Unclaimed Checks in Unclaimed Checks in Your Payroll Department

If your payroll system is not set up with Direct Deposit then there is a chance that you have unclaimed checks being stored at your office. What do you do with those?

It is a good idea to have an Unclaimed Checks policy in your employee handbook. We list some suggestions for wording below.

1. Determine if the employee is entitled to the check.

2. Make a concerted effort to deliver the check.

3. Hold the check for two weeks.

4. Send check to state unclaimed property

5. If a check is returned after being mailed, specify a period of time where it will be held at the office for pick up before turning it in to the state.

Employers should keep a record of the employee’s name and last known address for a specific time period after the wages become reportable. After the specified time period has lapsed, sending the check to your state’s abandoned/unclaimed property department probably does your former employee a favor. Because many companies do not have a mechanism for holding on to unclaimed property for long periods of time, chances are that at some point the check would be lost or destroyed. However, while abandoned property laws vary from state to state, Washington’s state law *“protects unclaimed property until it can be returned. There is no time limit for filing a claim and rightful owners or their heirs can claim property reported since 1955. The state may auction the content of safe deposit boxes, however, if not claimed within five years.”*

Some other particulars of unclaimed property laws in the Pacific Northwest:

Washington:

  • Unpaid wages, including wages represented by un-presented payroll checks, owing in the ordinary course of the holder’s business which remain unclaimed by the owner for more than one year after becoming payable are presumed abandoned.*

Oregon:

  • Property becomes unclaimed if the owner can´t be contacted by the holder of the asset within a specified period of time. Examples of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, uncashed payroll or dividend checks, and safe deposit box contents.

  • Unclaimed money is held in trust in the Common School Fund forever for claim. The fund’s interest earnings benefit K-12 public schools through biennial distributions to Oregon’s 197 school districts.**

 

*Source – http://ucp.dor.wa.gov/aboutUCP.aspx

**Source – http://www.oregon.gov/dsl/UP/Pages/about_us.aspx

Changes to the I-9 Form

It’s important for employers to produce accurate and up-to-date I-9 forms on new hires. This form is used to verify the eligibility of new hires to work in the United States. Some long awaited revisions have taken place and as of May 2013, old I-9 forms will not be accepted. To help ensure your business stays in compliance, you will find helpful tips and answers to common questions about the I-9 updates below.

Form I-9 Correction Notice Published*

On March 8, 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the recently revised Employment Eligibility Verification, Form I-9. USCIS announced in the DATES section of the notice that employers can no longer use prior versions of Form I-9 effective May 7, 2013. USCIS incorrectly described the effective date as being after May 7, 2013.

On April 9, 2013, USCIS published a correction notice in the Federal Register. This notice corrects the error and clarifies that employers may no longer use prior versions of the Form I-9 effective May 7, 2013.

*Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website

Here are answers to a few common questions about the I-9 updates.

1. Employers do not have to refile I-9s for current employees. The one exception to this are foreign employees who only have temporary authorization to work in the U.S.. You will need to re-verify their eligibility using the new form.

2. You can acess the new form by visiting the USCIS website.  To order USCIS forms, employers can also call 1-800-870-3676 or visit www.uscis.gov/I-9Central

 

3. There are serious fines for not complying with USCIS’s directives. Employers who fail to verify their staff can face fines of up to $1100 per employee.

 

Check out this news brief from Breazale, Sachse, and Wilson, LLC law firm for a more in-depth look at the I-9 changes.

Is there value in implementing paycards at work?

A paycard mimics the functions of a debit card and can reduce the hassle of paper check writing for an organization’s payroll department. Paycard usage is increasing as it becomes more challenging to cash paper checks and as businesses recognize the value in accepting electronic payments as opposed to a check. For organizations who are intent on streamlining their payroll process and reducing their paper consumption, paycards are an ideal suggestion for employees who do not have bank accounts and are not interested in direct deposit. According to NACHA, companies can save up to $3.15 per payment by using direct deposit instead of paper checks.* A company with 100 employees on paper checks can save nearly $19,000 a year by switching to direct deposit. Channeling our inner Letterman (except we’re serious!), we bring you:

Top 10 Reasons to Implement Paycards**

1. Seamless integration into your existing payroll system
2. Increase employee productivity
3. Protect funds
4. Prepare for the unexpected
5. Eliminate check delivery fees
6. Minimize stop payment exposure
7. Remove escheatment liability
8. Reduce check fraud
9. Empower employees
10. Go green—and reduce your carbon footprint

Employees also benefit from the use of paycards. Checks can be lost in the mail, while a paycard can be kept in a safe place or on one’s person at all times. Since direct deposit can be used to load a person’s earnings onto the card, the steps of receiving the check in the mail, locating identification, and taking the check to the bank to be cashed are all eliminated. As mentioned previously, there are workers who do not have bank accounts. The holder of a paycard will not have to deal with check cashing fees  In addition, because paycards include the selection of a PIN number, they are much more secure. If lost, it is unlikely that someone else could guess the PIN and use the card. For these reasons a paycard is valuable to employees as well as employers

While there has been concern expressed in the media about the security of paycards and the potential for hidden fees, paycards are subject to significant regulation. An informative explanation of how paycards are regulated can be found here. To summarize, many states have statutes that allow for employees to access their full wages, with no fee, at least once per month. Federal protections include Regulation E, which requires disclosure of fees associated with an employee’s use of the card. Fees may be incurred, particularly if the cardholder goes outside the free options to access his/her money, but these fees must be disclosed. Funds on paycards are insured by the FDIC, and branded paycards (Visa, MasterCard, etc) often enjoy a zero cardholder liability policy in case of a lost or stolen card or fraudulent behavior (by someone other than the cardholder).

At Pamiris, one of the advantages we offer with our service is our relationship with TFG Card Solutions, Inc., whose website can be accessed here. Employers simply have their employee fill out the TFG card form and the Pamiris direct deposit form and send both to Pamiris. We enter the information into our system and the card will be used for direct deposit on the very next payroll, in most cases. There are many options for card use, such as dividing one’s wages between the employee and a card held by his/her spouse, the ability to check balance online or over the phone, and many others. The TFG Frequently Asked Questions page can explain the many card characteristics.

Resources:
https://www.paperlesspay.org/
http://usa.visa.com/corporate/corporate_solutions/payment/payroll-faq.html
http://paycard.americanpayroll.org/compliance-overview
https://www.tfgcard.com/index.php/pages/employersfaq

*Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald & Assoc., Inc., Retirement Confidence Survey
**Source: TFG Card Solutions, Inc. promotional material

Bonus Question and Answer

The month of December often includes paying out year-end bonuses. In the Pamiris system, this can be accomplished when running a Regular Payroll, by processing checks in-house and running a Manual Payroll, or by requesting a Custom Payroll be built.

In order to avoid confusion when the time comes, here is an FAQ on entering bonuses using the Pamiris sytem.

Q: What is Grossed-up vs. Not Grossed-up?

A: A Grossed-up Bonus means that the employer will cover all the Federal taxes, state withholding is excluded. As an example, an employer intends to pay an employee a $100 bonus. The employer, having selected Gross-up pays the amount of the bonus, ($100) plus all associated taxes ($100/.6935 in 2012). As a result, the employee will actually receive a bonus amount of close to $144.20. Any other taxes (state unemployement, state income, etc.), are assessed as usual.


Grossing up bonuses can be very costly to the employer but you have to think of it not as a $100 bonus but as a $144.20 bonus if you want the employee to receive a full $100 net bonus.

For a Not Grossed-up bonus, the employer pays the gross amount of the bonus ($100), but after associated taxes are taken out ($100 * tax % from employee W-4) the employee receives a net bonus amount that will vary, depending on their tax rate.

Q: How does Pamiris calculate the Grossed-up amount on a bonus?

A: Gross = Net/1 – (FIT rate + SS rate + Eme Med rate)

Q: What is discretionary vs non-discretionary?

A: A discretionary bonus is one given at the sole discretion of the employer, it is not an amount that has been promised to the employees. A non-discretionary bonus is given after the employer determines what standards are required to receive a bonus and an employee expects to receive that bonus if they have met those standards.

Q: How do I enter a bonus in the Pamiris system?

A: Log into the Pamiris system

  1. Go to Payroll.
  2. Go to Bonuses/Commissions .
  3. Choose an employee from the drop-down menu.Year End Bonus-Commissions
  4. Click Add.
  5. Choose an Effective Date from the drop-down calendar at the top of the page. (Effective Date needs to fall within pay period that you want to pay out funds).
  6. Enter amount of Bonus.
  7. Enter Description.
  8. Select type of Bonus (one button in each column must be marked before you can proceed).
  9. Click Save.
  10. View page with complete list of bonuses for every employee.
  11. Bonuses are not viewable on Bonuses/Commissions page once they are run in a payroll. They are viewable on paystubs and payroll reports.Add Bonuses

The Making of Pamiris Client Spotlight Video Series: Pt II

One of our initial pair of client profile videos featured Second Stories, a self-described “faith based, nonprofit, community development corporation, focused on neighborhood transformation in Portland and beyond.” (The other client we interviewed was Coffeehouse NW/Sterling Coffee – click here for the video.)

Filming the video, our team (Alyssa, Jared, and I) was faced with different hurdles of filming a nonprofit whose work revolves around building community. We had to walk the line between exposing the amazing work Second Stories does without overexposing the people they seek to build personal connections with.

I was still an intern when I initiated the project, and was admittedly a little intimidated by the perceived monster I had created for myself. Luckily, the videographer Alyssa tracked down from her extensive network of creatives was Jared Birt. A man perfect parts laid back and professional, Jared was able to take my ideas and turn them into well-edited videos worthy of the Pamiris Youtube page.

In preparation for the project, Jared, Alyssa and I met to discuss our vision for Pamiris’ sophomore online video. For the Coffeehouse NW/Sterling Coffee Roasters video, I had drawn up a thorough set of story boards. But because I had never visited the locations where Jared would be shooting, the team had to be more flexible and creative while filming and editing the video. We prepared a video consent form and question list before contacting executive director Clark Blakeman about filming.

We decided to film parts of a conference where he was lecturing, and a Friday Night Stories session. During Friday Night Stories, the Second Stories crew and a group of 30 registered participants stand on SE Powell and 82nd to hand out hot dogs and listen to the different voices of the community. While we wanted to film Clark and his team in action, we had to honor the privacy of the individuals sharing their stories. Jared was careful to keep his distance while filming and allow Clark and his team to do their work in the community.

In the end, Jared did an excellent job piecing together the footage. Clark and assistant director Andreas Lunden eloquently articulate both the pleasure they find in their own work, and how helpful Pamiris has been in adapting to their nonprofit payroll needs.

We’re currently looking for more client volunteers to participate in the second round of our client spotlight video project. Please email me, Sarah Eadie, if interested.

Want to hear more about what Pamiris can do to minimize your payroll, HR, and timetracking headaches? Request a quote.

The Making of Pamiris Client Spotlight Video Series: Pt I

The members of the Pamiris team are a creative bunch. Administrative assistant Laura Slaby graduated from PSU with a degree in art practices, for goodness sake. While payroll can be pretty dry, we’re inspired as a company by innovation, problem-solving, and creativity in unlikely places.

Which is why we’re in love with the Creators Project, a collaboration between Intel and Vice Magazine. The Creators Project features brief 5 – 10 minute videos of devastatingly hip artists applying bleeding edge technology to their craft. And while neither Vice nor Intel is mentioned directly in the videos, both companies benefit from the subtle re-branding they grant one another: Intel’s presence legitimizes Vice’s somewhat controversial reputation, and Vice lends some of their hipster credibility to the project’s considerably geekier partner.

What I as the social media marketing director at Pamiris took from the Creators Project was the idea that it’s possible to advertise an unsexy product (ie. integrated time and attendance systems, &c.) by allowing the cool people who choose to use it have the spotlight. Thus, our client profile video project was born.

I wanted the videos themselves to be a win-win online marketing set-up for both Pamiris, and whichever clients we chose to work with. My goal was to spread awareness of Pamiris’ services through exposure of our valued clients and their businesses. Pamiris, smaller in size and influence than both Vice Magazine and Intel, can’t afford to have its corporate identity entirely removed from the video series. But I hope that by focusing less on our specific services and more on the companies these services empower, the client video spotlight project engages potential clients more personally than our brochures or company website.

Jared Birt Preps for 2nd Stories Shoot   Group Prepares for 2nd Stories Shoot

In Part II of the Client Spotlight Video Series post set, I’ll be discussing the process through which videographer Jared Birt, Pamiris CEO Alyssa Agee, and I planned, shot, and produced one of our first short films with Portland-based nonprofit Second Stories.

While you wait anxiously for part II of this post (coming on Monday), I encourage you to head over to the Webby Awards website and vote for The Creator’s Project (under Branded Content). As I mention above, the project is inspiring both as a showcase of modern artists and as a model of engagement for businesses looking to promote themselves by highlighting their value in their clients’ day-to-day business lives.

Interested in finding out how you can be one of our valued customers? Go to Pamiris.com to find out more about our outsourced payroll/HR/timetracking services and get in touch for a quote.

SlideCast Seminar: Independent Contractors and 1099s

Earlier this month, Senators introduced the Payroll Fraud Prevention Act (S. 770). This bill seeks to characterize misclassification of employees as a form of payroll fraud. If passed, the bill would expose businesses who misclassify “employees” as “non-employees” (such as independent contractors) to fines of up to $5,000 per worker per violation of the law. (Click here for a more extensive write-up about the bill – link opens in a new tab).

With this bill on the Senate floor, there’s no better time than the present to brush up on your understanding of employer/independent contractor relationships. We’ve put together a brief SlideCast that covers the basics of independent contractor relationships and filing 1099 forms.



Was this SlideCast helpful to you? If so, we hope you’ll pass it on. If not, please leave a comment letting us know how we can provide more helpful and relevant information about payroll and HR.

Writing the Perfect Job Description

Job descriptions are a key tool for streamlining the hiring process and guaranteeing that you find candidates who best fit your organization’s current needs. Writing job descriptions is a valuable exercise both for the employer and for those seeking employment. Sitting down and thinking through a job description helps the employer to crystallize the position and demystifies the qualifying criteria for the potential employee long before the interview process.While writing a great job description isn’t particularly complicated, it is important to keep the following key components in mind:

1. Include the position title. Be sure to mention if there are levels to the position (i.e. Senior, Vice-President, Trainee, Entry-Level, Intern, &c.). This establishes more accurate expectations for potential employees as far as anticipated skill level, and aids your organization in categorizing your new hire properly by wage and hour standards like those outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

2. List the pay range. Most importantly, is this position salaried or hourly? This will often effect the status of the employee (exempt or non-exempt). Compliance with federal and state wage law is required under the Equal Pay Act, so be sure to use it as a point of reference when deciding on the pay range for your new hire.

3. Mention whether the position is exempt or non-exempt status. Non-exempt employees receive overtime pay, while exempt employees do not. To decide whether an employee is exempt or not, your organization must evaluate how much an employee is paid, how they are paid (hourly or salaried) and what type of work they do. The Department of Labor website provides a thorough list of exemption guidelines in their “Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

4. Outline specific duties and responsibilities for the position. This is the section to be particularly thorough with. It’s often a good idea to sit down with current supervisors and/or employees and get input from them on what the job will require. Separate duties by those which will be essential job functions and make up the primary percentage of the position, those that are nonessential or occasional functions, and the skills necessary for completing these duties.

5. Specify the required training and experience for eligible applicants. These can include years in a certain industry or position, education and technological skills.

Job descriptions should extend beyond the life of the job posting. When written thoughtfully, they become a tool for performance evaluations and should be kept up-to-date and relevant. When a position changes, as they so often do in today’s business environment, be sure those alterations are reflected in the job description. In extreme cases, well written, frequently updated job descriptions protect employers in the event of a lawsuit as well. This document is a vital tool when disciplinary measures must be taken or a termination is being considered. It can be referenced when written reprimands, employee improvement plans or Notices of Termination are drafted.

A carefully written job description is beneficial to both the employer and the potential employee. Forcing yourself to think about the specifics of a position can provide you with a more clear idea about exactly how you want your new employee to function within the company, as well as what attributes the person will need to succeed in your organization. Be sure to take your time in this crucial part of the hiring process!

Additional Reading:

Improving Your Internship Program

Based on all the buzz around OEN’s upcoming Internship Workshop, it seems like companies are reevaluating the value and purpose of internships. Young business owners who have gone on to bury unsatisfactory internships under a mountain of career achievements seem determined not to relegate stereotypically negative interning experiences to junior and senior college students a few years behind them. This increased awareness of the need to develop more meaningful intern programs is a good start, but companies need to make sure that their good intentions translate to action. Here are a few of our suggestions. 

Pay your interns. Companies are able to choose interns from a large, enthusiastic pool of students, graduates, and young professionals trying out a new career. But interns are not free labor, and confusing the two can mean legal trouble for your business. If your company is benefiting from the work your interns are producing, your interns should be receiving a paycheck according to these U.S. Department of Labor criteria. By agreeing to pay interns, you’re putting additional pressure on them to prove their worth, and these days so few young people have the luxury of accepting an unpaid internship, regardless of how great the opportunity is.

Teach your interns. Give interns a quick lesson in your company architecture and objectives. Providing this education to them at the beginning of the internship provides them with a greater understanding of how your company functions, what their place is in the company, and how their work contributes to the business. You’re going to receive completed work that is more aligned to your specific business needs if your interns know exactly what they need to do to get the job done.

Have specific projects for your interns. Even the most self-starting intern is going to be frustrated with the task of having to invent their own productive workday schedule. Lacking the business foresight of a veteran employee, when left to their own devices interns may unintentionally gravitate towards work that is unnecessary. Prevent this by having specific, well-defined tasks laid out for your interns to do. Once they’ve knocked a few of these projects out of the park, you can slowly begin to introduce work that requires a higher level of independent thinking.

Include your interns. Keeping interns secluded or treating them like second-class citizens within your company hurts everyone. Being in the dark about basic business functions or unaware of the key conversations going on in your company will inhibit the depth of their insights and likely detract from the relevance of their projects. When your interns speak up at meetings, be receptive to their ideas. They’re approaching the opportunity as a learning experience, and living up to their expectations in that regard will keep them motivated to live up to yours. Additionally, having a fully-integrated intern gives you a valuable opportunity to learn about how your company is perceived by viewing it through an intelligent, fresh pair of young eyes.

Be flexible. Giving your interns some flexibility is important, especially if you’re hiring students. Unless the internship is an explicitly intensive, full-time gig, the chance that your intern is working a second job, or taking classes on the side are pretty high. Be open to the idea of partial telecommuting or only coming into the office for special meetings, and be understanding when faced with scheduling conflicts or the rare double-booking.

Give feedback, get feedback. Strong, silent type employers can be confusing and frustrating to interns. Providing regular, targeted feedback allows interns to adjust their performance and will result in better, more valuable work. Inversely, be sure your door is always open for interns with inquiries or suggestions about their experience interning with your company.

What golden rules do you follow when employing interns? What benefits, if any, did employing interns have on your company? Answer these questions, or submit other intern-related thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Additional Reading:

Understanding the I-9: the Employment Eligibility Verification Form

Basics

In 1986, the federal government passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which required employers to verify that employees were able to provide documents proving their legal authorization to work in the United States. The Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) is the official document provided for this purpose.Employees must fill out an I-9 no later than the time of hire. Employers are responsible for making sure their new hire fills out Section 1 completely, and on time.Employees must retain an I-9 for all current employees, and all former employees for three years after the employee is hired or one year after the termination of that employee, whichever date is later. I-9s must be stored separately from personal information files. 

I-9s are NOT required for unpaid volunteers or contractors, but employers may still be penalized if they contract work to a contractor that employs unauthorized workers.

I-9 Form

I-9s are broken into 3 sections:

  • Employee Information and Verification – filled out by all new employees hired after November 6, 1986. Asks a new employee to fill out basic information (name, address, D.O.B, &c). New employees do not have to provide their SSN unless they’re using the USCIS Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification Perogram (E-Verify). For more information on E-Verify, click here.
  • Employer Review and Verification – employees are required to present employer with either ONE document that establishes both identity and employment authorization (such as a U.S. Passport or a Permanent Resident Card) or both a document that establishes identity and a document that establishes employment authorization (state drivers license AND social security card, or school ID card with photo AND U.S. Citizen ID card, for example). The employer records the details of these documents and signs the I-9, verifying that they are legitimate. Page 5 of the I-9 form lists all acceptable forms of identification.
  • Updating and Verification – employers fill this section out if
    • employee changes their name
    • employee is rehired within three years of initial hire date
    • employee’s work authorization is approaching expiration

Employers are required to pair the I-9 with the form instructions – and with good reason. The instructions offer specific information that’s helpful to employers and their new hires alike.

Penalties

Employers can incur penalties for the following Form I-9 related offenses:

  • Improperly kept I-9s (ex. found with personal information, not readily accessible, &c.) – fine up to $110 per missing document, and $1,100 per form – and that’s even if the employee is authorized to work in the US.
  • Hiring an unauthorized worker – fine from $250 – $5,500 per worker and possible 1 year bar from federal government contracts (example?)
  • Knowingly committing or participating in document fraud – first offense fine from $375 – $3, 200 per document, subsequent offense fine from $3,200 – $6,500 per document

Additional unfair immigration-related employment penalties may result from requesting more documentation than is required on the I-9, so be careful not to accidentally incur a penalty attempting to be thorough.

Additional Resources

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Website – When in doubt, go straight to the source. The USCIS website is full of helpful information for employers (most notably this PDF ‘Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9‘). Simply search ‘I-9’ from their homepage to access a list of resources offered through their website.
  • Intuit’s Form I-9 Tip SheetAnother handy PDF with fast facts, checklists, and – especially handy – I-9 do’s and don’ts

Reminder

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only, it is not to be used as legal advice…” Click here to read the rest of our blog disclaimer.

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