The Paychex Top 12 in ’12: Potential Regulatory Changes Every Small Business Needs to Know About in the New Year

by on February 3, 2012

Paychex, Inc., one of the nation’s leading providers of payroll, human resource, and employee benefits solutions for small and medium-sized businesses, today released its top 12 in ’12 list, containing the top 12 potential regulatory changes that America’s small businesses need to know about in 2012. Paychex works closely with the IRS and other government agencies on issues of importance and is constantly monitoring regulatory and compliance-related matters that impact its 564,000 clients.

“As we close the book on 2011 and prepare to ring in the New Year, Paychex is looking out for America’s small businesses by identifying the top 12 issues to follow as 2012 unfolds,” said Martin Mucci, Paychex president and CEO. “Some of these issues will lead to changes that are made legislatively, and others may be changed through simple rule modifications. Regardless of the level of attention they receive, changes to each of these issues could require business owners to make significant adjustments to the way they manage their businesses.”
 
1.  Job Creation – President Obama will continue working with Congress in 2012 to jump start hiring. While the President’s Jobs Bill wasn’t passed in the same form it was proposed, legislation was passed in 2011 to provide tax credits for hiring veterans and relief for the long-term unemployed. Additionally, after much debate, the temporary reduction of employee payroll taxes, due to expire on December 31, 2011, was extended for an additional two months and includes a new “recapture” provision, which applies only to those employees who receive more than $18,350 in wages during the two-month period. Pending further negotiations, the tax cut could potentially extend through 2012.  Additional provisions that could be considered as part of the job creation effort include elements from the President’s proposal that have not yet been passed, including: earmarking funding for infrastructure projects and measures to help entrepreneurs and small businesses access capital and grow.
 
2.  Worker Classification – The misclassification of workers is an issue that promises to receive more scrutiny in 2012. The IRS recently unveiled an opportunity for eligible employers to voluntarily reclassify workers as employees in exchange for partial tax relief from past federal employment taxes. In late 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor agreed to work with the IRS, as well as several states, to share information and coordinate enforcement to ensure that employees receive protections they are entitled to under federal and state law. Legislation in several states to increase fines for worker misclassification may also impact employers in 2012. [Read related MarketWatch article about the IRS VCSP voluntary program.]
 
3.  Deficit Reduction – Running parallel to the jobs initiatives are a series of proposals that focus on reducing the record-high federal budget deficit through spending reductions and tax increases. Many of the ideas on the table center on personal and business tax reform and the closing of current tax “loopholes.”
 
4.  Immigration – The U.S. Government is strengthening efforts to crack down further on the employment of illegal immigrants through rigorous worksite enforcement and paperwork inspections of companies of all sizes. In 2012, state laws will require more private sector employers to register and utilize the federal E-verify system for employee verification, and most Federal contractors and subcontractors will continue to be required to use E-verify to determine employment eligibility. Congressional immigration reform proposals, which may include further federal employment verification obligations, are also possible in 2012.
 
5.  Employment Law – Employers will need to keep current with federal and state legislative and regulatory developments that are likely to impact human resource practices. Many states now restrict the use of an employee’s credit information in employment-related decisions or are considering doing so. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor and many states have enacted or are considering regulations to provide greater transparency to workers. These regulations specifically focus on the amount and calculation of workers’ pay, especially as it relates to minimum wage and overtime requirements.
 
6.  Security and Privacy – In 2012, businesses will continue to be challenged by security considerations. Instances of cybercrime and corporate bank account takeovers against small businesses are becoming more widespread. Employers should take security precautions such as using stand-alone computers for online banking, not clicking on attachments or hyperlinks from unknown sources, and working with their bank to implement fraud detection tools on their accounts. Onerous privacy and security breach regulations enacted in many states make this an even more important consideration for businesses.
 
7.  Dodd-Frank – The sweeping Dodd-Frank financial regulatory legislation is primarily focused on Wall Street reforms and consumer protection. However, the increased burden it places on some industries, especially banks, may result in small businesses experiencing limited availability of, or higher costs for, credit or other financial services.
 
8.  Health Care Reform – The Supreme Court is expected to rule in 2012 on the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision in the Affordable Care Act. The court’s decision, and the potential fallout, could have broad impacts to businesses.
 
9.  Unemployment Insurance Implications – Congress is contemplating the reinstatement of the federal unemployment surtax, which would result in virtually all businesses seeing higher unemployment insurance taxes. Companies in many states will see higher taxes due to the repayment of outstanding federal loans that were taken to allow for continued payment of benefits and to replenish depleted state unemployment trust funds. Many states are also contemplating additional or more extensive employer reporting requirements in an effort to decrease unemployment insurance fraud.
 
10.  401(k) – In 2012, additional fee disclosures will be required by 401(k) service providers to plan sponsors, and by plan sponsors to participants, with the intention of providing greater transparency around retirement plan fees. The limits for contributions to those plans will increase in 2012. Other regulations that will be enacted in 2012, or are under consideration, include those that would broaden the definition of who would be considered a plan fiduciary, make investment advice more accessible to plan participants, and restrict the number of loans an employee can take from their 401(k).
 
11.  Taxes – 2012 will bring a number of important tax changes, including a higher Social Security wage base and changes to transportation and adoption assistance benefit limits. The accelerated depreciation benefits available to most businesses for certain asset purchases which were in place in 2011 may expire or be scaled back in 2012. All employers will need to keep an eye on what are likely to be additional tax changes as the year progresses.
 
12.  Form W-2 – The IRS further delayed the requirement for smaller employers to report the cost of employer-sponsored health coverage on employee Forms W-2, indefinitely postponing it until further guidance is issued. However, employers filing 250 or more Forms W-2 in 2011 are required to include this cost on the W-2 starting in tax year 2012. The health care amounts reported on the W-2 will be strictly informational and not taxable to the employee.
 
 
About Paychex
Paychex, Inc. (NASDAQ:PAYX) is a leading provider of payroll, human resource, and benefits outsourcing solutions for small- to medium-sized businesses. The company offers comprehensive payroll services, including payroll processing, payroll tax administration, and employee pay services, including direct deposit, check signing, and Readychex®. Human resource services include 401(k) plan recordkeeping, section 125 plans, a professional employer organization, time and attendance solutions, and other administrative services for business. A variety of business insurance products, including group health and workers’ compensation, are made available through Paychex Insurance Agency, Inc. Paychex was founded in 1971. With headquarters in Rochester, New York, the company has more than 100 offices serving approximately 564,000 payroll clients nationwide as of May 31, 2011. For more information about Paychex and our products, visit www.paychex.com. For more information, call 888-681-3304 .

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