April 2010

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2010.

Now that the Legislative Session has ended, all the bills WIA has been carefully tracking have either passed or failed. Check out the WIA Legislative Tracker, complete with end-of-session updates and a short synopsis of each bill to see what may affect your property.

Got questions? Contact the WIA office at 262/782-2851.

WIA Member lodging properties must use their user ID and password to view the info in the link above. Forgot your password? E-mail Michelle in the WIA office.

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With the state legislature adjourning early this morning (actually earlier yesterday afternoon for the state Senate) concluding regular business for its two-year session, many bills failed because they did not pass both the Assembly and the Senate in time.

WIA has highlighted the final status of a number of bills of interest to the lodging industry, as well as a number of bills that were today sent to the Governor’s desk for his determination whether to sign them into law or let them expire without action. (continue reading)

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Interested in hearing the latest information on issues impacting the lodging industry that are still under consideration at the state Capitol for the last day of legislative session tomorrow?

For the key bills that will matter to you, such as Regional Transit Authorities, Smoking on Balconies outside sleeping rooms/units, Allowed Distance for TOD Signs for your property, Private Septic System Requirements, a proposed New Hire Tax Benefit for Small Businesses, and your rights as an employer in your meetings with employees during unionization efforts, you will not only hear developments from the past two days since our last Brief, but also learn who you should contact to have your voice heard NOW! (continue reading)

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You may have seen a postcard in your mail this week from the IRS relating to the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit which “is designed to encourage small employers to offer health insurance coverage for the first time or maintain coverage they already have. In general, the credit is available to small employers that pay at least half the cost of single coverage for their employees.

The IRS started mailing these simple, white postcards to small businesses this week to “encourage them to check their eligibility“:
More details from the IRS site:
How much of a credit can you get?
  • Maximum Amount. The credit is worth up to 35 percent of a small business’ premium costs in 2010. On Jan. 1, 2014, this rate increases to 50 percent (35 percent for tax-exempt employers).
  • Phase-out. The credit phases out gradually for firms with average wages between $25,000 and $50,000 and for firms with the equivalent of between 10 and 25 full-time workers.

Determining eligibility-

Employers must:

  • have 25 or fewer FTEs
  • pay average annual wages below $50,000
  • cover at least 50% of the cost of health care based on single rate
All of the following information, and more, may be found at this IRS FAQ site:
  • Both for-profit and tax-exempt organizations can be qualified employers
  • Premiums paid in 2010, “but before the new health reform legislation was enacted” can be counted in calculating the credit

Calculating the credit:

“Only premiums paid by the employer under an arrangement meeting certain requirements (a “qualifying arrangement”) are counted in calculating the credit.  Under a qualifying arrangement, the employer pays premiums for each employee enrolled in health care coverage offered by the employer in an amount equal to a uniform percentage (not less than 50 percent) of the premium cost of the coverage.
If an employer pays only a portion of the premiums for the coverage provided to employees under the arrangement (with employees paying the rest), the amount of premiums counted in calculating the credit is only the portion paid by the employer. For example, if an employer pays 80 percent of the premiums for employees’ coverage (with employees paying the other 20 percent), the 80 percent premium amount paid by the employer counts in calculating the credit. For purposes of the credit (including the 50-percent requirement), any premium paid pursuant to a salary reduction arrangement under a section 125 cafeteria plan is not treated as paid by the employer.
In addition, the amount of an employer’s premium payments that counts for purposes of the credit is capped by the premium payments the employer would have made under the same arrangement if the average premium for the small group market in the State (or an area within the State) in which the employer offers coverage were substituted for the actual premium. If the employer pays only a portion of the premium for the coverage provided to employees (for example, under the terms of the plan the employer pays 80 percent of the premiums and the employees pay the other 20 percent), the premium amount that counts for purposes of the credit is the same portion (80 percent in the example) of the premiums that would have been paid for the coverage if the average premium for the small group market in the State were substituted for the actual premium.”

Claiming the credit:
It is a credit against INCOME tax, not EMPLOYMENT taxes, so the “credit is claimed on the employer’s annual income tax return” –  but it does affect the employer’s deduction for health insurance premiums.

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The Rudner Law Offices is proud to continue its series of no-cost educational audioconferences exclusively for hotel, resort and conference center salespeople.

DETAILS:
EXCEPTIONAL CONTRACTS, EXCEPTIONAL ISSUES
April 22nd, 3:00 pm CST

Discussion: “When a production company wants to film in your hotel, what contract do you use? Does your contract protect you against the exceptional risk to your property’s reputation, interference with other guest’s experience and property damage? What are the unique issues presented by a Passover group which wants to take over your hotel? What measures do you take when hosting events primarily attended by minors? On what basis do you determine which groups require additional security? Do you have to agree to a citywide contract just because you believe “everyone else” is? What are the legal issues presented by these contracts? We will discuss these and other unique contracts, and also answer questions (submitted by participants in advance of our call) on a wide range of group sales issues.”

“There is no charge for participation in the audioconference. We promise a high-quality and timely seminar, and we encourage your participation. During the last portion of the seminar, we will answer questions submitted by registrants. Please email any questions you would like for us to consider covering to rudner@hotellawyers.com as soon as possible.”

TO REGISTER FOR THE SEMINAR:
Please send an email to rudner@hotellawyers.com no later than 24 hours prior to the seminar. Identify the name and email address of each person who will join in on the call (salespeople at the same location must listen together by speaker phone), and the property at which each participant is currently employed. If you have a question which you want to have anonymously addressed during the seminar on ANY subject regarding group sales contracts, please submit that question at the time of your registration.
The day before the seminar you will be sent an email which will provide the toll-free telephone number for you to call in on to join the seminar, as well as a required code number you will need to join the seminar

There is no charge for participation in the audioconference.

The WIA does not endorse Rudner Law Offices nor any of their seminars, materials, or information, and will not be held accountable for any such representations. The information above is simply provided as a courtesy to our members.

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This week is the last week of regular session for both the state Senate and state Assembly for the two-year legislative session, meaning the 698 Senate bills and 961 Assembly bills introduced to date must have had public hearings by their assigned committees and have passed both houses by adjournment this Thursday in order to survive and be sent to the Governor to sign into law…

There are so many issues that WIA is tracking and working on for your behalf (over 90 issues and over 150 bills), but the following are a few still in the works that you may find of interest…(continue reading)

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The number of families planning to travel with children in 2010 is 92%, up 4% from last year, according to TripAdvisor’s annual family survey. Of the 1,100 travelers surveyed, 28% expect to spend more on family trips in the coming year than they did in the past 12 months – which can mean increased occupancy and revenue for lodging properties.

The survey also covered topics like international and expanded domestic travel, popular destinations, common problems when travelling with children and how to entertain kids while in the air/on the road.

To view all the survey results, click here.

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From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Better Business Bureau is warning businesses of a new phishing scam e-mail that pretends to be from the consumer agency. The body of the e-mail claims that the company did not respond to a complaint filed by a Jason Harlow (other names may be used) and includes a link to a page at www.ca-bbb.org where the business can supposedly review the complaint. Because the message is fraudulent, BBB advises any business that receives this e-mail to take the following steps:

• Do not click on any links or reply to the message,
• Forward the message to phishing@council.bbb.org,
• Delete the message from your inbox and deleted mail folder, and run a full virus scan on your computer if you clicked on links or downloaded files.

WIA also reminds lodging property managers and those who take reservations by e-mail to watch for reservation requests that seem “too good to be true.” Scammers hit lodging property inboxes with requests to book several rooms for a week or more and always want to prepay weeks in advance with a credit card. After the credit card is charged, the scammer will modify the reservation and request a partial refud. Because the card number is fraudulent, the payment will not process and the lodging property will have lost any money refunded. In certain cases, scammers will prepay an extra dollar amount, requsting the overpayment be transferred to a third party (travel agent, interpreter, etc.). Your property will be liable for the entire amount on the credit card when your processing company flags the card as fraudulent.

Not sure if you’ve got a fraudulent e-mail? Forward it to Michelle in the WIA office and she’ll help you spot any warning signs.

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WIA is excited to announce the second year of our free May promotion of the “Stay Longer Weekend: Stay two nights, get the third free!” A trial run of this promotion last year yielded very positive participant survey results.

To increase exposure of the program, we are now offering three levels of participation. To participate in any of the 3-for-2 promotions, your property must agree to give Thursday or Sunday night free when a guest books two nights for the weekend of May 14-16.

Available 3-for-2 promotional packages include the following:

Free Listing: Your property will be listed at the program Web site.

$29 Photo Upgrade: Stand out in the crowd, get a photo with your listing!

$199 Banner Ad Promotion (plus Photo upgrade): Not only will you get the photo on your listing, your property will be featured on some of the online banner ads promoting the program. The ads may appear at a variety of different Web sites, from TV and radio stations to search engines and more!

Room Night Social Media Upgrade: Donate a room night or a package, and get some extra exposure via WIA’s social media campaigns! WIA will host donated room night giveaways to Facebook fans, Twitter followers and blog readers during our social media roll-out in May.

WIA staff will also utilize traditional media outlets to help promote the 3-for-2 program. If you have media contacts who you believe could help, let WIA know!

Please register for this program by no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, April 19. You can register online by clicking here!

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USA TODAY featured an article about rising room tax rates, featuring a quote from WIA.

“More cities, counties and states are looking to raise taxes on hotel rooms as they battle budget shortfalls and cuts in services.

Among those increasing taxes or considering it: Baltimore; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Santa Clara, Calif.; and Connecticut.

Taxing visitors is an old habit for local governments. Revenue from taxes on hotel rooms and rental cars have been used to fund tourism promotion, build stadiums and repair roads.

While the taxes can infuriate travelers, they’re seen as a politically palatable option in tough economic times.

“The government entities are hurting financially and are looking for creative means to generate more revenue,” says Trisha Pugal, CEO of Wisconsin Innkeepers Association.”

To read the rest of the article and comments, click here.

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