Friday, March 26, 2010

Hire Now, Discount Later

Warning #1. I'm writing this one with a little tongue-in-cheek because I'm in one of those moods.
Warning #2. For the record, I am attempting to stay away from the political agenda; I'm just offering up my take on the contents of the Act and its impact on organizations.

Let's kick it off with a Star Wars reference, shall we.
Gran Moff Tarkin to Death Star Gunner: "you may fire when ready." And with that, there goes planet Alderan.

In today's day and age, with the passing of the HIRE Act this month, Tarkin might've advised his HR staff (imagine working in HR for the Empire) to "hire when ready." Yea, yea, weak comparison and bad use of a quote, but work with me here.

The HIRE -- Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment -- Act is the newest boost by the government to get this economy righted. The basic gist is simple: hire a new employee this year and receive tax credits up to $1,000 on your organization's income tax return in 2011. Now that sounds inviting. Looks like the carpet cleaners will be working overtime to get the red carpets ready to roll out in order to welcome in new employees. Not so fast.

This Act does have some catches for hiring new employees:
Catch #1. To be eligible for this tax credit, any position that currently exists must have been previously held by an employee that either vacated it voluntarily or left for cause (say, poor performance).
Catch #2. The tax credit is said to also apply to newly created positions. (I like the idea of adding fully-staffed HR departments)
Catch #3. The newly-hired employee had to have been out of work longer than 60 days.

For an organization to gain the tax credit, the employees hired under the HIRE Act must be employed for 52 weeks. This leads me to wonder about this whole Act. Say that an organization wants to hire again after laying people off a few months ago from the positions it is ready to hire into, but it also wants to get the tax benefits of the new hires. Does it restructure and create new positions that are slightly different than positions that got downsized? Ethically, I would hope organizations don't do this, but I could see it happening. Hire the employee now and get the discount later.

Will this somehow create more discrimination claims? Could the determining factor of who gets hired be time unemployed? I realize that isn't a protected class, but if it comes down to a white male who was unemployed for 5 months versus an African American male who was unemployed for only 1 month but equally qualified, does the latter have a claim if the employer didn't choose to hire him? What if the person who was laid off sees the position with a new title but the same qualifications? What if this person is over 40, and the new hire is under 40? Employers are going to need to be mindful of this.

Is there enough incentive here to hire new employees? I've read a few other comments across the Web on this topic, and it seems like this could be a nightmare not worth the hassle.

My opinion is simple. If you find the right employee and can take advantage of the breaks offered up by the IRS, then go for it, but please, do not go out of your way to alter existing jobs just to get the break. It could open you up to claims you don't want to have. If you have a need to create a new job, do it, and hire the right person, regardless of time spent unemployed. Cast your net so it catches qualified applicants, including the unemployed.

I realize this Act contains much more info, and if you are concerned about how it can impact your organization, stop on by your accountants. I'm sure they can add some insight into this. If they aren't aware of it, make them aware now!

So Gran Moff, when will you hire someone who can build a Death Star that has a sewer cap over the most exposed part of space station?

(HR pros. What do you think of this? Will you take advantage or disadvantage of it?)

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