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Claim Alleging Unauthorized Payroll Deductions for Tobacco Surcharge Preempted by ERISA

In the recent case of Mebane v. GKN Driveline N. Am., Inc., No. 1:18-CV-00892 (M.D.N.C. Nov. 05, 2020), the federal district court held that a claim brought under the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (?Ç£NCWHA?Ç¥) is preempted by ERISA. The employee-plaintiffs in this case alleged their employer violated the NCWHA by deducting from their paychecks, without express authorization, a monetary penalty for those employees who participate in the employer?ÇÖs group health plan and use tobacco products (i.e., a so-called ?Ç£tobacco surcharge?Ç¥). The defendant-employer filed a motion to dismiss this claim for unauthorized payroll deductions as being preempted by ERISA. The court agreed and dismissed the employees?ÇÖ claim, ruling that it was preempted by ERISA. The court?ÇÖs opinion is available here.

May I or Must I: Questions Remain on Implementing Payroll Tax Deferral Executive Order

On Friday, August 28th, just two business days prior to the September 1st effective date of the executive order (the ?Ç£Executive Order?Ç¥) directing the Treasury Secretary to defer the withholding and payment of the employee portion of Social Security taxes otherwise due on wages paid to eligible employees for the last four months of 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-65 (the ?Ç£Notice?Ç¥), which provides additional guidance (discussed in the following paragraph) on implementing that tax deferral. Notably, however, the Notice did not answer two key questions for employers and employees alike: (1) is the tax deferral mandatory, and (2) who is ultimately responsible for remitting any deferred taxes to the IRS when they become due (i.e., what if an employee?ÇÖs future paycheck is insufficient to cover the deferred taxes or if the employer is unable to recoup deferred taxes from a former employee). The Executive Order permits the deferral of… Continue Reading

Employee Payroll Tax Holiday or Looming Tax Nightmare: Unanswered Questions on the Payroll Tax Deferral Executive Order

Employee Payroll Tax Holiday or Looming Tax Nightmare: Unanswered Questions on the Payroll Tax Deferral Executive Order.

UPDATE: Calculation of Payroll Costs for Purposes of the Paycheck Protection Program (?Ç£PPP?Ç¥)

The Small Business Administration (?Ç£SBA?Ç¥) continues to update its FAQs on PPP loans to provide additional guidance regarding what costs constitute payroll costs. Borrowers should use care in determining what amounts constitute payroll costs since borrowers are responsible for providing an accurate calculation of payroll costs and must attest to the accuracy of those calculations on their Borrower Application Form. Under the new guidance the SBA clarified: The $100,000 annualized per employee cap only applies to cash compensation and does not include any non-cash benefits, such as employer contributions to defined benefit or defined contribution retirement plans, payment for the provision of employee benefits consisting of group health care coverage, including insurance premiums, and payment of state and local taxes assessed on employees?ÇÖ compensation. PPP loans can be used to cover costs for employee paid vacation, parental, family, medical and sick leave (other than qualified sick and family wages for… Continue Reading

Employee Benefits as Payroll Costs under the Paycheck Protection Program

Businesses that received a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (?Ç£PPP?Ç¥) are eligible for forgiveness of that loan if, among other things, the loan proceeds are used to cover ?Ç£payroll costs?Ç¥ incurred over the eight-week period after the loan is made. Payroll costs, capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee (i.e., $15,384 over the eight-week period), are broadly defined to include, among other things: Salary, wages, commissions, or tips; Employee benefits costs, such as for vacation or paid family or medical leave (other than wages for which a credit is received under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act), group health care costs, retirement plan contributions, and severance benefits; and State and local taxes assessed on employee compensation. As of the date of this posting, no guidance has been issued by the IRS or the Department of Treasury to further clarify what specific items qualify as payroll costs.… Continue Reading

CARES Act: Additional Guidance on the Interplay Between Social Security Tax Deferrals and Forgiveness of PPP Loans

In a new set of FAQs, the IRS clarifies that an employer who receives a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (?Ç£PPP?Ç¥) may also defer payment of the employer portion of Social Security taxes due on eligible wages until the employer receives notice from its PPP lender that the loan has been forgiven. Under the CARES Act, employers of all sizes may defer payment of their portion of Social Security taxes due on wages earned between March 27, 2020 and December 31, 2020, until December 31, 2021 (50% of the deferred taxes are due) and December 31, 2022 (the remaining deferred taxes are due), subject to certain restrictions. One of those restrictions is that an employer may not defer its Social Security taxes if it has taken out a PPP loan and all or any portion of the loan is forgiven. The new FAQs clarify that, once an employer receives… Continue Reading

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