March 23, 2021
The Gateway For Payroll Data
The US economy is growing at a rapid pace, but economists are still worried

What's keeping America's top economists up at night

London (CNN Business)There's a reason economics is frequently called the "dismal science."

What's happening: The US economy is on track for a boom, with the Federal Reserve predicting last week that it would expand by 6.5% this year. That would mark the fastest growth since 1984, when Ronald Reagan was serving his first term as president.

But a survey of the country's top economists published by the National Association for Business Economics on Monday shows that many in the field are still worried about what could be coming down the pike.

See here: A majority of the 205 members surveyed said they believe risks to inflation are greater than those seen in the past two decades.

Paving the Payments Future
The richest Americans don't report at least 20 percent of their income to the IRS, new research suggests

The richest Americans dodge much more in income taxes than the Internal Revenue Service previously assumed, according to research being published Monday by IRS and academic researchers.

The top 1 percent of U.S. households don't report about 21 percent of their income, and a big slice of that — 6 percentage points — is from sophisticated tax-avoidance strategies that aren't detected in spot IRS audits, The Wall Street Journal reports. The top 0.1 percent of households may hide nearly twice the amount of income projected by conventional IRS methodologies, the researchers found.

The main drivers of this tax avoidance by the super wealthy are hiding money offshore and the increasing use of pass-through businesses like investment funds, real estate enterprises, closely held family firms, and other partnerships, the researcher found. In such businesses, income passes through an owner's individual tax returns and is not taxed at the corporate level, the Journal explains.

Tax Day for individuals extended to May 17:
Treasury, IRS extend filing and payment deadline
WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced today that the federal income tax filing due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year will be automatically extended from April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021. The IRS will be providing formal guidance in the coming days. 

More Economic Impact Payments set for disbursement in coming days; taxpayers should watch mail for paper checks, debit cards
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service announced today that the next batch of Economic Impact Payments will be issued to taxpayers this week, with many of these coming by paper check or prepaid debit card..
How federal infrastructure investment can put America to work

As COVID-19 continues to take a toll on the economy, America faces three interrelated challenges: (1) high unemployment alongside a historically low reemployment potential; (2) a precarious labor market with too many low-wage, dead-end jobs; and (3) large infrastructure gaps that hamper productivity and growth.

The Biden administration has a historic opportunity to tackle the first two by addressing the third. A large-scale federal infrastructure investment program that is deliberately designed for maximum workforce impact can help accelerate reemployment, prevent scarring, and boost long-term inclusive and sustainable growth.

To maximize employment and opportunity for workers, policymakers should consider not only how many jobs these investments could create, but also how good the jobs are likely to be, who they will likely employ, and to what extent targeted reskilling might be needed to fill staffing gaps.

How U.S. Bank tripled its digital account openings

"It was taking customers 10 minutes to get through this application, and that's just way too long," said Jonathan Burns, the bank's senior vice president and head of digital sales experience.

By cutting more than half of the time it takes for customers to open a checking account online, U.S. Bank says it’s new streamlined platform, which it launched in August, has nearly tripled its digital checking account openings year-over-year.

"The biggest pain point we had in checking was actually the sheer length of time it took to get through the application itself," said Jonathan Burns, senior vice president and head of digital sales experience at U.S. Bank. "It was taking customers 10 minutes to get through this application, and that's just way too long."

NEW MEXICO: Storefront lenders whip House of Reps

Attempts to cut exorbitant interest rates charged by storefront lenders in New Mexico fizzled and died Friday.

The failure is squarely on the state House of Representatives. Many of its members cared more about appeasing the powerful lending industry than protecting the most vulnerable people — those who will be trapped in debt after taking out a small loan carrying an interest rate of 175 percent.

State senators — well, most of the Democrats and Republican Gregg Schmedes — did their best to stop predatory lenders.

They approved Senate Bill 66. It would have capped the interest rate on storefront loans at 36 percent.

House lawmakers reintroduce cannabis banking bill

A bipartisan group of more than 100 House lawmakers, led by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-CO, reintroduced a cannabis banking bill Thursday that would provide protections to financial institutions that offer services to marijuana-related businesses.

The landmark SAFE Banking Act sailed through the Democrat-controlled House 321-103 in 2019, only to stall in the then-Republican-controlled Senate after the chamber's former Banking Committee chairman, Mike Crapo, R-ID, refused to hold a vote on the bill. House Democrats tried to pass the legislation by folding it into two coronavirus relief measures proposed by the House, but the language was not included in the bill President Joe Biden signed this month.

With Democrats now in control of the House and Senate, 2021 could be the year that SAFE Banking, which is supported by cannabis advocates and bank and credit union trade groups, passes.

Digital bank for immigrants opens meet-up space in Miami

It's not typical for a digital bank to open a physical location in an effort to connect with customers, but Majority's CEO said it's important to have a presence in the communities they serve.

Challenger bank Majority opened a meet-up center in Miami's Little Havana on Thursday, as the startup continues its push to provide bundled digital banking, wire transfer and international calling services to the U.S.'s immigrant communities.

"We built it to be a multipurpose place with the foundation for social meeting," said Majority CEO Magnus Larsson, who first launched the digital banking platform in 2019 to serve Houston's large Nigerian immigrant community.

It's not typical for a digital bank to open a physical location in an effort to connect with customers, but Larsson said he recognized early on the importance of having a presence in the communities the platform serves.

BofA banks on virtual reality to train workers for the 'moments of truth'

Immersive learning technology complements existing training resources, a company executive said, but it is not a replacement for all training.

Bank of America will offer virtual reality training to employees nationwide via its career training program, The Academy, a spokesperson told HR Dive in an email this month.

The Academy supports some 50,000 Bank of America employees across 4,000 of the company's U.S. financial centers. The bank tapped immersive learning company Strivr, known for its work bringing VR headsets to Walmart stores in recent years.

Bank of America is using Strivr's solution to train for several functions, from simulators that help workers train on the bank's account opening and servicing systems to artificial intelligence-powered tools that allow workers to practice having conversations with clients, John Jordan, head of The Academy, said during a recent webinar. VR is also being used to upskill the bank's employees and help them move to different functions more quickly.

IRS says unemployed workers can likely claim $10,200 tax break without filing amended return

Rettig said the agency hoped to make an official announcement in the 'near future'

The IRS is planning to automatically process refunds for out-of-work Americans who received unemployment benefits last year and filed their 2020 returns before a new law waived federal taxes on the first $10,200 in aid.

Commission Chuck Rettig told members of a House tax subcommittee on Thursday that unemployed individuals will likely not have to file an amended return in order to take advantage of the new tax exemption on jobless aid.

“We believe we will be able to monitor, and we will be able to announce that individuals will not have to file amended returns to be able to take the exclusion for the $10,200 per person," Rettig said.

Rettig said the agency hoped to make an official announcement in the "near future."

Alternative Financial Service Providers Association
315 Tuscarora St., Lewiston, NY 14092