Updates to Per Diem Rates

Back in August, the General Services Administration (a.k.a GSA) issued its annual update on federal maximum per diem rates. These new rates pertain to locations within the continental United States – otherwise known as CONUS. This includes the lower 48.

Before we go into detail on the new rates, let’s do a little refresher.

Per Diem: A Latin word that translates to per day, or for each day. In the case of this post, per diem is being discussed as the daily allowance employees are paid and reimbursed for when they travel for work. Common expenses covered under per diem rates include:

  • Lodging
  • Meals
  • Tips
  • Ground Transportation
  • Wi-Fi Charges
  • Other incidental expenses, such as dry cleaning

Another simple way to put it: it is the amount of money an employee is able to spend, per day, on a business trip, attending conferences and events related to work and traveling to work away from the home office. Think of it as an allowance. However, it is important to note the per diem rate doesn’t include the cost of transportation to the site, such as flights or driving. Those costs are usually paid separately by the employers.

So, let’s get back to the main point: these rates are changing, and if you or your employees travel for work, it’s important to know them and stay in compliance!

The new FY18 rates apply to work travel on or after October 1, 2017. If the per diem allowance given to an employee is equal to or less than the federal rates, the allowance is excludable from income tax; those over the federal rates are subject to employment taxes.

Let’s take a look at what FY18 per diem rates have to offer.

The first takeaway to note is the CONUS meal and incidental expense (M&IE) rate hasn’t changed – it is staying at $51. The M&IE rates for non-standard areas – areas still within CONUS which have different rates for travel – will also stay the same. However, all locations in CONUS that don’t appear on the non-standard area list will have an increase in the lodging per diem rate. This has gone up from $91 to $93.

There are also some changes to the non-standard areas list. While no new locations were added, there were 14 locations removed for FY18. They include:

  • Redding, CA
  • Cedar Rapids, IA
  • Bonner’s Ferry/Sandpoint, ID
  • Dickinson/Beulah, ND
  • Watertown, NY
  • Youngstown, OH
  • Enid, OK
  • Mechanicsberg, PA
  • Scranton, PA
  • Laredo, TX
  • McAllen, TX
  • Pearsall, TX
  • San Angelo, TX
  • Gillette, WY

These removed locations are now considered part of the regular CONUS, and follow CONUS standard rates.

You might also be wondering about rates in places that aren’t part of the CONUS, such as Alaska, Hawaii or even Puerto Rico. If your employees are lucky enough to travel to Hawaii for work, it’s important to note these rates are not updated annually, but rather on an irregular basis.

The Department of State steps in and updates per diem rates for foreign travel, but also on an irregular schedule.

To find these rates, as well as the CONUS rates, be sure to check out the GSA website.

In the meantime, if you’re struggling to understand how much to reimburse your employees for their travels, reach out to us. We would be happy to help!

Welcome to the Company: Ideas for Successful Onboarding

Hiring new employees can be an exciting time – for both you and the new hire! After all, you found an awesome addition to your team, and you’re excited to show them how great your business is. Although having a new hire can be really fun, it can also be really stressful – especially for the new person.

You want to alleviate stress for your new hire by giving them a smooth transition into your business. So, how do you do that? Here are some ideas for giving your new hire a smooth start in your business.

  • Start with the small stuff: When your new hire starts, there are some seemingly small items that can actually help make the transition a little easier for them. Consider a small welcome gift they can use in the office, such as a water bottle or coffee mug. Also, make sure to show them where the bathrooms are, how to use the copy machine and what to do if they’re having computer problems, to name a few. Although these may seem small, these items can help your new hire feel comfortable in the new environment.
  • Use the buddy system: Consider pairing your new hire with an employee who’s been with the company for a while. The buddy can be the new hire’s go to person if they have questions and concerns about getting acclimated within the company. The buddy can also share some of their tips, tricks and experiences, which can ultimately help the new hire get a great understanding of the ins and outs of the business. Having a buddy can also help the new hire feel more comfortable simply because they know someone within the company and are not all alone.
  • Hands-on approach: What better way to learn than by doing? A great way to get your new hire involved and comfortable is to start them off by doing rather than by watching. Whether it be a computer program or making phone calls, involving them from the get-go can provide beneficial training. It also allows the new hire to ask questions in real time as they arise, rather than scrambling for an answer if an issue comes up. However, try not to give them too much hands-on training right away. You want to help them feel comfortable, not overwhelm them.

 

  • Team involvement: Right from the beginning, it’s important to involve the entire team your new hire will work with. Whether it be going out for lunch on the first day or just holding a brief introduction meeting, letting your new hire meet the people he or she will be working with the most gives a level of familiarity which can help lead to better productivity. When the team works well together, better results are often produced.

 

Gaining a new employee is a fun and exciting step for your business. To reduce stress for them (and you), and to give them a smooth transition, consider some of these ideas. When your employees work well together, you can watch your business thrive.

*Bonus: If you need help with new hire onboarding, let us know. Our outsourced HR services can help make sure your new hire has an easy transition.

Our Journey to 100

Have you ever heard of a birth-month rather than a birthday? A few weeks ago, we celebrated our 100th birthday, but we haven’t stopped celebrating.

In fact, we’ve had so much fun being 100 that we want to share with you some history on our journey to 100! Check out the video below:

We’d love to help you get to 100, too! Contact us for more information.

A Millennial’s View

Guest blog by: Isaac Bumgarden, audit intern, Eide Bailly LLP

Accountant: the career that seems like it’s filled with numbers nerds, gloomy days reading over spreadsheets and days spent typing away on a calculator. If we’re talking about a public accountant, everyone thinks you’re an evil number cruncher who’s up to no good (and maybe even works for the IRS).

So how does someone, let alone a millennial, decide accounting is the right career path?

As you know, everyone is different (yes, even us millennials have different tastes and interests). While I don’t speak for everyone, it seems a majority of millennials have a similar experience when it comes to choosing a career, especially if they landed on accounting. When looking at the accounting profession (at least before having much exposure to it), we tend to think of someone sitting behind a desk, quickly punching numbers into a calculator all day, or even someone working for the IRS – and often times, these views don’t seem to sit well with us millennials. After all, we are said to be a social generation which thrives off of each other.

However, college and schooling comes around, and a whole new world presents itself. Rather than hearing about the IRS auditors, you start learning about different options in the accounting world.

“A CFO? What’s that?”

            “There are other auditors besides the IRS? Well what’s the difference?”

           “I can open up my own tax accounting firm in my small home town if I                           understand this stuff?”

You begin to realize that maybe accounting isn’t a one-size-fits-all career path, and there might even be something about it that catches your eye. In fact, I see accounting as a door that leads to a lot of potential in the business world, which is something I never would have even thought of on my own.

Many of the potential scenarios in accounting appeal to us millennials if we are exposed to these options. If you enjoy being alone, maybe the traditional accounting job is for you. If you like interacting with people, take a look at the business side of accounting, such as being a CFO, where you get to go in and work alongside different companies. If travel is your idea of an ideal career, maybe an auditor is the right choice for you. There are many different opportunities and possibilities for each personality and skill set.

For myself (and other millennials, too) and even the general public, accounting is often seen as a boring profession, as explained before. However, accounting is so much more than just the numbers. Public accounting is not only a way to help individuals, but businesses as well.

Being an auditor allows you to help businesses be sure they are on the right track both legally and financially. If you’re the tax man (or woman), you can make sure individuals, families and businesses are being taxed properly, which can lead to saved money and greater revenue and income. Many people don’t realize accounting truly allows you to help people do what they love.

It seems the reason millennials aren’t choosing accounting as readily as other generations simply stems from the lack of information about what accounting really entails. When it comes to accounting, you’re never really stuck in one area. We millennials enjoy variety and a change in scenery, and accounting allows us to have just that.

A Community Resource: Emerging Prairie

Guest Blog By: Annie Wood, Director of Community Programs, Emerging Prairie

Founded in 2013, Emerging Prairie began with the goal to create a community we all want to be part of. We want to do our part to make Fargo a great place to bet on ideas, start companies and improve the human condition through technology-based solutions. In 2016, Emerging Prairie became a non-profit organization and maintains its mission to connect and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

At Emerging Prairie, we live out our mission in multiple ways:

– Platforms: we have an online content publication and several events that create opportunities for people to share and spread their ideas. We also utilize platforms like 1 Million Cups (caffeinated by the Kauffman Foundation) and TEDxFargo to help champion these ideas.

– Coworking: we run The Prairie Den, a coworking and event space in downtown Fargo. The Den provides a home for startups, small businesses, entrepreneurs, an office away from the office for other organizations, and a place for people to meet.

– Connecting: we run multiple programs and groups that are designed for authentic connection for entrepreneurs to connect to other entrepreneurs, as well as build connections between members of the community.

– Convening: we play a role in helping bring entrepreneurs together so our community learns together and can share what we collectively need when folks like the Bank of North Dakota are working on new ways to serve the startup community.

Companies of any stage can connect with us. Some of our programs are geared to companies of different sizes, stages and industries. For example, 1 Million Cups Fargo (which is supported by the Kauffman Foundation) is curated to be primarily tech-based founders or entrepreneurs who have a product or software as a service (SaaS) companies. We work to put founders first, so many of our programs are more geared toward supporting founders versus the size and stage of the company.

The Prairie Den is an inclusive space in the heart of downtown Fargo – it’s truly a place for community to be built. We think of it like a student union for our city. Just like a student union on a college campus is a place for students to study, hold meetings and social events, The Prairie Den provides a similar area to the community. It’s a place for connecting, for working, for moving ideas forward, and for groups to gather. We offer workspace for teams, individuals, and as an office-away-from-the-office for employees of many organizations. We also have conference rooms, a classroom and even an event space that we rent to members and non-members.

The Den is also where Co.Starters is hosted by our friends at Folkways. Co.Starters is a nine-week course to help people with ideas turn them into businesses, or people with young businesses strengthen them.

Emerging Prairie subscribes to the Fargo Thesis, which Co-Founder and Executive Director Greg Tehven first wrote about in Fargo Monthly. The Fargo Thesis is to Connect It, Believe It and Love It. This is how we operate in our community –Connecting people; Believing that Fargo is a place of possibility; and showing love by celebrating and caring for community members.

As an organization, Emerging Prairie is excited about continuing to support our startup community. We believe ideas matter. We know it’s a leap of faith to start something new, so we want to celebrate those who take the leap. And we want to be an organization that helps pave the way for founders to bet on their ideas, to build teams around them and to pursue possibilities to create a community that we all want to be part of.

Cheers to 100 Years

By: Clinton Larson, Eide Bailly LLP

Raise your hand if you’re 100—hey, that’s us! We’re celebrating our centennial this year, and like wine and cheese and lots of other good things, we keep getting better with age.

Reaching a century in business didn’t come easily, as you could probably guess. It takes commitment and foresight, the right people and the right attitude. Lots of companies have come and gone in that time, and even our own heritage involved two different Fargo firms growing, pinnacling and deciding to forge a new path together.

So how can your company make it to 100? Well … there’s a lot of variables that go into that equation. However, there’s no specific formula to share, and it’s hard to know what the world will look like in 2117 (although we hope it involves some cool, legitimate hoverboards, or something went terribly wrong.).

However, we can share five areas of focus that have helped us reach 100. Even if your business is just a year old, or maybe 10, our advice can help your business grow and prosper.

Innovation

For most of the 20th century, accountants relied on pencils and ledger books to do their jobs. Then came calculators and computers, and now smartphones can do it all. Through every step, we’ve embraced technology to help us work more efficiently and better serve our clients. Change is inevitable, so be innovative and learn how to harness it to your advantage. For example, we’ve made technology consulting a part of our suite of services, and we’ve recently created a cyber security team to help clients deal with the ramifications of that technology. Always be on the lookout for ways to innovate.

Culture

Simply stated, culture is the personality of your company. It often develops organically from your company values and actions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it official or create goals. When Eide Bailly merged in 1998 (formerly Eide Helmeke and Charles Bailly), the partners sat down and listed the qualities they wanted the new firm to represent. That list turned into the culture statement, and it’s at the heart of who Eide Bailly is as a firm — and we make sure to walk the walk when it comes to those words. We have regular celebrations and outings to encourage fun, and we have benefits that promote a positive firm, like a wellness benefit and a branded apparel allowance. Make sure your own goals for your culture are well-known and show in everything you do.

People

Hiring the right staff is a critical component of any successful business, as we’ve discussed before, but it doesn’t end there. You need to give your staff all the tools they need to succeed, and that includes the proper training. Our managing partners have all believed in giving staff the keys they need to unlock their potential, which includes robust training both inside and outside the firm. Be sure you not only hire the right people, but give them every opportunity to grow and improve themselves.

“My business philosophy in a sentence is we have great people, trust them to do their work,” says our Managing Partner/CEO Dave Stende.

Community

When our clients succeed, so do we, which is why we invest so much into helping the communities we serve. Part of our growth strategy through the years has been to expand in the Midwest and western regions of the U.S., but we do more than just add offices in new cities and states. We engage with the communities through volunteering, sponsorships and more. We even have a corporate responsibility initiative that officially encourages giving back by our staff. Build up the people around you—thriving businesses grow in thriving communities.

Vision

This may sound cliché, but part of the way to make it to 100 is to simply envision yourself achieving that goal. Having a vision for your business is critical to longevity. Eide Bailly’s first Managing Partner/CEO, Darold Rath, felt being located in Fargo shouldn’t be a hindrance to hiring the best and being a major player in the accounting industry. Both Managing Partners/CEOs after that, Jerry Topp and Dave Stende, achieved visions of doubling the size of the firm every five years. Dream big about what you want out of your company. You can’t reach goals you never visualize.

Reaching 100 isn’t easy, and unfortunately, not every business makes it. However, by following some of these tips, your business might just make it to see if hoverboards do, in fact, show up in 2117.

The Stay Interview

When it comes to your employees, you likely conducted interviews on them when you first hired them. If you’ve had employees leave, maybe you’ve conducted exit interviews. But there’s another type of interview that often gets overlooked: the stay interview.

A stay interview? What’s that?

While exit interviews are conducted when an employee leaves to help management get a better understanding of what went wrong or why the employee left, stay interviews give management an idea of how they can help their employees stay with the company.

Stay interviews can help management gain a good understanding of what the company is doing right that makes employees want to stay, but it can also help determine what it is that would cause an employee to leave. This gives management a chance to identify strengths and weaknesses, and to work on improving those before it’s too late.

On top of that, stay interviews can help build stronger relationships within the company, which can ultimately lead to more trust throughout. When employees realize their thoughts and needs are being considered, they are often more likely to have positive attitudes and relationships. Following up on information learned in the interviews can help solidify this.

Stay interviews are also sometimes a better option than other ways to measure employee satisfaction, such as sending out surveys that often get buried in inboxes. Stay interviews provide a two way, face-to-face conversation that allows for questions and dialogue.

What questions should I be asking?

There are many questions you can ask during a stay interview, and often times, these questions depend on your business. If your employees do sales, you might want to ask them about a specific goal or initiative. If you’re in the world of technology, you may find value asking your employees how they feel about the software they’re currently using.

While a lot of stay interview questions can and should pertain to your specific business, there are also common questions that may be beneficial to conducting a worthwhile interview. Some common questions to consider asking include:

  • What keeps you coming back to work here every day?
  • What do you look forward to here?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would it be and why?
  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • What do you want to see from upper level management/staff?
  • What might cause you to leave the company?
  • What can the company do more of for you?

What do I do next?

After you have conducted the interview, it’s helpful to do a quick run through of the employee’s answers to make sure you didn’t miss anything important. You may even notice a pattern of similar answers from different employees.

Once you have a good idea of what needs to change and improve, act on it! The purpose of the interview is to help you help your employees, and to improve employee retention based on the answers you hear.

Stay interviews can be a powerful tool to help you improve work-life for your employees, and to keep them around for years to come. When stay interviews and the information obtained in them are acted on properly, you’re more likely to retain your employees and avoid exit interviews.