It’ll be a fresh year tomorrow, but the mortgage and economic mess remains, so several new laws will kick in under the ongoing cleanup. Other provisions will affect what employers do and how much workers pay in taxes. A look at changes for 2011:
** Social Security tax drops from 6.2 percent of wages to 4.2 percent.
** Loan officers in federally-chartered institutions, which include the major banks, must register in the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System, a way for consumers to track their records. Effective Jan. 31.
** Lenders are barred from paying mortgage brokers for bringing a more profitable loan, such as one with a higher interest rate. Effective April 1.
** The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reviews loans, banks fees and other financial products. Effective July 21.
** Employers report the value of health insurance coverage for the employee on the W-2 form. Optional for 2011 to give time for businesses to prepare, mandated afterward.
** Employers must send each employee a more detailed notice about pay rates by Feb. 1 of each year, including whether tips, meals or other allowances are considered part of the minimum wage. The notice must be in the employee’s primary language. Currently, such notices are given at hiring. Effective April 9.
** New limits allow bankruptcy filers to take up to $150,000 in home equity exemption instead of $50,000. Those who don’t take the homestead exemption can claim another $1,000 in personal property and cash allowance. Jewelry, art, a computer and a cell phone are new exemptions. Maximum limits on some exemptions have been increased. Starts Jan. 22.
** Bankruptcy filers can choose between going under exemption limits set by the federal government or by the state. Starts Jan. 22.
** Businesses giving rebates must conspicuously disclose whether it’s cash, check, credit for future purchase, prepaid card or some other form, along with any fees associated with its use.
** Veterinarians must start taking continuing education, 45 hours every three years. Vet techs must start taking 24 hours every three years.
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