Recently the IRS certified 84 organizations as Certified Professional Employer Organizations (CPEO). This is the first group that was approved as part of the CPEO program. But what is a CPEO, and why does it matter?
Certified Professional Employer Organizations typically handle many payroll administration and tax reporting tasks for their business clients. Essentially, they hire the employees of their clients so that they can handle the taxes and payroll for those employees. This is called “co-employment”.
In some cases, there have been abuses by PEOs. Usually this takes the form of the PEO withholding from an employee’s paycheck, but keeping that money for themselves. The IRS created the CPEO program in response to these abuses. In 2014, the IRS started a voluntary certification program for PEOs. After the IRS receives the required surety bond from an approved CPEO applicant, the IRS will publish that CPEO’s name, address, and effective date of certification on their website.
Certification affects the employment tax liabilities of both the CPEO and its clients. A CPEO is normally treated as the employer of any individual performing services for a client of the CPEO and covered by a CPEO contract between the CPEO with the client, but only for wages and other compensation paid to the individual by the CPEO.
To become and remain certified under the new program, CPEOs must meet tax compliance, background, experience, business location, financial reporting, bonding, and other requirements.