Many small- to medium-size businesses struggle with the burdensome costs of administering payroll, employee-related federal and state tax requirements, and other employee benefits. A related group of companies that finds itself in this situation may choose to establish a professional employer organization (PEO). Each of a group of related companies will become a client of the PEO, which will itself employ the small number of staff members needed to administer all these requirements of an employer for all the PEO’s clients. The PEO’s responsibilities may include issuing pay checks; computing and paying Social Security tax; withholding and paying federal and state income tax; withholding and paying federal and state unemployment tax and filing attendant forms; paying disability insurance tax if required under state law; providing workers’ compensation insurance; and managing issues such as employees’ 401(k) contributions. The PEO will charge each client for these payments together with an administrative fee. (The companies may also become individual clients of an unrelated pre-existing PEO, but it may be preferable to keep the PEO limited to the group of related companies.)
A PEO arrangement can be an extremely beneficial cost-cutting measure, but there are pitfalls (discussed below). It is advisable to consult counsel experienced in PEO-related federal and state tax controversies and state PEO law, before setting up or contracting with a PEO.
This column focuses on New York State requirements for a NYS PEO, which must register with the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL). As discussed below, a CPA’s services may be necessary for a NYS PEO’s initial registration, and thereafter are essential on a permanent ongoing basis for a NYS PEO’s required quarterly financial statements.
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