The Top Five Regulatory Issues Among States and Municipalities

As federal legislative focus has remained firmly on major economic regulations such as healthcare and tax reform recently, states and local jurisdictions across the U.S. are continuing to advance employment-related regulations intended to protect workers. These new and ever-changing laws are a lot for accountants, and their business owner clients, to keep track of, especially if their businesses operate in multiple locations with differing regulatory requirements.

Here are the top five regulatory issues affecting employers at the state and local level that you will want to keep an eye on in the coming months:

#1 The #MeToo Movement

Since the #MeToo movement rose to prominence in late 2017, state lawmakers across the country have been reviewing existing laws and regulations around sexual harassment prevention in the workplace. The result has been a spike in legislative proposals, including those restricting confidentiality and arbitration agreements, expanding protections to non-employees, and strengthening enforcement prevention efforts to include mandatory policies and interactive training. At this time, California, Maine, Connecticut, New York, and Delaware have passed mandatory sexual harassment prevention training requirements and several other states have pending legislation in this area.

#2 Evolving Drug Laws

Though marijuana and marijuana-related products are currently considered Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), today, 46 states and Washington D.C. have enacted legislation allowing the consumption of marijuana and/or related products with or without prescriptions. In states where medicinal, or even recreational, use is permitted, employers are faced with difficulties in navigating workplace drug policy enforcement. For example, employers may still look to terminate or deny employment if the worker using marijuana puts the employer or others in danger, although accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act may be warranted in some circumstances.

#3 Paid Leave Laws

Maryland and Michigan passed paid sick leave laws in 2018, bringing the total number of states with paid sick leave laws to 11. Three local jurisdictions also passed paid sick laws this year, including Austin and San Antonio, Texas. Massachusetts was the only state to pass paid family leave legislation in 2018, joining California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, the Washington D.C., and the state of Washington in offering paid family leave to covered employees. With the exception of those in D.C., these family leave benefits are funded through employee payroll deductions.

#4 Health Insurance

As part of the December 2017 tax reform legislation, the federal individual mandate penalty was made zero beginning in January 2019. States are concerned that eliminating the individual mandate penalty will correlate to premium increases and decreased coverage levels in the individual market, so some states, including New Jersey and Vermont, created a state-level individual mandate. Also effective in 2017, Section 1332 State Innovation waivers were provided in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to promote state innovation by giving states a reprieve from certain ACA provisions. Approved waivers may also allow states access to pass-through funds which would otherwise be spent by the federal government. Eight states already have approved waivers including Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Maine.

#5 State Retirement Plans

Several states and cities have acted to combat the growing retirement savings crisis by establishing state-facilitated savings programs using one of four models: auto-IRA, multiple employer plan (MEP), marketplace, or voluntary payroll deduction IRA. Currently, 11 jurisdictions, including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and the city of Seattle, have enacted legislation to implement a retirement savings program for private sector workers. An additional 31 states are conducting studies or have proposed legislation to do the same.

Whether at the federal, state, or local level, keeping up with regulations is a challenge for today’s business owners. In today’s fluid environment, demonstrating your up-to-date knowledge and expertise, can help ensure your clients are prepared and reinforce your role as trusted advisor.

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.

Business Owners Cite Direct Deposit as their Next Payroll Upgrade

The increasing accessibility of cryptocurrency and blockchain, as well as buzz around daily pay, has many people, including your small business clients, asking what’s next for payroll? A recent survey, conducted in recognition of National Payroll Week by Paychex, Inc., polled 500 randomly selected business owners with two to 500 employees to find out what changes they plan to make to their payroll processes in the next 12 months. Though more recent innovations are dominating the payroll conversation, most business owners who are planning payroll adjustments cited direct deposit as the functionality they are most likely to incorporate in the next year (27 percent).

Direct deposit is not a new development in the payroll world, but it’s still a powerful tool for business owners to implement and a helpful one for their accountants too. The efficient payday delivery that direct deposit offers serves as a recruiting asset – especially in today’s tight labor market. Prospective and current employees alike value the convenience of not having to cash or deposit a live check. Direct deposit also has the potential to serve as a financial fitness tool, enabling employees to save automatically. From an employer standpoint, in addition to eliminating the cost of paper checks, direct deposit can reduce overall time spent on payroll, freeing HR and payroll staff to focus on other business functions. As an accountant, direct deposit helps reduce the risk of manual data errors you may encounter as you’re helping business owners work through payroll taxes.

Behind direct deposit at number one, the study revealed the following payroll priorities for business owners in the year ahead.

  • Offering direct deposit – 27 percent
  • Providing electronic paystubs – 15 percent
  • Offering smartphone access to payroll information – 11 percent
  • Extending daily pay options – 10 percent
  • Outsourcing payroll – 10 percent

Only a small portion of business owners are planning to implement some of the latest buzz-generating innovations, like using blockchain or other cryptocurrency for some payroll (5 percent) or adopting cloud-based payroll (8 percent), in the next year.

No matter where your business owner clients fall on the spectrum of implementing payroll changes, you can act as a strategic advisor in helping them understand the implications of each payroll update from a tax standpoint. You have a deeper understanding of your clients’ business needs than most, so your advice is valuable as they decide which payroll trends will and will not work for their business.

Which states, what rates: Know your nexus

Out-of-state sellers that do not have a physical presence in states where they sell goods or services are now much more likely to be required to collect sales and use tax in such states. But in which states and at what rates?

This summer's U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold South Dakota's economic nexus law in South Dakota v. Wayfair makes all remote sellers potentially subject to collecting sales tax. The threshold for requiring an out-of-state seller to collect and remit sales and use tax is a very "substantial nexus" within the state. With no universal, clear and complete definition of substantial nexus, remote sellers have work to do to see if they need to collect sales tax now.

What the ruling says

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld South Dakota's economic nexus law in South Dakota v. Wayfair, which requires out-of-state sellers with more than 200 transactions or $100,000 in sales into the state to collect and remit sales and use tax.

This ruling strikes down the 1992 the Supreme Court provided in Quill v. North Dakota that found a state could not require an out-of-state seller to collect sales and use tax unless the seller had a "substantial nexus," or a physical presence, within the state. However, the decision falls short in defining a clear definition of substantial nexus. It only says that substantial nexus does not require physical presence and that South Dakota's economic nexus law qualifies as substantial nexus.

The takeaway

With physical presence sidelined, remote sellers will need to monitor evolving state nexus rules and determine whether their in-state activities constitute substantial nexus. While the parameters of substantial nexus in South Dakota's case are set annually at 200 transactions or $100,000 in sales, other states and local jurisdictions are applying their own rules. In Minnesota, for example, the small business exception—set to take effect no later than October 1, 2018-- is set at 100 transactions or 10 sales totaling more than $100,000 .

These changes may require sellers to seek new or expanded software solutions to simplify sales tax compliance and minimize the impact to business. An analysis of whether sales activities have or could create nexus and a review of taxability and exemption certificates can give businesses a baseline for sales tax compliance and ease the way to change as each new state and local rule comes down the pike.

Download’s whitepaper Nexus is the Next Big Thing for Firms for your how-to guide on providing nexus sales and use tax study services.

Judy Vorndran is a partner at TaxOps, LLC in Colorado and is laser-focused on those areas that make state and local tax issues less taxing! She can be reached at or 720.227.0093.

South Dakota Vs. Wayfair: What it means for your firm

On June 21, 2018, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair. This historic ruling favored South Dakota, determining that states can broadly require online retailers to collect sales tax even if they lack a physical presence in the state.

Details of the Case

This ruling overturns Quill. Quill Corp v North Dakota served as the law of the land since 1992.  This case used a commerce clause that physical presence was necessary to establish nexus.

In 2016, South Dakota passed a law requiring remote sellers to register, collect, and remit sales tax if they meet the following criteria:

  • $100,000 of annual gross revenue from the sale of tangible property, electronic products or services delivered into South Dakota; or
  • 200 separate transactions per year in which there is a sale of tangible property, electronic products, or services delivered into South Dakota.

With the ruling in favor of South Dakota, the definition of nexus has expanded to include not only sufficient physical presence, but also economic presence as a determining factor of whether an out-of-state business selling products into a state is liable for collecting sales and use tax. This decision stands to change the landscape around sales & use tax.

What this means for businesses:

This decision could potentially impact any business that sells goods remotely. Companies could be required to collect and remit sales tax in up to 45 states.

Over the next few months, states will start responding by enacting new rules and regulations. South Dakota is relatively straightforward and simplified, other states with more complex rules may have an uphill battle. These new guidelines and changes will only add to the complexity for your clients’ SUT liabilities and the collection & remittance of sales & use tax.

What can firms do now to help clients comply?

There has never been a better time to reach out to clients to increase your trusted advisor role. There may be some confusion about how to comply with these changes, and clients need help navigating them. Firms can help businesses prepare by taking the following next steps:

  • Conduct a nexus study and product taxability review. Review business activities and sales in different states and identify where there is risk under traditional, physical nexus and economic nexus.
  • Prioritize states where the company has the greatest economic presence and create a plan to register to collect and remit sales tax.
  • Evaluate technology that offers the following:
    • Calculates correct rates
    • File and remit payments
    • Maintains exemption certificates

How the Vertex Firm Advisor Program can help

In partnership with Vertex, created the Vertex Firm Advisor Program to help firms support clients through access to SUT automation, practice development resources, dedicated account management and special pricing.

Vertex solutions are equipped to accommodate any new calculation and reporting requirements that may be enacted in the coming months.

How to Help Your Clients Remain Competitive in a Tightening Labor Market

When you became an accountant, you probably didn’t consider human resource advising as part of your role with clients, but more and more business owners are turning to their accountants for guidance on every part of business success, including human capital management (HCM). In a tightening labor market, the recommendations you provide your clients are all the more important. As the country moves toward full employment, employers face the challenge of differentiating their business and job opportunities to attract a limited number of qualified job seekers who have many employment options. An integrated HCM solution and comprehensive benefit packages can play a major role in helping businesses stay competitive among job candidates and keep current employees engaged.

Employees are often a company’s most important asset and a key component to business success. While you may not be able to speak about specific employment laws and regulations yourself, as a business advisor, and someone who knows the ins and outs of your client’s business, you can recommend solutions to help clients best manage their HR activities from recruitment to payroll to time and attendance tracking and more. At the start of the employee journey, an HCM solution can help HR managers find and connect with qualified job candidates and create an efficient recruitment experience for both your client and job seekers. Once a new employee is hired, they are able to complete the onboarding process and fill out and update forms through the HCM system. This process can make many administrative HR tasks easier for them, save HR managers time, and help the business track the onboarding process while ensuring all required forms are completed. Throughout each module of the HCM solution, data is collected and HR managers can glean valuable insights to adapt and improve HR activities so that they can better meet employee and business needs.

An HCM solution can make employee’s and HR manger’s lives easier and more efficient, but comprehensive benefits packages are also an important factor in attracting and retaining quality employees. The tightening labor market and potential for significant tax savings in the year ahead have created the perfect opportunity for businesses to reevaluate their benefits offerings. Though some business owners are hesitant about investing in formal benefits programs, retirement benefits are a major consideration for current and prospective employees. Not to mention, business owners also need to plan for retirement. In a recent Paychex survey, minimizing turnover was reported as the most important reason (23 percent) for offering retirement benefits, followed closely by the business owners’ individual need for the benefit (20 percent).

If your client’s business is not in a place to responsibly offer more formal benefits like retirement, or even healthcare benefits, there are ancillary benefits that may be highly valued by potential and current employees as well. Parking reimbursements, gym memberships, and commuting costs all add up. Contributing to even some of these costs to employees on a monthly basis can go a long way, as can flexible working hours, work from home options, and increased vacation, sick, or personal time.

In addition to voluntary benefits, remind your clients to also be aware of the benefits they’re required to offer by federal, state, or local law. For example, there are currently over 40 different jurisdictions at the state and local level with paid sick leave laws applicable to private employers. Jurisdictions vary in terms of the coverage, eligibility and many other provisions under these laws. Employers who are not covered by these laws should still remain aware so that they can gain an understanding of what is standard when it comes to these types of benefits and how their benefit offerings stack up to larger employers and those in different states.

Recruiting and retaining talented employees is vital to your clients’ success. You can expand your contribution to that success by advising them on the latest HR technology and benefits trends.

Philip, Director of Channel Marketing at Paychex, is re­sponsible for the programs that support lead genera­tion from the company’s primary referral sources: banks, clients, associations, and the accounting community. Philip joined Paychex in 2002.  During his time at Paychex he has had responsibility for the company’s German subsidiary, Paychex Deutschland GmbH, and manages the acquisition of books of payroll business from accounting firms ex­iting that business.