Physician, Heal Thyself: PayReel Gets Audited

For years, PayReel has been helping clients avoid going through what has been known to be a painful and expensive ordeal. Being audited by the IRS or Department of Labor is not, in itself, a sign of any wrongdoing. But an audit often uncovers illegal practices that have embarrassed and even toppled otherwise healthy businesses.

So, a little over a month ago we were quietly holding our collective noses to the grindstone, when the mail arrived with an envelope bearing the seal of the Colorado Department of Labor. Inside was a concisely worded letter informing us that PayReel had been chosen, at random, for an audit of our employment records. How poetic is that? The authors of numerous whitepapers, newsletters, and e-blasts on the subject must now don the government equivalent of a hospital gown and walk down the hall with our arms full of files and our backsides open to inspection.

Were we worried? Well, maybe a little. Our clients depend on us to avoid worker misclassification and keep accurate records. You just never know what could have been missed. But we were also feeling pretty smug about being right all this time regarding the odds of being audited.

The day of the audit arrived. The auditor couldn’t have been nicer or more professional. It took her two full days to go through our Colorado files. At the end of day one, we were golden. We had the swagger of a blacksmith who’d just been asked for a hammer. “So what size handle do ya’ need?” The auditor was almost as impressed with us as we were with ourselves.

Day two started off well enough, and we grew more confident with each document that was reviewed. That was the last feeling I remember having before my boss walked into my office. In the scheme of things, it was a small error. Easily corrected. But there went our no-hitter. No bogey-free round. No triple double for PayReel.

Alas, dear reader, humility has come to Golden, Colorado. And it’s sitting right here in my office.

 

Bold As ICE: Non-compliance Gets Riskier

It’s old news that the Obama administration increased funding to the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE division (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).  It’s also been widely reported how this increased funding is being spent.  Like the Employer Compliance Inspection Center which houses a team that expressly targets I-9 audits of large businesses.  With all the press, it’s hard for me to understand why ICE is saying it believes that 99% of all employers have erroneous I-9’s in their files; that it finds an average of five errors per audited I-9.  Actually, it’s not that hard to understand.  The federal Form I-9 is a one-page document that comes with 68 pages of instructions.

Complexity aside, ICE is on a mission.  In 2010, they doubled their number of audits conducted.  Compared with 2008, fines levied have increased 10-fold.  Just ask the folks over at Abercrombie and Fitch.  They just paid a $1M fine for a third-party’s improper electronic storage of their I-9’s.   Bold as ICE.

Ever heard of E-Verify?  If not, you will, soon.  This ICE program initially gave employers voluntary access to an internet database to verify a worker’s employment status in the U.S.  As of today, E-Verify is now mandatory for some or all businesses in the following states:  AL, AZ, CA, CO, GA, ID, IL, IN, LA, MI, MN, MO, MS, NE, NC, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, UT, and VA.

There may have been a time when the risk of non-compliance was, shall we say, manageable.  Me thinks those days are over.