Michael Trabold

Director, Compliance Risk, Paychex

Five Key Regulatory Issues Small Businesses are Facing in 2018

From passed to proposed and everywhere in between, there are many regulatory changes and legislative reforms set to move forward in the year ahead. It can be challenging for anybody, financial advisors and compliance experts included, to keep up with where things stand, but small business owners are often understandably overwhelmed by the ever-changing regulations with which they must comply to avoid costly penalties.

Here are five hot regulatory issues your small business clients are facing in 2018:

#1 Tax Reform. The speed with which the GOP passed the first major tax overhaul in decades left businesses with little time to assess what this legislation means for them in 2018. In January, the IRS released Notice 1036, instructing employers how to appropriately withhold wages from their employees’ paychecks. The new tables reflect the increase in the standard deduction, repeal of personal exemptions, and changes in tax rates and brackets. Employers have until February 15, 2018 to implement new withholding guidance. From a business perspective, small business owners can also begin 2018 tax planning, knowing that the corporate tax rate will be streamlined to a flat 21 percent. Some small businesses will likely be interested in changing how they are structured to take advantage of tax reform’s measures to further reduce the tax burden for pass-through entities. However, pass-through entities utilizing the individual tax code will need to pay close attention to associated personal tax changes, including: rate cuts, some removed deductions (including personal exemptions and the deduction for state and local income tax), and increased standard deduction. Congress added a deduction of business income for pass-through companies of up to 20 percent, but there are complex requirements and guardrails for the application of this deduction.

#2 State Reaction to Federal Tax Reform. Those states that conform to federal standards will need to assess and react to any changes caused by the federal overhaul. Many states, especially those with higher taxes, are also scrambling to come up with laws to lessen the impact of federal changes on state taxpayers, particularly as it relates to tax and revenue impacts. Along the same lines, each jurisdiction will need to assess the impact of decoupling or following the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) on their budgets and their constituents, which may lead to withholding changes. The full impact of tax reform is still evolving, and your small business clients will rely on you to help them comply with new federal, state, and local tax codes.

#3 The Affordable Care Act (ACA). For tax year 2017, businesses that are defined as an applicable large employer (ALE), under the Employer Shared Responsibility (ESR) provision of the ACA, must provide a detailed reporting of healthcare coverage. Unlike the previous two years, there is no transition relief in 2017 for how employers offer coverage.  However, the IRS extended good faith effort relief for reporting incomplete or inaccurate returns for 2017 tax year. Good-faith transition relief does not apply to entities that do not file their returns on time. The IRS also extended the furnishing deadline for the form 1095-C to March 2, 2018, but it did not extend filing deadlines with the IRS. Additionally, in late 2017, the IRS began sending out the first notices of proposed employer shared responsibility payments for 2015 filing, letter 226-J. Employers have an opportunity to respond to this notice correcting any incorrect information, but these responses can be lengthy and complex;  some employers will need to research these notices, correct any errors in previous filing, and communicate with the IRS while also preparing for current year obligations – a huge undertaking that will undoubtedly require your help and guidance. Further, with the long-term future of the ACA unclear, some states are expected to begin proposing their own changes to health care policy, a development which could be impactful to employers in those states.

#4 Paid Leave Laws. Over 40 different states and local jurisdictions have passed paid sick leave laws applicable to private employers. And while there are fewer paid family leave laws on the books, 2018 has brought the nation’s most comprehensive paid family leave to New York State. However, a recent proposal in Congress, the Workflex in the 21st Century Act, would pre-empt the many paid leave laws at the state and local level, as well as any others expected to be introduced.

#5 Employee Verification. The 2017 changes to the Form I-9 (the Employment Eligibility Verification Form) and supporting guidance were minor compared to previous revisions, but employers will still need to ensure use of the correct form and delivery of the separate instruction pages to all new employees on their first day of employment. While documentation audits and worksite inspections seemed to level off in 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has warned that it will quadruple the number of worksite inspections in the coming year, consistent with President Trump’s pre-election platform and post-election agenda regarding immigration reform.

These are just a few of the hot regulatory issues that are top-of-mind for small business owners today, and you’ve undoubtedly been hearing from your small business clients already with questions and clarifications galore. With a knowledge of these and other business regulations, you can help your small business clients understand their role in remaining compliant and avoiding costly penalties, which in turn will help their business grow.

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.