EEOC Proposes to Add Pay Data to EEO-1 Reporting Form

As part of itsgavel over money istock role enforcing antidiscrimination laws, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) gathers information about workplace demographics in the United States. Employers with 100 or more employees are required to submit an annual report, called the EEO-1 report, providing information about the race, ethnicity, and gender of the company’s employees in certain job categories. At the end of last month, the EEOC announced a proposal to add pay data to the EEO-1 report, in an effort to enforce equal pay laws.

Although wage discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, and race has been outlawed for several decades, the United States still has a significant pay gap. Women continue to make around three-fourths or less of what men make in the same position. The pay gap is even wider for female employees of African American or Latino descent.

Enforcing equal pay has presented somewhat of a challenge because it’s easy for this type of discrimination to go unnoticed. Employees typically aren’t privy to what their coworkers are earning, and up until now, employers haven’t been required to report that data to any state agencies. The EEOC expects that requiring regular reporting of pay data will help regulate employers and enforce antidiscrimination laws. And, it will provide employers with an opportunity to monitor their pay practices and correct any discrepancies.

If the EEOC’s proposed change is approved, employers that are required to submit an EEO-1 report will need to include information on employees’ wages and work hours. The EEOC will be accepting comments on the proposed rule until April 1, 2016. If the rule passes, employers will need to comply with the new reporting requirement beginning in 2017.

Forty Cent Difference Between 2016 Business and Charity Mileage Deductions

The IRS actually lowered the amount per mile that a business owner can deduct for vehicle use in 2016. (See 2016 Standard Mileage Rates for Business, Medical and Moving Announced.) The standard mileage deduction went from 57.5 cents for 2015 to 54 cents.

The amount that a volunteer using a car for charity can deduct in 2016 stayed right where it’s been for years, at 14 cents per mile. So relatively speaking, the volunteers are a little better off than they were last year. After driving hither and yon to set up a charity auction, visit shelter dogs and cats (and birds, and reptiles . . . ), clean up a shoreline, and so on, they’re only an even 40 cents worse off per mile than had they been driving the car for business purposes.

Does the IRS hate charitable work? No, the difference is based on a technicality. The charitable mileage deduction is set by federal statute, which would take an act of Congress to change. Congress never seems to get around to that particular fix.

The standard mileage rate for business, by contrast, is within the IRS’s power to change. The agency announces a new rate annually, based on the latest fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile.

If you’re volunteering for charity and using your car to get you to the facility and back, or for other purposes related to your volunteer work, and you want the maximum deduction, you might want to do it the more laborious way: keep track of your miles, and figure out the per-mile cost of gas and oil, as directly related, variable expenses. (General wear and tear can’t be included for the charitable mileage deduction.) See IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for details (under “Out-of-Pocket Expenses in Giving Services”).

And if you’re a leader or manager of a charitable or nonprofit organization, be sure to remind your volunteers about the tax deductions they can take for expenses they incur. Not only mileage, but other expenses they pay for out of pocket (aprons, treats for kids, pets, or other clients, art supplies, and so forth) can be deducted.

Minimum Wage Increases in the New Year

Witgavel over money istockh the start of the new year, the minimum wage has increased in several states. The federal minimum wage remains at $7.25; this is the lowest hourly amount that employers can pay employees in the United States. However, if a state has a higher minimum wage, the employer must pay the higher amount. Likewise, if a city or county has a higher minimum wage than the federal or state rate, the employer must pay the higher amount.

As of January 1, 2016, the minimum wage increased to the following amounts:

  • Alaska: $9.75
  • Arkansas: $8
  • California: $10
  • Colorado: $8.31
  • Connecticut: $9.60
  • Hawaii: $8.50
  • Massachusetts: $10
  • Michigan: $8.50
  • Nebraska: $9
  • New York: $9
  • Rhode Island: $9.60
  • South Dakota: $8.55
  • Vermont: $9.60
  • West Virginia: $8.75

Employers and employees should check with their city or county to find out if there is a local minimum wage. For more information about the rules in your state, see Your Right to Minimum Wage.

Californians More Obsessed Than Anyone About Housing Bubble in 2015

sf aerialThe folks at Estately decided to honor the closing of 2015 by running a bunch of search terms through Google and figuring out which states’ residents led the U.S. pack in searching for the same terms. Though the choice of terms may say more about Estately than about the U.S. populace at large (“Dad bod?” Really?) a couple of searches stood out for anyone interested in real estate matters.

First off, residents of California searched for the term “housing bubble” more than residents of any other state. And no wonder: They’re probably hoping or fearing that the crazy rise in home prices in the last year or two will soon end, or better yet turn in the other direction. (Whether they hope or fear depends largely on whether they’re planning to buy or sell a home.)

California prices went up by 6% or 7% in some areas, according to the California Department of Realtors (CAR). The median home value in California is currently $450,600, according to Zillow.

But people hoping for a bursting bubble may be disappointed, if CAR projections are correct. CAR is forecasting more modest price gains (due to factors like the Fed raising interest rates), but still expects home prices to increase in the 3% to 4% range.

Californians do have other things on their Googling mind, fortunately or not. Like the iPhone6, Mark Zuckerberg, and Kim Kardashian.

Meanwhile, in Florida, they’re Googling “home prices” at a higher rate than in any other state. But hey, with a median home price of $180,700, what are they worried about? (Actually, they’re worried about Trump’s net worth, Obamacare, and concealed weapons permits, according to Estately’s research).

Your Home Is Your Fortress: But Can Emergency Responders Get In?

ambulanceHolidays are for visiting family, which in my case means visiting a place with a lot of AARP publications sitting around. And one of the aforementioned (December 2015 AARP Bulletin) offers useful reminders on the effects of living behind carefully locked doors and barred windows, perhaps with a zealous security guard or a protective dog, if you need to be rescued by ambulance or fire personnel.

Bottom line: Your rescuers may not be able to reach you.

The article, ominously titled “When Every Second Counts,” cites “real-life tragedies,” in which emergency responders couldn’t break down doors or get past a dog’s sharp fangs in time to save the person inside.

It would all feel a bit sensational if it weren’t real. And fortunately, the article provides some simple, practical advice to tuck into one’s brain for an emergency moment, particularly if home alone: Turn on the lights and open the door after calling 911! If you live in a building with a security desk, call it, too. Better yet, if possible, step outside so that the EMTs can find you quickly; or send someone to wave them down.

In the meantime, AARP recommends thinking ahead about practical measures you can take to ensure that you can be located and reached quickly. For example, cutting back trees near one’s driveway, keeping stairs in good repair, and making sure your house numbers are freshly painted on the curb in reflective paint will all help avoid situations where an ambulance is circling the block or can’t get into the driveway.

Now, what about that dog? Unfortunately, you can’t explain to an animal who are the good guys and who are the bad. The article suggests locking pets away. I would underline that with a caution that, legally speaking, if you aren’t in a condition to restrain the dog and the dog looks ready to attack the first responders, they are schooled in the idea that it’s okay to kill an animal for defensive purposes. (See When Killing a Dog Is Legally Justified.)

Okay, with all that in mind, go ahead and climb that stepladder to put the star on top of the tree . . .