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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Jan. 27, 2006

Benefits, payroll documents are online

by Anne Krapfl

Competing with your brother-in-law to see who can get tax forms to the IRS first? Thinking about reserving a week in the Ozarks next month and need confirmation you have the vacation to cover it?

You're in luck.

A handful of employee-specific documents have been placed online, at AccessPlus, in the last few weeks. So, if you have Internet access and can't wait for an answer, help yourself to it.

From the Benefits office

Whether you're covered by the ISU Plan or the Merit plan, you can find these documents online (click on the "employee" tab and "benefits info" in left column):

  • Participation Statement (precedes open enrollment)
  • Confirmation Statement (following open enrollment)

Benefits manager Tim Ashley said the aim is to improve service to employees and reduce costs (printing and postage).

"This gives people the opportunity to look at their benefits anytime," Ashley said. "It also assures us they can get the information. They don't always receive the paper copies we mail out.

"And as a former auditor, I just don't like the fact that I have no way to confirm whether the paper copy gets to the right place," he confessed.

The challenge, he said, will be to get people to use the electronic documents as their first source. Paper versions of the statements will be mailed at least one more year, he said.

At the request of the Professional and Scientific Council, Ashley's staff also has developed an electronic version of the Personal Statement of Benefits. The document shows the university's total investment in an employee (salary and benefits) based on payroll data in the month it's prepared -- which may not mirror actual investment in a calendar year.

The paper version actually hadn't been printed for the last several years. Ashley said the statements were being used for purposes not intended -- and not accurate -- such as budget planning within units or preparing tax documents.

"It's the reason we include the disclaimer on the front of the statement, to try to prevent people from using the information in ways not intended," Ashley said.

A long-term goal is to develop a statement that reflects the actual value of salary and benefits received in a calendar year. "It's a ways off, but it would be really helpful to have," he said.

The electronic benefits documents are PDF files.

From the Payroll office

The payroll office put W-2 forms for calendar year 2005 online earlier this month. (In AccessPlus, click on the "employee" tab and "payroll info" in the left column.)

The motive, said payroll manager Doug Anderson, is similar: ease of use and cost savings in printing and mailing paper statements.

"We get back 500 to 1,000 W-2s every year," Anderson said, "mostly because people haven't kept their permanent addresses current in the system."

Even when the first copy reaches its destination, that may not be the end of it for Anderson's staff.

"It went through the washing machine, the dog ate it, we accidentally threw it away. We've heard just about everything," he said. A second copy is mailed in those unfortunate cases.

Paper versions of W-2s will be mailed this year. But Anderson said that when the system is running (probably for 2006 W-2s), employees will have to select a paper or electronic version, and not have access to both formats.

Monthly summaries of vacation and sick leave accrual and use have been available in the payroll section of AccessPlus for nearly two years (current month only). But since July, payroll staff have been able to compile the monthly reports. The system will store 18 months of leave history for employees to access.


"We get back 500 to 1,000 W-2s every year, mostly because people haven't kept their permanent addresses current in the system."

Doug Anderson