electronic filing PIN is no longer an option.

What You Need to Do

  • If you have a copy of your 2015 federal income tax return, your AGI is on line 37 of the Form 1040; line 21 on the Form 1040-A or line 4 on the Form 1040-EZ.x
  • Learn more about how to verify your identity and electronically sign your tax return at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return

Protecting Taxpayers

What You Need to Know

  • To better protect taxpayers, the IRS recently upgraded its identity verification process for certain online self-help tools. The purpose is to prevent taxpayer impersonations and account takeovers by identity thieves.

What You Need to Do

  • Because the Secure Access platform is more rigorous, it helps if you prepare to register in advance.
  • The new authentication is currently being applied to Get Transcript Online.

IRS Help

What You Need to Know

  • All IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers now operate by appointment only.
  • Many questions can be resolved on the IRS.gov website without visiting a TAC.

What You Need to Do

  • Start with IRS.gov for help including tools, filing options and other services and resources.
  • If you believe your tax issue cannot be handled online or by phone, always check IRS.gov for days and hours of service as well as services offered at the IRS TAC location you plan to visit. For most services you must call to make an appointment.

Source: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/steps-for-tax-filing-season

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