Spotlight: Becky Harshberger, VP & Practice Leader of Payroll Tax
Payroll taxes may be one of the most complex parts of filmmaking, given the frequently changing regulations and legislation that can significantly impact overall production budgets, cast and crew personal taxes, and ultimately a production company’s good standing with the IRS when tax season comes around.
Who can help to ease these stresses? Meet Becky Harshberger, CCP, Vice President & Practice Leader of Payroll Tax at Entertainment Partners. With 20 years’ experience working at the entertainment industry’s leading payroll provider, Becky, is prepared to clarify any payroll tax questions and walk clients through every step of this challenging part of production to ensuring all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed.
“we’ll treat every situation with respect and understanding of industry knowledge to come to the right decision for everyone.”
Solutions-oriented and always prepared, Becky doesn’t turn anyone away, assuring individual cast and crew or entire productions with the guarantee “we’ll treat every situation with respect and understanding of industry knowledge to come to the right decision for everyone.”
Areas where Becky often consults with clients include productions who are filming in multiple jurisdictions where taxes change per location; helping cast and crew avoid double taxation when working in foreign jurisdictions; providing tax options for foreign clients who are working in the US; and overseeing that loan-outs are formed and taxed appropriately for productions.
It’s not an easy task processing payroll accurately, and Becky understands that some productions may come to EP halfway through a project having not prepared properly, risking breaches of the law or jeopardizing hundreds of employees’ personal tax returns. When difficult decisions have to be made, it is Becky’s expertise that can transform a challenging situation into a win-win for both her clients and legal entities alike. Equipped with in-depth knowledge of state tax codes, relationships in the IRS and, state tax codes, and the entertainment industry at large, Becky manages the tough business conversations so clients can focus on the many other responsibilities that come with busy production schedules.
Becky’s career in payroll tax accelerated once she joined the team at Deloitte, where she was hired to create a payroll tax practice in Southern California. To support the challenges her clients were facing, she continued her education and deepened her expertise, attending every class offered by the American Payroll Association and traveling around the country to build her network with other payroll tax experts. Becky broke new ground, collecting information about each state’s payroll practice to ensure she could answer every single one of her client’s questions with confidence and accuracy. It is this valuable commitment to going above and beyond that EP’s clients experience first-hand when working with Becky.
Beyond Deloitte, Becky soon grew a robust payroll tax practice and consulted for clients, including EP before she eventually joined them full time in 2003. Her niche expertise filled an important gap in the industry and made her the leading expert on payroll tax around the country, even securing her place as a recurring speaker at all national American Payroll Association (APA) conferences.
Today, she is relentless in her mission to improve the future of payroll and takes pride in sharing her knowledge. She serves on numerous IRS, government, and payroll boards along with advisory committees nationwide, and consistently consults for the IRS on new legislation and on advanced copies of quarterly tax return forms to help improve clarity before they are sent out to the entire industry. Her ongoing engagement allows her to keep a pulse on what’s changing in the world of payroll taxes so she can inform her clients on the most up-to-date information and educate them on how to prepare for it.
Equipped with both operational experience and knowledge of the regulations, Becky’s exceptional expertise is unprecedented and is what sets EP apart as the go-to source for all payroll tax questions.
Payroll tax is a critical step of the production process requiring accurate preparation and the right application of the law. With Becky and EP’s full team of payroll specialists on your side, rest easy knowing your cast and crew are in safe hands and set up for success.
In the meantime, whether you’re just starting to prepare for a production or already filming, here’s are a few pieces of advice from Becky:
- Consider the final tax form someone is going to receive. If you’re creating a contract for a new vendor, crew or cast member, ask yourself, how am I going to do the final reporting on them? Is it going to be a W2 or 1099? Often, it’s thrilling to start a new production, but if you don’t think about the paperwork that will happen at the end, you may end up with a nasty surprise and extra work when you get there.
- Sign up to get emails from the IRS about payroll taxes and payroll. This is a great way to maintain that constant level of learning. Remember, it’s important to keep in mind the end game of a production. You can sign up for the IRS email updates here to get the latest on payroll tax developments.
- Don’t fix it in post. If you’re in the middle of a production and realize you may have inaccurate payroll paperwork, act fast and get in touch with Becky and her team. She can help work with you to fix errors before it becomes too late.
- Get a free tax calculation from EP. Before your production starts setting up escrow accounts and paying out advances, call EP and ask what taxes need to be withheld based on your filming location. EP payroll specialists can do the calculation -- even if you haven’t joined as a client with EP yet. Start your production with a confident step in the right direction!