Ohio’s Municipal Payroll Withholding Dilemma – Take 2
Jul 09, 2021
On June 30, Governor Mike DeWine signed into law Ohio’s 2022-23 budget. One of the key items in the law was the clarification of a municipal income tax withholding dilemma that has been ongoing since virtually the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this clarification means good news for many employees, it may also be a massive headache for employers.
The Good News
Earlier this year, we penned a blog outlining how a temporary “Pandemic” law change intended to ease municipal income tax withholding burdens on employers was, in fact, having unintended negative consequences on remote workers. Many were left paying taxes to municipalities they did not live in and did not physically work in either, due to stay-at-home orders.
The 2022-23 budget bill extends the temporary law noted above through December 31, 2021, and clarifies that it applies only to employer withholding requirements and not to the actual liability an employee has to a given city. This means, for 2021 only, employees can request a tax refund for any days they neither lived nor physically performed work in a municipality. It is important to note an employee may still owe tax to the municipality in which they live.
The Bad News
Yes, the temporary law is extended to the end of 2021, but that means, beginning in 2022 “pre-pandemic” law will be back in place.
While the ever-expanding world of technology was leading us down a road where remote work would become the norm, the COVID-19 pandemic put us in a Lamborghini and sped us there in a matter of a year. Employers have realized their workforce can get work done remotely, and employees are becoming accustomed to more time with their families and much less time commuting while continuing to be productive in their work. Remote work is here to stay, and absent any future, permanent law changes, the reversion in 2022 back to pre-pandemic rules has the potential to be a huge problem for two reasons.
- First, pre-pandemic law included a 20-day municipal withholding rule, only requiring employers to withhold if an employee physically worked in a municipality for more than 20 days. Unfortunately, this rule will not align very well with a remote work environment. Even if a business is modestly flexible, allowing employees to work remotely just two days a month, this would trip the 20-day rule, requiring withholding from wages for every municipality within which their employees reside.
- Second, although many employers offer courtesy withholding so may already be withholding taxes for those cities, tripping this 20-day rule will now require those wages to be allocated to that municipality for purposes of the net profits (income) tax, subjecting the company to Income tax in each of those municipalities.
To ease into the 2022 transition, employers could consider formalizing hybrid work arrangements and creating an internal system to easily track days worked remotely.
We will be keeping our eyes peeled for any future legislation that may alter municipal tax rules for 2022 and beyond. If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact your William Vaughan Company advisor.
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