Friday, February 24, 2012

Refund Delay Update


The Internal Revenue Service LogoThe IRS is aware that some taxpayers who have e-filed and received an acknowledgement from the IRS are concerned that when they visit “Where’s My Refund” they are told that the IRS has no information regarding their return. This is a temporary situation and the IRS expects to resolve the matter in a few days. At that time, taxpayers will be able to get an expected refund date when they visit “Where’s My Refund.”
If taxpayers received an acknowledgment message that their e-filed tax return has been received, they can be assured that the IRS has the tax return even though “Where’s My Refund” does not reflect that. Taxpayers should not call the IRS unless specifically directed by “Where’s My Refund,” as there is no new information to give them.
The IRS expects the vast majority of tax refunds to continue to be issued within the historical range of 10 to 21 days. The IRS is taking steps to update information so that “Where’s My Refund” has current information. The IRS apologizes for any inconvenience and will provide updated information as soon as possible.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thank you, LL COOL J

Sunday, February 12, 2012, LL Cool J did something that was very courageous in today’s environment. He offered the following prayer:
Heavenly Father, we thank you for sharing our sister Whitney with us. Today our thoughts are with her mother, her daughter, and all of her loved ones. And although she is gone too soon, we remain truly blessed to have been touched by her beautiful spirit, and to have the legacy of her music to cherish and share forever. Amen.
That such a prayer was offered and so warmly welcomed on national television before such a decisively secular crowd -- with nary a complaint -- is reflective, I think, of something culturally significant:

The vast majority of people in this country believe in God. They also believe in prayer and take comfort in the practice of praying, especially when they are struggling to make sense of a broken world. As such, despite some rogue objections on occasion, there's no need to shy away from this type of public expression of faith. It is healty and it is helpful.

How LL Cool J prayed is just how most prayers in public settings have been traditionally offered over the years. Personally I pray in Jesus' name. But Sunday night's host prayed as one might expect one pray before a secular crowd. He simply acknowledged God and expressed gratitude for the life of a recording artist whom millions of people appreciated for over 20 years. In doing so LL Cool J subtly reminder viewers that there is a boss of the universe -- and we're not Him.

That is not controversial or divisive. It is a good thing!

He probably could not have offered this prayer at a football game or school graduation.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

No Knowledge of Overtime Work? No Wages Due

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently found in favor of a manufacturing industry employer in an overtime lawsuit. According to the court, federal wage and hour law does not require overtime pay when the employer had no actual or constructive knowledge of the work. Kellar v. Summit Seating, Inc., 09-cv-464 (Dec. 14, 2011).


In Kellar, the former employee was hired in 2001 as a cutter's helper and three years later she was promoted to the position of sewing manager. She had a variety of responsibilities and was paid on an hourly basis.

According to the employee, she regularly arrived at work between 15 and 25 minutes before her 5:00 a.m. shift. She then spent at least 20 minutes unlocking doors, turning on lights and preparing coffee for other employees. No one told her she needed to come in before her shift. She came in early because she felt it would have been a "hassle" to show up precisely at her designated start time and still get her subordinates' workstations "up and running" so they could go straight to work when they arrived.

In February 2009, the employee resigned and sued her employer for overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The employee's sister, who also worked for the employer, claimed that her sister did not work before the start of her shift but chatted and drank coffee. In addition, the employee was aware that the employer's handbook required preapproval for working overtime. Kellar also admitted that she never 1) told the owners about working before the start of her shift; 2) reported errors with her pay checks; 3) requested overtime pay, or 4) suggested to HR that her schedule needed to be adjusted to account for her preshift work.

The district court dismissed the employee's complaint because her preshift activities were preliminary and minimal. The lower court also found that the employer did not know she was engaging in preshift work. The worker appealed but, while the Court of Appeals disagreed with the district court that the preshift work was preliminary and minimal, the appeals court did find that the employer did not know or have reason to know that the employee was working prior to her shift. Troy Thompson, "Employee Not Entitled to Overtime When Employer Unaware of Work," www.axley.com (Jan. 10, 2012).

Commentary

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay and recordkeeping standards for employees.

Hours worked ordinarily include all the time during which an employee is required to be on the employer's premises, on duty, or at a prescribed workplace. Under the FLSA, non-exempt employees must receive overtime pay for hours worked over 40 hours per workweek at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay.

To state a claim for overtime under the FLSA, the employee must show that the employer had actual or constructive knowledge of the overtime work performed. Constructive knowledge is a legal term that means the employer is presumed to know something regardless of whether the employer does, in fact, have knowledge. An employer is presumed to have constructive knowledge if knowledge is obtainable by the exercise of reasonable care. Thus, if the employer should have known, exercising reasonable care, that the employee in this case was working overtime, the court may have ruled for the employee.

Employers should keep detailed time records for employees. In addition, managers and supervisors must be observant and know if workers are starting to work early or staying late after their shifts to make sure there is no expectation of overtime. A policy, like the employer's policy requiring preauthorization of overtime in this case, can be an important risk reduction tool.

Four E-Mail Types that can drive you crazy


Takeaway: People have distinctly different ways of doing things — even something as simple as emailing. Here are four types that can drive you crazy.
I’m all about communication. To me, any attempt at communication is better than nothing at all. But, having said that, there are a few ways of emailing that can grate on the recipient. Here are four of them:

The doctoral candidate

This group is the polar opposite of the Gen Y’ers who are accustomed to texting with word shortcuts like “u” for “you.” Though admirable for their need for absolute clarity, the Doctoral Candidates send the kind of email you dread opening. Their emails include greetings and salutations, the complete history of the issue at hand, and a request for a reply that stops just short of a self-addressed stamped envelope.
I know I sound like a real tool dissing the politeness of such emails, but, as it is with everyone else on the planet right now, my time is tight. If your email requires CliffsNotes, I’m likely not going to welcome it.

The stream-of-consciousness emailer

You know this kind of email. It’s the I-guess-he-knew-what-he-was-saying-but-I have-no-idea-what-he’s-talking-about kind. This is the person who is so intent on getting down the thoughts that flitter through his brain that he doesn’t take into account how the recipient will perceive the message. I don’t mind the occasional run-on sentence, but if your emails require the employment of a secret decoder ring, then you might want to flesh them out a bit. And say what you will about proper punctuation, but a missing or misplaced comma can make a big difference in meaning. (There’s a big difference between “Let’s eat, Grampaw!” and “Let’s eat Grampaw!”)

The out-of-context puzzler

My job requires that I communicate with about 50 freelance contributors and roughly 100 billion PR people. At least once a day I get an email from someone that simply says, “Do you still need that?” or “What did you think about that issue?” I don’t care if I had a petabyte memory chip lodged in my head, there’s no way I can remember the context of every message I get without a little background reminder.

The emotive emailer

Have you ever gotten an email that is so full of formatting (!) that you’re EMOTIONALLYexhausted by the time you finish reading it?!! Or ones that contain keyboard emoticons that you’ve never seen or heard of? I’m really not up on the art of keyboard hieroglyphics, so I’m likely to interpret a laughing emoticon as a screaming one. And that can make a big difference. Also, I think human beings should be given a finite number of exclamation points to use in their lifetime and no more.
posted by Toni Bowers on February 6, 2012
Toni BowersToni Bowers is an award-winning writer and Head Blogs Editor for TechRepublic.

Monday, February 6, 2012

In the Realm of Dreams to good to be true

Major Tax Reform Bill Introduced in Minnesota
H.1908, introduced on January 24, provides for a complete overhaul of the Minnesota state tax system by eliminating personal and business income taxes, with revenues lost to be made up through broadening the base (and increasing the rate) for general sales and use taxes. More specifically the bill calls for "...expanding the base of the general sales and use tax in this state to all sales of taxable property and services, regardless of the location of the seller or method of transfer, and increasing the general sales and use tax rate to a rate necessary to replace the estimated revenues that, absent the prohibition, would have been collected in the first year of the prohibition. 'Taxable property and services' means any tangible property, digital goods, or service, including leaseholds of any term or rents with respect to the property, consumed or used in this state."

It is Never too late to start a New Year!

11 ways to make this your best year yet . . . it is never too late to start a fresh new year, February seems fine!
Written by Charles Marcus
Today is a wonderful time to take stock and reflect on the year gone by, the triumphs you achieved, the time you shared with family and friends, the good choices you made in business. But in order to grow and develop both personally and professionally, you also have to look back at and acknowledge the things that challenged you, the things that did not go so well.
There is nothing wrong with setbacks, in fact, I believe that if we don't have obstacles to overcome along the way we won't learn and grow. Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, once said, 'If you want to increase your rate of success, you better be prepared to increase your rate of failure.'
We all have hopes and dreams for the future. Today the slate is wiped clean for all of us as we start afresh. Why not take a few moments to think about your dreams and goals for the year that starts today? In what areas do you want to grow? What is truly important to you? What challenges do you want to take on? Most of us don't realize what we can accomplish when we unleash the hidden talents that we possess.
To help you make this year your best ever, take a few moments to ponder these 11 suggestions:
1. Challenge yourself
Have a clear vision and focus of what you want to achieve and set a time frame. Challenge yourself to be the best you can be at all times. Visualize what you want to accomplish. See it in your mind. Write down your goals, have a plan of action, and never doubt you will be successful.
2. Find the love factor
Surround yourself with loving, supportive people. Stay away from the dream stealers, the people who would bring you down. Cherish the special people in your life and let them know you cherish them.
3. Dedicate quality time
Life is so precious; make the most of each and every day. Rise early; spend some quality time by yourself as well as with those you care about. Go for a walk, workout, read a book. Value not only the time you spend with your loved ones, but also the time you spend by yourself.
4. Stretch your comfort zone
Do at least one thing a day, which makes you feel uncomfortable. Push yourself; you will be amazed how far you can go. Remember: on the other side of fear is freedom. To remain stagnant is not to grow. To reach your full potential, you must rise above the fray and soar like an eagle.
5. Be passionate
Show passion in everything you do. Let it show in your body language, in your smile, in your voice. Let your eyes sparkle. Let the world see and hear your enthusiasm and let it feel your passion.
6. Serve others
Be a role model and mentor for people. Volunteer in your community and help others achieve their goals. Your world will be enriched and a better place for sharing your talents and giving freely of your time. Leave a lasting legacy.
7. Don't sweat the small stuff
Let go of the little things you can't control. Don't take yourself so seriously. Recognize that perfection isn't always the only option. Don't let life's imperfections bother you. Lighten up and see the funny side of things when they go wrong, the learning in them. Be tolerant, smile...don't waste your energies on the small stuff, you have much bigger fish to fry.
8. Live with integrity
Always be true to yourself. Take pride in whatever you do. Be proud of who you are and what you represent. Accept others with all their flaws. Show compassion and goodwill to your fellow human beings. Be dignified. Lead a life of purpose and be proud of your values.
9. Show gratitude
Show gratitude and say thank-you to the people who have helped you along the way. Send a handwritten letter to someone who has touched you. Call up a friend or loved one and tell them how much they mean to you. Compliment a colleague or business associate on a job well done. Show people you appreciate and care about them. Acts of kindness cost nothing but mean everything.
10. Celebrate success
Be proud of your achievements. Take time to recognize yourself and others for even the small successes. But also be humble and dignified, sensitive to people who are not as fortunate as you.
11. Exude a positive attitude
I cannot express enough the importance of having a positive attitude and believing in yourself. Yes, you can be well intentioned, you can be determined, but without a positive attitude about yourself and about life, you will not succeed. Dreams will die, goals will fade, and gloom and darkness will replace clear blue skies and sunshine in your mind and heart.
Remember people will sometimes forget what you say to them or do for them, but they will never forget how you made them feel in their hearts. Make yourself a commitment for this year not only to have the best year ever, but to help others that you care about accomplish this goal as well.