Department of Family and Medical Leave – Update

The Department of Revenue recently released important information on how to report PFML Wages for the 4th Quarter 2019 Paid Family and Medical Leave Return. The Department of Family and Medical Leave is providing this update for all employers participating in the Commonwealth’s PFML program to ensure an accurate filing of withholdings by the quarterly deadline of January 31, 2020.

PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THIS REPORTING REQUIREMENT DOES NOT APPLY TO EMPLOYERS THAT HAVE RECEIVED AN EXEMPTION FROM BOTH THE FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE PROGRAMS OR ARE CONSIDERED EXCLUDED EMPLOYMENT PER SECTION 6 OF THE UNEMPLOYMENT STATUTE.

IF YOU HAVE ONLY RECEIVED AN EXEMPTION FOR ONE LEAVE PLAN, YOU MUST SUBMIT FOR THE NON-EXEMPTED PLAN, ACCORDING TO THE INFORMATION PROVIDED BELOW.


When reporting 2019 PFML contributions, please report fourth quarter wages only in both the PFM Eligible YTD Wages and Wages This Quarter boxes on the MassTaxConnect return. For the calculation to be correct, do not report actual 2019 year-to-date wages in the PFM Eligible YTD Wages box.

The reason for reporting only fourth quarter earnings in the PFM Eligible YTD Wages box is that contributions were not withheld for the first three quarters of 2019, so the Social Security annual wage cap should only be applied against fourth quarter wages.

This will only be necessary for this first PFML reporting as contributions were not withheld on all 2019 wages. When submitting future returns, you will report the actual YTD wages in the appropriate box.


IF YOU HAVE BOTH W-2 EMPLOYEES AND INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS, BUT YOU OUTSOURCE ONLY W-2 PAYROLL SERVICES TO A THIRD PARTY
Important information about the timing of reporting

If your company outsources only W-2 payroll services to a third party, and handles reporting for your independent contractors (whose payments are reported on 1099-MISC) internally, there are some rules to follow when filing returns. It’s very important that the reporting be done in a specific sequence for it to be processed correctly.

First, the payroll service, filing on behalf of your salaried employees (W-2s), must file before you file on behalf of your “covered contract workers” (1099-MISCs covered under the PFML Statute). Next, when you file on behalf of your covered contract workers, you must identify your filing as an amendment to the return already filed by your payroll service (see screenshot below). Please follow this sequence to be certain the information is properly recorded.

 

MORE INFORMATION

The Department of Family and Medical Leave oversees the Commonwealth’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program. Check out their website for a fact sheet, guides and information for both employers and workers.

You will find more information on exemption requests, registration, contributions, and payments for the Paid Family and Medical Leave program from the Department of Revenue.

Investing for the Long Haul

Financial market ups and downs are challenging, to say the least, for many investors. Saving for retirement makes you a long-term investor, but it is important that you shape your investment strategy by revisiting a few fundamental investment concepts every 6 to 18 months, regardless of market conditions.
Revisit Your Risk Tolerance
What level of investment risk is suitable for you? Are you still an aggressive investor, or has your personal situation changed since the last time you evaluated your risk tolerance? Are you still a long-term investor, or are you getting close to retirement and therefore need to be more conservative? If your needs have not changed and you still are investing for the long term, this may not be the time to change your investment mix.
Don’t Chase Returns
How many people do you know that bought into the “hot stock” they read about, without evaluating the risk involved? This is a risky strategy, as such stocks may be overvalued and end up losing money instead of making it.
Diversify
Every asset class (investment category) has its ups and downs. If your portfolio is well diversified, you will be in good position to benefit when an asset class excels—as opposed to chasing returns after the fact. For example, when growth stock funds were excelling, value funds were not; when stock funds declined, bond funds did well. Over the course of time, a well-diversified portfolio can provide increased performance while decreasing risk. In addition, diversification is a disciplined approach to investing, rather than relying on emotions or impulse.
Keep Investing Through Payroll Deduction
When the market is down, you are buying more shares or units for your dollars. Investors should actually feel good about buying in when the market is low; ideally, when you reach retirement, those shares will be worth more.
Invest for the Long Haul
Remember your long-term goals and invest for the long haul, rather than for short-term market swings. Statistics show that staying the course, rather than switching in and out of funds, is typically the wiser choice. Often, investors make the mistake of selling when the market is declining, and buying back when it is going back up. This is the opposite of what they should be doing to maximize returns.
What About Current Events?
The uncertainty surrounding current events poses significant challenges for investors. One thing we do know: the stock market hates uncertainty. Thus, having diversification of investments is key! A mix of investments—cash, bonds, stocks—will help minimize the risk of a large loss.
Though a large event may cause a serious market reaction in the short-term, often the market balances out after the event has passed. The secret to weathering all types of market swings is to resist the temptation to panic or overreact. Stay disciplined, keep a long-term approach and maintain a diversified portfolio balanced appropriately for your particular risk tolerance. These basics of long-term investing can be your blueprint for not just surviving, but succeeding in the market.

Slip and Falls: Where Do You Stand?

Presented by: Christopher F. Hawthorne, CPCU, CIC

As we settle into winter, it is an appropriate time to revisit the issue of liability from slip and falls (S&F). As mentioned in prior Cleary Quarterly articles, Massachusetts laws have changed, making it easier to establish liability to those involved. As such, we are seeing an increasing number of slip and fall claims filed against our clients. When someone is injured, who is responsible?

S&F claims can be quite large and long-lasting claims. When a person is initially injured, the extent of the damage, medical bills, possible lost wages and other pain and suffering are unknown and therefore a personal injury attorney will often wait as long as possible before filing a lawsuit against the potentially responsible parties. However, it is always a good idea to gain knowledge about how to claim for slip and fall even before visiting the attorney!

As an example, Mr. Smith is walking into a local restaurant and slips on ice. After Mr. Smith falls and injures himself, he or his attorney may identify several potentially responsible parties. Those responsible might be the restaurant, the property owner or a snow removal contractor if one is used. All three will need to notify their General Liability insurance carrier and potentially, three different carriers will then post a reserve on their insured’s file be it the restaurant, the property owner and the snow removal contractor.

All three carriers then will wait to hear from Mr. Smith’s attorney. These losses can sit for several years before the actual suit arrives to allow the loss to grow. Meanwhile all three parties are paying premiums based on the assumption that their insurance is responsible and this can raise the rates for all three.

To avoid this scenario, consider the following risk management steps:

  1. Risk Transfer between the property owner and the restaurant via the lease. The lease should spell out who is responsible for snow and ice removal and be clear to what degree. (Parking lots, walkways, steps, roof, etc.)
  2. Risk Transfer between the responsible party above and the snow removal contractor. This agreement should be just as clear in terms of which party will handle the different areas where snow and ice will accumulate.
  3. In each case an attorney should be used to have the responsible party indemnify, hold harmless and defend the other party.
  4. Verification of Insurance and the limits for the ultimate responsible party with particular attention to affirming that there is no exclusion in General Liability policy of the responsible party for the removal of ice and snow.

In this example, if the property owner via the lease takes responsibility and also hires the snow removal contractor, then the lease should protect the restaurant and the contract between the snow removal contractor and the property owner should protect the property owner.

The end result after a slip and fall is the easy identification of which party will handle the claim and allow the other two parties to protect their loss history and future premiums. This subject deserves close attention by all three parties to make sure they know where they stand after someone falls.

Auto Post Accident To Do Suggestions

Presented by Christopher F. Hawthorne, CPCU, CIC

It is frustrating to see a client’s auto carrier pay a claim to a third party based on false information.

An example being a client who had a car, with four people in it, pull in front of him and slam on their brakes. He stopped his vehicle but he did touch the other car. There was no visible damage to either car and no one was injured. He exchanged information but did not call the police. He then filed the report of the accident in case a claim was made against him.

Soon after we received notice that five people were claiming to be injured and that the other car was totaled. The carrier paid $190,000 and stated without evidence and due to the fact it was a rear-end, they had to make the payment. We see variations on this all too often.

To help avoid this situation, doing the following will put your insurance carrier in a better position to defend you and not pay false or inflated claims.

Once you have made sure you are safe, we suggest you:

  1. Do not admit fault, apologize or offer unsolicited information such as you were rushing or that you are very busy.
  2. Call the police with goal of having an official report filed to support your information. Request officer’s name and badge number.
  3. Obtain name and contact information of driver and the auto’s owner.
  4. Obtain the name of the other autos insurance carrier and policy number if possible.
  5. Get the name of all passengers in the other auto and note where they were sitting in the car.
  6. Obtain the names of any witnesses and their contact information.
  7. Ask police to ask each person if they are injured or if anything was damaged (EX; Musical Instruments).
  8. Get the year, make, model and license plate number of the other auto/s.
  9. Take pictures of your auto, the other auto, as well as, any surrounding aspects that might be useful such as a traffic sign that is shrouded by trees.
  10. If the weather is a factor, try to capture with picture and print out the weather report for that day.
  11. Record name and contact information of anyone in your auto.
  12. Complete an accident report and submit to Cleary Insurance as soon as possible.

If police are not called, do not leave until the other party had driven away. We have seen situations where both parties agree that the police are not needed, one party departs and the other party then calls the police.

If police are called, do not leave the scene of the accident until the police arrive. If you can no longer wait, do not leave without calling the police and getting permission. If you leave and the other party stays, you could be charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

If you would like an accident form to keep in your auto, please contact your Cleary representative.

By obtaining and recording the above information, you can put your insurance carrier is a stronger position to defend you and reduce or eliminate claim payments. As always, it takes a team effort!

Cleary Insurance Featured Speaker at The Boston Arts and Business Council’s Seminar

Pictured (L-R): BOSTON A&BC Operations Director Alexa Dearborn, President Jim Grace, Cleary’s Chris Hawthorne, Volunteer Lawyers Association Exec. Director Luke Blackadar.

Cleary Insurance was a featured speaker at the Boston Arts and Business Council’s Seminar for the National Arts Strategies Program. The NAS gathered in Boston to learn about business related topics for artists and art non-profits. Cleary’s Chris Hawthorne led a session on structuring insurance programs for Public Artists and non-profits.

Information Management Liability aka Cyber!

Presented by: Christopher F. Hawthorne, CPCU, CIC

Technology has delivered an exposure for those who hold, use or depend on information be it paper or electronic. Just as inventory once was the life line for a business, data and information now takes their place alongside the tangible assets of a business. This can be data in the form of client records, billing operations, employee files, websites and inventory management. When data or information is shutdown or stolen, it can represent a large loss. The loss can be both a first party loss (out of pocket) and a third-party loss (demanded by another) as well as trigger government action and penalties against the business.

First party losses are out of pocket expenses for a business such as rebuilding lost data, cost of forensic studies to determine what was lost, cost to restore systems and loss of income from business interruption.

In between first- and third-party losses are losses from extortion or ransom. A criminal may demand money to allow a computer system to released from any hold the criminal has on it or to stop a website from being overrun by an attack. While the cost is out of pocket it is caused by a third-party demand.

Third party losses arise when there is damage or loss of another’s data or private information, damage to their hardware or to their website. The cost associated with third party losses are notifying parties of their lost or released information, credit monitoring, defending from law suits, and paying settlements.

In addition, governmental actions (fines and penalties) may arise on both state and Federal levels. It is worth noting, that Massachusetts has the toughest data privacy laws in the nation.

Neither Property nor General Liability insurance pays for these types of losses.

There are several carriers now offering coverage for this exposure and many provide hotlines and proactive risk management assistance. In addition to obtaining this coverage, it is worth reviewing your technical / system support vendor to make sure the job description includes “security and compliance” as opposed to simply having the technology function.

In summary, the Information Management Liability (Cyber) exposure requires the attention of every business from perspective of insurance protection and risk management mitigation. To fail to do so is to put the survival of the business at stake.

 

Photo by Pixabay

Budgeting, Discipline and Looking Ahead: Getting Started in Life Planning

Achieving your financial objectives has a lot to do with how well you plan for your family’s future. It’s important to begin this process sooner rather than later because the demands of work and a busy family life can force long-term planning onto your “to-do” list. Being ready for unexpected expenses and having a plan for your children’s futures also shouldn’t be delayed, because by the time you get around to them, you may have other financial commitments and too much debt to start saving.

Savings

Saving is fundamental to financial planning, and it’s still one of the best ways to protect yourself against financial emergencies. Budget carefully, purchase wisely and plan ahead so you’re well-positioned to grow your savings. Bear in mind that saving is about more than preparing for the future; these funds are also there to shield you from the financial damage that emergency home repairs, serious illness or job loss can cause, and from having to rely on credit cards and other high-interest options.

College savings

According to US News & World Report, annual public tuition will cost more than $40,000 by 2030, with a four-year degree totaling an expected $205,000. Those are daunting figures for someone who hasn’t set aside money for a child’s college fund. If you want to help your child achieve a degree so they can get a good job and succeed in life, consider starting a college 529 plan as soon as possible.

Retirement savings

For young couples, retirement is little more than a vague idea, something their grandparents talk about. It’s difficult to feel a sense of urgency when you’re looking at 30 to 40 more years of earning money and building a life. But if you enroll in a retirement plan at work and continue investing in a 401(k) and Roth IRAs, your retirement fund will continue to grow and be there for you when it’s needed.

Life insurance

Purchasing a death benefit for your family is one of the first steps in making sure your loved ones are protected should you die unexpectedly. Joint life insurance policies cover both spouses, but tend to be more expensive and may not be the best option for some families. A 30-year term life policy can be an excellent option for a young family because it’s there for you when it’s most needed (i.e. until the kids are out of college and your mortgage is paid off). That being said, you should consult your insurance agent when choosing a life insurance plan since there are several types of plans and deciding which is best for yourself can be quite difficult. Moreover, ask your agent if he uses something like a life insurance quote engine (https://ilife.tech/life-insurance-quote-engine-for-agents/) that can help him to easily access a transparent database of the highest-rated life insurance plans quickly. If he takes the help of such a technological tool, he could perhaps provide you with a greater selection of plans that can better suit your needs.

Estate planning

Estate planning is something that people often concern themselves with later in life, perhaps when retirement is within reach and estate plans need to be finalized. But there are fundamental aspects of estate planning that require your attention now because they come into play if you or your spouse die unexpectedly or become incapacitated.

When young couples prepare a will, it’s generally so they can name a guardian for their children, but a will also provides for the distribution of money, assets and property. A living will or advance directive, another aspect of estate planning, establishes your wishes concerning end-of-life care. For further information about life planning, consult a professional financial planner or estate planning expert.

When you’re young, life planning tends to be about financial basics, like saving money, establishing retirement and college funds, getting life insurance, and taking care of estate planning basics. Careful budgeting will make it easier to stick to a plan and build the kind of savings and college funds you’ll need later on, so stay disciplined and allow those seeds you planted to grow.

Courtesy of Pixabay.com

Summer Home Improvement Ideas

JD Hostetter – a siding and roofing company in Indianapolis

When you own a home, there are always chores and tasks on your “To Do” list. Summer is the perfect time to attend to many outdoor projects and to plan ahead for others. And, if you can’t bear the thought of wasting precious outdoor time on home improvement endeavors, you can always hire someone to do them for you.
Improvements That Pay
It is always a good idea to focus on projects that add to the resale value of your home, such as adding a deck or a patio; installing a lawn sprinkler system; or landscaping your property.
Decks and patios can add visual interest to your property, while also providing you with an enjoyable living space. Hence, if you’re thinking of building a deck, get in touch with a deck contractor in Denver or anywhere near your house. Sprinkler systems water your lawn evenly and allow you to dictate the timing, which can be handy during water advisories. They also prevent waste and lower water bills; homeowners usually use 50 percent more water on their lawns than necessary. Landscaping is an easy way to improve the look of your property.

Exterior Improvements

If your home already has a deck, summer is an ideal time to seal it and repaint or stain it. Sealing the deck helps to preserve the wood and protect it from weather damage while painting or staining it give it a sharp, fresh look. Additionally, you could also install one of those Edmonton deck covers. If money is a concern, contact your local household hazardous waste program – there is often unopened paint available.

Paint, wherever you obtain it, is also handy for painting the exterior of your home. Paint spruces up your home, giving it a fresh, new look; but it also serves a practical function, protecting against moisture and ultraviolet rays.

While you’re eyeing the exterior of your home, consider a couple of other tasks that are much more practical in summer than winter:

Cleaning your eavestroughs and washing/and or replacing your windows.
Eavestroughs should actually be tended twice a year, and they’re not hard to do if you own a ladder. While you’re clearing away the leaves and debris, check for any cracks or leaks.

Often this is the best time to also complete more complex home improvements. Things such as re-tiling your roof and installing or replacing siding can be better completed once the weather has improved as both can sustain damage in bad weather conditions. Potentially speaking to companies such as JD Hostetter – a siding and roofing company in Indianapolis or even local recommendations, you might get from friends can possibly be useful points of contact.

Focus On Your Windows

Looking out the windows at the flowers and greenery makes summer more of a pleasure, so make sure you can enjoy the view by cleaning your windows inside and out. If you choose to do it yourself, there are inexpensive cleaning solutions that give the glass a real sparkle:

A vinegar-water mixture or a few drops of dish soap in warm water.
While you’re washing your outdoor windows, consider applying caulk around the frames. Caulk keeps outdoor air from seeping in through potential cracks, lowering heating and cooling bills. It also prevents water from seeping into your walls to cause mildew and rot.
You can also give your windows a fresh, new look by replacing them. If you’re seeking better insulation or more sunlight, this is the time of year to invest.

Spruce Up The Grounds

When it comes to landscaping, one easy way to give your grounds a fresh look is to add mulch. Apply three to eight centimetres of mulch to your flower beds to give them a fresh, new look. At the same time, you’ll be helping to smother weeds and to hold moisture in, reducing the need for watering.

You can check with your local utility company or tree service to see if they offer wood chips or shredded bark for use as mulch; they often sell it cheaply. Just be aware that some imported bark may hold pests such as woodworm or termites, so be careful before spreading it anywhere near anything that could be damaged by an attack. If you’re unfortunate enough to receive bark full of pests, get in touch with exterminators in PA or other exterminators in your area as soon as possible to rectify the problem before it gets out of hand.

Summer is also a good time to consider the shade available on your property and think about whether it’s adequate or not. It’s a perfect moment to plant trees that will provide cover in the future, but if you’re seeking relief from the sun right away, there are options: umbrellas, pergolas or covered porches. There’s no need to suffer in the hot sun if you prefer the shade.

Time For A New Driveway

Summer is the appropriate time to repave your driveway. You can choose asphalt or concrete; asphalt is less prone to cracks. Summer is its season, because asphalt adheres better when it’s warm. With a shiny, new driveway surface, you’re less likely to experience potholes come winter!

Good luck with your projects and if you need insurance advise don’t forget to call your Cleary Insurance Account Executive for help!