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Understanding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

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With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) being signed into law by President Donald Trump on Dec. 22, 2017, several changes to individual and business taxation were made. How those changes affect each taxpayer depends on that individual’s specific situation.

Below is a “big-picture” overview of various provisions affecting businesses and individuals, with more focused guidance on how the new law will affect employer withholding of employee income taxes.

 

Changes for individuals

The TCJA affects individual income taxes in a number of ways. While the law maintains the seven income brackets used in tax calculation, it reduces the tax rate for five of the brackets:

Previous Rates 10% 15% 25% 28% 33% 35% 39.6%
New Rates 10% 12% 22% 24% 32% 35% 37%

 

The new law has also changed the withholding rates for supplemental wages. For wages up to $1 million, the current rate is 22%, and for wages over $1 million, the current rate is 37% (previously 25% and 39.6%, respectively).

TCJA has eliminated the personal exemptions for individuals, spouse and dependents. Previously, a married taxpayer filing jointly could claim two exemptions: one for his or her spouse and another for themselves. In that instance, two exemptions of $4,050 each would reduce taxable income by $8,100 total.

While that exemption is gone, the TCJA nearly has doubled the standard deduction. Last year, the standard deduction was $6,350 for single filers and $12,700 for joint filers. For 2018, these levels increased to $12,000 for single and $24,000 for joint filers.

The TCJA makes several other specific changes to individual income taxes, including:

  • The individual shared responsibility mandate within the Affordable Care Act (ACA) essentially has been removed, as the penalty for noncompliance will become $0, effective Jan. 1, 2019.
  • Individuals no longer will be able to claim unreimbursed business expenses as itemized deductions.
  • A $10,000 limit has been placed on the deductibility of other taxes (state income tax, property taxes, etc.).
  • Donations to universities for athletic seating privileges are no longer deductible.
  • The child tax credit will double from the previous $1,000 value, up to $2,000 per child.

 

Changes for businesses

Businesses will need to take note of several changes within the TCJA as well. One key change: The corporate tax rate has been reduced from 35% to 21%.

Additionally, a new short term incentive is in place for businesses who offer FMLA paid leave to their employees. Such businesses will receive a credit of 12.5% for every dollar paid for FMLA leave, up to 50% of an employee’s pay, with an additional 0.25% credit for every 1% paid above 50% of an employee’s pay.

Among various reductions or removal of deductible expenses that businesses should note include:

  • transportation fringe benefits
  • limitations for employer-operated eating facilities
  • deduction limitations for pay to highly paid employees and C-level employees
  • limitations to the write-offs for sexual harassment settlements
  • limitations for the deductibility of entertainment expenses

 

All of the above items will need to be discussed with your CPA or tax counsel to determine how they apply to your situation.

 

Frequently asked questions from employers

Some of the most frequent questions we have received since the president’s signing of the law pertain to the withholding tables and Form W-4 questions.

Withholding tables

The IRS released the new 2018 withholding tables on Jan. 11 in Notice 1036, with more detailed guidance released on Jan. 29 in Notice 2018-14 and Publication 15. (These changes already have been implemented in the Paycom system, ahead of the Feb. 15 implementation deadline from the IRS.)

The IRS designed the 2018 withholding tables so that employees’ existing Form W-4 data could continue to be used. Therefore, the IRS does not require employees to complete a new W-4 for 2018.

Extensions to the 2017 Form W-4

The IRS currently is working on a new 2018 Form W-4 that will allow employees to modify their withholding to take full advantage of the changes in the TCJA. The new form’s expected release is after Feb. 15.

As a result, Notice 2018-14 highlights these items relating to the 2017 Form W-4:

  1. Existing 2017 Forms W-4 furnished to claim exemption from withholding for 2017 would be extended to Feb. 28, 2018.
  2. The 2017 Form W-4 may continue to be used temporarily to claim exemption from withholding in 2018.
  3. The agency temporarily has suspended the requirement that employees must furnish new Forms W-4 to employers within 10 days of changes in states that would reduce withholding allowances they may claim.

 

Allowances and exemptions

When discussing the effects of the TCJA, it is important to understand the distinction between “allowances,” as claimed on the W-4 that are used for withholding, and “exemptions” that an individual claims on a year-end tax return.

Historically, these numbers are usually the same. For instance, last year they were $4,050 per allowance in withholding and exemptions in year-end tax returns. The number of allowances claimed on the 2017 Form W-4 were multiplied by $4,050, and an employee’s annual wages were reduced by that product to arrive at taxable wages used in withholding calculations. If the employee claimed exemptions on his or her annual return, the number of exemptions claimed likewise was multiplied by the same $4,050 to reduce taxable income on the Form 1040 year-end return.

While the TCJA has eliminated exemptions for 2018, the allowances (as used in calculation of withholding) have not been eliminated; in fact, they were increased to a value of $4,150 per allowance claimed on the W-4. Thus, for every W-4 allowance claimed, an employee’s gross income will be reduced by $4,150 to arrive at taxable wages for use in the withholding calculation. However, no exemptions will be allowed on the employee’s Form 1040 at year-end; moving forward, it is anticipated the worksheet on the 2018 Form W-4 will not include exemptions in the calculation of withholding allowances.

Voluntary submission of 2018 Form W-4

While submitting a 2018 Form W-4 is not required by the IRS at this time, an employee may elect to do so. Employees should look at the 2018 W-4 once it is released, because of the removal of exemptions from the income tax provisions. Employees should calculate the allowances on the new form to determine if they would benefit by submitting a new Form W-4 to their employer to adjust their withholding.

Until the 2018 Form W-4 is released, an employee may voluntarily choose to submit a copy of the 2017 Form W-4 if he or she wants to adjust their withholding for the period prior to the 2018 form’s release.

The recent tax reform is complex, leaving many items to consider for your employees as they head into 2018. Businesses and employees alike would benefit from consulting tax counsel to help determine the most appropriate next steps for their specific situations.



Author Bio: Robert Barclay has been the Tax Research Team Lead at Paycom since 2012, and has been instrumental in such company projects as the development of its Affordable Care Act compliance product, implementation of geolocation services and redesign of Form W-2. He joined Paycom in 2011, bringing more than 20 years of experience with the capital markets consulting practices of Ernst & Young in Memphis, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala.; and Causey Demgen & Moore in Denver, Colo. A native Oklahoman, Barclay is a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, where he played football as linebacker.

Anonymous Sexual Harassment Reports

Building Employee Trust with Anonymous Sexual Harassment Reports

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Employee trust is one of the most important factors in handling sexual harassment complaints. Employees need to trust HR will listen to their concerns and will respond appropriately to reports of sexual harassment. Yet the EEOC notes only about 30% of employees who experienced harassment reported the harassment internally within their company.

One way HR can help build trust with employees is with a robust system of reporting and investigation that allows anonymous complaints and communications.

If clear procedures are communicated to employees and consistently followed, an anonymous complaint process can help build trust that HR is prepared and committed to investigating harassment complaints in a fair and thorough manner.

Make a plan and stick to it

 As with all company policies, developing your procedure ahead of time, and following it when issues arise, are key to workplace fairness. Following the steps of a robust and outlined policy can also help limit company liability after an incident occurs by demonstrating the company seriously investigated the complaint and took appropriate action in accordance with its policy.

Providing the means for employees to make anonymous complaints can help employees trust their complaints will be handled discretely and appropriately, and can help lessen employee concerns about retaliation.

Some employers contract with an outside vendor to provide a third-party anonymous reporting system that will pass on complaints only to a specific person or group who needs to know of the complaint in order to investigate. The vendor can also allow the person making the report to specify individuals who may be involved in the behavior, so those people will not receive access to the anonymous report.

Follow up

 Take anonymous reports as seriously as any other type of report, including face-to-face complaints. Recognize the reasons an individual may wish to remain anonymous and be sensitive in your response.

Think of anonymous reporting as simply another pathway to allow your employees to share their concerns, in addition to the other methods available to them, like discussions with HR personnel or meetings with supervisors. Thoroughly investigate any complaint made, regardless of whether the person who filed a report chooses to remain anonymous or not.

Don’t promise more than you can deliver

 Communicate to employees that they can make a report of sexual harassment completely anonymously. However, if they choose to identify themselves in a complaint, don’t promise you will be able to keep their identity secret. Make clear you have a duty to investigate all complaints, and this may involve interviews with the person or people accused of taking part in inappropriate or harassing behavior.

Emphasize the company will follow its internal procedures. Do not imply or promise what may result from an investigation after an employee complaint is made. An anonymous complaint is the first step of a workplace investigation, and must be investigated in accordance with policy, just like any other type of report.

It’s important to take your company’s responsibilities seriously when you respond to sexual harassment complaints. A robust policy that allows anonymous reports and responds with an impartial and thorough investigation to each anonymous complaint can be an effective part of an overall anti-harassment strategy, and can help build and maintain employee trust in HR personnel and anti-harassment efforts.

 Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

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Erin Maxwell

by Erin Maxwell


Author Bio: As a compliance attorney for Paycom, Erin Maxwell monitors legal and regulatory changes at the state and federal level, focusing on health and employee benefits laws, to ensure the Paycom system is updated accordingly. She previously served as assistant general counsel at Asset Servicing Group in Oklahoma City. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma. Outside of work, Maxwell enjoys politics, historical mysteries and spending time with her family.

Leaders

Levels and Landscapes: Equipping Tomorrow’s Leaders

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Leaders are “the primary factor behind employee productivity, commitment and bottom-line profitability,” according to research from leadership consultant expert researchers Zenger Folkman.

The stakes are high, which doesn’t make it any easier to ensure the leaders in your organization are reaching their full potential, or that your next crop of leaders will be up to the task. In fact, research shows that one of the five largest challenges HR faces in 2018 is developing leaders. To make sure your organization’s current and future leaders are in good shape, help develop them through the five levels of leadership with an eye on your specific organization’s landscape.

John Maxwell’s levels of leadership

 In the fast-paced global economy, strong leadership is key to helping employers innovate and adapt on a dime. But before delving into the vast array of advice, employers must first assess their own leadership. According leadership guru John Maxwell, there are five different levels of leadership a leader may progress through.

Maxwell’s levels are:

  1. Position
  2. Permission
  3. Production
  4. People development
  5. Pinnacle

 

As leaders grow, they should progress through the levels of leadership, which build on top of each other. For example, when a leader reaches the third level, Production, their priority is to produce results. Maxwell writes, “[t]he Production level is where leaders can become change agents. Work gets done, morale improves, profits go up, turnover goes down, and goals are achieved. The more you produce, the more you’re able to tackle tough problems and face thorny issues.”

When a leader reaches the final level – Pinnacle –  they reproduce other leaders who are willing and able to develop still more leaders. Their organizations thrive, and they develop a personal legacy of leadership.

Leaders in all areas of an organization can identify where they can grow to move toward Pinnacle – which benefits them, their companies and everyone they work with.

Knowing your business landscape

 The way a leader carries out Maxwell’s five levels may look somewhat different depending on your business and industry. According to a recent study in the Harvard Business Review, different kind of enterprises thrive under different types of leadership. Businesses should take stock of their products, makeup, competition and the types of people who rise and fall in the ranks to understand which leaders are best suited for their future endeavors.

According to the study, “[l]eadership styles, or brands if you prefer the term, are always contextual. Different kinds of leaders are minted in different organizations.”

This gives your organization an opportunity. Determine how the best, most effective leaders in your company lead. How do they make decisions? What are their priorities, and how do they communicate those to their employees? What are the commonalities your top leaders share? Then, seek those common elements in your rising leaders to build a strong bench of future leaders.

In an upcoming webinar presented by John Maxwell on HR.com, gain insight on how leaders can develop themselves and others. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how you can grow leaders and elevate the rest of your organization while you do it.

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Posted in Blog


Author Bio: Jason Bodin has been the communications pulse for a number of organizations, including Paycom, where he serves as director of public relations and corporate communications. He helped launch Paycom’s blog, webinar platform and social media channels. He aided in the development of Paycom’s tool to assist organizations in complying with the Affordable Care Act, one of the largest changes in health care the country has seen. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Bodin previously worked for ESPN and FoxSports. In his free time, he enjoys adventuring with his family, reading and strengthen his business acumen.

Physical Wellness

Practical Tactics to Improve Your Workforce’s Physical Wellness

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By now, most of us are well aware physical wellness should be a priority for employees and employers. Being physically active helps employees perform at a high level and brings a host of work-related benefits, including increased mental stamina, better concentration and memory, and the ability to learn more quickly. Studies have shown working out for as little as 30 minutes can drastically reduce stress levels. Plus, on days when employees exercise, they tend to be more productive and have improved moods, which benefits the entire company.

Although many employers are aware of this correlation, it can seem difficult to encourage physical wellness in the workplace without expensive perks like exercise equipment or onsite personal trainers. But, the good news is you can encourage physical wellness in your workforce by implementing practical tactics in three key areas: culture, environment and ergonomics.

Culture

It’s difficult for any wellness initiative to succeed without support and buy-in from top-level leadership. Ideally, through words and actions, leaders should communicate employee physical health is important.

This could happen in several ways, including:

  • encouraging participation in sports
  • facilitating company teams or leagues
  • holding walking meetings
  • offering full or partial reimbursements for local race entry fees
  • partnering with local fitness centers to offer employee discounts

After encouraging employee engagement in company offerings, leadership might choose to cement their support by participating in that big community run or taking part in an office-wide volleyball game. A physical wellness program will thrive in a culture that recognizes its importance at all levels.

Environment

You also can help employees get the most out of your organization’s wellness program by creating visual cues throughout the workplace reminding employees to make healthy choices. It’s certainly difficult for employees to overlook the on-campus gym or track they walk past each day, but choosing a healthy snack from the vending machine might increase with some signage indicating 100-calorie or less options. Post signs in stairwells to remind employees how many calories they can burn by choosing to walk instead of using the elevator.  An environment with myriad positive visual cues will encourage employees to take the next step toward a healthier lifestyle.

For businesses with smaller office spaces, take stock of the number of windows present and position desks near them when possible to help improve office visuals. If it’s an option, bring some plants into an all-beige office space – they can improve employee productivity in addition to providing visual interest.

It turns out that acting on those visual cues matters, too. According to Harvard Business Review, Leeds Metropolitan University researched more than 200 employees at a variety of companies and had them report their work performance on days they exercised during work hours and days they did not. On the days they did, the employees reported markedly better productivity and time management, as well as improved interactions with others.

Ergonomics

According to the United States Department of Labor, ergonomics (the science concerned with people’s efficiency in work environments) can help increase productivity, decrease muscle fatigue and lessen the incidence of work-related injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and rotator cuff injuries.

For the many employees who work in an office, implementing a few simple ergonomic best practices can make a big difference. Businesses could enact the 20/20/20 rule for vision breaks, which suggests individuals take a 20-second break every 20 minutes to focus their eyes on an object 20 feet away. Doing so can prevent harmful eye strain that occurs more frequently in jobs with high levels of screen time. Additionally, accommodations like additional lumbar support, standing desk options and adjustable chairs for comfort can be beneficial for desk dwellers, as can suggesting a two-minute break to stretch each hour.

There are many ways to encourage physical wellness in the workplace – start with what makes sense within your organization’s current wellness initiatives. Whether your company has a spiffy new gym in mind or strives to embrace a culture where walking meetings are the norm, prioritizing physical wellness can improve productivity and morale in your workforce and directly contribute to continued success!

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Tiffany Gamblin

by Tiffany Gamblin


Author Bio: Tiffany Gamblin is an HR manager at Paycom. Since joining the company in early 2016, she has implemented innovative benefit communications, as well as developed and delivered an immersive “HR Leadership for Management” training program across the organization. A certified professional of the Society for Human Resource Management, Gamblin obtained her bachelor’s degree in 2013 from the University of Central Oklahoma and has more than eight years of HR experience in a generalist capacity, with a focus on benefits administration and HR training.

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