The Small Business Efficiency Act, or SBEA, was re-introduced in 2013 by Senators Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., as S.479. NAPEO (National Association of Professional Employer Organizations) president and CEO Pat Cleary said,
“The Small Business Efficiency Act (S.479) will improve tax compliance and create needed certainty for small businesses so that they can focus on growing their companies while leaving benefits administration and tax compliance to the experts in the PEO industry. Legislation is long overdue to recognize and certify PEOs, an important provider of solutions for small businesses on everything from health care to regulatory compliance.”
The SBEA would provide important legal clarity in several ways. First, it would give credit to clients for federal payroll taxes paid by the client in a mid-year initial engagement of a PEO (under current conditions, the tax base would restart upon engagement with a PEO). Second, the SBEA would provide that a client satisfies its federal payroll tax obligation when it remits payment to a PEO. Finally, it would clarify that a PEO is not to be treated as a successor employer for the purposes of prior client liabilities. The protections of the SBEA would only be afforded to a certified PEO (CPEO).
The requirements contained in S. 479 for becoming a CPEO are very similar to requirements already found in many state laws. This year’s version of the legislation has several changes from previous versions in previous years. Language was included to 1) increase the fee for a PEO to register for certification with the IRS to no higher than $1,000; 2) clarify that the fee paid to the IRS as part of the certification process is to be paid on an annual basis; and 3) require the IRS to better track clients of PEOs.
In order for a PEO to be a CPEO, it would have to post a performance bond and provide the IRS with the opinion of an independent CPA that the PEO has paid all of its federal taxes and its financial statements are in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. If the SBEA is passed, it would grant legal status to PEOs, allowing them to collect and remit federal payroll taxes and therefore improve small business compliance with federal payroll tax law. The certification process would be voluntary for PEOs and would provide a safe harbor for small businesses that use certified PEOs. Ultimately the SBEA would provide needed certainty for small business, allowing that sector to better focus on growth and job creation.
Posted by: Bill Arowood, Appalachian Underwriters