Employers, have you reminded your employees to check that they are having the right amount of tax withheld from their paychecks? It’s a good idea for everyone to check their payroll withholding every year, but it is particularly important this year due to the many proposed tax changes.
The law’s changes do not affect every taxpayer the same way. Some workers may need to increase their withholding so they will not face a tax bill —and possible penalties — next April when their 2021 tax return is due. Many other workers, however, benefit from the law’s changes and can take home more pay because the withholding amounts are less.
Help your employees avoid being surprised next spring when they prepare their 2021 returns. Remind them now to check their year-to-date withholding so they can make adjustments, if appropriate, on their paychecks for the rest of this year. It’s easy and convenient using tools provided by the IRS.
Here is a sample message to employees:
The IRS encourages everyone to use the Withholding Calculator to perform a quick “paycheck checkup.” This is even more important this year because of recent changes to the tax law for 2021.
The Calculator helps you identify your tax withholding to make sure you have the right amount of tax withheld from your paycheck at work. Use the Calculator to see if you should give your employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, to adjust your income tax withholding going forward.
To get started, gather your most recent pay stubs and a copy of your last federal tax return (2020 Form 1040). You’ll use the information to estimate your 2021 income and taxes.
The Withholding Calculator does not ask you to provide sensitive personally-identifiable information like your name, Social Security number, address, or bank account numbers. The IRS does not save or record the information you enter on the Calculator.
by Kathleen Berger
Originally posted on thinkhr.com
Many employees have the option to choose between their employer’s plan and another program where they meet the eligibility requirements (i.e., spouse’s, domestic partner’s, or parent’s plan). A Cash in Lieu of Benefits program, or cash-out option, offers an incentive for those employees to waive the employer coverage and instead enroll in the other plan. The incentive is in the form of a cash payment added to their paycheck. Properly implementing a Cash in Lieu of Benefits program is crucial, as unexpected tax consequences could occur otherwise.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires a Section 125 plan be in place to be a qualified cash-out option. If the plan is not set up under an IRC Section 125 plan, the plan will be disqualified and employees who elect coverage under the health plan will be taxed on an amount equal to the amount of cash they could have received for waiving coverage.
The IRS has ruled that when an option is available to either elect the health plan, or to receive a cash-out incentive, then the premium payment to the insurance company becomes wages. The reasoning is that when an employer makes payments to the insurance company where the employee has the option of receiving those amounts as wages, the employee is merely assigning future income (cash compensation) for consideration (health insurance coverage). Therefore, the payment is treated as a substitute for the health insurance coverage. By setting up an IRC Section 125 plan, the employer is offering a choice between cash and certain excludable employer-provided benefits, without adverse tax implications.
There must be a Plan Document in place and nondiscrimination requirements must be followed, including annual nondiscrimination testing, in order to be a qualified Section 125 plan. To meet nondiscrimination rules, Cash in Lieu of Benefits must be offered to all employees equitably. To be sure an employer is not over incentivizing employees to drop the plan, which could impact the nondiscrimination participation requirements, the monthly cash benefit should not exceed $200-$300.
When a Section 125 plan already exists (Premium Payment Plan, Health Care Spending Account, Dependent Care Spending Account), the plan can be amended to add the cash out feature. Where no Section 125 plan is in place, it is standard to have an attorney provide this service. It is important to note that, although the Section 125 plan protects the employees electing coverage from taxation, the cash-out incentive is an after-tax benefit.
As always with any IRS-qualified plan, proper documentation is essential. An employee should only be allowed to waive coverage when there is another plan available, and proof of enrollment is provided. If there is a subsequent loss of that coverage, HIPAA Special Enrollment Rights will allow entry onto the plan, and the cash-out incentive will cease.
Cash in Lieu of Benefits funds cannot be used to purchase individual health coverage. For companies over 20 lives and Medicare is secondary coverage, the plan should not be structured to incentivize employees over 65 to opt out of the employer plan to enroll in Medicare.
Another factor to consider is the impact to employers considered Applicable Large Employers (ALE) and subject to the affordability determination and reporting under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). An ALE is an employer averaging 50 or more full-time plus full-time equivalent employees for the preceding 12 months. If a cash out option is offered without an IRS qualified Cash in Lieu of Benefits plan, the payment must be included in the affordability calculation.
There are also Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) implications. Any opt-out payments made by an employer to an employee must be included in an employee’s regular rate of pay and therefore is used in calculating overtime compensation for non-exempt employees.
These considerations should be reviewed with a tax expert and/or ERISA attorney to determine if a Cash in Lieu of Benefits program is the right option for your organization. These professionals, along with a Section 125 Plan Administrator, can provide the necessary guidance to ensure the program will satisfy compliance requirements. For further information on this topic, please contact your Johnson & Dugan team.
By Jody Lee, Johnson & Dugan
Heartbreaks are painful, but did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 655,000 people dying from the condition each year. This equates to one in four deaths attributed to this awful disease. The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which is what can cause heart attacks.
CAD is caused when a substance called plaque builds up in a person’s arteries. As the buildup grows, the opening of the arteries gradually closes until blood flow is blocked and the patient experiences a heart attack. While these statistics are sobering, there are several ways we can prevent heart disease. Knowing the “why” about this disease can aid in prevention. First, let’s learn about the big three risk factors of heart disease:
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (HBP) is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. This is what your nurse checks when she puts the blood pressure cuff on your arm and pumps air into it at your check-up. She is listening for the pressure when your heart beats and the pressure for when your heart is at rest between beats. High blood pressure usually has no signs or symptoms so it is very important to keep your annual physical appointments with your doctor and to follow her recommendations if she diagnoses you with HBP.
High cholesterol is when you develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. These deposits can lead to narrow vessels and increase your chance of a heart attack. It is determined through blood tests. While high cholesterol can be inherited, it can also be prevented through medication, diet and exercise.
Smokers are four times more likely to develop heart disease than non-smokers. The nicotine in smoke reduces your blood flow, raises your blood pressure, and speeds up your heart. Quitting smoking will not reverse the damage done to your heart, but it greatly reduces the damage going forward to your heart and arteries.
In addition to the three key risk factors, it’s important to explore what we can do to prevent it. Prevention behaviors can take you from the danger zone of heart disease and put you on the path to a healthy heart.
According to the Mayo Clinic, simple tips to prevent heart disease by diet include tips like these: controlling portion size, eating more vegetables and fruits, selecting whole grains, limiting unhealthy fats, choosing low-fat protein, reducing sodium intake, and limiting treats.
Being overweight increases your risk for heart disease. One measure used to determine if your weight is in a healthy range is body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website. When in doubt, consult a physician who can help in calculating whether your health is at risk due to weight.
Among the many benefits to getting enough physical activity can, it can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels. From walking, to swimming, to cycling, adding even moderate activity to your routine can have a great impact on your heart health. Just remember, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.
Smoking cigarettes greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit, and you can find many other helpful resources, including creating a tailored plan to help you quit at SmokeFree.gov.
There’s a good reason your doctor asks about routine alcohol consumption at each check-up. Drinking too much alcohol can drastically raise blood pressure and binge drinking can increase heart rate. For heart health, the medical guidelines state that men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women only one. Talk to your doctor if you aren’t sure whether or not you should drink alcohol or how much you should drink for optimal heart health.
Check out these great resources to better educate yourself and others on heart health:
Understand Your Risks to Prevent a Heart Attack
Heart Health Information
Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease
Heart Health Tips
As a business, you are constantly managing your sales funnel–from the first point of contact with a prospect to their purchase of your service. But it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) stop there. Perhaps the most important part of your sales funnel is the follow-up post-sale. It’s in this time of follow-up that you build the ongoing relationship that will lead to customer loyalty and, hopefully, customer referrals. Relationship marketing is the key to customer satisfaction and long-term company success.
Relationship Marketing and the Bottom Line
It makes senses that before we dive into strategies for relationship marketing, you understand WHY it’s important. Gaining a new customer in a crowded market is hard. According to Invesp, “The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%.” Did you know how expensive it is to get that new sale? It’s 5-25 times more expensive to gain a new customer than to retain an existing one. WOW! And while you are focusing on gaining that new client, you are likely not spending the same amount of time nurturing the relationships you have with your current ones. That lack of attention can affect your bottom line. By just increasing customer retention rates by 5%, you can increase profits by 25-95%! Relationship building and relationship marketing must demand your attention or you’ll see lower profits because of the higher cost of acquiring that hard-to-obtain new customer.
Relationship Marketing Strategies
Cultivating your current relationships can ensure customer loyalty in the long-term. Here are some effective relationship marketing strategies to build strong, lasting connections with your satisfied clients.
- Spend the time and money on building an excellent customer service department. When your client has a service issue, they do not want to get in an endless loop of being passed off to the next computerized voice, supervisor, or department and end the call with their problem unresolved. Instead, you want to make sure that they feel heard, understood, and have had their problem resolved at the first touch-point. One bad customer service interaction can result in the loss of a repeat sale. One good customer service interaction can result in a great review and referral.
- Create a customer loyalty and/or referral rewards program.
Loyalty programs aren’t restricted to a product punch card system. You can create a loyalty program that rewards current customers with a discount on a new service or a reduced service fee for a current offering. The same goes for referral rewards. Encourage referrals from your clients and give gift cards or send a thank you gift when they respond. Lack of customer loyalty affects your bottom line. CallMiner’s Churn Index 2020 states, “US companies lose $136.8 billion per year due to avoidable consumer switching.” It’s worth the time to build into these relationships so that they result in long-term customers who don’t even think about leaving you.
- Ask for feedback and ask for it regularly.
Communication is a two-way street. You can spend countless hours sending emails and posting to social media accounts about all the things your company does, but if you never ask your clients what they think about you, you’ll stay stagnant and never grow to be better. Open up the lines of communication in your client relationships. Don’t be afraid to hear where you are lacking—it’s a chance to fix a problem and make a customer feel heard. When you get positive feedback, publish it. It’s one thing to hear about why a company thinks they are the best, it’s another thing to hear why their client thinks they are.
Relationship marketing is instrumental in creating a growing, thriving business. It builds customer satisfaction, retention, and elicits ideas for improvement while also producing opportunities for you to shout the praises from long-term customers. Take the time to cultivate these relationships and you’ll see your business is better for it.
There is never a better time to look towards the future than right now. Goal setting does not need to be constrained to the start of a new year. So, let’s look at three helpful tips for effective goal setting.
First, what is a goal? A goal is defined as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.” Goals can be for the short-term or long-term. And, many times, short-term goals can be used to achieve your long-term ones. Goals are not a one-and-done activity, too. They are an active undertaking that require dedication and work.
TIPS FOR GOALS
1. Set goals with high value.
We all dream big dreams for our life. In order to make those dreams a reality, you have to put in some work. This is where goals come in. Make a list of the dreams you have and rank them by priority and feasibility. When you have made your ranked dream list, you can now set goals that relate to the things that have the highest priority in your life. When you do so, you give the goals high value. High-value goals motivate you to put in the hard work to achieve them.
2. Follow the SMART method of goal setting.
When you work on your goal setting, make sure you follow the SMART method. By doing so, you ensure that your goals are ones that are clear and well thought out. Here’s the breakdown of the SMART method:
- Specific—Make sure your goals are clear and well-defined. Don’t be vague and say “I’d like to learn how to play the guitar.” Instead, say “I will take a weekly guitar lesson.”
- Measurable—Use specific amounts, dates, etc. As you craft your goals, assign specifics to them that can be measured like “I will take weekly guitar lessons for three months.”
- Attainable—Create goals that are possible to achieve. Don’t set goals for yourself that you have no way to accomplish or you will feel defeated and reluctant to set goals in the future.
- Relevant—Set goals that line up with your life and career. In other words, set goals that align with the things that matter in your life.
- Time-bound—Your goals must have a deadline. Open-ended goals lead to unachieved goals because there is no urgency to them. Give your goals an end date so you have something to work towards.
3. Be accountable.
Find an accountability partner to keep you on track. When you have someone that is regularly checking in on you to see how you are doing with accomplishing your goals, you will work harder to stay on pace to achieve them!
You can track your progress on accomplishing your goals through goal tracker apps. Check out these three: Strides, Repeat Habit Tracker, and Way of Life.
Setting goals not only gives you focus for the future, but it also allows you to see just how much you are capable of. When you look at where you are now compared to where you were at the initial time of your goal setting, you’ll be amazed at what you have achieved. Take the time to set SMART goals and, as Success.com says, “Make sure that the greatest pull in your life is the pull of the future.”
“Everyone learns differently” is a phrase we have all heard at some time in our educational endeavors. It may have been overheard from your parents as they explained to your teacher why you have to get up and move all the time during class. You may have heard it said in high school as a communications teacher gave you examples of learning styles. This phrase may have even been said recently as you sat through a leadership seminar at work as the presenter encouraged you to speak to the different learners you will encounter at the office. Whatever the case, it’s true! Now, let’s learn!
Three Types of Learners
- Visual—This is the biggest population of learners out there. A whopping 65% of people say they best learn with visual aids. These learners will be the ones doodling during your meeting or taking copious notes. They are the group that says, “Don’t read it to me. I need to see it.” Your creative types in the office will most likely fall into this category.
- Auditory—Our next learning group (30%) is made up of those learners that need to hear it out loud to retain information. As you interact with and lead your auditory learners, remember that your voice is important to their understanding of the subject matter. Fluctuate your tone and pitch. Ask open-ended questions so that they can verbalize delivered information. And, most importantly, this group learns best in discussions and oral presentation.
- Kinesthetic—Move it or lose it (their attention). Kinesthetic learners make up only 5% of the population but they are probably the group you notice the most. Why? Because they will be the ones that cannot sit still during a meeting or training. They thrive on movement so give them a team challenge to reinforce your training subject matter. Make sure you are also giving this group lots of breaks in your training time.
How to Make This Work Remotely
The workforce has displayed a great ability to work remotely with a reported 17% of companies moving to work-from-home organizations. This work-from-home model does have a drawback, though, in that it is more difficult to train employees with different learning styles. But this doesn’t have to be the case!
Helpful Tips to Training Three Types of Learners
- When you are creating materials for trainings, make sure you create things that appeal to all three learners but don’t lean too hard on one style.
- Your resources should be easily accessible from a home office (email) and content easily digestible. Remember, though, that not all learners can retain information in written form so make sure there’s an option for visual and kinesthetic styles.
- Recreate the sociability of the in-person office for the remote office. Encourage online meeting websites for teams such as Zoom and Skype. This allows your employees the chance to see their coworkers face to face and retains comradery.
- Offer continuing education through online training sites such as lessonly.com. This site appeals to the three learning styles by training through video (visual learner), spoken word (auditory learner), and movement (kinesthetic learner: typing, moving mouse, etc.).
With three types of learners, it is often overwhelming for trainers as they prepare for and deliver their educational sessions. However, it is not impossible! By identifying the type of learner you’ll interact with, you can prepare supportive materials that best speak to each group. Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic learners have one thing in common—they are eager to work and contribute to their company.