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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.

Transform Company Leaders Into Engagement Ambassadors

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High employee engagement is linked to higher profits, greater productivity, lower turnover rates and a slew of other positive business outcomes. For years, HR leaders have worked to establish positive protocols and cultivate constructive environments to meet the shifting needs of a changing workforce. However, new research suggests engagement responsibilities should expand from the HR department to include the C-suite.

Why diversify?

Company leaders have a huge impact on employee engagement levels. According to the 2018 Global Leadership Forecast by Development Dimensions International (DDI), “leaders continue to wield the greatest single impact on workplace engagement.” When companies work from the top down to ignite innovation and excitement in employees, everybody wins.

A 2017 Harvard Business Review article praises managers who are able to deliver profits while creating a positive work culture: “Having the ability to simultaneously drive for results and practice excellent people skills is a powerful combination that has a dramatic impact on a leader’s effectiveness.”

Below are a few high-level priorities HR can focus on to invest in their leaders so employee engagement levels may rise companywide.

Anatomy of a leader

It turns out that a good chunk of company leaders understands the importance of engagement and purpose. DDI’s study found 71% of leaders viewed their role as “a custodian of the organization’s purpose.” Also, nearly 75% of those surveyed said they supported critical activities that aligned with the company’s goals.

Although many individuals hold upper-management titles, HR leaders need to identify dynamic leaders who are not only results-driven, but also value employee engagement. A few qualities to look for include:

  • positive communicators who compel vision and set clear, strategic directions with their written and verbal communications
  • achievement-oriented individuals who create a healthy sense of urgency, trust their teams, hold people accountable and set high standards
  • relationship-minded people who build relationships slowly and systematically while keeping old relationships healthy
  • coachable individuals who can both deliver and receive critical feedback with grace

Tools for success

Once HR identifies dynamic leaders whom they can utilize as ambassadors of engagement, they can equip them with the right tools to succeed. A few tangible ways to do this include:

  • making certain leaders are exposed to realistic challenges in order to prepare them for future ups and downs
  • clearly communicating business goals, as well as the case for employee engagement in internal communications
  • having periodic, positive callouts when leaders succeed in inspiring their teams
  • setting up mentoring programs where budding leaders have built-in accountability partners and can learn coaching techniques from the best
  • selecting senior-level managers as engagement catalysts to help build a positive culture, since change starts at the top

Employee engagement isn’t just for HR. Workers who consistently see upper management communicating strategically, supporting their teams and valuing each employee’s contribution, have a successful blueprint worth following. When HR and company leaders team up with both the bottom line and an engaged workforce in mind, victory is theirs for the taking.

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Jennifer Kraszewski

by Jennifer Kraszewski


Author Bio: Jennifer Kraszewski, Paycom’s Director of Human Resources, has more than 20 years of HR leadership experience, driving transformative, business-focused human capital strategies in high-growth industries to achieve efficiencies, compliance and employee engagement. Kraszewski holds a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University and an MBA from Oklahoma City University, and is SPHR- and SHRM-SCP-certified.

HR Manager SHRM18

6 Ways to Get the Most Out of SHRM18, From One HR Manager to Another

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From Sunday, June 17, to Wednesday, June 20, the largest gathering of HR professionals in the world will unite in Chicago for the Society for Human Resource Management’s Annual Conference & Exposition, aka SHRM18. From one HR manager to another, here are my key tips to getting the most from this year’s conference … and having a little fun as well!

1. Download the conference app.

Repeat: Download the conference app. This is the absolute best source of information because it helps you plan your sessions. In addition to keeping you organized, the app includes PowerPoints and notes from each session, even the ones you missed!

2. Do not miss the general session speakers.

There is a great lineup – did someone say Sheryl Sandberg and Jeb Bush? – and these sessions are always amazing. Personally, I can’t wait to hear Adam Grant’s session. If you aren’t up to speed on Grant, an organizational psychologist, check him out on YouTube and I’ll just plan on seeing you Tuesday at his session, “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.”

3. Do not miss these sessions, either.

As an HR manager, I am a steward of my organization’s culture, which is why I cannot miss Steve Browne’s Tuesday session on “Cultures That ROCK! Five Proven Ways to Develop and Sustain a Phenomenal Workplace.” I always enjoy the legislative updates and Sunday afternoon’s “Tsunami or Wave: The Washington Outlook for HR Public Policy,” from SHRM’s own Michael P. Aitken, is going to add so much value to my conference experience and compliance knowledge base.

4. Enjoy Chicago.

Deep-dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs and hot beef sandwiches are just the start of your Chicago experience, as architecture tours, Willis Tower, Hancock Tower, Navy Pier Park and Millennium Park await. In addition to growing your career at the conference, you’ve got to take a few moments and enjoy, in my opinion, one of America’s historical treasures, and the home of the Cubs and Michael Jordan.

5. Schedule your sessions, but be ready to improvise.

You are going to run into someone you know and miss the session you had scheduled. You’re going to get caught up in the expo hall and lose track of time. That’s OK, because you have to balance overscheduling with going with the flow.

6. Last, but not least, have fun!

We take over the city. More than 20,000 HR professionals come together for this conference and although it’s the exact opposite of how our profession can, at times, be portrayed in the movies, we know how to have a good time. Enjoy the after-hours events. Make it to the Pentatonix concert! Network with people you’ve never met. Collect swag from the expo hall and don’t forget to come by the Paycom booth (No. 250!) and visit me, as well as enter to win $5,000 toward a vacation anywhere in the U.S.!

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Chanse Moucka

by Chanse Moucka


Author Bio: Chanse joined Paycom in early 2016 focusing on Paycom’s internal HR compliance function. In addition to Paycom’s internal compliance function, Chanse also leads Paycom’s HR Business Partner team. Chanse has been in the Human Resources field for 13 years and is experienced in many aspects of HR, extensively in employee relations and compliance. Chanse holds a degree in Business Administration from Saint Gregory’s University and also holds his PHR from the Human Resources Certification Institute and a designation as a Society for Human Resource Management certified professional.

Mentorship Program

Why Your Business Needs a Mentorship Program

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It’s no secret that great leaders consistently place a high value on mentoring others. Mentors help budding leaders gain important insights, give them much-needed honest feedback and serve as a blueprint for success to their mentees. Sometimes these mutually beneficial relationships between more experienced, upper-management individuals and younger employees happen organically; other times, they may spring up by chance, through existing networks or even between supervisors and employees who just click together.

I can personally attest to the value of mentorship – in my career, spanning over 20 years, I’ve had many informal mentors. I was lucky to have great leaders who took a special interest in me and my development. Even though these relationships were not part of a formal mentorship program, they were transformative for me.

And if informal mentorship is beneficial, you can bet that formal mentorship adds value to the individuals and organizations participating. After all, formal mentoring programs can help avoid the risk of unconscious bias, and provide the structure needed to maintain the mentoring relationship even when both parties are busy. Here are a few reasons why I think they’re well worth considering.

Fruitful feedback

 You don’t have to take my word for it – compelling research from Development Dimensions International illustrates some of the key benefits of a formal mentorship program. Its 2018 Global Leadership Forecast represents the responses of more than 25,000 business leaders and 2,500 HR professionals in a range of industries. According to this study, businesses that implemented a formal mentorship program saw:

  • a 20% lower turnover rate
  • a more holistic understanding of the business from all employees
  • deeper connections and higher-quality networking opportunities
  • 46% higher quality leaders
  • an increased likelihood of wisdom remaining in-house
  • 23% more critical roles could be filled immediately
  • a silo breakdown between functional groups

A robust mentorship program is one way businesses can ensure that top talent stays, develops and thrives in-house while providing meaningful opportunities for senior execs to witness their tangible impact.

Millennials and mentorship

 The Pew Research Center recently noted that millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. They’re not just the largest chunk of the workforce; your high-performing millennials also will be either the future leaders of your organization – or someone else’s. And one theme keeps cropping up in conversations about what millennials value: mentorship.

In fact, a 2016 Deloitte study found that millennials who planned to stay with employers for more than five years were more than twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%). And 20-somethings aren’t the only ones who value credible feedback and wisdom – workers of all ages understand the benefits. When well-executed, mentorship programs engage your millennial employees and elevate the entire workforce.

Success stories

 Some of the world’s most financially successful organizations have a formal mentorship program, including such Fortune 500 companies as GE, Intel and AT&T.

In GE’s “leader in residence” program, top executives rotate responsibilities. During their residence time, they spend a week mentoring, teaching and coaching managers and employees. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Raghu Krishnamoorthy, GE’s vice president of executive development and chief learning officer, said, “By giving leaders access to deeper levels across the organization, and, in turn, providing participants access to senior leadership, we have created greater cohesiveness throughout the company.”

AT&T leaders mentor their workforce in topic-based groups called “leadership circles.” Within these circles, members communicate both online and face-to-face. The program allows for a single mentor to take on a few mentees at a time, but in a group setting, two or more leaders can collaborate and mentor several mentees together. The groups are self-organized, free-flowing and champion tenets such as teamwork and trust. This program suits the telecom giant’s workforce needs, and AT&T saw an increase in the quality of peer-to-peer mentoring as a result.

No matter the size or scope of your business, formal mentorship programs offer valuable insight and opportunities for both the mentor and mentee. If a rising tide lifts all boats, mentorship initiatives that make space for honest feedback and meaningful connections can ensure everyone floats a little higher.

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Author Bio: Oden-Hall is an award-winning public relations, communications and marketing professional with over 20 years experience driving corporate strategy for Fortune 500 companies. Her Oklahoma roots and passion coupled with her global experience and creative flair have helped her drive numerous successful strategic initiatives. She joined the Paycom team as Chief Marketing Officer in April of 2012.

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