How Can I Prepare for Year End

By VICKY BROWN

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Can you believe it – the 4th quarter is here.  And there’s quite a list of things you should start thinking about to successfully close out the year.

Let’s group them into categories – general HR things, payroll items and benefits.

So, first up – in the general HR category, have you done any type of reviews for your team yet.  If not, plan on giving them feedback either at the end of the year or sometime very early in January.  Your team needs to know if they met the goals that were set out at the beginning of the year.

What – you didn’t have any goals at the beginning of the year?  Well, OK then.  Now will be a great time to start formulating goals for next year.  Start with the overall company goals, then break them down into departmental and finally individual goals.  This will give your team clear targets, so they know what they’re aiming at.

Next, year end is the time to take a look at your Employee Handbook.  Generally a lot of new employment laws are put in place at the end of the year, so it’s a great time to make sure your Handbook is compliant.  It’s also a good idea to take a moment to think about the company policies you’ve put in place.  Do you want to change the vacation policy?  Have you started doing education reimbursement?  Do you want to do away with the dress code?  This is the time to take a close look at your policies and make sure they align with what your company is doing now, today.  For instance, did you institute a vaccine policy -if so, you need to make sure that gets in your handbook.

“What is a 1095 or 1094?  Well, let’s just say, work with a professional (your broker or HR consultant) to determine if ACA applies to you.  And if it does – well, then you’ll know about 1095s and 1094s soon enough.”

And while we’re on the subject, what about your safety policies.  Many states, and some cities and counties, have stepped up their safety policy requirements.  New York is a good example – the New York Hero Act was just teed up; and it has a daily penalty for not doing what you are supposed to do under the guidelines.  So making sure you have everything in place, and the proper notices have gone to everyone will save you quite a headache.

Do a quick review to determine if everyone has taken the required training – specifically anti-harassment training.  For some states, this is an annual requirement, and for others it’s every 2 years.  But also keep in mind that new supervisors and many times, new hires, are required to complete training within a specified timeframe.  So make sure you are keeping track.

Next, take a look at the personnel files and fix anything that’s outstanding.  Do you have some incomplete I-9s for instance.  Or unsigned confidentiality agreements.  This is a great time to get all that taken care of.

It’s also a good time to make sure you have updated forms – is the W-4 form you use in your new hire package from 2019?  Well, that needs to get an update.  Check for the most recent version of all the federal, state and local notices you provide for your employees – oh, and that includes leave notices and pamphlets.  And yes, it’s a good idea to get help with all this from – oh, I don’t know – maybe from an HR consultant?

But I digress…

Now on to payroll.  We are quickly coming up on W-2 time, so make sure you have current addresses on file for everyone, so their W-2 doesn’t get delayed.

It’s also a good idea to start putting together the tax package for the next year.  Well, that’s what we call it anyway – it’s a group of documents that includes the Earned Income Tax credit notices and new federal and state tax forms (in case anyone wants to update their withholdings).  And remember, anyone who has claimed exempt on their W4 has to complete a new W4 for the next year, even if they don’t want to change their status.

Reach out to your accountant to be sure you have everything in place so that you can apply for any and all tax credits available to you.  One that comes immediately to mind is the Employee Retention Credit and the tax credits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  Again, work with your accountant (and maybe an HR professional as well) to figure out if these apply to you.

And finally, onward to benefits and insurance.

No matter what – you should always review your insurance policies yearly.  If it’s business insurance like errors and omission, work with your commercial insurance broker.  If it’s employee benefits, like medical, dental and vision coverage – work with your benefits broker.  You want to be sure that the coverage you are getting still fits the coverage that you need, and that you’re getting it at the best price.

If you have anywhere near 50 employees, you should do an analysis to determine if you have to do reporting under the Affordable Care Act.  If you find out that you do (or you already know that you do), then now is the time to start prepping for the 1095 and 1094 reporting that will happen 1st Q of next year.

What is a 1095 or 1094?  Well, let’s just say, work with a professional (your broker or HR consultant) to determine if ACA applies to you.  And if it does – well, then you’ll know about 1095s and 1094s soon enough.

This is also the time period you have to provide the Medicare Part D notice to eligible employees, if your medical plan has prescription drug coverage (and most of them do).  Again, check with your broker on the details.

And if you have a retirement plan, like a 401k, make sure that any plan changes have the appropriate amendments in place; that contributions are up to date; and that the plan accurately reflects eligible employees.  You’d be surprised how many times we find people who have terminated years ago, still on the plans.  It’s a good idea to clean this up at least once a year.

I know it’s quite a list – but better to jump on it now, and go into the holiday season knowing all your ducks are in a row.

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