How Can Super Circular Reforms Work For Your Non-profit Organization?

Brent Ardit | July 31st, 2014

When it comes to maintaining a high level of transparency and accountability, not-for-profit organizations face a lot of challenges. Not only does the community look to your organization to provide high-quality services and resources, the government expects your organization to utilize federal funding responsibly. The ability of not-for-profit organizations to secure federal assistance is critical, which is why industry leaders are seeking more clarity pertaining to a wide range of recent reforms made to the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These reforms are scheduled to take effect the Dec. 26, 2014. Here’s some insight into what you can expect moving forward.

Super Circular Reforms

Last December, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) passed sweeping reforms to the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, also known as the Super Circular or the Omni Circular. The goal for these reforms is to help the federal government streamline its guidance concerning administrative requirements while strengthening the oversight of federal funds. By ensuring compliance of these reforms, the OMB hopes to reduce financial waste, fraud and abuse.

Whether you’re the director of an organization that seeks federal grants and/or assistance, an accountant who serves such an organization, or a citizen who benefits from the organization’s government funding, the Super Circular is a big deal. The federal government awards more than $500 billion every year, and it is the OMB’s responsibility to ensure that every dollar spent is a good use of taxpayer funds.

What Do Super Circular Reforms Mean For You?

  • This newer guidance effectively consolidates eight federal circulars into one, which makes guidelines, cost principles, and audit requirements easily accessible. Having one “Super Circular” to thumb through – even though it tops 100 pages – is a welcome change to grant seekers, grant recipients and awarding agencies.
  • Now that the grant guidance is easily accessible and transparent, the OMB anticipates increased competition among agencies and organizations that are eligible for monetary assistance.

For example: If you have never applied for aid in the past, but you think your organization or government agency may be eligible for federal assistance, you can now easily find out. More agencies and organizations are expected to take advantage of the fact that these guidelines are easily accessible, which means there will be more people vying for government money.

A comprehensive list of federal assistance programs is available in the programs tab of the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) website. This site not only provides a list of programs and grants available, it provides key information about what is required to apply and qualify for federal assistance.

  • New provisions have established a higher threshold for an A-133 audit. The threshold for an A-133 audit is now $750,000 – which is higher from the previous threshold of $500,000. This means that not-for-profit organizations that bring in less than $750,000 annually are not required to complete an A-133 audit, which will provide some relief to about 5,000 non-federal organizations. This doesn’t mean the OMB will stop monitoring the federal aid that is distributed to these organizations, the OMB says 99.7 percent of aid awarded to organizations and agencies will still be subject to single audit oversight.

Please Note: If your fiscal year ends in December, the $750,000 single audit threshold won’t go into effect until your Dec. 15, 2015 audit. And if your fiscal year ends in June, it won’t go into effect until December 30, 2016.

  • The Super Circular significantly reforms how organizations and agencies will maintain their cost principles. Specifically, in its guidance, the OMB places a greater emphasis on internal controls. The Super Circular effectively defines what organizations and agencies can consider indirect costs, administrative salary direct costs, compensation, and costs associated with materials and supplies.

For example: While the salaries of your administrative and clerical staff may have been treated as indirect costs in the past, the OMB says that it may now be more appropriate to consider them as direct costs if the work performed is specifically outlined within the grant-funded project or initiative.

  • The deadline for organizations and government agencies to comply with the OMB’s reforms is Dec. 26, 2014.

Because the reform-laced Super Circular was written with the goal of helping organizations and agencies apply for aid, manage funds and prepare for audits, it is anticipated that the OMB will succeed in its efforts to increase competition among organizations and agencies that are eligible to receive aid. As a result, more insight and accountability will be demonstrated by recipients of federal assistance.

Super Circular Help

The OMB has repeatedly said that these reforms will make the process of obtaining federal funds easier and more transparent. If you have specific questions as to how the Super Circular will affect your organization or government agency, contact Rea & Associates. Our Ohio not-for-profit team can help you make sense of these revised regulations.

Author: Brent Ardit, CPA (Dublin office)

 

Want more not-for-profit business advice? Check these posts out:

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Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation To Pay Small Business Claimants $420 Million

Darlene Finzer | July 30th, 2014

Countless small businesses, churches and charities in Ohio have learned how sweet justice can be. After a seven-year court battle, an Ohio judge ruled in their favor last week, ordering the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) to pay out $420 million to those hurt by the state agency’s practice of overcharging for workers’ compensation premiums between the years of 2001 and 2008. It was discovered that thousands of businesses, churches and charities across the state were affected and countless business owners and their families found themselves in facing unforeseen debt or battling bankruptcy.

To fulfill its obligation under the settlement agreement, the BWC will create a fund that will be specifically used to pay: claims made by employers found to be participants in the class action lawsuit, attorney fees, court costs, and costs associated with administering the fund. According to the settlement agreement, any unclaimed money will be returned to the bureau.

Can You Make A Claim?

In order to make a claim, you must have been a private, non-group rated employer at some point during 2001-2008 who:

  • Subscribed to the state workers’ compensation fund
  • Was not group-rated
  • Reported payroll and paid premiums in a manual classification for which the non-group effective base rate was “inflated” due to application of the group experience rating plan

Employers who were non-group rated for at least one policy year between 2001 and 2008 are eligible to claim a portion of the settlement. Eligible employers should have received a notice that indicated their status as class members.  Class members are required to submit their claims to Judge Robert McGonagle of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Claims must be postmarked no later than Sept. 22, 2014. More information on this ruling can be found here.

Ohio BWC Claim Help

Need some assistance in determining how this ruling may impact you? Contact Rea & Associates. Our dedicated Ohio business consultants and CPAs can help you make sense of this BWC ruling and help you determine if you are eligible.

Author: Darlene FinzerCPA, QKA, CSA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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You Can’t Know Enough: The Importance of Knowing Your Fiduciary Responsibility

Paul McEwan | July 25th, 2014

You may find that the spotlight isn’t for you. But as the fiduciary of your company’s retirement plan, the spotlight is all on you. The Department of Labor (DOL) has placed a major emphasis on fiduciary responsibility in the past few years and continues to push the matter in its initiatives. So it’s important that you understand what you’re responsible for.

To meet your fiduciary responsibilities as a retirement plan sponsor, you need to understand the fiduciary standards of conduct as adopted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). With these fiduciary responsibilities, there is also potential liability. Fiduciaries that don’t follow the basic standards of conduct may be personally liable to restore any losses to the plan. Pretty serious, right? To help ease your mind, here’s what you need to know.

Identifying Your Plan Fiduciaries

A plan’s fiduciaries will ordinarily include the named trustee in the document, investment advisors and all individuals exercising discretion in the administration of the plan. Under ERISA regulations, fiduciaries are responsible for:

  • Loyalty to the plan participants – acting in their exclusive best interest
  • Prudence – documenting expertise and a decision-making process
  • Following the plan documents
  • Diversifying plan assets
  • Paying only reasonable expenses for necessary services

Mitigating Your Risk As A Fiduciary

As a fiduciary of your business’s retirement plan, you should consider these items and answer these questions to ensure that you comply with ERISA regulations:

  • If participants in your plan make their own investment decisions, have you provided sufficient information for them to exercise control in making those decisions? Regulations under ERISA list the information and process required to be provided to participants in order to legally shift the responsibility for making investment decisions to the participants. Are you making the required participant fee and fund performance disclosures required annually by ERISA of all plans permitting participant investment direction?
  • How frequently do you deposit participants’ contributions in the plan, and have you made sure it complies with the law? Participant contributions, including loan repayments, are required to be remitted on a timely, consistent basis. Not remitting these funds in a timely manner is considered a misuse of plan assets, which is a prohibited transaction. Not meeting this requirement creates penalties for the plan sponsor.
  • If you’re hiring third-party service providers, including investment advisors, have you looked at several providers, given each potential provider the same information, and considered whether the fees are reasonable for the services provided? It’s required that you receive fee and service disclosures from all plan service providers, and you should also receive written acknowledgements from service providers serving in a fiduciary capacity. Here are some other items to consider relating to third-party service providers:

1. Have you documented your service provider hiring process?
2. Are you prepared to monitor your plan’s service providers, including investment fund performance?
3. Do you have a process in place to determine that the fees paid to service providers remain reasonable for the services provided?

  • Have you reviewed your plan document in light of current plan operations and made necessary updates? Have you provided participants with an updated summary plan description (SPD) or summary of material modifications (SMM)? Plans are required to operate according to the provisions stated in the plan document and these provisions must be communicated to participants. Changes are generally permitted, but again are required to be communicated to participants. If the plan is not operating in accordance with the written plan document, the plan could be disqualified, which would result in negative tax implications for you, the plan sponsor, and the participants.
  • Are individuals handling plan assets covered by a fidelity bond as required by ERISA?  Have you considered purchasing fiduciary insurance to mitigate the personal risk of loss to those employees you identified that are serving as plan fiduciaries? While a fidelity bond and fiduciary insurance are slightly different, both are a form of coverage to provide protection in regards to plans. The bond insures the assets of the plan in the event of employee misconduct and the fiduciary insurance provides personal protection to fiduciaries in the event of any claims for alleged errors, omissions, or breach of fiduciary duties.

Being a plan fiduciary comes with enormous responsibility. Don’t take your fiduciary responsibilities lightly. If you’re interested in learning more about what you’re responsible for as a retirement plan fiduciary, consider registering for a FREE seminar all about knowing your fiduciary responsibility. Rea & Associates has partnered with the Human Resources Association of Central Ohio (HRACO) to provide an all-day seminar dedicated to helping fiduciaries understand their responsibilities. The seminar will feature speakers from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the DOL. It will be held on Tuesday, August 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at BMI Federal Credit Union Event Center in Dublin, Ohio. More details, including a schedule, can be found here. Click here to register for this free event.

Fiduciary Responsibility Help

If you need assistance navigating the responsibilities of being a fiduciary, contact Rea & Associates or speak with one of our financial advisors.

Author: Paul McEwan, CPA, MT, AIFA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Looking for more articles about fiduciary responsibility? Check out these articles!

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Be On Guard For IRS Phone Scams

Maribeth Wright | July 17th, 2014

You get a call from a man who said he was from the IRS and was informing you that criminal activity was found after the IRS performed an audit on your past taxes. Then he asks if you had a criminal lawyer to represent you. And as you tried to get a word in edgewise, he told you not to interrupt him because the IRS and local authorities were recording your phone call. Pretty unnerving, right?

Well, unfortunately, this phone call actually took place with a client. And these types of phone calls are happening constantly. Back in April, the IRS issued a warning for consumers about phone scams targeting taxpayers. During the 2013 tax filing season numerous phone scams occurred, but the IRS has seen an increase in these scams since then. Because the IRS believes that these incidents will continue to plague taxpayers, it’s important to be vigilant for these kinds of calls.

The 4-1-1 On These IRS Phone Scams

  • Some taxpayers who received these calls were told they’re entitled to a big tax refund, or that they owe a lot of money to the IRS that needs to be paid immediately. Don’t be fooled. The IRS won’t contact you via phone about these matters. If you ever owe the IRS money, you’ll be sent a written notification via mail.
  • The IRS will never ask you for personal financial information over the phone, such as your credit or debit card information. If you’re asked for this information from someone claiming they’re from the IRS, don’t give it and report the incident immediately to the IRS.
  • Some IRS scammers use fake names/surnames (most of the time these names are common) and IRS badge numbers when they identify themselves.
  • It’s possible that a scammer knows and can tell you the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  • The phone number that a scammer calls you from could look like it’s from the IRS toll-free number.
  • If you take one of these scam calls, you may receive a bogus follow-up email to make it look like it is a legitimate inquiry from the IRS.
  • You may be threatened with jail time or driver’s license suspension from one of these scammers. They may then hang up on you and then call back pretending to be the police or DMV, further trying to prove their claim to you.

What Should You Do If You Get One Of These Calls?

So have you received one of these calls? If so, and you’re not sure the next step, here’s what you should do:

  • If you think you might owe taxes or there may be an issue with your taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. Someone at the line can help you determine if you indeed have a payment due.
  • If you feel you received this call unexpectedly and know you have no IRS issues, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

In light of these increasing incidents, be on the lookout and don’t fall prey to these scams. Hang up if you’re uncomfortable with the call. And know that the IRS would never ask for personal financial information over the phone or in an email. If you receive any suspicious emails, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.

Ohio Tax Help

If you’re ever unsure about anything you received from the IRS, whether it be a letter, a phone call or email, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals can help you determine if the inquiry is legitimate, and assist you with responding.

Author: Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

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