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:
|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|
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
2016 Tax Changes
Three Extra Days to File and Pay
Taxpayers will have until Tuesday, April 18, 2017 to file their 2016 returns and pay any taxes due. That’s because of the combined impact of the weekend and a holiday in the District of Columbia. The customary April 15 deadline falls on Saturday this year, which would normally give taxpayers until at least the following Monday. But Emancipation Day, a D.C. holiday, is observed on Monday, April 17 giving taxpayers nationwide an additional day. By law, D.C. holidays impact tax deadlines for everyone in the same way federal holidays do. Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Monday, Oct. 16, 2017 to file.
Refunds Delayed for Some Taxpayers
A law change that went into effect this year requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until at least Feb. 15. Still, even with this change, the fastest way to get a refund is to file electronically and choose direct deposit. Even though the IRS will begin releasing EITC and ACTC refunds on Feb. 15, many early filers will still not have actual access to their refunds until at least the week of Feb. 27. The additional delay is due to several factors including the time needed by banks to process direct deposits.
Under this change, required by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC. This change helps ensure that taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the IRS more time to help detect and prevent fraud. Taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should submit returns as they normally do. Beginning a few days after Feb. 15, affected taxpayers can check the status of their refund by visiting IRS.gov/Refunds and clicking on Where’s My Refund? Or using the IRS2Go mobile app.
Renew ITIN Soon to Avoid Refund Delays
Many Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) expired on Jan. 1, and affected taxpayers should act soon to avoid refund delays and possible loss of eligibility for some key tax benefits until the ITIN is renewed. An ITIN is used by anyone who has tax-filing or payment obligations under U.S. law but is not eligible for a Social Security number.
Under a PATH Act change, any ITIN not used on a tax return at least once in the past three years has expired. Also now expired is any ITIN with middle digits of either 78 or 79 (9NN-78-NNNN or 9NN-79-NNNN).
It can take up to 11 weeks to process a complete and accurate ITIN renewal application. For that reason, the IRS urges anyone with an expired ITIN needing to file a return this tax season to submit their ITIN renewal application soon. ITIN renewal applicants can get help by visiting IRS.gov/ITIN, consulting a Certified Acceptance Agent or Acceptance Agent or making an appointment at an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC).
Olympic Medals and Prize Money Now Tax-Free for Most Olympians
Starting in 2016, most Olympic and Paralympic winners qualify for a new tax benefit. To qualify, the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) must be $1 million or less ($500,000 or less, if married filing separately. For these taxpayers, the value of Olympic and Paralympic medals and the amount of United States Olympic Committee (USOC) prize money is not taxable. These amounts are shown in Box 3 on Form 1099-MISC. See the Form 1040 instructions for Lines 21 and 36 for details on how to report.
ABLE Accounts Now Available for Some People with Disabilities
States are now offering specially designed, tax-favored ABLE accounts to people with disabilities who became disabled before age 26. Originally authorized in legislation enacted in late 2014, these special accounts first became widely available during 2016. Recognizing the special financial burdens faced by families raising children with disabilities, ABLE accounts are designed to enable people with disabilities and their families to save for and pay for disability-related expenses.
Contributions totaling up to the annual gift tax exclusion amount — $14,000, in both 2016 and 2017 — can generally be made to an ABLE account each year. Though contributions are not deductible, distributions are tax-free if used to pay qualified disability expenses. See the Tax Benefit for Disability page for more information.
Standard Mileage Rates Revised
The standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck are:
- 54 cents per mile for business miles driven in 2016, down from 57.5 cents in 2015. For those planning ahead, the 2017 rate, for use on a 2017 return filed next year, is 53.5 cents per mile.
- 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes in 2016, down from 23 cents in 2015. The 2017 rate is 17 cents.
- 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations. This rate is set by law and is unchanged.
The tax instructions have details on taking advantage of each of these provisions.
New Self-Certification Available for Missed Rollover Deadline
Beginning Aug. 24, 2016, a taxpayer who inadvertently fails to properly complete a tax-free rollover of a distribution from an IRA or workplace retirement plan to another eligible retirement program can often qualify to use a new self-certification procedure. Under the procedure, eligible taxpayers, encountering a variety of mitigating circumstances, can qualify for a waiver of the 60-day time limit and avoid possible early distribution taxes. Normally, an eligible distribution from an IRA or workplace retirement plan can only qualify for tax-free rollover treatment if it is contributed to another IRA or workplace plan by the 60th day after it was received. Previously, in most cases, taxpayers who failed to meet the time limit could only obtain a waiver by requesting a private letter ruling from the IRS.
Now, a taxpayer who missed the time limit ordinarily qualifies for a waiver if one or more of 11 circumstances apply to them. They include a distribution check that was misplaced and never cashed, the taxpayer’s home was severely damaged, a family member died, the taxpayer or a family member was seriously ill, the taxpayer was incarcerated or restrictions were imposed by a foreign country.
Ordinarily, the IRS and plan administrators and trustees will honor a taxpayer’s truthful self-certification that they qualify for a waiver under these circumstances. Moreover, even if a taxpayer does not self-certify, the IRS now has the authority to grant a waiver during a subsequent examination. Further details, including a sample self-certification letter that a taxpayer can use to notify the administrator or trustee of the retirement plan or IRA receiving the rollover that they qualify for the waiver, can be found in Revenue Procedure 2016-47, posted on IRS.gov.
The IRS encourages eligible taxpayers wishing to transfer retirement plan or IRA distributions to another retirement plan or IRA to consider requesting that the administrator or trustee make a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer, rather than doing a rollover. Doing so can avoid some of the delays and restrictions that often arise during the rollover process. For more information about rollovers and transfers, check out the Can You Move Retirement Plan Assets? section in Publication 590-A or the Rollovers of Retirement Plan and IRA Distributions page on IRS.gov.
New Deadline for Reporting Foreign Accounts
The deadline for filing the annual Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) is now the same as for a federal income tax return. This means that the 2016 FBAR, Form 114, must be filed electronically with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) by April 18, 2017. FinCEN will grant filers missing the April 18 deadline an automatic extension until Oct. 16, 2017 to file the FBAR. Specific extension requests are not required. In the past, the FBAR deadline was June 30 and no extensions were available.
In general, the filing requirement applies to anyone who had an interest in, or signature or other authority over foreign financial accounts whose aggregate value exceeded $10,000 at any time during 2016. Because of this threshold, the IRS encourages taxpayers with foreign assets, even relatively small ones, to check if this filing requirement applies to them. The form is only available through the BSA E-Filing System website.
What do Hewlett Packard’s spy operations, Wells Fargo’s fake customer accounts, and Mylan Pharmaceutical’s price-gouging all have in common?
A lapse in Business Ethics.
What does “Business Ethics” mean? The short definition is a moral code of conduct companies adopt and pledge to follow. “Ethical Standards forbid tolerance of and participation in activities considered immoral, unlawful, unfair, dangerous, irresponsible and generally harmful.” Businesses can lower the risk of becoming lawsuit targets by setting ethical standards.
First things first, Accountable Leadership is key to any business. Businesses that are considered to be “ethical” have a high moral code and expect honest and trustworthy behavior from everyone in their organizations. Whether they are Chief Executive Officers or other high-level company leaders, it’s required that they hold themselves accountable for following and enforcing the same ethical standards as their employees.
Author Laurie Haughey of “Athletes Off the Field: A Model for Team Building and Leadership Development Through Service Learning,” cites 5 high-standard goals of ethical leaders:
- Communication in which ethical behavior is both carried out and instilled in a company’s brand.
- High-quality products & services that everyone in the organization takes responsibility for producing.
- Collaboration with diverse groups of advisors.
- Succession planning in which future company leaders pledge to maintain ethical behavior.
- Tenure – which requires leaders to work for the company in the most ethical way until they decide to leave.
The next question you will want to ask is, “What does acceptable conduct look like?”
Through internal rules of conduct, businesses can maintain ethical workplace behavior. A good way for companies to establish rules of conduct, so that everyone is aware and is held to the same standards, is to publish a Rules of Conduct policy in their Employee Handbook and require employee’s to sign agreements stating that they read and understood the rules and consequences for violating them. It’s up to managers to run an “Ethical Office.” Companies who are considered to have an “ethical office” promote honesty and trust in communicating with employees, directors, stockholders, and customers.
A lapse in ethics has led some businesses to exaggerate their earnings, products’ capabilities, and stock values due to companies bending to the pressures of meeting sales goals. A lot of times, companies overpromise and under deliver their services. Nowadays, customers are more vigilant and less accepting of unethical behavior, leaving it up to organizations to conduct themselves based on a higher moral code.
HR can head up ethics initiatives in their organizations. HR knows how to help employers behave like good corporate citizens for their employees and the surrounding communities, and operate within the law.
Bolden-Barrett, V. (2017, March 17). The keys to running an ethical organization. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from http://www.hrdive.com/news/the-keys-to-running-an-ethical-organization/438355/
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.
What You Need to Know
- Expecting a refund? Some refunds must be held until February 15.
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.
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
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.
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.
IRS Gives Expanded Tax Relief to Victims of Hurricane Matthew; Parts of Four Eligible States Have Until March 15 to File
WASHINGTON –– Hurricane Matthew victims in much of North Carolina and parts of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida have until March 15, 2017, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments, the Internal Revenue Service announced today. This includes an additional filing extension for those with valid extensions that run out at midnight tonight, Oct. 17.
The IRS is now offering this expanded relief to any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as qualifying for either individual assistance or public assistance. Moreover, taxpayers in counties added later to the disaster area will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief.
The IRS is taking this step due to the unusual factors involving Hurricane Matthew and the interaction with the Oct. 17 extension deadline.
The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on Oct. 4, 2016. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until March 15, 2017, to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due during this period. This includes the Jan. 17 deadline for making quarterly estimated tax payments. For individual tax filers, it also includes 2015 income tax returns that received a tax-filing extension until today, Oct. 17, 2016. The IRS noted, however, that because tax payments related to these 2015 returns were originally due on April 18, 2016, those are not eligible for this relief.
A variety of business tax deadlines are also affected including the Oct. 31 and Jan. 31 deadlines for quarterly payroll and excise tax returns. It also includes the special March 1 deadline that applies to farmers and fishermen who choose to forgo making quarterly estimated tax payments.
In addition, the IRS is waiving late-deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits normally due on or after Oct. 4 and before Oct. 19 if the deposits are made by Oct. 19, 2016. Details on available relief can be found on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.
The IRS automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in the disaster area. Thus, taxpayers need not contact the IRS to get this relief. However, if an affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, the taxpayer should call the number on the notice to have the penalty abated.
In addition, the IRS will work with any taxpayer who lives outside the disaster area but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the affected area. Taxpayers qualifying for relief who live outside the disaster area need to contact the IRS at 866-562-5227. This also includes workers assisting the relief activities who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization.
Individuals and businesses who suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses can choose to claim them on either the return for the year the loss occurred (in this instance, the 2016 return normally filed next year), or the return for the prior year (2015). See Publication 547 for details.
Currently, the following areas are eligible for relief:
North Carolina: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Tyrrell, Washington, Wayne and Wilson counties.
South Carolina: Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Jasper, Marion, Orangeburg and Williamsburg counties.
Georgia: Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh counties.
Florida: Brevard, Duval, Flagler, Indian River, Nassau, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Volusia counties.
The tax relief is part of a coordinated federal response to the damage caused by severe storms and flooding and is based on local damage assessments by FEMA. For information on disaster recovery, visit disasterassistance.gov.
IRS-2016-135, Oct. 17, 2016
After the most significant election in our nation’s history, the votes are in and Republican nominee, Donald Trump has been elected to become the 45th president of the United States. President-elect Trump’s tax plan looks to reduce taxes across the board, including making the business tax rate more competitive and creating new opportunities to grow our economy. Before any proposed changes can be made, they must be approved by Congress. See below to see how Trump’s plan compares to our current system.
|Corporate Tax Rates||Top rate of 35%||Top rate of 15%|
|Alternative Minimum Tax||Applies to corporations||Eliminated|
|Pass-through Entities||Income taxed as ordinary income on individual tax return||Option to elect a flat tax of 15% on pass-through income|
|Capital Investments||Capitalized and depreciated||Option to expense or capitalize; If expensing, interest costs are non-deductible|
|Unrepatriated Earnings||Not taxed until brought back into US||One time tax of 10% of total unrepatriated earnings|
|Childcare Deductions||Employer-provided day care credit capped at $150,000||Employer provided day care credit capped at $500,000; Additional deduction for employer contributions to employee childcare costs|
|Corporate Tax Deductions/Credits||Includes Research and Development credit, Domestic Production Activities Deduction, etc||Eliminate except for Research and Development|
|Inversion Transactions||Foreign firms owned 80% or more by US shareholders are considered US firms for tax purposes||No specific proposal|
|Ordinary Income Rates||7 brackets with top rate of 39.6%||Single 12% $0-37,500 25% $37,500-112,500 33% over $112,500 Married 12% $0-75,000 25% $75,000-225,000 33% over $225,000 **Head of Household status is eliminated|
|Standard Deduction||$6,300 (single) $12,600 married) $9,300 (Head of Household)||$15,000 (single) $30, 000 (married) Head of Household eliminated|
|Personal Exemption||$4,050||Eliminated and included in the standard deduction|
|Itemized Deduction||Phase out begins: $259,400 (single) $311,300 (married)||Total itemized deductions capped at: $100,000 (single) $200,000 (married)|
|Like-kind Exchanges||Accrued under federal law||No specific proposal|
|Net Investment Income Tax||3.8% on AGI above: $200,000 (single) $250,000 (married)||Eliminated|
|Alternative Minimum Tax||AGI above: $200,000 (single) $250,000 (married) Trusts with income over $12,400||Eliminated|
|Capital Gains/Dividends Rates||Maximum rate of 20% with one year holding period||No change|
|Child/Dependent Care Expenses||Child/Dependent Care Credit limited for AGI over $43,000||Above the line deductions for children under age 13 and for care for elderly dependent; Dependent Care Savings Accounts (DCSA)- deductible $2,000 contribution every year|
|Carried Interest||Taxed at rates on capital gains||Taxed as ordinary income|
|Estate Tax||Exclusion of $5.45 million adjusted for inflation, top rate of 40%||Eliminated, Except for estates over $10 million which will be subject to capital gains tax|
|Gift Tax||Lifetime exclusion of $5.45 million adjusted for inflation; Annual exclusion of $14,000 per donee||Eliminated|
|Retirement Savings Contributions||No limit on lifetime contributions||No specific proposal|
UHY LLP. Certified Public Accountants. News Alert. UHY LLP News, 9 Nov. 2016. Web. 9 Nov. 2016.
Election Day is November 8th and it is anticipated that voter turnout will reach a record high. As a result, employers should prepare for an increase in the number of employees requesting time off to vote. Under what circumstances, if any, are Georgia employers required to grant this type of request? Read ahead to learn more.
In states where voting leave is required, state law dictates the conditions under which voting leave must be provided, if at all. The laws also set forth the amount of time that an employee must receive for this type of leave. As demonstrated below, depending on the state, the leave may be paid or unpaid.
In Georgia, while time-off to vote is unpaid, employees should be given the time necessary to vote, not to exceed two (2) hours. The employee must give a reasonable notice that they would like to take advantage of the time-off, and Georgia employers may schedule the hours in which each employee leaves the workplace to vote. Encouraging your employees to vote early is one way to minimize time taken off on November 8th.
For more specific information regarding Georgia voting, please see this excerpt from our HR Strategies handbook:
HR Strategies and your worksite employer encourage employees to participate in the political process by voting in public elections. In general, an employee who wishes to vote is expected to do so before or after his/her scheduled shift. However, the Company understands that there may be times when your work schedule might not leave you enough time outside of your shift to vote. If, on the day of any municipal, county, state or federal political party primary or election in which you are qualified and registered to vote, the polls open less than two hours before the start of your shift and close less than two hours after the end of your shift, you will be permitted to take, as necessary, up to two hours off work to vote. To be granted time off to vote, you must provide reasonable advance notice to your supervisor. In order to provide you with sufficient time to vote while minimizing business disruption, your supervisor/manager will specify the particular hours you may take off work to vote.
If you are not located in Georgia, we have provided a list of each state’s voting leave information. Whether an employer is required to grant employee’s request for time off to vote depends on the laws in the state in which the employee works. The below table shows which states provide voting leave and which states do not.
|No Voting Leave Provided||Unpaid Voting Leave||Paid Voting Leave|
|South Carolina||South Dakota|
|Washington DC||West Virginia|
|This article was prepared in conjunction with information provided by our Employment Practices Liability Insurance Provider.|