Ascentis Blog

Information to help HR and payroll managers, recruiters, and compliance officers become more effective.

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Bay Area First in U.S. to Mandate Commuter Benefits

CommuterTransport

The Bay Area of San Francisco, CA is now the first geographic area in the nation to mandate commuter benefits for employers with 50 or more full-time employees.  Implementation of these commuter benefits must be complete no later than September 30, 2014.  The nine counties in the Bay Area impacted are Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Sonoma, and Solano counties.

 

Assistance is available through Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC) 511 Regional Rideshare Program to help employers comply with the Commuter Benefits Program. SB 1339 authorizes the Air District and MTC to adopt and implement the Commuter Benefits Program on a pilot basis through the end of 2016.
Four options form the safe harbor under this new mandate, and each employer must offer at least one of these options to their employees in the nine-county area:

 

  • Option 1 – Allow employees to exclude their transit or vanpool costs from taxable income, to the maximum amount, as allowed by federal law (currently $130 per month). Implementing a Section 132 Commuter Benefits Program meets this requirement.
  • Option 2 – Employer-provided transit or van-pool subsidy up to $75 per month.
  • Option 3 - Employer-provided free or low cost bus, shuttle or vanpool service operated by or for the employer.
  • Option 4 - An alternative employer-provided commuter benefit that is as effective in reducing single occupant vehicles as Options 1-3.
We can imagine that this is how employers feel about this new regulation

We can imagine that this is how employers feel about this new regulation

Don’t worry. Ascentis can help.

In addition to setting up the tax-exempt Sec. 132 contributions to be excluded from taxable wages in Payroll, Ascentis can help with other impacts of the new regulations as well.

 

The regulations require that employers notify all affected employees of the commuter benefits they will provide.  Our innovative correspondence wizard  within Ascentis HR and employee self-service are two great options to help employers comply with these regulations.

 

Finally, commuter benefit records documenting the implementation of the program must be provided to Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and/or the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) upon demand, so year-to-date reports of the earnings involved and/or employer cost memo deductions will be important to retain and/or generate as needed, to support audits, and Ascentis Payroll can help support this.

Easy Online Benefits Enrollment – Secret Number One

Wasted paper in U.S. Offices 6,815 miles long

Open enrollment season is one of the most stressful times for an HR department. Piles of paper and folders, phones ringing off the hook, answering the same questions over and over, deciphering messy handwriting, and email after email after email … it’s time-consuming, stress-inducing, and fraught with the potential for errors and oversight.

There’s a faster, easier, more accurate way!

Why not consider implementing an online, paperless enrollment process? Many companies are already experiencing this kind of effortless enrollment process enabled by Ascentis HRIS and self-service technologies. Our process delivers employees all the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families, and then we transmit their benefits selections electronically to your carriers.

 

If you’re thinking about automating enrollment, here is the first secret to making this process a success.

 

Secret #1 Eliminate Paperwork and Go Green
With Ascentis Employee Self-Service you can take your open enrollment online. Publish plan documents, provider directories, beneficiary forms and more, for a truly green – and paperless – process. Ascentis has the easiest-to-learn and use HR and payroll software solutions in the industry, and we support our clients like they are our best friends. Watch this 4-minute demo and see how easy it is to give your employees control over enrollment, while saving you time and resources!

Dealing with Negative Events

As the saying goes, “Into each life, a little rain must fall.”  That is, you can’t go through life without having anything negative happening.

 

Let’s take this literally for a second.  Presumably, if you had outdoor plans, then a real rainstorm is a negative event.  Of course, you have a choice when faced with rain about how to keep it from making you feel too bad.  In general, there are two ways to deal with a negative event like rain.

 

One possibility is to rethink the event to find the silver lining.  This kind of reappraisal turns what seems to be a negative into a positive (or at least something less negative).  In the case of a storm, you could focus on the benefits that the rain will bring to plants, flowers, and the environment.

 

A second possibility is to disengage from the situation. By focusing your attention elsewhere, you dull the negative impact of the event on yourself.  If the rainstorm disrupted an important life event, then you might have difficulty seeing the positive.  In that case, you might just try to ignore the negative event.

 

The way I have set up this discussion suggests that people use both strategies, but they engage them in different situations.  When an event is a little negative, then you may be more likely to reappraise the situation than to disengage from it.  When it is highly negative, though, you may be more likely to disengage than to reappraise.

 

A paper in the November, 2011 issue of Psychological Science by Gal Sheppes, Susanne Scheibe, Gaurav Suri, and James Gross explored this question.  In one study, participants were taught labels for both strategies while viewing a set of 8 pictures depicting negative events.  On half they were told to reappraise the pictures by finding another way to interpret what is happening while on half they were told to disengage by focusing on something else rather than event shown in the picture.  Participants were able to use these strategies easily, suggesting that they were already familiar with these modes of thinking about negative events.

 

After that, participants saw an additional set of 30 pictures showing negative scenes.  Some were only slightly negative, like a woman looking sad.  Others were highly negative, like a frightened woman bleeding from the face.  After seeing the picture briefly, participants had to decide whether they were going to reappraise the picture or disengage from it by pressing a button.  Then, they viewed the picture for another 5 seconds.  (In one study, participants talked about what they were thinking to ensure that they were really following the strategy they selected.)

 

The data came out as expected.  When faced with a minor negative event, people preferred to reappraise the situation than to disengage from it.  When faced with a major negative event, people preferred to disengage from the situation than to reappraise it.

 

Although this choice of strategy may help to protect a person from negative mood, it does have a consequence.  Participants were shown the pictures afterward in a memory test.  People were much better able to remember the pictures when they reappraised them than when they disengaged from them.  So, if you are in a situation in which you need to remember a negative event and to learn from it, then you may need to focus on it rather than disengaging.

Reprinted with permission. Read original post.

About the Author:

Art Markman is the Annabel Irion Worsham Centennial Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also the Founding Director of the Program in the Human Dimensions of Organizations.  He got his ScB from Brown University and his PhD from the University of Illinois.  Before coming to the University of Texas, Art taught at Northwestern University and Columbia University. His book is Smart Thinking.

Find him on twitter @abmarkman
Connect with Art on LinkedIn

Small Business Health Care Tax Credit for 2013: Know Before you File

The small business health care tax credit was included in the Affordable Care Act enacted in 2010. Under the ACA, eligible small employers can claim the credit for 2010 through 2013 and for two additional years beginning in 2014. For 2010 through 2013, the maximum credit is 35 percent of premiums paid by eligible small businesses and 25 percent of premiums paid by eligible tax-exempt organizations. In 2014, the maximum credit rate rises to 50 percent for small businesses and 35 percent for tax-exempt organizations.

Small employers that pay at least 50% of the premiums for employee health insurance coverage under a qualifying arrangement may be eligible for this credit.

To learn more about the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit and view tips about other ACA topics, visit the Health Care Tax Tip page . Newly added tips include:

Learn more about the IRS Small Business Tax Credit, visit the IRS Health Care Tax Tip page.