Friday, April 15, 2016

Scammers Stepping It Up This Tax Season

Now that tax season is in full swing and we get closer to the tax deadline, experts predict that these types of scams will only increase. The sad thing about this is people still get tricked by these unscrupulous individuals and becomes victims. Here are just some of the new scams going around. The more info people know about these scams and what the IRS won't ever do, the better off everyone will be when they come across one of these. 

Tax Refund Scam Artists Posing as Taxpayer Advocacy Panel
A new email scam targeting taxpayers has emerged. According to the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP), taxpayers are receiving emails that appear to be from TAP about a tax refund. These emails are a phishing scam, where unsolicited emails which seem to come from legitimate organizations — but are really from scammers — try to trick unsuspecting victims into providing personal and financial information. Do not respond or click the links in them. If you receive an email that appears to be from TAP regarding your personal tax information, please forward it to phishing@irs.gov and note that it seems to be a scam email phishing for your information.  
TAP is a volunteer board that advises the IRS on systemic issues affecting taxpayers. It never requests, and does not have access to, any taxpayer’s personal and financial information such as Social Security and PIN numbers or passwords and similar information for credit cards, banks or other financial institutions.
Scammers Change Tactics
Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, but now the IRS is receiving new reports of scammers calling under the guise of verifying tax return information over the phone.
The latest variation being seen in the last few weeks tries to play off the current tax season. Scam artists call saying they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.
For more information, see IR-2016-40, Consumer Alert: Scammers Change Tactics, Once Again
W-2 Scam Targeting Payroll and Human Resources Professionals
Payroll and human resources professionals should be aware of an emerging phishing email scheme that purports to be from company executives and requests personal information on employees. The email contains the actual name of the company chief executive officer. In this scam, the “CEO” sends an email to a company payroll office employee and requests a list of employees and financial and personal information including SSNs.
For more details, see: IR-2016-34, IRS Alerts Payroll and HR Professionals to Phishing Scheme Involving W-2s

E-mail, Phishing and Malware Schemes

The IRS has seen an approximate 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents so far in the 2016 tax season.
The emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. The phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. E-mails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.
Variations of these scams can be seen via text messages, and the communications are being reported in every section of the country.
When people click on these email links, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as IRS.gov. The sites ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information, which could be used to help file false tax returns. The sites also may carry malware, which can infect people's computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.
For more details, see:
  • IR-2016-28, Consumers Warned of New Surge in IRS E-mail Schemes during 2016 Tax Season; Tax Industry Also Targeted
  • IR-2016-15, Phishing Remains on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for the 2016 Filing Season
IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scam
An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.

Note that the IRS will never: 1) call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill; 2) demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe; 3) require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card; 4) ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or 5) threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

For more information on these and other types of scams, please visit the IRS website at https://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Stay Safe In Spring Weather

Spring Weather can be very unpredictable, and just as unstable. Severe weather affects everyone with the  potential for tornadoes, thunderstorms, lightning, flooding, and even hurricanes. Especially in the spring, violent weather threatens countless adults, children, homes, schools, business, and your personal belongings.  But the truth is, the majority of people and businesses are not prepared. Early preparation can save lives and property when disastrous weather occurs.

TORNADOES
Spring is a prime time spawning ground for tornadoes. If a tornado is spotted in your area, would you know what to do? Here are some tips to follow:
  1. Go low and get low. - Go to the lowest level of the structure you are in. If you are at home when a tornado strikes, go to the innermost part of the home on the lowest floor such as a bathroom or closet, preferably an enclosure  with no windows.
  2. Crouch or lie down, cover and protect your head. If you live in a mobile home, go outside, and lie flat in a ditch or ravine.
  3. If you are in an office building, go to the designated safe area for tornadoes. If you can’t get there in time, stay in an interior hallway or basement.

Do not take cover in your car. If you are driving down the road and see a tornado, leave your car immediately. If you have time, get inside a building. If not, lie flat in a ditch or ravine and cover your head with your arms.  A “Tornado Watch” watch means “watch” the sky. Weather conditions are right for tornadoes to form. A “Tornado Warning” means a tornado has been sighted or identified on radar. Take cover immediately. 

LIGHTNING
On the average, 90 people die each year in the United States from lightning strikes. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from lightning:
  1. Get inside a building immediately. If you have to stay outside, keep away from metal objects and stay below ground level. Avoid hilltops, open beaches, or fields; most importantly, stay away from open water and tall trees.
  2. Seek shelter inside your car. If you feel your hair standing on end, squat with your head between your knees. Do not lie flat.
  3. Avoid using the telephone or other electrical devices. Do not take a bath, shower or stand near  plumbing.  

Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. “Heat Lightning” is actually from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. Lightning kills more Americans than tornadoes and hurricanes each year. 

FLOODING
We have all seen the news about vehicles which  tried to cross a flooded street, often with tragic results. Even a four-wheel drive vehicle isn’t safe in high water areas. Flash floods have surprising lifting power.   Water displaces 1,500 pounds of weight for every foot it rises. If a car weighs 3,000 pounds, it takes only two feet of water to send it downstream.  It only takes 6 inches of water to sweep a person off his/her feet. One foot of water can cause a compact vehicle to lose control and floataway. Once the car is swept away, the vehicle may become a death trap because the electric windows and door locks can short out when water reaches them, trapping the occupants inside. Do not drive through high water or flooded areas. Observe all warning signs and don’t take any chances with your life.

THUNDERSTORMS
All thunderstorms are very dangerous. There are several associated dangers of thunderstorms including tornadoes, strong winds, hail, lightning, and flash flooding. The most dangerous situation arises when a single thunderstorm affects one location for an extended period of time. Thunderstorms typically produce rain for a brief period, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. About 10 % of thunderstorms are classified as severe. A severe storm produces hail at least three quarters of an inch in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or higher, or produces a tornado.  A “severe thunderstorm watch” tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to a radio or television for additional information. A “severe thunderstorm warning”  is issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. A warning indicates imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm. You should take cover immediately.
  
Remember the 30/30 lightning safety rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you can’t count to 30 before hearing thunder. If possible, stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder. Stay alert to your surrounding and always use good judgment when making decisions that could have lasting effects on friends, families, and co-workers.

So, keep in mind that holiday office parties are a company’s responsibility and may be a liability to be considered. Unfortunately, these types of events can be a human resources department’s nightmare. To learn more about how a PEO can augment or support your company’s human resources related needs contact the LL Roberts Group (toll free) at 877.878.6463.   You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!

  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

3 Ways Your Small Business Benefits From Using a PEO

GROW 7-9% FASTER 
Since December 2004, employment at small businesses using a PEO has grown more than 7 percent than at small businesses overall, according to the Intuit Small Business Employment Index.




HAVE 23 to 32% LOWER EMPLOYEE TURNOVER
The average overall employee turnover rate in the Unites States was approximately 42 percent per year, based on 2012 data. It is 28 to 32 percent for companies that used         PEOs for at least four quarters.




BE 50% LESS LIKELY TO GO OUT OF BUSINESS
Businesses that use PEOs are approximately 50 percent less likely to fail (permanently go “out of business”) from one year to the next when compared to similar companies in the population as a whole. The overall business failure rate among private businesses in the United States as a whole is approximately 8 percent per year, based on 2012 data. It is approximately 4 percent per year for those companies that used PEOs for at least four quarters. 




To find out how The LL Roberts Group can assist you and your company contact us today (toll free) 877.878.6463 and find out if PEO is the right solution for you.   You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Preventing CTDs (Cumulative Trauma Disorders)

Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs) are strains that result from long-term repetitive motion or from continually working in an awkward position. Strains commonly occur in the wrists, arms, shoulders or back,  affecting the body's joints and surrounding muscles and tendons.
CTDs are said to be today's fastest growing occupational problem, affecting all types of employees, from computer operators to construction workers.  Modern equipment, new tools, and machinery have increased production capabilities in many ways. But in some cases, they have also increased the  potential for strain injuries in people. These disorders not only cause great discomfort, they can also affect a person's employment options  and personal lifestyle choices.
CTDs are usually caused by a combination of the following risk factors:
  • Repetitive motions
  • Forceful exertions - pulling, pushing, lifting, and gripping
  • Awkward postures - body positions that are not the natural resting position
  • Static postures - body positions held without moving
  • Mechanical compression of soft tissues in the hand against edges or ridges, such as using tools or objects which press against the palm
  • Fast movement of body parts
  • Vibration, especially in the presence of cold conditions
  • Mental stress
  • Lack of sufficient recovery time (rest breaks, days off), which will increase the risk of developing a CTD by any of the above factors.

 Suggestions for reducing your exposure to CTDs:
  • Warm-up with exercises or stretches before beginning physically demanding tasks.
  • Plan ahead, if you will be doing a job that is awkward--think of ways to make it easier.
  • Rotate your work position, to change how muscles are used during your work shift.
  • Use the proper tool for the job to avoid awkward movements and the need for overexertion.
  • Take a rest break when fatigue sets in. Just a few minutes can make a difference.
  • Carefully stretch tired or overworked muscles to improve circulation and relieve tension.
  • When appropriate, use anti-shock or anti-vibration gloves, back supports, wrist supports, or other personal protective equipment that helps prevent cumulative trauma.
  • Always use proper lifting techniques. Back strain is one of the most common CTDs.
  • Just because a co-worker is not affected by a physically demanding task, don't ignore messages your body sends you. Although humans share many physical characteristics, people are often different in terms of their physical strengths and weaknesses.

All muscle discomfort and fatigue is not a cumulative trauma disorder. Everyone experiences occasional aches and pains from both work and play - especially when you are not used to the activity.  Nevertheless, awkward, repetitive work positions can result in long-term physical problems, so it's up to you to avoid these in whatever ways you can. If the pain or discomfort doesn't go away within a day or two, follow the above suggestions.
If you have early symptoms of chronic discomfort, report it immediately to your supervisor. The sooner a better tool or work position can be incorporated into your work activities, the sooner those symptoms can be controlled.
It is important that the job and the workplace fit the worker, both physically and mentally, rather than forcing the worker to fit the job. The study of fitting the job to the worker and improving the workplace is called ergonomics. An ergonomist is a trained professional who is qualified to evaluate jobs/work sites and recommend changes in the layout of work stations, equipment, tool design, work habits, and work organization. Because CTDs have become a widespread problem in so many industries, prevention measures should be regarded as both effective and cost-effective.

 If you have any questions or need more information found in this posting, please contact the LL Roberts Group or our new Safety Division, Roberts Risk Management (toll free) at 877.878.6463. You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

February 1st -- Time to Post Your OSHA 300A!

February is quickly approaching and it's time again to look at the process of preparing this year's 300A Summary. To complete the 300A, employers must use the previous year's OSHA 300 Log. The 300A is a condensed version of your 300 log. Employers with 10 or more employees must post a summary of the previous calendar year’s injuries and illnesses. If your company location has fewer than 10 employees, OSHA may still require your organization to complete the OSHA 300 log and summary if your total organization has more than 10 employees. Not all businesses must complete the OSHA log. Click HERE for a list of the exempt businesses.

The 300A Summary Log must be posted from February 1st to April 30th. The log must be placed in a visible location that your employees can easily view. The break room or by the time clock are two good places that have a lot of employee traffic. The highest ranking company executive or manager at each location must sign the 300A certifying that he or she agrees with the 300A Summary. After they are completed, do not send the forms to OSHA unless they specifically request them. However, any inspection will no doubt include a review of the forms. 

To complete the 300 log, which contains all the information you need for the 300A Summary log, employers must classify work-related injuries or illnesses. The basic parts to the 300 Log that are recordable are death, loss of consciousness,  days away from work, restricted work activity or job transfer, and medical treatment beyond first aid. You must update the OSHA 300 log within seven days after each injury or illness. To complete the 300A Summary log, total up all the events from the 300 Log and complete the 300A. An employer subject to this requirement must post the OSHA 300A Summary log even if the employer had no reportable injuries/illnesses in the prior year. In addition to the posting requirement, employees with no fixed work site or no access to posted sites must be provided with a copy of the report.
While every injury on the job should be taken seriously, not every incident is “recordable” for OSHA record keeping purposes. For example, an employee may receive only first-aid treatment or the incident may be an exacerbation of an earlier injury already reported. If you need more details, the OSHA/ Department of Labor  Web site is very informative and can be very helpful.  Click HERE for "step by step" 300 & 300A record keeping information.

Should you have any questions concerning, your OSHA 300 and 300A Summary log please contact your LL Roberts Group PEO Risk Management Department (toll free) at 877.878.6463You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!


Friday, January 15, 2016

What Is A "PEO" and How It Can Help Your Business Grow

There are still a lot of business owners and managers that are not familiar with a Professional Employer Organization or a PEO, so we decided to breakdown what a PEO is, and how it can help you run your business be more successful.  Let me ask you this. As a business owner or manager, does it make sense that you must be become an expert at payroll, employment tax processing, governmental and HR compliance, purchasing insurance, and risk management? Sounds impossible right? That’s where a PEO can and does make your life easier.

A Professional Employer Organization (“PEO”) provides cost-effective services that help all companies, regardless of size, better manage their employer responsibilities and risks. PEOs are in the “business of employment” and provide real relief to employers through services and resources that include workers’ compensation coverage, payroll and employment tax administration, safety/risk management support, OSHA compliance, human resources support, labor law compliance, as well as employee benefit programs.

By partnering with a PEO to assume these non-core business functions for your company,  you are free to manage your company’s production, marketing, sales and service. Basically, we free up time for you and your administrative staff to focus on running your business, instead of it running you. 

A relationship with a PEO involves a sharing of employer responsibilities between the PEO and your company. This employment relationship is known as “co-employment” and is an integral aspect of the PEO business model. In a co-employment arrangement, the PEO becomes the employer of record for tax and insurance purposes and begins filing paperwork under its own identification numbers. We become responsible for a wide variety of taxes and this eliminate the possibility of making mistakes on what needs to be reported.

As worksite employers, you continue to direct employees in their day-to-day work-related duties and activities. You still get to “hire and fire” your employees, but we can guide you with these to make sure you are in compliance with employment laws. As a co-employer responsible for most HR administrative functions, the PEO manages many of the time-consuming and costly aspects of employee administration as the "employer of record" for the employees.  The co-employment relationship is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service, and most states, through some form of specific licensing, registration, or regulation for PEOs.

Some PEOs (The LL Roberts Group) offer Automated Time & Attendance solutions to help eliminate employee “buddy punching” and paying employees for lost time when they arrive late & leave early.  This also helps combat unwarranted wage & hour claims and to help larger companies be ACA compliant. The Time & Attendance system also makes your payroll more automated and reduces errors while saving time calculating employee time.

Quite simply, a PEO is a “one stop shop” that allows companies to outsource most of the time consuming and costly functions associated with employee administration. An additional benefit is that you get your workers’ comp coverage with no deposits and no year-end audits!

At the LL Roberts Group, we have a wide variety of clients ranging from doctors and lawyers, to construction companies, plumbers and everything in between. It’s makes no difference if it’s white collar, blue collar, or grey collar, we have solutions tailored for your company regardless of what industry you’re in.

The LL Roberts Group can assist you by providing your company with a “no-cost” and “no obligation” PEO proposal. So contact the LL Roberts Group today (toll free) 877.878.6463 and find out if PEO is the right solution for you and your company.   You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!


Monday, December 7, 2015

Some Tips To Keep Your Holiday Office Party Merry!

It’s that wonderful time of the year again and for those of us that have been in the workplace for many years, we can likely recall the crazy office parties that went well into the night and may have even ended the next day with an awful hangover and a few regrets. That fact is that when it comes to office parties the best advice for business owners and employees alike is “not to party like its 1999”.

While office holiday parties are a good way for a company’s owners and executives to show their appreciation to employees, clients, and vendors alike, these types of gatherings can get a company into plenty of legal trouble too. Why so? In word…“alcohol”.

Many an office party has had an unhappy ending when and over served employee or guest made unwanted sexual advance to a coworker or other guest; or possibly worse, was involved in a serious car accident on the way home. Either way, the company hosting the party can be held liable. Here are some tips to help keep your holidays merry. 

1. You are liable! A good idea is to check your business insurance and see if you are covered in the vent that a mishap occurs in conjunction with the party.  A commercial general liability policy may cover liquor liability, but that doesn’t cover sexual harassment or a physical assault by a party attendee. Call your insurance agent to see what your policy covers.

2. Establish expectations for your employees and guests. Office Parties are usually given to show the company’s appreciation for its employees, clients, vendors, or other supporters.  However, the key point is that it is still a “work related event”. Everyone needs to understand this point and be advised that normal office protocol and professional behavior is still expected (even if alcohol is being served).  Send out an email to the staff and post the same message on the company bulletin board that reminds everyone what is expected of them.

3. Pick a theme that doesn’t encourage trouble. Having a party at a local pub with an open bar sends a direct message to everyone attending…”Let’s Party!” Many companies have enjoyable events that do not serve alcohol; of course that’s an option that you may consider.  Having the party during the day as a luncheon or open house is another consideration; keep in mind that  these events can be alcohol free or simply encourage moderate alcohol consumption (as opposed to an afterhours or night time event). Maybe, you can just issue “drink tickets” to each guest (no more than 3 is advised), but watch out, unused tickets can easily end-up with someone getting over served.

4. Have a plan for the party’s end. Arrange for a car service to be ready at the party’s conclusion.  Keep the number for a local cab service ready and easily accessible for hosts to make quick arrangements for a ride. Make sure that the attendees know when the party is supposed to end in advance and then stick to that time. Keep a watchful eye out for anyone that may have had too much to drink and then take the necessary steps to get them home, safely.

So, keep in mind that holiday office parties are a company’s responsibility and may be a liability to be considered. Unfortunately, these types of events can be a human resources department’s nightmare. To learn more about how a PEO can augment or support your company’s human resources related needs contact the LL Roberts Group (toll free) at 877.878.6463.   You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!