Sick Leave Q&A

Q&A with Lindsay N. Malachowski, Attorney at Law.

Are You Ready for Oregon’s New Sick Leave Law?

 Beginning January 1, 2016, most Oregon employers will be required to offer sick leave to employees.

Who is affected?

 Employers with fewer than 10 employees will generally be required to offer up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave to employees.  Those employers with 10 or more employees will generally be required to offer up to 40 hours of paid sick leave.  Limited exceptions apply.  (Please note, due to a previously-enacted local law, Portland employers have a 6-employee threshold.)

What if an employer already provides sick leave for employees?

 If you already provide your employees with time off through a paid leave policy (e.g. PTO), you will not be required to provide additional paid sick leave.  However, your existing policy must meet the minimum requirements of the law.

Can employees use “sick leave” even if they are not sick?

 Under the new law, employees can use sick leave (paid or unpaid) for various purposes beyond the employee’s own health condition, injury, illness, or preventative care.  Examples include bereavement leave, sick child leave, leave to care for a family member, leave for any purpose permitted under the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA), and leave permitted under Oregon’s domestic violence and harassment laws.

How is time accrued?

 Generally, employees accrue sick leave at a rate of one and one-third hours for every 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year.  Employees will start to accrue this sick leave on January 1, 2016 or on their first day of employment, if hired after January 1, 2016.

How should employers prepare?

 Review your current leave policies to ensure you are in compliance with the new law for all employees.  It is possible you may have to amend current policies to meet the minimum requirements and/or extend your policies to more employees.  Review your employee handbook to make the appropriate additions or changes, and consult with your attorney.

Lindsay N. (Briggs) Malachowski, Smith, Davison & Brasier, PC, (541) 752-6416. 

Affordable Care Act and Your Taxes

We all lived through 4/15!  Whoo hoo!

Some of you may have filed extensions for your personal and/or business taxes.  Others may have already received a refund or notice of tax due.  Lauren Wingert CPA offers a nice visual flow chart for anyone confused about how the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has impacted your tax return.

Here is Lauren’s Flow Chart

 

Click on it to see the full size version.

Contact Lauren if you have questions.

Lauren M Wingert CPA

1233 Main Street POB 102

Philomath, OR 97370-0102

ph: 541 952-4731

Lauren’s Website

There is lots of information online too…

About the ACA Law

Plain Language Benefits Information

Moola Maladies

Are you suffering from Retail Theraposis, Analysis Paralysis, or Money Mania/Dollar Depression? Time to explore financial pathology and diagnose your moola malady.  “Doctor” Kay Dee Cole of Clarity Wealth Development and “Nurse Practitioner” Jackie Shas of Get Organized!, LLC will be on hand to discuss the most prevalent money related disorders, preventative measures, and cures.  Join us for a fun filled hour and take back our financial health.

The truth is most of have more stuff than we need or can use.  This stuff includes clothing, household goods, sports equipment, and gadgets.  Other stuff that we have too much of can include shame, anxiety, and stress.

To cure financial disorders and immunize against them, we focus on reducing the impacts of shame and conventional wisdom through inoculations of awareness and knowledge.

Wed 10/23 

Noon-1:30pm

101 at Big River

Sign up today!

Hit a Dead End instead of the Tax Deadline?

It’s 4/16 and most people have completed their personal and business tax returns by now.  Many people have also paid their 2012 taxes due and 2013 first installment payment.  If you are one of the people that hit a dead end instead of the tax deadline, you are not alone.

Missing the tax reporting and payment deadline is a slippery slope.  Anxiety and fear can cause folks to avoid the subject all together and late filing turns into no filing, turns into years of no filing.  I have helped many folks catch up on their taxes.  People that are catching up on tax returns and payments move from fear and anxiety to joyfulness.  It is a celebration each time we send another year off the to CPA for reporting.

Below is some advice from the IRS.  ‘Pay as much as you can’ is great advice.  You can pay online.  If you are behind in tax payments, get signed up for online payments.  Pay as much as you can when you can.  Pay monthly, weekly, daily, just get moving.  Waiting until you have a few hundred or a few thousand dollars saved up to pay all the tax due may be a self-created road block that stops you from paying.  Minimize penalties and interest and pay what you can whenever you can.

The IRS has some advice for taxpayers who missed the tax filing deadline.

  •  File as soon as possible. If you owe federal income tax, you should file and pay as soon as you can to minimize any penalty and interest charges. There is no penalty for filing a late return if you are due a refund.
  • Penalties and interest may be due. If you missed the April 15 deadline, you may have to pay penalties and interest. The IRS may charge penalties for late filing and for late payment. The law generally does not allow a waiver of interest charges. However, the IRS will consider a reduction of these penalties if you can show a reasonable cause for being late.
  • E-file is your best option. IRS e-file programs are available through Oct. 15. E-file is the easiest, safest and most accurate way to file. With e-file, you will receive confirmation that the IRS has received your tax return. If you e-file and are due a refund, the IRS will normally issue it within 21 days.
  • Free File is still available. Everyone can use IRS Free File. If your income is $57,000 or less, you qualify to e-file your return using free brand-name software. If you made more than $57,000 and are comfortable preparing your own tax return, use Free File Fillable Forms to e-file. This program uses the electronic versions of paper IRS forms. IRS Free File is available only through IRS.gov.
  • Pay as much as you can. If you owe tax but can’t pay it all at once, you should pay as much as you can when you file your tax return. Pay the remaining balance due as soon as possible to minimize penalties and interest charges.
  • Installment Agreements are available. If you need more time to pay your federal income taxes, you can request a payment agreement with the IRS. Apply online using the IRS Online Payment Agreement Application tool or file Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request.
  • Refunds may be waiting. If you’re due a refund, you should file as soon as possible to get it. Even if you are not required to file, you may be entitled to a refund. This could apply if you had taxes withheld from your wages, or you qualify for certain tax credits. If you don’t file your return within three years, you could forfeit your right to the refund.

If you need a catalyst to get you back on track, contact me.  I am happy to help you navigate past the road blocks that caused you to end up at a tax dead end.

 

 

New Year’s Revolution

This time of year I cannot help but think of my sister. She is part of the management team of one of the most successful health care cooperatives in the country. She owns a big historic house in a small town. The kind of house that has a dining room, sun room, living room, TV room, and family room; lots of rooms. To support the local library, most years her home is on the historic homes holiday tour. She decorates every room right down to the bathrooms in the holiday theme with a 15 foot Christmas tree in the living room. On the day after Thanksgiving, she and her life long friends go Black Friday shopping. These women have fun together whether they are hiking, cooking, or camping but they love to shop.

My sister truly enjoys all the things she does and is very organized. We were raised to be productive and hard working; work for money, work to help, and work for fun. It’s what we do. My sister is also under a great deal of stress. Stress that gets etched in her face and makes me concerned for her health.

Why do we make the decisions to do what we do? Do what stresses us out? One answer is conformity. Researchers have discovered that the closer you are to the fringe of your tribe, the harder it is to go against the norms. People who are part of the inner circle of the tribe are much more likely to rebel without repercussions. We all know this intuitively, just think High School.

Another reason is habit. We go into auto-pilot mode and do what we have always done. We do not stop to think about our motivations. Why am I spending my time or money on this stuff? Is this my stuff? Family and community are good at planting their stuff in your brain. What would happen if I stopped? Where do I want to be spending my resources?

I do not buy Christmas presents any more. I stopped so long ago that I have little thought of it. Instead, I donate to my favorite non-profits in honor of my friends and family. Each year I watch as the people around me become more and more stressed as the holiday approaches. “Need that one last gift for so and so.”

Christmas is a menace when it comes to stuff. Most of us get stuff that we do not want or will not use. The gifts are wrapped in so much emotion that we feel guilty about getting rid of them. So there it sits one more bit of stuff to add to our growing pile. Being surrounded by too much stuff can cause fatigue, stress and depression. Researchers have correlated materialism with darker moods. No wonder Black Friday can be so dangerous!

When folks find out that I do not buy gifts on the holidays, they often say they wish they could do the same. When I ask them why they are stressing themselves out with all the shopping, they say that they have a family member that would ostracize them for not bringing gifts or ‘it’s for the kids’. They say they would prefer not to get gifts but they are stuck in the vicious gift giving cycle.

One of the most vital things in life is to be true to your self. This can be difficult. Studies have shown that conformity is often not a conscious decision. If we do not take the time to reflect on what is important to us, we will not see what we may want to change. Few people would say that they enjoy being stressed out but we put ourselves in stressful situations everyday.

Instead of making one more New Years Resolution, instead of auto-piloting your way through the next holiday season, make a New Years Revolution. Take the time to reflect on where you spend your time and money verses what is truly important to you. What can you do differently so you are spending your resources on what you love?

True habits are hard to break and people with the highest opinion of their self-restraint are the first to fail at attempting change. The key is to make baby steps, to change one small thing, and when it becomes habit, change one more. Know up front that there will be set backs and detours, plan how you will handle them up front.

Marina Krakovsky in the article Secrets of Self-Improvement – Scientific American Mind March/April 2012, explains the importance of mental contrasting. To be successful you must imagine both the successful results and the obstacles. Planning for the ‘what ifs’ up front will increase your chance of success.

I invite you to reflect and think big. Instead of pledging to lose weight, save money or organize your stuff, reflect on what means the most to you and have a News Year’s Revolution. If you want to stay home during the holidays and not travel, announce it in March so there is plenty of time for folks to get over it. Suggest that gatherings be held the weekend before or after Christmas or tell the family that you will be attending every other year. If you want to stop the gift giving cycle, tell folks that you will be purchasing small gifts and donated the rest to a charity. Tell them in May, let it sink in.

You may be like my sister and love everything about the holidays. I bet there is something you would like to change in your life though. Whatever you decide your revolution will be, follow the steps for success. Know its not going to be easy, break the change up into small steps, and do mental contrasting so you picture success while imagining how you will handle set backs. Above all be true to your self. If people don’t like it they were not meant to be part of your tribe anyway.

Jackie’s Guide to a stress free New Year

There are lots of things that can be done now to make the first months of 2013 easier. Here is a list of actions items:

1. Collect W-9s

Most people know they have to give independent contactors a 1099. Here are some other expenses eligible for a 1099: Interest paid on loans, rent, and household employees. A W-9 should be collected before paying these expenses. You need the W-9 data on hand to create 1099s. If you have not collected W-9s before payment was made, make sure you collect them before year end.

Send out requests for a completed W-9 to all vendors who are subject to 1099 rules. Remember to include a deadline in your request, such as 1 week from date of request, to ensure you collect all your W-9s before 1099s are due. If you send requests via snail mail, you may want to include a self addressed stamped envelope to encourage quick replies.

Form W-9

 

More info on Independent Contractors

More information on Household Employees

2. Catch up your books

You or your bookkeeper will need to have up to date 2012 information to ensure 1099s can be mailed by 1/31/13. It is also good to ensure your bookkeeping is up to date to make tax prep easier.

Busy season is here. If you have outsourced your bookkeeping, ensure you coordinate with your bookkeeper. Commit to a date, early in January, that you will provide the last of 2012 information. This will ensure your bookkeeper has time slotted to complete your books.

For personal taxes, ensure you have a folder/envelope/shoe box created to collect things like medical expenses, donations, and mortgage information.

3. Consult with your CPA/CTP

CPAs and Certified Tax Preparers get busy in January. If you want to review your tax situation, make an appointment in December. Your CPA or CTP will have more time to focus on your needs if you meet early.

4. Clean up QuickBooks

So many folks are on vacation in December, there is usually spare time. Take advantage of this time to clean up your QuickBooks file. Make Customers and Vendors inactive if they have not been used in a specific period of time, say 1 year. Review your Chart of Accounts usage and make accounts inactive that have not been used in a couple of years.

 

5. Files for 2013

Make your electronic and paper files for 2013 in December so everything has a landing place on January 1. File/storage systems should always incorporate an archiving plan. This means having things grouped by date so you can shred/purge older items per your archiving schedule.

6. Payroll Changes

Whether its changing payroll providers or asking employees to fill out new W-4s, now is the time to prep for payroll 2013. Collect all the data you need and make changes to employee or company set up as soon as the last payroll in 2012 is completed.

Eight Things to Know about Medical and Dental Expenses and Your Taxes

This is IRS Tax Tip 2012-30. It is important that you keep paperwork and receipts organized to take full advantage of any deductions or credits. Contact your CPA for specific questions about medical expense deductions. Contact me if you want help creating a system to track medical expenses.

IRS says:
If you, your spouse or dependents had significant medical or dental costs in a given year, you may be able to deduct those expenses when you file your tax return. Here are eight things the IRS wants you to know about medical and dental expenses and other benefits.

1. You must itemize
You deduct qualifying medical and dental expenses if you itemize on Form 1040, Schedule A.

2. Deduction is limited
You can deduct total medical care expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income for the year. You figure this on Form 1040, Schedule A.

3. Expenses must have been paid in the tax year
You can include the medical and dental expenses you paid during the year, regardless of when the services were provided. You’ll need to have good receipts or records to substantiate your expenses.

4. You can’t deduct reimbursed expenses
Your total medical expenses for the year must be reduced by any reimbursement. Normally, it makes no difference if you receive the reimbursement or if it is paid directly to the doctor or hospital.

5. Whose expenses qualify
You may include qualified medical expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse and your dependents. Some exceptions and special rules apply to divorced or separated parents, taxpayers with a multiple support agreement or those with a qualifying relative who is not your child.

6. Types of expenses that qualify
You can deduct expenses primarily paid for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease, or treatment affecting any structure or function of the body. For drugs, you can only deduct prescription medication and insulin. You can also include premiums for medical, dental and some long-term care insurance in your expenses. Starting in 2011, you can also include lactation supplies.

7. Transportation costs may qualify
You may deduct transportation costs primarily for and essential to medical care that qualify as medical expenses. You can deduct the actual fare for a taxi, bus, train, plane or ambulance as well as tolls and parking fees. If you use your car for medical transportation, you can deduct actual out-of-pocket expenses such as gas and oil, or you can deduct the standard mileage rate for medical expenses, which is 23 cents per mile for 2012.

8. Tax-favored saving for medical expenses
Distributions from Health Savings Accounts and withdrawals from Flexible Spending Arrangements may be tax free if used to pay qualified medical expenses including prescription medication and insulin.

For additional information, see Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses or Publication 969, Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans, available at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Filter on the Fly

One of the best ways to deal with your stuff is to filter on the fly. By doing a bit of prep work up front, purging papers, donating goods, and keeping up on a clutter free life are made easy.

Donation Station: Set aside a place for a donation box at work or home. Ensure that when you fill a box, you add another so there is always a place for new additions. Commit to not taking things out of the donation box.

Shred Box: Don’t let shredding slow you down. Keep a shred box in a convenient location. Place papers that need to be destroyed in the shred box. You can then shred when it is convenient or take the box to a local shredding company when it is full.

How to filter on the Fly
Pay a bit more attention to your surroundings. We tend to block out what we see everyday so our brains are not overloaded with information. If you try a shirt on and go “Yuck!” walk it over the donation station. See coffee cups no one has used in a year, they are out of here. Instead of stock piling office supplies (all those file holders, caddies, and sorters that seemed like a good idea at the time) donate them. See a knick knack, do you love it? If you (and your housemates) answer “No” then to the box it goes.

Don’t pass over those papers.
It can be so easy to move a stack aside again and again without knowing what it contains. Instead of moving it all, commit to doing something with what is on top or the top inch. Aging papers usually need to be recycled, shredded, or filed. If the thought of filing stops you in your tracks, you need to simplify your filing system. In the mean time, create a file, bag or box and label it “2012 To File.” Even if you never make pretty files out of those papers they are in one place and dated (guiding rules 1 and 2 for papers.)

An email a day feels great.
I recently started cleaning out my in box one email at a time. Starting with the oldest email I had saved.
Do I care about this anymore? Is it relevant anymore?
No- delete it
Yes – continue
Do I need to save this as a record or receipt?
Yes- Print it to PDF and file accordingly. Then delete it.
Do I need to follow up on this?
Yes- Do it right then and there.

I have many emails color coded for “blogs” and “Facebook.” These emails include reference information that I want to share.
What do I do?
Option1: Print to PDF blog reference material with the topic as the document name. File it in my “To Write” folder.
Option 2: Forward the email to myself with a subject like “Health care on W’2s.” This allows me to easily see the topic and reason why I have the email saved.
Option 3: Post it right then and there.

Filtering on the fly takes away the need and burden of the Big Purge. It is an exercise in letting go. You will need to meet “I might need that someday” head on. Ask yourself “what is the worst thing in reality that could happen if I need this someday and do not have it?”

People who take “I might need that someday” to heart end up living the “I cannot find it/forgot I had it/bought a new one” life. So they never actually use all they have and spend more money maintaining the “I might need that someday” lifestyle then they would have if they let go of what they did not need or use and bought things as they needed them.

Above all filtering on the fly should be a light hearted event. Have fun letting go!

Budget – it’s not a dirty word

Do you know where your money goes each month? If your answer is simply “away” you are like 22% of adults per a recent study by The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). A ‘credit culture’ can encourage absent minded spending. Whether viewing your home or business accounting, it can be a real eye opener to see how much you are spending on shopping, coffees, or tech gadgets.

The NFCC study also noted that 43% of Americans have a budget and track expenses. Are you in the 56% that do not have a budget?

I just finished the book Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald. In the book, Sarah explains that the people of India feel sorry for Americans because we are always looking up the wealth ladder while Indians are looking down. Envy of what others have and ‘keeping up with the Jones” instead of thankfulness for what we have and ‘doing better than the Millers’ (no offense Millers.) Can happiness come from comparing ourselves to the “better” neighbors?

Many Americans live the life of the Jones’ neighbors as depicted in The Joneses movie see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Joneses. They are willing to put themselves in extreme debt to look like the “rich” neighbors. This richness is in material goods that others will see.

Much like Dr. Seuss’s Star-Bell Sneetches, it becomes impossible to tell the “rich” from the folks that are playing “rich” with huge credit card debt.

Are your life goals to appear the most rich? To hope others envy you? If not, please read on.

“Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people.” —Nido Qubein

While researching for this blog, I located Killing Sacred Cows: Overcoming the Financial Myths That Are Destroying Your Prosperity by Garrett B. Gunderson. After viewing the Table of Contents I am hooked: Myth 1- The Finite Pie – Scarcity thinking brings out the worst in us – fear, pride, jealousy, selfishness. Replacing scarcity with abundance increases our creativity, productivity, health and happiness.

Scarcity – What do others have that we do not?
Abundance – We are so lucky to have all the things we do.

Enter the budget. I help clients brainstorm personal and business goals, their own goals not the goals of the neighbors, and create a plan to get there. Being worried about your financial situation can cause stress, panic attacks, anxiety, and sleepless nights. None of which is good for your health. Knowing where your money goes, how much “the basics” cost each month, and creating goals to work toward creates safety, comfort, and empowerment.

Here are links to videos of a client and me talking through the budgeting plan:

Video 1: http://www.youtube.com/user/TACYourHealth#p/u/2/d3HZb2av6Hg
Video 2: http://www.youtube.com/user/TACYourHealth#p/u/3/Wib0r0lKqbA

Start making a road map to your future goals today. Let’s GO!

* * * * * * *

Thanks to Mike waters for creating these videos.

The 2011 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey Final Report

National Foundation for Credit Counseling

Getting Organized, Live Longer

Some time ago I came across the posting titled “7 Thoughts That Are Bad For You” at LiveScience.com. While enjoying the humorous pictures posted with some of the seven, I also noticed a pattern. I believe four of the seven could be minimized by feeling more organized.

Let’s review the posting for #4: Lack of Self-Control:

“Late for appointments? Can’t keep your desk organized? No self-control? These seemingly benign qualities could take a toll on your health.

A review of more than 20 studies and nearly 9,000 participants revealed people who are conscientious — organized and self-disciplined, as opposed to impulsive — live two to four years longer than others.” (Posted at http://www.livescience.com/health/090911-7-bad-thoughts-1.html) The posting goes on to describe destructive activities which studies have found are linked to feelings of lack of self-control like excessive smoking and drinking.

Scientific research says that you can live longer if you are less stressed out and better organized. Jackie says that you can save a couple more years. By getting organized, you will spend less time searching, back tracking and in general wasting time. If you spend 30 minutes each work day looking under piles to find that note you need for a meeting that started 5 minutes ago, searching your in box of 400 messages for the contact information of a customer that you were supposed to call yesterday, and complaining to your coworkers, family and friends that you just can’t get on top of things, how much time have you wasted in 10 years?

Taking into account holidays and vacations, over a 10 year period, you will have wasted147 work days, over 60% of a work year. Think about all the great things you would do if someone gave you 147 days to do whatever you want! You can give this gift to yourself. Go to a mirror, look yourself in the eye and say “What am I going to do? Get Organized!”

You can do it and I can help.

“7 Thoughts That Are Bad For You”