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Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP – North Carolina to Require Employers to Use E-Verify

North Carolina has joined the growing list of states that will require private employers to verify the eligibility of their new hires to work in the United States through E-Verify, a federally administered online system for confirming the identity and employment eligibility of individuals. The new statute, signed by Governor Perdue on June 23, 2011, will phase in its E-Verify requirement over the next two years, eventually applying to all North Carolina employers with twenty-five or more employees.

The New Legislation

The new law will require all North Carolina employers with twenty-five or more employees to enroll in and use E-Verify to check the eligibility of employees to work in the United States. The law applies only to new hires and does not require employers to verify the immigration status of their existing workforce through E-Verify. The law also specifically exempts seasonal temporary employees employed for ninety or fewer days during a consecutive twelve-month period.

The E-Verify requirement will be phased in gradually, depending on the size of the employer. The E-Verify requirement will become effective on October 1, 2012, for employers with 500 or more employees. Employers with 100 to 499 employees will become subject to the requirement on January 1, 2013, and employers with twenty-five to ninety-nine employees will be covered by the law on July 1, 2013.

Once the law takes effect, employers who fail to verify a new hire’s employment eligibility through E-Verify will face civil penalties from the North Carolina Department of Labor, regardless of whether that employee is indeed authorized to work in the United States. The size of potential penalties will vary based on the number of employee verifications the employer failed to make as well as whether the failure constitutes a repeat violation. For any violation, an employer will also be required to submit an affidavit stating that, after consultation with the affected employee, it has requested a verification of the employee’s work authorization through E-Verify.

Potential Legal Questions

Opponents of the North Carolina statute could potentially argue that it is preempted by federal law. Federal immigration law prohibits states from “imposing civil or criminal sanctions” upon those that employ unauthorized aliens, except through “licensing or similar laws.” Although the United States Supreme Court recently upheld Arizona’s E-Verify law in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, the Court emphasized that the Arizona law is enforced through suspension of business licenses, rather than through civil or criminal penalties.

The North Carolina law presents a substantially different question from that resolved by the Supreme Court in Whiting. On the one hand, North Carolina’s new statute arguably runs afoul of federal law because it is enforced through civil penalties. On the other hand, the North Carolina law does not directly penalize the employment of unauthorized aliens; rather, it penalizes employers for failing to use the E-Verify system, even if those employers employ no unauthorized aliens. As North Carolina’s law departs from the model of the Arizona E-Verify law that survived a Supreme Court challenge, the new law could face its own legal challenges.

Practical Implications

Employers in North Carolina that have twenty-five or more employees should prepare to enroll in and use the E-Verify system, if they are not already participating in that system. E-Verify compares information provided by a new hire on Form I-9 with information in the federal government’s databases to verify the individual’s identity and eligibility to work in the United States. Although E-Verify is a free service, participating employers will incur costs in using it as a result of the time it takes the employer’s personnel to be trained in the use of E-Verify, to enter data into the E-Verify system, and to respond to E-Verify determinations that information supplied on a new hire’s Form I-9 does not match government records.

via Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP – North Carolina to Require Employers to Use E-Verify.

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Steps For Adding Payroll Services To Your Business

If your small business is growing, and it’s time to add an employee, you may be wondering just where to start to begin this process (our focus for this blog is NC because that’s where we are located, your state requirements may differ). Most of the time, your payroll service provider will give you a checklist and packet of forms to complete in order to add employees to your payroll. There are three major components that will be needed to set your company up for payroll services.

First, you will need a Federal EIN, otherwise known as an Employer Identification Number. You may have already received this when you started your business but if you are a sole proprietor, you may need to apply for a new number:

http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=97860,00.html

Secondly, you will need a State Withholding Tax Id Number. If you already collect and file Sales and Use Tax, the number will be the same and you just need to call the state and add withholding tax to that existing number.  To apply for a new NC withholding account number, you can apply online here:

http://www.dornc.com/electronic/registration/index.html

Third, you will need a new NC Unemployment Security Commission account number to collect and remit state unemployment insurance withholding:

https://www.ncesc1.com/business/web604/web604Main.asp

Now that the main peices for the employer portion are out of the way, let’s take a look at what forms the employees will need to provide in order to receive payroll wages. The employer must retain these documents for their records for each employee:

W-4 Form (Withholding Allowance)

I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification)

NC-4 (State Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate)

In NC, employers must also provide New Hire Information to the state. A form can be mailed or you can report your new hires online at www.NCNewHires.com.

For more information about whether a worker is an Employee or Independent Contractor, see: Employee or Independent Contractor?

Contact netWorth Bookkeeping Services for more information about our  easy, affordable, online payroll services

How Remote Services Can Help Save You Time and Money

Now more than ever, businesses are looking for ways to cut costs and operate more efficiently.  Some contracted services, such as bookkeeping and accounting, are outsourced to local professional firms or independent contractors in order to save the company the hassle and expense of hiring an internal employee.

Traditionally, these services have been provided “onsite” or at the place of business which requires additional time and/or mileage to be paid to the professional. Today, there are various resources and business applications that will allow services like these and even internal functions to be provided remotely from anywhere. With the cost of fuel rising once again, let’s explore some of the ways your business can have “remote” or “offsite” workers to help you grow your business while saving you time and money.

     

  • Online Banking Sign up with your bank to access your accounts, transfer funds, and pay your bills online from anywhere.  You can even link your QuickBooks accounting file to your banking account and download all of your transactions onto your ledger with the touch of a button.  Even those paper statements are becoming a thing of the past and your accountant can download them as needed to work on your books from anywhere.

  • QuickBooks Online Payments In addition to being able to download all of your daily transactions into your accounting software right from your bank account, you can now also accept customer payments via EFT every time you email an invoice. Simply register for this feature and your customers can click the link provided with the invoice and enter their routing and account information.  You receive your payment as an electronic deposit in a few days and only pay a small transaction fee of $0.50 each.  No more running to the bank to make deposits or tracking what payments apply to which invoice.  It’s VERY easy to use, free and convenient for the customer.  My clients love it!
  • Log Me In This service allows you to securely access any computer from anywhere.  Access files, work remotely, or transfer documents on your work computer when you’re not there.  Great for offsite workers and for peace of mind because you can always access your office computer.  For more info:  www.logmein.com
  • ShareFile A secure file transfer system that allows you and your customers to transfer files back and forth that are too large to email (like some QuickBooks files).  They even design the interface to match your website and color scheme.  Customer service is top notch and they are based right here in the Triangle area of NC!  www.ShareFile.com
  • Virtual Phone Number Not in the office? No Problem! Just get a “virtual phone number” to have one main number that is as mobile as you are. Each employee or contractor can have a unique extension that forwards to their cell phone or individual voice mail box.  The system can also forward your voice mails as an MP3 file to your email or transcribe it as a text message right to your phone. The best part? The cost for one business extension starts around $6 per month.  www.phone.com
  • CutePDF Your computer recognizes this nifty little FREE program the same as any other printer. Instead of printing your documents on paper, simply save as a PDF and archive it digitally.  It’s quick, easy to use, and you get to save trees and help our environment, too. www.cutePDF.com
  • Instant Messenger There are various free instant messenger programs out there such as Yahoo, AIM, Windows Live, and even Gmail.  Save on phone charges and stay in touch with remote employees and workers by instantly being able to communicate with them.  You can even set your status if you are busy, away from your desk, or on the phone.  A life saver when you just need information in a pinch!
  • Cloud Computing I’m sure you’ve heard this is all the rage as of late.  Actually, it’s been around for years just not with such a trendy name.  The “Cloud” is actually nothing more than “internet based applications” that allow you to store and access your data and software at an affordable price.  Instead of buying your own server which can cost thousands, you can simply “rent” server space and access your data and software applications over the web.
  • Online Payroll Services Payroll is one of those areas that causes a great deal of stress and forces a lot of business owners to be tied down to their payroll schedule. Enter the online payroll service! These simple to use, convenient web-based services allow you to process your payroll over the internet from anywhere.  Some of them (like the payroll service we offer) even pay your taxes and file all your Federal and State forms electronically so you don’t have to.  It doesn’t get any easier than that!
  • Online Accounting and Billing Software If you need to access your accounting data or bill your clients while you are on the go, consider moving to an online accounting or billing service.  There are many out there to choose from so do some research to see which meets your needs best. Some of the more popular ones are QuickBooks Online, FreshBooks, Outright, and Kashoo.

These are all tools that you, your employees, and contractors can utilize to help save money, time, office space (save on rent!), paper, mileage, and our environment.  What are some ways your business uses to stay green, fast, and efficient?

Are NC Unemployment Insurance Policies Preventing New Hiring?

Recently, a client of mine was considering hiring a temporary employee to help out on a big job they had coming up.  They found the right person and were all set to move forward and hire the worker.  Everything was going well… until they realized that the worker was currently collecting unemployment benefits from being previously laid off from their last job.

What does that matter?  In the state of NC, there is a six month period that a person has to be employed in order to qualify for new unemployment benefits.  However, if a worker has an already established or open claim, and they are hired by a new company, there is no minimum time required before they are eligible to receive unemployment benefits from their “last employer” (even if it is a temp job).   That would mean that if my client were to hire this person temporarily, even for a week, when that job ended, that person could reopen their claim and it would be collected on THEIR unemployment insurance fund, not the employer they were originally collecting from before that.

Because my client is a new business, and has a small payroll that they just started, they have little money accrued in their unemployment insurance fund.  This situation would would have raised their rates and they would have had to keep paying that higher rate into the system to pay off the claim from this temporary worker for years.  Instead of being able to put an unemployed person to work, even if just for a few months, they were unable to hire this person, who is now just  still collecting benefits from their original unemployment claim.

This is a very unfortunate policy because there are millions of people that would love an opportunity to work, even a temporary job, which can lead to permanent employment in some situations.  Additionally, there is always the possibility a new employee won’t work out, even if they are hired permanently.  Employers are aware of the burden they take on when they hire someone who is currently collecting unemployment benefits and may be deterred from doing so.  The system that is designed to help unemployed workers is actually hurting their chances of being rehired by small businesses.  No wonder our state unemployment rate remains so high.

An individual who has established a claim, returned to work and become unemployed again during that one year period, may reopen an existing claim. For reopened claim purposes, the last employer is the one for whom the claimant most recently worked prior to reopening an existing claim, regardless of the duration of the job.

via ESC NC Business Services: UI Information – Claims.

Are You Ready to Turn Your Skill into a New Business?

Are you GREAT at what you do?  Do you have years of experience in a particular trade or field and are now an expert?  Maybe now you are thinking “Hey, I might start a business and make a living out of this.”  Your expertise and hard work are only half the battle.  Now comes the hard part.

Entrepreneurship can be a great source of income, pride and accomplishment.  It can also be quite challenging to run and maintain “the business side” of a business.  This is a common source of confusion and frustration for many new business owners, even for small, single owner operations and they often become sad statistics of startup failure.   It’s important to take steps to make sure you set yourself up to succeed from the beginning.

Here are some common snafu areas for many business owners which can make or break your new venture:

1.  The Business Plan – I know, I know.  You’ve heard it a million times but it’s all written down in your head.  Not only do you need one, you need to revisit it once a year and make sure that is consistent with helping you meet your objectives and goals.  I also recommend writing a “Vision Statement”, which is where you see yourself in 5 years, written in present tense.  For example:  We are the largest supplier of buttons in our metro area of _____ with revenues of_____ per year.  You get the idea. Only a concrete, well thought out goal can be obtained and be able to withstand any challenges.

2.  Taxes and Legal Compliance – Understanding your tax obligations and making sure you are in legal compliance is crucial.   From Federal to State level, there are income taxes, annual filings and reports (if you are incorporated), state Sales and Use Taxes, and Payroll Taxes just to name a few.  Even simple mistakes in any of these areas can lead to stiff penalties and fines, in some cases enough to force you to close your doors.  Even something seemingly as innocent as misclassifying an employee or contractor can have expensive consequences. Don’t get caught off-guard!  Consult an Accountant and/or an Attorney to plan your business, pick the right legal structure and get off to a good start.  You can also start with this FREE Virtual IRS Small business tax workshop available online, anytime.  Oh, and don’t forget about protecting yourself with good insurance!

2.  Accounting and Record Keeping – Not knowing where you stand financially is not only a common cause of business failure but frustration in general.   Having your data organized and keeping track of income and expenses can give you the tools you need to make decisions to steer your business in the right direction.  This will also help save you money at tax time by making sure you don’t miss any allowable deductions.  A good bookkeeping system can also help you with fraud detection and monitoring for theft (if you carry inventory).  This is definitely an area that you will want to hire a professional to help you with from the beginning.  If you weren’t an accountant before you started your business, you won’t be one after.  “Flying blind” will cost you far more in the long run than you’ll pay your bookkeeper.

4.  Marketing – Okay, so you’re awesome at what you do but who else knows it?  How will you reach new customers and let them know how awesome you are?  Have you taken into consideration an advertising budget to get your brand off the ground?  This is also an area where you may need to hire a marketing expert to help you.  With so many new online media streams to promote yourself, it’s important to have a brand or “image” and a consistent marketing message.  This could include everything from your business cards to your website (don’t even THINK about not having one), your social media campaigns on Twitter and Facebook, etc.,  and your blog (like this one I am writing).  There are also many free and inexpensive ways to get customers which are time consuming but necessary.  Word of mouth referrals and good old face-to-face networking are tried and true methods to meet potential clients and build relationships.  Remember, business is personal and these contacts will be key to your long-term growth and success in surprising and unexpected ways.

5.  Pricing Services or Products Correctly – This is a tricky one because so many variables come into play.  Your costs, your volume, and your competition should all be considered when trying to get to that “sweet spot.”  A break-even analysis will be an invaluable tool in helping you understand what you need to charge for each item or service and how many you need to sell just to cover your costs.  You need to know if your pricing structure is both viable and sustainable.

6.  Don’t Reinvent the Wheel – Chances are that whatever your business model is, someone else is already out there doing it and doing it well.  Take some time to talk to some folks who are already in the field and learn from them.  If their business is successful, it’s because they are doing something right.  You can always add your own uniqueness or improve upon “tried and true” formulas to make it your own.  It’s also equally important to use this learning opportunity to figure out what NOT to do and avoid costly mistakes.

Hopefully, you  have been doing research about starting your own business and haven’t been scared off or deterred so far.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help! If you are willing to accept that your dream of business ownership may come with some serious (but manageable) responsibilities, then you are on your way to having a successful future filled with unlimited possibilities.