Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Compliance Checklist You Need to Prime For Success

Compliance can be overwhelming. This guide breaks it down.

There is a lot more to corporate compliance than filing your taxes on time. And while this compliance guide is far from comprehensive, making sure these aspects are in order is a great start to ensuring your company’s longevity.

Hiring Compliance

Compliance starts even before you have employees. Hiring practices can come under fire in the event of an audit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Should someone decide to whistleblow your hiring practices––warranted or not–– you need to be able to defend yourself.

The first step towards corporate compliance when it comes to the EEOC is, of course, not being discriminatory in your hiring practices. However, that alone is not enough; you need to be able to furnish evidence that your company has been obeying corporate compliance guidelines.

Should the EEOC come knocking you need:

  • Concrete evidence pertaining to and explaining why certain applicants were selected over others. This means being able to both highlight why some candidates stood out and point out why others were disqualified.
  • To check that your hiring managers are treating all potential hires equally, which can include things like
    • Drug testing only certain applicants based on their perceived background
    • Only reviewing applications for candidates who meet criteria not related to job skills
    • Preferencing family members of current employees

Immigration Documentation Compliance

Corporate compliance continues once you select a new hire. Now you have to prove your new hire can legally work in the U.S. by submitting an I-9.

The first step in maintaining immigration compliance is making sure your paperwork is up-to-date. Having thorough records won’t save you during an audit if those records were outdated when issued. Therefore, as soon as you start compiling an onboarding paperwork packet, check to make sure you’re using an updated version of I-9

Ideally, they sign all their paperwork when they sign their offer letter, but if for some reason they have not, the last day a new hire can sign their I-9 is their first day of work. After that, you, the employer, have no more than three business days after that to complete the I-9 Section 2.

Other regulatory compliance requirements include keeping I-9s on file for as long as that person is employed by your company. Additionally, you need to hold onto their I-9 paperwork for either 3 years, or a year after their termination, whichever is last.

Break down compliance regulations with this guide

ACA Compliance

In order to maintain Affordable Care Act compliance, you need to be offering affordable coverage to everyone in your employ if you have 50+ full time employees. You need to make sure the coverage you’re offering is actually affordable, that your lowest-salaried employee can still survive off of what remains of their paycheck once health insurance is deducted. Your company health care only needs to be what is called ”minimally essential,” but run the numbers every year to make sure your cheapest plan is as affordable as you think

Affordable coverage is a great start, but ACA compliance is two-fold: you need to also prove you offered your employees the health care options.

Your proof of offered coverage is the 1094 and 1095 forms that you need to file with the IRS, which you can do right here on ACAwise.

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OSHA Compliance

The mainstays of Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance are fairly simple. First, is the procedures poster (that you’re required to have) clearly visible? This means it is not posted on the side of the breakroom fridge, or in only one of the bathrooms.

Second, are the emergency telephone numbers posted in logical place? While it might be useful to have Poison Control in the bathroom, perhaps ensure that it is posted in the break room or kitchen area as well.

While it’s not necessarily OSHA practice, make sure the phone numbers of important (insofar as it pertains to an emergency) office personnel are easily accessible. Make a spreadsheet all employees can access, or appoint a crisis manager per each shift and make sure they have all the information they’ll need to handle an emergency.

Regulatory Payroll Compliance

A lot of payroll compliance comes down to paperwork. In addition to filing your 941s, 940s, and 1099/W-2s on time, you also need to check that: 
  • All employee SSN on file are correct
  • Employees input the correct address for their W2/ 1099s
  • Your withholding rates and handbook are up-to-date 
  • Employees are classified properly (in terms of exempt, nonexempt) and that the corresponding overtime rates match state/ federal requirements
  • If your business is along state lines your work-from-home policy deals with workers from out of state and ensures that state’s proper payroll compensation rate

Note: It is assumed that you have a system in place that tracks time and attendance, but a lesser-known time and attendance compliance requirement is that timecards must be kept for at least two years.

Maintaining company compliance on all fronts is a big undertaking, but if you break it down into smaller, attainable steps, you can pass any audits with flying colors. We can’t be with you every step of the way, we can make sure ACA compliance is one less thing for you to worry about. Schedule an appointment with our account managers today!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Cheaper Obamacare 2019 Premiums on the Way

Obamacare 2019 could bring welcome lower market premiums.

Obamacare 2019 premiums are finally falling. CNN reports that the drop in the insurance premium is the first since 2014, when the Affordable Care Act exchanges opened. The insurance premium for the benchmark silver plan is expected to decline by 1.5%, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This shakes out to approximately $6 saved a month.

Insurance Premium Plummet?

Part of the cause behind the benchmark insurance premium skyrocketing in the first place was market instability. Insurers hiked the premiums to cover their anticipated losses in a time of market upheaval. There is also conjecture that premiums have fallen because repealing Obamacare was a non-event, and will remain stalled during the open enrollment period.

Obamacare 2019 On the Rise

The amount of insurers on the federal exchange is also anticipated to grow for the first time since 2015; CNN cites 23 more carriers in the Obamacare 2019 open enrollment market than were present last year.

USA Today says that Tennessee is expected to receive the biggest Obamacare 2019 premium drop––26%–– and that the average premium for the "benchmark" plan will cost $406 next year. However, as each of the 39 states offering Obamacare 2019 differ slightly in their marketplaces, their insurance premiums deviate slightly. Wyoming clocks in at the highest anticipated benchmark insurance premium cost, $709, while Indiana's $278 clocks in as the lowest insurance premium for Obamacare 2019. 

Low and Behold

The lower insurance premium could be a boon for people who don’t qualify for premium subsidies (given that the subsidies cover 90% of the Obamacare health insurance policy’s cost). CNN reports that most of the people dropping out of the Obamacare market departed because they didn’t qualify to receive subsidies, and thus shouldered a lot of the impact of the past rate hikes.

With more people poised to enroll in Obamacare, make sure you have a reporting strategy in place. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed to get your 1094 and 1095 forms into the proper hands, ahead of deadline. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

How To Use Effective Listening Skills for Business Success

Business leaders celebrating the use of effective listening skills for business successThere are many factors that come into play while achieving business success. Early mornings. Late nights. Dedication. Sacrifice. Most successful businesses require each of these, along with listening skills to eliminate unnecessary barriers that may present themselves along the way. You’d actually be surprised at how much you learn just by using strong listening skills! Today, we will learn how to use effective listening skills for business success.

How To Use Effective Listening Skills for Business Success

Listen to Your Business Partners

Most successful businesses have found that it is difficult to grow a business if proper communication skills are not used–especially when communicating with colleagues. Having good communication and listening skills help to compress the learning curve as a business executive.

Instead of learning things the hard way, take advantage of the advice shared by those that have experienced the highs and lows of business leadership. Listen to people in your network and always remain teachable. Any insight you can glean from your circle is worthwhile!

Effective Listening Helps When Dealing with Clients

“The customer [client] is always right”

We know, you have heard this line thousands of times. Although this is a cliché, there is much truth to the statement. When conversing with clients, use strong listening skills to gain a better understanding of their wants and what they enjoy (or dislike) about your company.

There are plenty of positive ways of communication that can lead to a healthy discussion with your clientele. Jot down a few questions that trigger great dialogue –– the more you find out, the better you can grow your company.

Effective Listening To Your Employees

It’s no secret that workplace morale improves when people feel heard. Make an effort to engage with your employees, even when they don’t have a problem. Set the standard for workplace communication skills by being receptive. If you can, try to enact an open-door policy during some hours of the day, or by letting your employees know the best times of the day to email you if they need an immediate reply. Effective listening starts with simply being there to talk to.

The next step after being there when your employees bring their problems to you is to demonstrate concern. Even if their problem is minor in your scheme of things, it is a big deal to your employee if they have bothered to come to you. Remember to nod and maintain eye contact during the exchange, and make sure your employee leaves the meeting feeling like you have a grasp on what was bothering them.

Never Forget To Listen to Yourself

Your arsenal of listening skills should include listening to yourself. You know that inner voice that you hear sometimes and tend to avoid? Start listening to it! Trust your personal judgment in certain situations but most importantly, when your body tells you to slow down, do so.

It is very easy to become immersed in their work, which leads to over-exhaustion and burnout. This can be avoided by engaging in activities that are beneficial to your health and peace of mind. Schedule “down-time” and do enjoyable things with your family and friends. Eat well and get rest.
Your company needs you, so always make yourself a priority!

How Most Successful Businesses Use Effective Listening

The use of effective listening and positive communication will help you on the path to business success. Here are some final takeaways that you can benefit from for years to come:

    Company executive using effective listening skills for business success
  • Build a Strong Network of Most Successful Businesses
  • Listen to Your Support System
  • Have an Open-Door Policy With Employees
  • Initiate Dialogue With Your Customers
  • Listen To & Trust Your Gut Instinct
  • Make Yourself a Priority
Now that you have a better understanding of how to use effective listening skills for business success, what about tax preparation?––more specifically, ACA reporting. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed especially to get your 1094 and 1095 forms where they need to go with time to spare. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today!

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Monday, October 8, 2018

This Is How Covering Tattoos at Work Can Hurt Your Company

Do you need to update your workplace self-expression policies?

As younger people enter the workforce, they bring with them the culture they grew up in. Often, that’s a culture of riotous color and more than a few body modifications. Depending on your company’s self-expression policy (like covering tattoos at work), the way these candidates look might disqualify them completely, but it is important to remember that more and more companies are broadening their self-expression policies, and could thus be snapping up the talent you turn away. Worse, your company’s self-expression policies might be causing your current talent to disengage and cause you problems down the line.

Is Covering Tattoos at Work Antiquated?

There is nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward, but consider how public the whole of your company is. If clients are not meeting with all of your employees, do all of your employees have to have natural hair and no piercings? If only some of your staff is on camera, do all your employees have to look camera-ready all the time? If the CEO doesn’t tour the office every day, does everyone have to dress like a C-level visit is imminent?

If the answer to any of these questions is “No,” then maybe it’s time to re-think some of your corporate self-expression policies, and whether or not your employees need to focus on tattoo cover up and corporate homogenization instead of tasks that move the company forward.

Corporate attire is another thing. If you prefer certain shirts or skirt lengths, etc. it is possible to ask your employees to still adhere to a dress code while expressing themselves. Consider it a compromise: slacks and button-downs in exchange for not having to remove nose rings and cake makeup over foot tattoos.
How updating your company self-expression policy will benefit you in the long run.

Tattoo Cover Up and Other Corporate Self-Expression

Research by the Harvard Business Review uncovered that self-expression helps new hires acclimate and feel at home, which in turn increases their retention rates. Research states that a company “pushing their identity on an employee” led to a less strong corporate relationship and overall lack of pride of the employee in their organization.

Employee retention is rooted in some degree of employee satisfaction. Unless you have an unlimited budget and time to invest in constantly hiring new employees, perhaps some of that time is better invested in determining if you can make your current employees happier. And it could be as cost-effective of a decision as allowing tattoos in the workplace.

Gen Z Joins the Workforce: Why Corporate Culture Is a Cultural Problem

Regardless of what your business is or does, word-of-mouth is potent, especially with a generation as plugged in as Gen Z. If they don’t feel engaged or welcomed at work––be that because of forced corporate attire or other employee management policies––they are less likely to tell their friends positive things about the company. Whether that amounts to one less newspaper subscription, or storm of negative social media posts, the end result is still disseminated dissatisfaction.

In terms of corporate longevity: you are losing future customers. Gen Z will only grow more and more prominent in the job and consumer markets, and if your corporate practices leave a bad taste in too many mouths, that could spell disaster down the line. Simply put, rethinking your corporate self-expression and policies on covering tattoos at work is good for your future.

You don’t just want to keep your employees engaged, you also want to keep them tax complaint. If you’re looking for a way to do your 2018 ACA reporting, ACAwise is the solution for you. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed to help you with efficient 1094 and 1095 distribution. To learn more about ACAwise, schedule an appointment today!

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What Employers Need To Know About Service Dogs in the Workplace

Employees with disabilities may require the assistance of therapy dogs or service dogs in the workplace to assist them in completing daily tasks. As an employer, you must be aware of service dog laws and how to best accommodate employees that need this help in the workplace under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Here is what employers need to know about service dogs in the workplace.

Disabled employee using service dogs in the workplace

What Employers Need To Know About Service Dogs in the Workplace

What is a service animal?

The ADA defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to perform tasks or work for the benefit of a disabled person. Aside from service animals, disabled employees may use the assistance of companion animals (pets) or emotional support animals (therapy dogs) that provide comfort and companionship to employees that deal with psychiatric or emotional conditions or disabilities.

Note: Although service animals provide therapeutic benefits for its user, the ADA does not require an employer to allow therapy dogs or other emotional support animals in their business, just service animals. However, employers are still encouraged to make reasonable accommodations to their disabled employees.

Accommodation Requests

Employees do reserve the right to request reasonable accommodations for bringing service dogs in the workplace. These requests should be submitted in writing and filed with the employee’s records and processed in a timely manner to avoid any legal issues.

The letter submitted by your disabled employee should include a description of their disability, how it affects them at work, why a service animal is needed for assistance in performing their job, and what the service or therapy dog will do for the employee. It is also beneficial to be informed on how the employee plans to take care of the animal and its behavior.

Denied Requests

As an employer, you do have the right to deny a request to have a service dog at work only if it creates an undue hardship. Simply saying “our business doesn’t allow dogs,” or “therapy dogs will cause too much commotion during business hours,” will lead you to a dark road you do NOT want to travel. Grounds for denying an accommodation request is very strict, such as:

1) Must show that allowing the accommodation imposes a major burden or cost on the company (as it relates to the expense/nature of the accommodation) due to its size and resources.
2) Creates a hardship for other employees that may have severe dog allergies.
3) Moving current employees into disclosed workspaces away from the service animal.
Tip: Be very careful and fully analyze any accommodation request you receive. Denying a request can lead to legal action if not handled properly.

The ACA Compliance Solution Every Employer Needs

We know you endeavor to accommodate your employees, and it is our goal to accommodate you. At ACAwise, we provide a full-service ACA reporting solution to handle your tax needs as they arise. Keep all of your employees on track with the help of our efficient 1094 and 1095 distribution. Schedule an appointment today to learn more about ACAwise!

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Monday, October 1, 2018

The Obamacare Pros and Woes You Need To Know

WI DOJ had an ACA lawsuit filed against it the last week of September
Between a new legal battle with the Wisconsin justice department (WI DOJ) and a finally perceptible market stabilization, Obamacare is back in the headlines. While lawsuits are at the heart of both current events driving Obamacare’s search-engine resurgence, we’ll break down why you should have Obamacare on the brain once more.

WI DOJ Gets In Hot Water

Last week, the Associated Press reported that The Center for Media and Democracy is now suing the Wisconsin Department of Justice over the department’s failure to turn over requested information pertaining to Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel's lawsuit regarding Obamacare.

Schimel joined Texas vs. United States, a multi-state lawsuit currently under litigation, seeking to overturn Obamacare in April, and The Center for Media and Democracy requested Aug. 20 to see Schimel’s emails on the Obamacare onslaught from Jan. 1 to Aug. 3. AP reports that the Wisconsin Department of Justice denied the open records request.

We will update this blog as more information on both the Texas vs. United States and the WI DOJ Obamacare lawsuits becomes available.

Obamacare Drops In Price

CNN is projecting that purchasing a benchmark Obamacare plan next season might be cheaper, for the first time since 2014. Health Secretary Alex Azar tweeted Thursday that the premium for the silver policy is expected to decline by 2% for 2019. He is also quoted as saying that the number of insurers on the federal exchange also will also change for the first time in a few years, as it is expected to grow for the first time since 2015.

As open enrollment for health care begins Nov. 1, a more nuanced outlook on Obamacare is expected to be released late this month by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Open enrollment for Obamacare lasts until Dec. 15 in many states. 

Obamacare insurers are starting to profit on the individual marketAlthough a lot of insurers fled the market when Obamacare began to descend into upheaval, those who stuck it out through the tumult are finally starting to reap rewards. As Texas vs. United States languishes in litigation, Obamacare has started to stabilize. CNN reports that many insurers are actually breaking even or have begun to make a profit in the individual market.

Aggregating your Obamacare updates is not the only thing ACAwise can do for you. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed to get your 1094 and 1095 forms into the proper hands, ahead of deadline. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How The Senate is Helping To Eliminate Surprise Medical Bills

Medical treatment and its costly expense have left many Americans frustrated and in medical debt. Acknowledging the ever-growing need for medical bill assistance, a bipartisan group of the Senate recently proposed a plan to protect patients from the unexpected surprise of paying medical bills and expensive charges from doctors or hospitals that are not in their current insurance network.

How The Senate is Helping To Eliminate Surprise Medical Bills

HealthAffairs reported this week that multiple states (Arizona, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Oregon) have tried to ease the burden of surprise medical debt, but were curbed in their efforts because current state laws don’t apply to privately-insured Americans enrolled in “self-insured” health plans that are popular among large employers. Since the states can’t affect change, it’s up to the federal government.

The Senate is helping to eliminate surprise medical bills by introducing a bipartisan proposal, BenefitsPro reports.  Designed to prevent unnecessary medical bankruptcies, the draft legislation has decided to target the following key consumer concerns:

1) Emergency treatment conducted by a doctor who is not part of the patient’s insurance network and is conducted at a medical center (hospital) outside of the network. Patients in this predicament would be required to pay for these costs out-of-pocket due to the limitations of their insurance plan. Both the hospital and doctor could seek additional payment(s) from the insurer of the patient through the new proposal.

2) Those treated by a doctor outside of their network or another provider at a hospital within the patient’s insurance network. The new bill would allow patients to pay only what is required by their plan. However, doctors could still seek further payments from the plan based on the formulas that the patient’s state has set up.

3) Lastly, those that receive a mandated notification as an emergency patient, once stabilized, could incur excess charges if they are treated at an out-of-network hospital. Patients in this scenario would be required to sign a statement that would acknowledge they had been informed their insurance would most likely not cover all expenses and they could seek further treatment elsewhere.

Giving Patients A Helping Hand

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), announced that “Our proposal protects patients in those emergency situations where current law does not  so that they don’t receive a surprise bill that is basically uncapped by anything but a sense of shame.” Aside from emergency room and out-of-network hospital visits, patients can face very expensive bills for using a ground or air ambulance to be transported to a medical facility.

While the Senate gets a toehold on mitigating medical debt, you can get ahead on your Affordable Care Act reporting for 2018. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting and is certified to help you ease the burden of distributing your 1094 and 1095 forms! Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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