How To Prepare For Annual Workers’ Compensation Audits
Dan Levenson March 15, 2016
It’s an unavoidable truth of running a business: If you don’t want to have to pay additional or unexpected premiums, your company must prepare for annual workers’ compensation audits. There are few things more unexpected and unpleasant for a business owner than having to pay the premiums after a policy year has expired.
Such unexpected increases or costs are usually incurred for one of three major reasons:
- The company did not have anyone who monitored the projections during a policy year for accuracy.
- The company did not have someone knowledgeable of the workers’ compensation premium audit process to work with the auditor.
- Those responsible for the company did not understand the risks of using contractors that did not have workers’ compensation.
So how do you prepare your business for its annual audit and, more importantly, avoid the aforementioned pitfalls that could cost you a lot of money down the line?
Keep An Eye On Your Projections
It’s easy to make the mistake of not having someone to monitor your projections during a policy year. Your insurance agent could use diaries quarterly and contact a client about what the payroll is each time. A company then has time to adjust workers’ compensation premium payments.
When the payroll is projected, each entry for the workers’ compensation class codes must be close to what payroll will be at year’s end. Guesswork won’t do. Guesswork will cause a company to have to pay additional premiums. Businesses that have highly rated class codes will be hit worst, because rates impact how much the premiums are.
Choose The Right Person To Deal With The Auditor
Not having a knowledgeable person to deal with an auditor is costly. This happens often. An auditor has to look at a business owner’s books to determine the actual amount of a payroll. He or she must then place each employee into a workers’ compensation class code. Doing that will impact the amount a business will pay for workers’ compensation.
When employees are not placed in the proper code, an auditor may rate them incorrectly, causing a higher rate. Someone in the company must understand the various class codes, as well as the job functions of all the employees. If this isn’t done correctly, an auditor often has to guess, and the advantage will go to the insurance company.
Always Factor In Independent Contractors, If Applicable
When a company works with independent contractors that don’t have workers’ compensation, they face an auditor asking for a certificate of insurance for the contractors. If not available, that contractor’s compensation is added to the audit.
Get Your Paperwork In Order
Of course, there’s not a single type of audit out there that can go well without the proper documentation. Here are some of the records needed for an audit:
- Payroll records including a payroll journal and summary. You also need federal tax reports, 941’s for the period, overtime payments shown individually, individual earnings records, and state unemployment reports.
- Cash disbursements showing materials, casual labor, and payments to subcontractors.
- Employee records which show the number of employees, the hours, days, or weeks worked annually, and a detailed explanation of the job duties for each employee.
- A detailed description which fully explains your business operations.
- Certificates of insurance for all your independent contractors and subcontractors.
Best Practices For Preparing For An Audit
Simplify the auditor’s job. He or she will be on a strict schedule. Make the job easier by not rescheduling. Have all the information he or she has requested available and ready, and be sure the records are complete and accurate. Be prepared to answer any basic questions he or she may have about your business, and be prepared for the owner, not a person of lower position, to answer questions. Give only the information requested, and don’t ask the auditor questions.
Separate overtime paid to employees by job classification on payroll records. Keep payroll records in dollar amounts, not percentages that reflect work actually done.
Don’t sign an auditor’s worksheet if it is incomplete. Many auditors prefer to gather data and take it to an office or home to complete. Ask for and keep a copy for your files.
If you have questions about annual workers’ compensation audits, or if you want to make sure that the policy you have in place is right for the specific circumstances of your business, feel free to contact us or schedule a free insurance assessment with one of our experts.