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Three Issues on the Radar for Association Leaders Bookmark

Three Issues on the Radar for Association Leaders

There’s an awful lot happening in the greater environment that impacts associations. Here are three issues association leaders will want to be aware of:  

Temporary Payroll Tax Deferral

Several weeks ago, President Trump signed an Executive Order issuing a temporary payroll tax deferral for the employee portion of Social Security taxes from September 1 through December 31, 2020. The order applies to "any employee the amount of whose wages or compensation, as applicable, payable during any bi-weekly pay period generally is less than $4,000, calculated on a pre-tax basis, or the equivalent amount concerning other pay periods." The EO has created many questions for employers. How does one define an "eligible employee"? Is eligibility affected by employees holding more than one job, employees changing jobs, the employer opening or closing during the period, etc.? How are wages or compensation defined - inclusive of bonuses, vacation payouts, overtime etc.? While Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has said the order is voluntary, voluntary for whom - the employee or the employer? The US Chamber has stated that, in the absence of further guidance, it's unlikely employers will implement this order. There's also been considerable concern expressed about this being a deferral, which means the bill will come due unless the President and Congress act to offer amnesty. All of this ambiguity leaves association leaders (and employers) in the unenviable position of potentially having to explain to employees why they do not see the extra money in their paychecks they'd heard about. Listen in to this podcast from the Journal of Accountancy for more details. 

Closed Captioning of Virtual Events

In the past several years, there has been an explosion of website accessibility lawsuits leaving many associations scrambling to figure out if their websites fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (All associations with an internal or public-facing website should evaluate whether their websites must comply with the ADA.) Some experts suggest that all websites be ADA compliant - here's a 4-minute podcast explaining this issue. The current groundswell for organizations to demonstrate a real commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) creates another compelling reason for leaders to evaluate association programs and services' accessibility.

Enter COVID-19 on the scene - associations are now creating thousands of hours of live and recorded content. Are associations required to closed caption all of their live and recorded virtual content (videos, webinars, conferences, etc.)? Should association content be closed captioned to improve accessibility for members and customers? The answer to these questions should likely be consistent with each association's response to website ADA compliance. Association leaders should explore this issue with legal counsel, key association personnel, and, potentially, boards. ADA compliance and closed captioning are not just critical risk management issues that add cost and complexity to association programming and marketing efforts. They are also a visible reflection of an organization's commitment to accessibility and DE&I. 

Tax Implications of Virtual Trade Shows 

The pandemic caused many associations to take their trade shows into the virtual realm. The IRS views virtual trade shows differently from in-person ones, so this shift could result in shows being subject to unrelated business income tax (UBIT). Until the IRS offers further guidance, useful direction may be gleaned from that which was provided in 2004. Association leaders seeking to mitigate UBIT should be mindful of how shows are scheduled (limited in length versus perpetual), structured (keeping the focus on information-sharing, education, and networking) and promoted with regard to the purpose (stimulate interest in industry products and/or educate attendees on changes or innovations in them). Venable, LLP, offers useful insight here.





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