How Construction Firms Can Make the Payroll Process More Accurate and Efficient

Payroll is often one of the most complex administrative tasks for a construction firm. At any given time, you may have employees at differing pay rates working across a range of job sites. By streamlining your payroll process, you will save time and ensure that employees are getting paid accurately and on time.

Implement Digital Time Tracking

Payroll processes done by hand, such as moving data from timecards to payroll software, are time consuming and allow for error. Try implementing digital time tracking in place of handwritten timecards and spreadsheets. This will help to slash time, cut down on manual error, and eliminate the task of interpreting handwriting. Catching and fixing errors, like missing hours or break time, is also easier with digital time tracking.

Many time systems have progressed in modern offerings such as geofencing, which improves labor cost data and employee accountability. Construction firms that do government work can log work classifications, verify wage decisions, and manage reporting more efficiently.

Establish a Reliable Payroll Checklist

Make a step-by-step checklist that includes each task in the payroll process. These tasks typically cover:

  • compiling hours
  • double-checking data
  • pay and withholdings
  • distributing funds.

Firms that do prevailing wage work must also manage:

  • verifying wage agreements
  • work classifications
  • handling fringe benefits.

Cross off each task as it is completed and make a note of any problems that cropped up, then you can review your process and make changes for improvement.

Streamline Technology

If your company uses multiple platforms for various administrative tasks, you are likely creating more work and more room for error. For instance, be sure you are using a digital time and attendance system that exports out to a payroll and reporting system. This eliminates the extra work it takes to transfer the data. There are also platforms designed to handle the specific tasks associated with prevailing wage work.

Limit Preventable Mistakes

With a lot of variables to keep track of in the payroll process, your goal should be to focus on limiting preventable mistakes. Try making a list of the most common payroll mistakes you’ve noticed, and double check those areas before finalizing payroll.

The payroll process is easy to overlook until something goes wrong and you waste valuable time and resources trying to correct errors. An efficient and accurate process can promote compliance, reduce risk, and lay a foundation for growth.

The Pros and Cons of Borrowing Against a 401(k) for a Down Payment on a Mortgage

If you’re in the market for a new house, you might be wondering if you can tap into your workplace 401(k) to cover the down payment. The short answer is yes, but there are definite disadvantages in doing so. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons to this approach.

Benefits of Borrowing from a 401(k) to Make a Down Payment on a House

  • You’re borrowing from yourself rather than another lender, which means you might not be losing as much money on interest payments as you would if you acquire the funds through other means, like taking out a larger home loan to cover your down payment costs.
  • The loan approval is typically hassle-free. Provided your workplace plan allows for loans, and you do indeed have sufficient funds in your 401(k), your credit score and other financial credentials shouldn’t impact your ability to borrow against it.
  • The process is typically quick. Every plan is different and works on its own timeframe, but once you’ve decided to borrow from your 401(k), it’s usually just a matter of filling out a few forms to gain quick access to the funds.
  • More money for a down payment may equal more options. Borrowing against your 401(k) plan will allow for a larger down payment, which will allow for wider options when it comes to mortgage lenders. It could also help you qualify for a better interest rate as well as help you dodge Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

A Note on PMI

PMI is customarily required when you have a conventional loan and make a down payment of less than 20 percent of the home’s purchase price. The most common way to pay for PMI is a monthly premium that is added to your mortgage payment.  Because it protects the lender and not the borrower, many home owners want to avoid this added expense, but some choose to see it as just another expense of owning a home.

Disadvantages of Borrowing from a 401(k)

  • You are diminishing your retirement savings, both in its immediate drop in balance and its future growth potential. Most likely, the return on investment (ROI) you would gain by keeping your money invested would be greater than the ROI from the interest you pay yourself (or the appreciation on your house).
  • Your budget will take a hit. You are required to repay the 401(k) loan, which means that a portion of your future paychecks will go toward repayment. That means less money at your disposal for other expenses, such as homeownership costs.
  • You will be on a repayment deadline. Borrowers typically get five years to repay a 401(k) loan. Depending on the size of your loan, you could potentially face large monthly payments in order to meet the repayment deadline.
  • Inability to repay the loan will result in penalties. Your loan will be treated as a withdrawal if you are unable to pay it back in full by the deadline, which means that you will owe income taxes on it. You will also be subject to a 10% penalty associated with early withdrawals unless you were older than 59 ½ when you took the money out.
  • Beware of the cost of leaving your job before the loan is paid. If you quit your job or experience a layoff, the entire loan amount will need to be paid by the due date for filing taxes that year. This could result in a need to repay the loan quickly in order to avoid penalties.

What’s Included in President Biden’s Proposed Tax Overhaul?

President Biden’s “Build Back Better” policy initiative, which targets economic recovery, includes a $1.8 trillion American Families Plan (AFP) and a $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan. The administration plans to fund both initiatives through a Made in America Tax Plan. Below is an overview of what’s included in this far-reaching tax overhaul.

American Jobs Plan

Estimated to cost around $2.3 trillion over the next eight years, this part of Biden’s “Build Back Better” initiative would consist of clean energy projects; affordable housing; the reconstruction or repair of 20,000 miles of road and 10,000 bridges; as well as funding for those who provide care for the elderly and disabled, and direct investment in rural and tribal areas by equipping them with 100% broadband coverage.

American Families Plan

Estimated to cost over $1.8 trillion over the next ten years, the American Families Plan would include universal preschool; two years of free community college; paid family and medical leave; extensions of the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Credit. It would also extend certain provisions set forth in the Biden administration’s economic stimulus bill, the American Rescue Plan.

Funding for the American Families Plan would come through a series of tax increases on high-income Americans, including: increasing the top individual income tax rate from 37% to 39.6%; taxing unrealized capital gains above $1 million at death; and adjusting the threshold for the 3.8% Medicare tax to all income above $400,000.

Made in America Tax Plan

The administration plans to pay for these initiatives with a “Made in America Tax Plan” over the next 15 years. It is estimated that the tax reform plan will raise over $2 trillion over the next decade and a half by increasing various taxes on American corporations, including:

  • Raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%
  • Increasing the global minimum tax that multinational corporations must pay to 21%. This is much higher than the 12.5% minimum rate recently discussed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
  • Intensifying tax enforcement of U.S. corporations that invert (relocate operations overseas) or claim tax havens
  • Imposing a 15% minimum tax on book income reported to investors.

Individual Tax Rates

The Biden administration’s proposals on individual taxation are intended to avoid increasing taxpayers with annual incomes less than $400,000. The plan aims to increase the tax rate for the top income bracket from the current 37% to 39.6%. The top rate on capital gains would nearly double, increasing from 20% to 39.6%. Further, the current net investment income surtax of 3.8% levied on high-income taxpayers presumably would still apply. This means that the new top federal tax rate on capital gains would total 43.4%, nearly double the current law top combined rate of 23.8%.



Beyond PPP: These Programs and Tax Provisions Can Provide Alternative Recovery Strategies for Construction Firms

While Congress appropriated a total of $669 billion in loans to small businesses under the Payment Protection Program (PPP) as part of the larger CARES Act, funding was reportedly exhausted by May 5th of this year.  However, there are a number of additional programs and tax provisions, discussed below, that business owners should be aware of to use in place of or jointly with PPP loans.

Section 2302 Delay of Payment of Employer Payroll Taxes

This provision, created under the CARES Act, permits employers and self-employed individuals to postpone payment of the 6.2% employer portion of the Social Security taxes. The first half would be due by December 31, 2021 and the second half would be due by December 31, 2022.

Credits and Incentives for Developing Businesses

States and local communities usually have programs and tax incentives accessible to growing companies. Small businesses, including construction firms, were hit hard during the Covid-19 pandemic, but preparing for the future is necessary as companies begin to recover. Look into possible tax credits, exemptions, and grants as methods that might assist in your business’s growth, either now or in the near future.

Section 2307 Bonus Depreciation of Qualified Improvement Property

Section 2307 of the CARES Act amended a technical error allowing businesses to directly write off costs correlated with improving facilities retroactive to January 1, 2018. The adjustment expands businesses’ access to cash, as it permits them to amend prior year returns to claim the 100% bonus depreciation for qualified improvement property. It also motivates businesses to invest in property improvements, thereby stimulating the economy.

Research and Development Tax Credits

Businesses can make use of both federal and state research and development tax credits that reward companies based on contribution to the development of new products and processes. These tax credits can be applied on both current and amended tax returns to produce refunds or credit carry forwards.

Cost Segregation Studies

Cost segregation is a vital tax planning tool that has the potential to shelter taxable income by depreciating various elements of a property at an accelerated rate. In real estate, commercial properties are depreciated over a period of 39 years. However, when a company obtains, renovates, restores, or builds real estate, it frequently overestimates the amount of 39-year real property and limits depreciation deductions. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), business owners can take a bonus depreciation of 100% for qualified assets in the first year (as defined by a cost segregation study) instead of depreciating the assets over a longer period of time. This 100% bonus deduction is available until 2022 when it will slowly start to phase out until 2027.


What’s Included in Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Package?

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021. Intended to facilitate the United States’ recovery from the devastating economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, this economic rescue legislation is one of the most expensive in U.S. history. Below is a broad overview of some of the larger components of the package.

Direct Financial Payments

Direct stimulus payments in the amount of $1,400 will be sent to individuals with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $75,000 or less. This amount augments the $600 payments in the second stimulus package signed by former president Trump in December of 2020 in order to hit the $2,000 mark originally requested by Trump. Married couples with AGIs of $150,000 or less will receive $2,800 ($1,400 for each), and each qualified dependent regardless of age will receive $1,400. Payments are reduced for individuals who make over $75,000 and disappear completely for individuals who make $80,000 or more ($160,000 for married couples).

Extended Unemployment Benefits

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits of $300 a week are extended through September 6, 2021. These benefits were created for workers such as independent contractors, who do not typically qualify for unemployment insurance. The total number of eligibility weeks increases as well, from 50 to 79.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits, which boost unemployment benefits by $300 per week, are also extended through September 6, 2021.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides added weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to workers who have depleted their state unemployment benefits, has been extended through September 6, 2021. The total number of eligibility weeks also increases from 24 to 53 weeks.

Additionally, the first $10,200 in 2020 benefits is tax free for families making $150,000 or less. Taxpayers who had taxes withheld from unemployment benefits in 2020 will be authorized to reclaim them when they file their 2020 taxes. If they’ve already filed taxes, they can file an amended tax return.

The Act also grants a 100% subsidy of COBRA health insurance premiums so unemployed and furloughed workers, as well as those who’ve had hours reduced, can continue their group health care plans through the end of September.

Expanded Child Tax Credit

For couples who make $150,00 or less in a year ($112,500 or less for single parents), the Act increases the Child Tax Credit maximum to $3,600 a year for each child under age 6, and $3,000 a year for each child ages 6 to 17. The law grants one year of credit payments, which will be sent by direct deposit on a monthly basis, possibly beginning this summer. The remaining amount can be claimed on 2021 tax returns.

Employer Tax Credits

The Act extends tax credits to employers who implement Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) emergency paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to employees. In addition to previously acceptable FFCRA reasons for sick leave, from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021, credits are also available for sick leave wages paid when an “employee has been exposed to COVID-19 or the employee’s employer has requested such test or diagnosis, or the employee is obtaining immunization related to COVID-19 or recovering from injury, disability, illness, or condition related to such immunization.” Too, tax credits for emergency paid family leave are permissible for leave granted when an employee is incapable of working, either in person or remotely, due to the necessity of caring for a child whose school is closed at any point during the pandemic.

Help for Businesses

The “Restaurant Revitalization Fund” is a new program established under the American Rescue Plan Act that allocates $25 billion in pandemic assistance grants to eligible entities such as restaurants, bars, lounges, and caterers. The grants are able to administer up to $10 million per company with a limit of $5 million per physical location. The funds can be used to cover payroll, rent, utilities, and other expenses.

Two programs established under the CARES Act receive additional funding. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program receives an added $15 billion, and the Paycheck Protection Program receives an added $7.25 billion. The PPP’s current application deadline of March 31, 2021, is not extended.