The Blog for the Digital CPA

Michael Trabold
Director, Com- pliance, Paychex

Small Business Regulation Under the Trump Administration

One thing that’s certain in today’s political climate is almost nothing is certain. While we can never know for sure which proposed policies will make the final legislative cut, there are several anticipated regulatory actions that accountants and their small business clients should keep an eye on in the coming months.

Healthcare remains a prominent issue on Capitol Hill, in the media and in the minds of all citizens. So far, since President Trump took office, we’ve seen the first failed attempt to repeal and replace the ACA, with the original AHCA, but currently legislators are working to pass a revised version of the AHCA through the Senate. While total bipartisan cooperation remains unlikely, there appears to be agreement across the board on certain aspects of healthcare, including the expanded use of HSAs and FSAs. A definitive direction on healthcare is likely some time away, until then, the ACA remains the law of the land and its regulations, including offering adequate and affordable health insurance coverage, reporting, and return filing, still apply to Applicable Large Employers (ALEs).

Several aspects of employment law are also on the Trump Administration’s regulatory table. Immigration policy reform was a major campaign promise for President Trump and though no legislation has been passed yet, small business owners should be aware how they can remain compliant in the face of potential mandatory e-verification and increased workplace audits. The Final Overtime Rule is also in flux after being delayed late last year. While many employers are already making anticipatory changes, it remains unclear what the final income threshold will be if the rule is implemented. In the meantime, state and local governments have taken it upon themselves to start passing their own minimum wage increases and paid time off (PTO) policies. President Trump has also spoken in favor of a higher federal minimum wage and federal PTO regulations, so small business owners should keep these potential changes in mind.

An awareness of the importance of retirement savings and an aging American population has brought retirement to the forefront of the regulatory discussion as well. While federal policy on retirement issues has been minimal so far, many states are starting to mandate workplace retirement programs. This gives small business owners the choice to offer their own 401(k) and retirement benefits or allow their employees to utilize the established state-run programs for retirement planning. Small business owners who choose to offer their own retirement plans can use these benefits as a recruitment advantage, but also must remain cognizant of potential changes to the fiduciary rule, which may impact the nature of investment advice and plan administration.

An important consideration when analyzing potential regulation is cause and effect both economically and with regards to additional resulting regulations. For example, many small business owners are eagerly anticipating tax reforms that may bring down their rates, but legislators first have to consider what impact lower taxes may have on the economy and potential sources for additional money, which may spur yet another new policy. Additionally, often regulations made at a federal level cause state and local governments to look at how this policy impacts their funding and make policy adjustments accordingly.

One thing is for certain, the regulatory environment is changing – quickly. To keep up-to-date on the latest, visit Paychex WORX.


John Engels
Founder and President, Leadership Coaching

Listening: Four Strategies for “Tuning In”

I know a few people who are natural listeners.

These individuals seem to possess an inner stillness and natural curiosity that enables them to intuitively grasp another’s content, meaning and feelings. They listen not only with their ears, but with their eyes, heads and hearts.

When in the presence of an exquisite listener, a speaker is likely to feel tremendous freedom, greater clarity and emotional relief. In a relatively short period of time, tightness, confusion and isolation can be moderated, simply by being listened to.

Despite these benefits, listening is becoming not only rare, but devalued. Most leaders I know function as if they believe their words are more important than what others have to say.

Increasingly, we leave no time to listen. In a fast-paced and often frantic society, who’s interested in stopping the busyness long enough to really tune in to someone else?

I want to confess that I do not belong to the Natural Listeners Club. I have to work at it. Every day. And even when I concentrate, I catch myself making the usual listening mistakes:

  • Wandering away from the speaker by getting lost in my own thoughts.
  • Rehearsing to myself what I am about to say, while the other is talking.
  • Interrupting so I won’t forget my thought, and because I think it’s brilliant.
  • Listening for a point of disagreement that I can pounce on.
  • Cutting someone off because I’m in a hurry, sometimes finishing their sentences due to impatience.

To counter these automatic, selfish tendencies, I decided a while back to re-invent my listening practice. Here are four ideas and strategies that have become useful to me:

1. Listen to My Self

If I cannot pay attention to myself, how in the world will I ever be able to listen to another? As fast as I move from meeting to meeting, I’ve discovered that I move even faster inside my brain. Is there a way for me to calm down?How can I drop the preoccupations and be present, right here, right now? What’s going on with me at this moment?

I have spoken with numerous colleagues and friends who meditate, reflect, pray, journal, use neurofeedback or walk outside. The common denominator in these practices is “quieting the mind.” The rule of “one size fits one” operates here: each must discover for themselves how to “quiet the mind.” The desired outcome is improving my ability to stay calm and focused.

No matter what method I use to slow down and prepare to receive another, it sets me up to be a better listener.

2. Develop an Intention

What’s a bigger challenge: knowing HOW to listen, or WANTING to listen?

I try to begin my interactions with a simple, internal intention to listen. Developing that intention changes my mindset. It’s simply the case that I listen better when I INTEND to listen.

Here are some specific intentions I whisper to myself as I prepare for a discussion:

  • “I want to learn as much as I can about this person.”
  • “I want to observe and hear what is going on with her.”
  • “I want to take in what he’s communicating to me.”
  • “I want to get as much detail as I can and not jump to conclusions.”

3. Pause Before Responding

After the speaker finishes a thought, an intentional, few-seconds delay “holds” what has just been said, as if in a sacred vessel. By slowing the pace of the exchange, pausing:

  • Regulates reactivity impulses while expanding the emotional space for connecting
  • Enables deeper understanding of the message
  • Supplies the space for formulating a thoughtful response

4. Communicate, “I’m hearing you”

It’s important for me to let the other know that I am paying attention to them and hearing their message (which might be a thought, a feeling, a complaint or a question).

The “I’m hearing you” message can be sent verbally, vocally or visually, for example:

  • Making eye contact
  • Taking notes
  • Deleting distractions
  • Reflecting back to the speaker what you are hearing
  • Verbally articulating, “I hear you,” “I’m following you,” etc.
  • Inserting vocalizations that express attentiveness, e.g.. “hmmm…

Listening attentively establishes an important foundation for coaching. I’ve found that when I listen well, whatever I say after that seems to be considered more carefully by the person I listened to.

In that way, robust listening helps credibility as well as understanding.

Can any coaching strategy be more important than that?


Michael Trabold
Director, Com- pliance, Paychex

Affordable Care Act Regulatory Reminders

Earlier this year, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was introduced with mixed reviews. As Congress took the bill through its first steps in the legislative journey, many business owners and individuals wondered what the legislation would mean for them, until the impending vote in the U.S. House of Representatives was abruptly halted and the bill was pulled due to a lack of the necessary votes to pass.

While the GOP may begin to work on an alternate proposal to repeal and replace the ACA and all legislators are being encouraged to work together to improve the potential replacement legislation, House Speaker Paul Ryan has stated the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will remain the law of the land for the foreseeable future.

That said, it is important that Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) understand their regulatory obligations under the ACA. Here are a few ACA requirements to keep in mind moving forward:

  • ALEs (generally defined as companies with 50 or more full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees) must offer adequate and affordable health insurance coverage to full-time employees and their dependents. If even one full-time employee receives a premium tax credit to purchase coverage through a marketplace, the company risks being charged a penalty.
  • ALEs must continue to file and furnish timely and accurate annual information returns relating to the health insurance that the employer offers to its full-time employees.
  • Employers filing 250 or more Forms W-2 must report the cost of certain employer-sponsored health benefits on the forms.
  • Employers are required to provide written notice to all employees about health coverage options, including information about the existence of a health insurance marketplace and a description of services provided by the marketplace.

Health care policy will undoubtedly remain a hot topic in the months and potentially years to come, but until a replacement bill is passed, the requirements of the ACA still apply. Paychex will be there to keep you informed of regulations that impact you, your firm, and your clients along the way.

Mike Trabold is director of compliance risk for Paychex, Inc. Paychex is a leading provider of human capital management solutions for small- to medium-sized businesses.


John Engels
Founder and President, Leadership Coaching

The Comfort of Certainty

Like most humans, I have a strong bias towards certainty.

When my wife became pregnant for the first time, I rushed to a bookstore to purchase three books on how to get ready for a baby. Reading the books calmed me down. I now had confidence that I now knew how to behave in the delivery room, change a diaper, speak in a soothing voice to both baby and mom.

Of course, it turned out that I didn't know much about any of these. In the delivery room, I offered ice chips – a "sure bet," the book said – at exactly the wrong moment, and the chips went flying. My first diaper change was what you might call a smear job. It would have been more sanitary to not change the diaper at all. As for my soothing voice, I found that I could only produce that unnatural state when I thought to produce it. Almost never.

The books offered some good suggestions, but the confidence produced by my reading – "Now, I know what I'm doing" – proved to be an illusion.

Emotional Comfort Food

Certainty – "emotional comfort food" – is always available to reassure us that we are right, and that we know what we're doing.

A "certainty" mindset baits us to believe that an anticipated graduate degree will lead to exciting career opportunities, that a long-term marriage will happily last for a lifetime, that a major financial deal will anchor a year of growth and that a founder's euphoria about his adult child joining the family business will be vindicated by that child becoming a strong leader. "It's going to happen the way I've planned it," we think to ourselves.

But as the diaper and the delivery room examples proved, certainty is not a reliable assumption. While "thinking I know" initially buoys confidence, it often disappoints.

The Land of Getting Real

Assuming we are right, and "feeling sure" are automatic, entrenched tendencies not easily counter-acted. We hold on to our certainties like babes with blankies.

Combating such a powerful bias requires entering "the Land of Getting Real," pushing ourselves to think about information we don't want to think about, consider possibilities we would rather conceal, and pay attention to data that disturbs our comfort.

It's one thing to notice the over-zealous religious beliefs, faulty relationship premises and bad business decisions of others. It's another matter to observe certainty suppositions in ourselves.

The Land of Getting Real offers the possibility of frightening and refreshing honesty with ourselves, about our own phony certainty. Taking the journey into this land proves how something uncomfortable and upsetting can make us stronger.

Consider these examples:

  • The leader of a large religious congregation decided to "come down from the pulpit" and share with his congregation his doubts about God. While at first he feared such exposure, his decision proved a breakthrough in reversing the remoteness many experienced in approaching him. One senior church member said, "I guess if everyone were certain about God, we wouldn't need faith."
  • The co-head of a family business stopped pretending that he knew what was best for the business just because his dad anointed him as successor. He pulled together his siblings and cousins, soliciting their ideas and hopes for the future of the business. This effort gave him new and useful data; more importantly, it reduced the pressure he felt to produce answers he didn't have, and created valuable give-and-take dialogue with other family members working in the business.
  • The head of a medical practice recently told me: "People treat us (physicians) as if we know more than we know. In the past few years, I have found myself saying 'I don't know the answer to your question,' or 'I don't have a simple response – it depends on many factors.' The vast majority of my patients respect that candor as long as it is genuine and not avoidant."

These examples share a common trait: each one of the subjects confronted the limits of his/her awareness and knowledge. Remoteness, cockiness and claims of expertise decreased. Relationship connection increased.

Yet, not everyone wants to question their certainty. When he heard my suspicions about being sure, Roy, a long-time client, pushed back:

Roy: So what am I supposed to do, pretend I don't know anything?

John: Why pretend? I'm saying look closely at your convictions and try to examine your assumptions for any fakery.

Roy: Such as what?

John: Do you ever catch yourself sounding sure of a view or decision, when, upon closer examination, you are not actually certain at all? Or closing off ideas from others because your idea is supposedly sure-fire?

Roy: It sounds like a lot of work to think about this all the time.

John: Is that a problem?

Roy: I'm not sure I have the energy to examine everything I feel reasonably certain about.

John: "Everything" might be asking too much. What about looking at how certain you come across in one or two important relationships?

Roy: I think that could have some merit.

"Could have some merit" might be an under-statement.

Come to think of it, I am certain about one thing: Just because we happen to be parents, presidents, partners or politicians doesn't mean we know what we're talking about.


Pages

Recent tweets

Newsflash: The 7/11 #DigitalCPA webcast will feature #DigitalCPA Keynote @JOLearyInspires #DigitalCPA #DigitalCPAhttps://t.co/TgGgHDvVOp
CPA.com (2 days ago)
Looking forward to learning more about how to scope CAS Engagements from @dixiemccurley @ #DCPA17 https://t.co/FSRTfdqORt
CPA.com (2 days ago)
"AICPA and https://t.co/H10YVWMpRx to fund accounting tech startups" - @AccountingToday https://t.co/H10YVWMpRx
CPA.com (2 days ago)
We have even a few more speakers up our sleeve that will be there. Thank you, @LegacyCasey #DigitalCPA https://t.co/ae5vRByY8S
CPA.com (3 days ago)
 

Introducing your Comprehensive Guide to Accounting Firm BPO Software