The Chamber Blog

Tips and Information for Boosting Cyber Security

You know what happened to Neiman Marcus and Target. What are the odds of your business being added to the list?

They can't be predicted, but obviously the threat is real, the potential scary. At the last meeting of the Entrepreneurs Business Forum, FBI Special Agent Joy Mihara- Meer reported that of the 7 billion people in the world in 2012,  2.4 billion used the internet.  It's not news that a disconcerting, highly skilled proportion makes a good living as cybercriminals. They use the internet to commit all the crimes that once were done in person, by mail or over the telephone. Now they hide behind the anonymity of the internet and capitalize on its ease of access to potential victims.

It's obvious but worth repeating. If you're successfully targeted, your personal information can be compromised, proprietary and sensitive information as well as financial resources can be stolen, and your reputation can be ruined. Then there's online extortion, money laundering, reshipping, auction fraud, payment fraud and virtual kidnapping. The latter involves the use of technology to convince a business, or family, that a member has been kidnapped, and a ransom must be paid.

Just like preparing for an earthquake, there are things you should do to bolster your cyber defenses. Hereís the shorthand version of a tip sheet made available at the meeting.

Protect Personal Information On-line:

  • Set strong passwords and don't share them.
  • Be cautious about supplying personal information.


The Keys To Wise Tax Policy

This year’s session of the Nebraska Legislature has produced another discussion about Nebraska's heavy tax burden.

The governor has offered his ideas for tax relief. Many of Nebraska's 49 senators have offered their own plans. For the next several weeks, the Legislature's Revenue Committee will continue to hold hearings on newly introduced tax-related legislation. At this point in the session, only two things are crystal clear: First, all reasonable individuals can agree that Nebraska's taxes, overall, are too high. Second, Nebraskan's will be divided on the best method of tax relief because different taxes affect residents to differing degrees. The mission of the Nebraska Chamber for the past 103 years has been to represent the state's business community and to give it voice at the Legislature - from large employers to main street businesses, from sole proprietorships to startups, from manufacturers to agri-business.

Our members tell us that taxes, at all levels, are a major cost of doing business. They impact Nebraska's competitiveness when it comes to creating jobs, attracting new businesses or expanding existing ones. But don't just take our word. Respected, independent third parties have analyzed Nebraska's tax structure and its impact on the business community. Here are some of their findings:

  • The Tax Foundation says Nebraska's top personal income tax rate of 6.84% is 15th highest among states levying an income tax. (This does not include federal income tax, which takes as much as another 39.6% of personal income. The average taxpayer in Nebraska paid $9,200 in federal income taxes in 2013, according to the National Priorities Project. Keep in mind the majority of businesses pay at the individual tax level.)
  • Nebraska's maximum corporate tax rate is 19th highest among states with a corporate income tax. In addition, Nebraska corporations face a top federal tax rate of 39.1%, the highest corporate rate in the developed world.
  • A recent study by the Council On State Taxation (COST) reports that businesses paid $4 billion in state and local taxes in 2013 in Nebraska. Property taxes - levied by local units of government - took $1.7 billion of this amount, while individual income taxes on business income claimed another $400 million, and the state's corporate income tax took another $300 million.
  • Comparing tax burdens, COST found that Nebraska businesses paid roughly 40% the total state taxes and 56% of total local taxes.

Nebraska's business community has plenty of skin in the game. That's why the State Chamber would like to offer three simple principles to our state policymakers:

1. Wise tax policy must benefit all taxpayers. It must be fair and equitable, taking care to not pit one sector of the economy against another or one industry against another.

2. Smart tax law must make Nebraska more competitive. It cannot ignore the large amount of taxpayer dollars being taken by the federal government from individuals and businesses.

3. While property tax relief is needed, we must not simply shift the burden by raising income and sales taxes. Since local governments and school districts levy property taxes in Nebraska, the only way real property tax relief can be achieved is through reduced local spending coupled with more efficient management.

Fortunately, there are legislative proposals currently before the Legislature that would significantly improve Nebraska's overall tax climate, while adhering to these principles. For example, Papillion Senator Jim Smith and 10 other senators have offered LB357 to gradually reduce the state's personal and corporate income tax rates over the next eight years, providing tax relief to families and businesses. In addition, the bill would generously boost the state's property tax credit program.

Another proposal worth considering is Omaha Senator Burke Harr's LB398 to exempt all tangible personal property from property tax. This would greatly benefit Nebraska businesses, as well as farmers and ranchers, by doing away with the antiquated tax on depreciable personal property used in the trade of business - whether a tractor or combine, manufacturing equipment, desks, computers or telephones.

Of course, no tax relief will sufficiently address Nebraska's high tax climate if public sector spending is not curtailed. Public spending, including at the local level, is directly responsible for Nebraska's heavy tax burden. State lawmakers have some difficult choices ahead in the coming weeks. Yet amid the uncertainty, we know our economy depends on the ability of businesses to prosper. By improving conditions for the private sector - by encouraging new jobs and investments - Nebraska can be a better place for all taxpayers.



Employment Law Check-Up

Following HR procedures for your employees is crucial. Here are some great tips from hrsimple.com

Work can get a little hectic sometimes. Running from here to there, meeting after meeting, stressing about a thousand different things - it helps to slow down every once in a while to take an inventory. Here are a few areas we think could benefit from a quick checkup. A few minutes of spot checking could save you a big mess down the line.

Job Descriptions:

As one of the earliest areas an employer can get themselves into trouble during the employment process, job descriptions need to follow a few rules to be effective. Make sure job descriptions are free of discriminatory language, which can be as innocent as something like "seeking a youthful candidate." Descriptions should also clearly and accurately represent all of the job's true responsibilities as they could be referenced during a potential future lawsuits.

Applications:

Similar to job descriptions, applications can get sticky for some employers. Making sure to stick to the necessary information is key.  Employment applications should also contain a statement that explains the employer does not discriminate. A simple "[Company] is an Equal Opportunity Employer" can cover a lot of issues.

Performance Reviews:

When it comes to reviewing employee performance two aspects are essential: documentation and clarity. Reviews are a great way to give employees helpful feedback, but make sure you are doing it consistently, otherwise the benefits may be lost. Reviews can also demonstrate a history of poor performance, which can give an employer some protection in employment-related lawsuits. So make sure you are you are being thorough and maintaining clear records.

Record keeping requirements:

Are you keeping the right things, in the right places, for the right amount of time? Different forms and information need to be kept for certain lengths of time during and after employment and sometimes in specific places, as well. Consult the record keeping requirements appendix in your Model Policies and Forms guide for federal and state-specific rules and regulations.

Posting requirements:

One way that employers are required to notify their employees of their rights is through employment law posters. In addition to the 6 federal posters, states require posters of their own on varying laws. Additionally, these posters change from time to time, often with little warning. Check the list below to make sure you are using the proper federal posters and check the posting requirements appendix in your Model Policies and Forms guide for state requirements. 

  • Labor Standards Act (FLSA): July 2009
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): February 2013/li>
  • Job Safety & Health Protection (OSHA): No date, but the most current one has a QR code in the corner (a small black and white symbol)
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA): June 2012
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA): October 2008
  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC): November 2009

Click here to order the brand new, all-in-one federal compliance poster from hrsimple.com.

Looking for more information?

Hrsimple rresources cover a wide range of employment law topics from state and federal employment law, best practice advice, policies, forms, documents and so much more.

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