National associations provide budget details
By Jan Teague, President/CEO
I appreciate our partnership with national associations because they provide us all easy access to information in which we might be interested.
I decided to give you a snapshot from two partners, the National Retail Federation that highlights key tax policy features if you own business property, and the Food Marketing Institute that provided us links to various parts of the national budget.
It’s not the best Christmas reading, but it sure seems timely given the Presidential candidates’ debate last night that Congress is not doing anything. Members of Congress do move slowly, but in the end we hope they include some of our concerns.
(Notice that Rachelle Bernstein is asking for your help.)
From Rachelle Bernstein, Vice President of Tax Policy at the National Retail Federation:
Early this morning, the Chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee announced a bi-partisan, bi-cameral agreement to make permanent many tax extenders and extend others for a longer period than we have seen in the past. Included in the package were a few retail and restaurant specific wins that NRF championed for the industry.
Attached is the text of the bill, H.R. 2029, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH).
Specific retail provisions:
PATH clears the decks for tax reform. Those provisions that are not made permanent are extended for long enough to give us an opportunity to work toward fundamental tax reform that provides a competitive U.S. tax rate. This is a great tax package for our industry, but it is not clear whether the package will have sufficient votes for passage. Please contact your Congressmen and Senators and ask them to support H.R. 2029. For your information, click here for a link to NRF’s key vote letter to the House on this bill. Also, click here for more information.
From Jennifer Hatcher, Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs at the Food Marketing Institute:
The Appropriations Committee has provided individual summaries of each of the 12 Subcommittee components of the FY16 Omnibus federal spending bill. Click on this link to be taken to 12 specific parts of the proposal sorted by topic of interest.
Statewide retail crime prevention group hears legislative preview
By Joanie Deutsch, Director of Government Affairs
I recently briefed members of the Washington State Organized Retail Crime Alliance (WSORCA) on legislation expected during the 2016 Legislative session related to retail robbery penalties, crime prevention and ways to improve background screening for store security job applicants.
WRA serves on the board of directors for WSORCA, a statewide organization of loss prevention officers, security professionals, law enforcement and prosecutors.
Here are highlights of legislation likely to be discussed by the 2016 Legislature:
In November, WRA presented to the Senate Law & Justice committee, which held a work session on flash mob robberies. We showed footage of the flash mob robberies that occurred in Washington in 2014. WRA will continue to support this bill in 2016.
WRA monitoring tougher OSHA penalties, lead regulations
By Tammie Hetrick, VP of Retail Services
WRA is monitoring how fines for safety violations and lead handling procedures may change in Washington State.
The state’s safety inspections review period to detect repeat offenders is three years of history, but the review period may be lengthened to five years to match OSHA requirements.
Typically, states must at least meet or exceed federal standards.
Were Washington to lengthen its historical review, no changes would occur for employers until after the 2017 Legislative session.
WRA is looking for indications from Labor & Industries that it will attempt to increase penalties, once again to meet OSHA’s increased penalties. A continued concern is that funding for the state Department of Safety and Health is through premiums paid by employers and employees and that funding sources should be taken into consideration when penalties are being evaluated.
L&I also is examining the state’s standards for lead exposure and is holding a series of meeting to discuss possible changes. The department has scheduled monthly meetings through April to discuss whether lead standards should be changed.
Rick Means, WRA’s Safety Specialist, will be attended these meetings and report on any updates. Click here for more information about meeting dates and locations. The next meeting is from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Jan. 26at L&I, 7273 Linderson Way, S.W. in Tumwater.
IRS offers free webinars to help with small business taxes
Among the many challenges small businesses face is making sure their obligations to the Internal Revenue Service are met.
WRA has long cooperated as an exhibitor at the IRS’s annual small business fair held every fall in the Puget Sound region. In the process, we’ve learned of the free help the IRS offers small businesses to ensure their tax obligations are understood and met.
The IRS has archived several small business related tax webinars on its website that may be valuable to review.
A recent posting to the IRS Video Portal covers general employment tax issues including worker classification, fringe benefits, officer compensation and back-up withholding and information return policies. You can watch the general tax tips webinar here. Another report on the site covers ways to protect computerized tax information from hackers.
The IRS also allows you to sign up for free e-mailed tax tips. Click here for more information.
Retail tax payments up in latest state revenue report
The latest state monthly tax revenue report showed an overall gain of 3.7 percent from the retail trade sector for the period Nov. 11 through Dec. 10 period compared to the same time last year. The gain from the sector in the prior month was 6.7 percent.
Among the largest retail sector gains for the period were online retailers (up 11.8 percent); drug and health stores (up 10.2 percent); furniture and home furnishings stores (up 8 percent) and building materials and garden supplies (up 6.5 percent).
Among the retail sectors recording year-over-year monthly tax payment declines were gas stations (down 7.6 percent); food and beverage stores (down 6.5 percent); and apparel and accessories declined by 0.8 percent.
Despite positive retail results, overall state revenues for the review period fell short of projections by $16.1 million or 0.8 percent below the November forecast.
The report noted that while job growth has slowed in the state in recent months, consumer price inflation is moderate thanks to declining energy costs, notably gasoline for most consumers.
Click here to review the entire update.
Hear Research Council’s podcasts on issues
One of WRA’s partners, the Washington Research Council, posts periodic podcasts during which its staff discusses issues of mutual interest to the Legislature and retailers.
As events and news develop, the Council posts commentary about it under the InFocus logo on its website. Click here to listen to its latest report on a variety of issues related to state spending, an update on enrollments in the state’s Health Benefit Exchange, a recent Legislature hearing and Congress’ recent reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.
Ecology updating rules for battery recycling
Businesses that handle used vehicle batteries would be affected by rule changes under consideration by the Department of Ecology.
Under state law, businesses must be authorized to accept vehicle batteries for recycling or transportation unless it is an exchange during a retail sale. A $15 fee is associated with the authorization.
Ecology is considering eliminating the registration fee and providing free, web-based registration with Ecology instead of the current arrangement with the Department of Revenue. Revised reporting requirements and other procedural changes also are under consideration.
Click here to learn more about this process. Questions may be addresses to Kyle Dorsey at Ecology, 360-407-6559 or email@example.com. Clickhere to get e-mailed updates on the discussions, which are expected to result in adoption of a new rule by May of next year.
Dorsey said the rule, adopted nearly 25 years ago, was due for a review and update.
Safety tip of the week
Orderliness can help your store remain safe
During this, the busiest shopping season of the year, it’s easy for retailers to become lax about where they store merchandise. Not having items in order, however, can contribute to accidents and injuries and reflect poorly on a store.
Housekeeping a store means not only keeping things clean. It also means keeping items in the store as orderly as possible.
Do you follow a plan about where to store shipments? Do you keep aisles clear for employees and customers?
Consider these benefits of remaining organized:
What is your strategy for good housekeeping? During the day, does your staff periodically stop and survey the floors and shelves to see if there are any hazards for staff or customers?
Make a habit of regularly looking over the store and housekeeping will be easier and prevent potential injuries.
State updates collections of mercury-containing lights
Ecology this week reported its statewide collection sites had taken in 703,224 mercury-containing lights from January 1 through September, an amount that is 74 percent of this year’s goal.
Eligible lights include lamps, bulbs, tubes and other devices that contain mercury used to light homes, businesses and outdoor areas. There are 314 collection sites throughout the state.
Seattle minimum wage goes up January 1
Seattle minimum wages are scheduled to increase on January 1 as part of a phased in increase to $15 an hour.
For large employers of 501 or more employees, the minimum wage will rise to $12.50 an hour, or $13 if the employer does not pay towards medical benefits. For small employers of 500 or fewer employees, the minimum wage will rise to $10.50 an hour or $12.00 if the employer does not pay $1.50 an hour towards medical benefits and/or the employee does not earn $1.50 an hour in tips.
WRA diversity statement
It’s essential to have a holistic strategic plan for diversity and inclusion. We encourage everyone to consider having a plan that connects with diverse people, creates a diverse workforce, fosters an inclusive work environment where different perspectives are valued, partners to share time, talent, and resources with our staff and with communities, and communicates these values with others.
In principle and in practice, we value access to leadership opportunity regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, appearance, geographic location, or professional level. The association strives to accomplish this by serving as a model where we are working to help our staff, our volunteer leaders, our members, and our community embrace these principles.