Every Small Business Needs to Know About These Potential Regulatory Changes

Paychex Inc. released its list of the top 12 potential regulatory changes that small businesses need to know about in 2012. Paychex works closely with the IRS and other government agencies and is constantly monitoring regulatory and compliance-related matters.

• Health Coverage W2 – The IRS further delayed a 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 that file 250 or more Forms W-2 in 2011 must include this cost on the W-2 starting in tax year 2012. The healthcare amounts reported on the W-2 will be strictly informational and not taxable to the employee.

• Healthcare Reform – The Supreme Court is expected to rule in 2012 on the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision in the Affordable Care Act.

• 401(k) – In 2012, 401(k) service providers will have to make additional fee disclosures to plan sponsors and plan sponsors will have to make additional fee disclosures to participants. Contribution limits will increase in 2012. Regulations will be enacted in 2012 or are under consideration to broaden the definition of 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).

• Job Creation – Congress passed legislation in 2011 to provide a tax credit for hiring veterans. The temporary reduction of employee payroll taxes was due to expire on December 31, 2011, but Congress extended the provision for two more months. A new recapture provision applies to employees who earn more than $18,350 during the two-month period.  The tax cut could extend through 2012, pending further negotiations. Congress is considering additional measures, such as earmarking funding for infrastructure projects and passing measures to help small businesses access capital.

• Worker Classification – IRS is allowing eligible employers to reclassify workers as employees in exchange for partial tax relief from past federal employment taxes. In late 2011, the Dept. of Labor agreed to work with the IRS and several states to coordinate enforcement. Legislation in several states to increase fines for worker misclassification may affect employers in 2012.

• Deficit Reduction – Proposed legislation focuses on reducing the deficit through spending reductions and tax increases. Many of the ideas involve reforming personal and business tax and closing of tax loopholes.

• Immigration – The federal government is conducting rigorous worksite enforcement and paperwork inspections of companies of all sizes to crack down on the employment of illegal immigrants. In 2012, state laws will require more private sector employers to use the federal E-verify system for employee verification. Also possible in 2012 are Congressional immigration reform proposals that may include additional federal employment verification obligations.

• Employment Law – Many states restrict employers from using an employee’s credit information in employment-related decisions or are considering these resrictions. The Dept. of Labor and many states have enacted or are considering regulations to provide greater transparency of pay checks. These regulations focus on how workers’ pay is calculated, especially as it relates to minimum wage and overtime requirements.

• Security and Privacy – 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. Many states have enacted onerous privacy and security breach regulations.

• Dodd-Frank – The sweeping Dodd-Frank financial law is focused primarily on Wall Street reforms and consumer protection. However small businesses may face limited access to credit and higher costs of credit or other financial services because of the increased burden it places on some industries.

• Unemployment Insurance – Virtually all businesses will face higher unemployment insurance taxes if Congress reinstates the federal unemployment surtax. In many states, employers will see higher taxes because of the repayment of outstanding federal loans that were taken to continue paying benefits and replenish depleted state unemployment trust funds. Many states are cosidering additional employer reporting requirements to combat unemployment insurance fraud.

• Taxes – 2012 will bring a number of important tax changes including a higher Social Security wage base and changes to  assistance benefit limits. The accelerated depreciation benefits, 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.

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