Budget Resolution Includes Three More Tax Cuts

The continuing resolution to fund the federal government through Feb. 8, now working its way to the president’s desk, includes three tax cuts that will add $31 billion to the deficit since the deal includes no spending offsets.

senate-u.s.-capitolThe three taxes, all related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), have proven vastly unpopular on The Hill but were excluded from the recent tax reform package because Republicans couldn’t fit them into their math.

Going, going, gone — for this year, anyway — are the ACA’s medical device tax, the Cadillac tax on expensive health insurance policies, and the so-called health insurance tax on all policies. Delaying these three taxes garners widespread bipartisan support because Republicans hate taxes in general and Democrats hate what these taxes do to their constituents (device makers, unions with lavish health insurance policies).

The Cadillac tax is popular with economists as it is said to hold down pricing on all policies by forcing businesses and individuals to pursue moderation in health care and health insurance.

However, the health insurance tax tends to raise prices. According to the New York Times: “Actuaries and independent analysts agree that the tax does tend to increase insurance prices”

Today’s action doesn’t repeal these taxes but delays them. Similar delays have been voted in the past, signaling that these postponements could become a yearly ritual.

 


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Children’s Health Insurance Program — CHIP — Gets Six-Year Extension

With seven states having nearly exhausted their funds for the program, a Congressional continuing resolution to fund the federal government through Feb. 8 has breathed new life into the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to the tune of six years of guaranteed funding.

chip-program-reauthorizedThe deal has been on the table since last week, but on Friday squabbling over how to deal with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program sank any chance of passing the budgetary resolution (which was then for four weeks’ duration, not three).

After almost three days of a government shutdown, Senators today hatched a new agreement that includes the CHIP funding. DACA remains on the table amid assurances that there will be open debate on the issue.

CHIP funding ran out 114 days ago when its last budgetary authorization expired with the close of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30. As states started to run low on funds (Connecticut and Alabama threatened in December to shutter their programs if funding weren’t forthcoming), Congress passed a stopgap measure to help the neediest states.

CHIP, which enjoys widespread bipartisan support, was created in 1997 through a measure introduced by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah). It currently provides funding for some 9 million children who otherwise would be uninsured or vastly under-insured.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Companies Can Begin Submitting Injury-Illness Data Electronically Now

Although the official deadline to do so isn’t until July 1, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is now accepting injury and illness data electronically for calendar year 2017.

OSHA-accepting-300a-data-electronically

OSHA is now accepting electronic injury-illness reporting data from affected industries.

The Injury Tracking Application (ITA) is accessible from the ITA launch page, where businesses can provide the agency their 2017 OSHA Form 300A information.

OSHA is not accepting the 300 log or the 301 incident report at this time, which means that establishments with more than 250 employees are only required to electronically report 300A data at this time. The same applies to businesses with 20-249 employees that have been identified as susceptible to high levels of injuries and illnesses. (Note: The paper form of 300A must also be posted in a conspicuous workplace gathering point by Feb. 1.)

The data should be site-specific, not company-wide, if there are multiple locations.

OSHA is drafting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to deal with the 300 log and the 301 incident report as part of the organization’s previous “Improved Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” final rule. There will be a public commentary period on the NPRM.

Establishments covered by OSHA state plans do not need to electronically file federally in these states:  California, Maryland, Minnesota, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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EEOC Raises Notification Posting Fine to $545

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has adjusted for inflation its violation fine for failing to post its “EEO is the Law” notification from $534 to $545. Those of you who display Personnel Concepts’ Space Saver-1 All-On-One State and Federal Labor Law Poster will generally fulfill this posting requirement.

eeoc-raises-posting-violation-fineThe EEOC also encourages posting the notice online in addition to displaying it in a conspicuous workplace location, advising “in some situations, (e.g., for employees who telework and do not visit the employer’s workplace on a regular basis), it may be required in addition to physical posting.”

The fine increase was posted in the Federal Register and explained as follows:

In accordance with the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, which further amended the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, this final rule adjusts for inflation the civil monetary penalty for violation of the notice-posting requirements in Title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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HHS Allows States to Ban Planned Parenthood from Medicaid

On Friday, Jan. 19, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced two major actions — in its words — “to protect life and the conscience rights of Americans.”

cms-allows-states-to-ban-planned-parenthood-from-medicaidHHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is issuing new guidance to state Medicaid directors restoring state flexibility to decide program standards. The letter issued today rescinds 2016 guidance that specifically restricted states’ ability to take certain actions against family-planning providers that offer abortion services.

Additionally, HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is announcing a new proposed rule to enforce 25 existing statutory conscience protections for Americans involved in HHS-funded programs, which protect people from being coerced into participating in activities that violate their consciences, such as abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide.

“Today’s actions represent promises kept by President Trump and a rollback of policies that had prevented many Americans from practicing their profession and following their conscience at the same time,” said Acting HHS Secretary Eric D. Hargan. “Americans of faith should feel at home in our health system, not discriminated against, and states should have the right to take reasonable steps in overseeing their Medicaid programs and being good stewards of public funds.”

“America’s doctors and nurses are dedicated to saving lives and should not be bullied out of the practice of medicine simply because they object to performing abortions against their conscience,” said OCR Director Roger Severino. “Conscience protection is a civil right guaranteed by laws that too often haven’t been enforced.  Today’s proposed rule will provide our new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division with enforcement tools that will make sure our conscience laws are not empty words on paper, but guarantees of justice to victims of unlawful discrimination.” (more…)


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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HHS Launches Conscience and Religious Freedom Division

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this morning announced the formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

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Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan

The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division has been established to restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom, according to the official announcement.

OCR is the law enforcement agency within HHS that enforces federal laws protecting civil rights and conscience in health and human services, and the security and privacy of people’s health information.  The creation of the new division will provide HHS with the focus it needs to more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom, the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights.

OCR already has enforcement authority over federal conscience protection statutes, such as the Church, Coats-Snowe, and Weldon Amendments; Section 1553 of the Affordable Care Act (on assisted suicide); and certain federal nondiscrimination laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion in a variety of HHS programs.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Employers Must Post Form 300(A) by Feb. 1

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to post its Form 300(A) each Feb. 1, detailing the previous year’s work-related injuries and illnesses. The form must be left posted in a conspicuous place until April 30.

OSHA-form-300a-due soonTwo exemptions exists: One for employers who had 10 or fewer employees all year long, the other for certain low-hazard industries. Details are available on OSHA’s Recordkeeping Rule web page.

In addition to the posted log, applicable employers must also fill out two forms.

According to OSHA instructions:

The OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping forms are:

  • the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300),
  • the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300A), and
  • the Injury and Illness Incident  Report (OSHA Form 301).

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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John Ring Nominated to NLRB

President Trump on Friday nominated business lawyer John Ring to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to fill the seat of the departed Philip Miscimarra, who left in December. If Ring is approved by the Senate, Republicans would retain a 3-2 majority on the NLRB through 2020.

lawyer-john-ring-appointed-to-nlrbRing is co-chairman of the labor/management relations practice at the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Brockius, where he works on labor contracts, multiemployer benefit funds, and corporate restructurings.

Another Trump appointee, Mark Kaplan, was named chairman of the board after Miscimarra stepped down.

According to Bloomberg Law:

Ring represents businesses in an array of industries who are facing union representation issues and unfair labor practice charges before the NLRB, according to his firm’s online bio.

The board will have a laundry list of items that business advocates would like to see a Republican majority and GOP general counsel address. That includes moves that expanded joint employer liability for affiliated businesses, shortened the time period for union elections, and limited employers’ use of contracts to block class actions by their workers.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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IRS Releases Withholding Tax Tables for 2018

The Internal Revenue Service has released Notice 1036, which updates the income-tax withholding tables for 2018 reflecting changes made by the tax reform legislation enacted last month. This is the first in a series of steps that IRS will take to help improve the accuracy of withholding following major changes made by the new tax law.

IRS-releases-2018-withholding-tablesThe updated withholding information, posted today on IRS.gov, shows the new rates for employers to use during 2018. Employers should begin using the 2018 withholding tables as soon as possible, but not later than Feb. 15, 2018. They should continue to use the 2017 withholding tables until implementing the 2018 withholding tables.

Many employees will begin to see increases in their paychecks to reflect the new law in February. The time it will take for employees to see the changes in their paychecks will vary depending on how quickly the new tables are implemented by their employers and how often they are paid — generally weekly, biweekly or monthly.

The new withholding tables are designed to work with the Forms W-4 that workers have already filed with their employers to claim withholding allowances. This will minimize burden on taxpayers and employers. Employees do not have to do anything at this time.

“The IRS appreciates the help from the payroll community working with us on these important changes,” said Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter. “Payroll withholding can be complicated, and the needs of taxpayers vary based on their personal financial situation. In the weeks ahead, the IRS will be providing more information to help people understand and review these changes.”

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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On the Minimum Wage Front: The Good and the Bad

While Walmart is using tax reform to raise its nationwide minimum wage to $11 an hour and to grant bonuses, the Red Robin restaurant chain is reacting to mandated minimum wage laws by laying off all of its busboys.

walmart-to-raise-minimum-wage-to-$11-an-hourWalmart CEO Doug McMillon in a press release explained why he had made the decision: “Tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.”

At the same time, however, Walmart announced it would shutter 63 Sam’s Clubs stores, effectively laying off 7,500 workers. Some of the stores will be converted to e-commerce warehouses.

Red Robin said it expects to save $8 million annually by eliminating the busboy position at its 570 locations. Previously, the firm had eliminated the position of expediter, a person who assembles food on the plates.

“Labor costs across the country are going up, and that’s clearly putting pressure on all restaurants,” said Jason Rusk, Red Robin’s vice president of innovation.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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