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The Professional Linguist Perspective on Independent Contracting Report

Posted By The Association of Language Companies, Friday, May 12, 2017

Walnut, CA , May 10, 2017– US tax authorities have shown increasing interest in how professional linguists—interpreters and translators—conduct their business. Audits and penalties have been levied against many businesses in the US which contract for services with these linguists under an independent contractor arrangement.

A recent proposal was made to require all linguists to work only as employees, not as independent contractors. The key concern seems to be whether these independent small business people are being manipulated and misclassified in an effort to avoid paying taxes. The remedy would potentially force linguists to make duplicate tax payments across multiple employers, raising their cost of doing business. Companies working with these linguists would potentially bear the burden of higher employment taxes, reporting fees and other costs related to additional headcount.

InterpreterEd.com has conducted an independent, national survey of professional linguists to determine their perspectives on this proposal. The findings of this study are contained in the report “The Professional Linguist Perspective on Independent Contracting.”

The major findings of this study include:

  1. Nearly 80% of professional linguists perform work under an independent contractor arrangement.
  2. Nearly 90% of professional linguists feel it is important that they have the option to work as an independent contractor.
  3. Over 90% of professional linguists had more than one client during 2016.
  4. Freedom to choose assignments, a flexible schedule and freedom to set prices were the top benefits cited by professional linguists for being an independent small business person.

As one respondent noted:

“There is no reason for interpreters or translators to be treated as employees unless they decide to work for one client or one agency only and enter into an employment relationship. We are professionals who should have complete control over our own business.”

View the complete study report.

Download a printable PDF of the study report.

 

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ASTM Vote Status

Posted By The Association of Language Companies, Monday, May 8, 2017

Dear friends and colleagues,
 
On the subject of industry standards, the most important agenda item that I’m aware of is the status of the ASTM foundation document.
 
In light of this, I cannot overstate the importance of supporting our initiative for a new standard. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have contributed to the standard, whether by assisting with the drafting process, voting in support of the standard, or simply by getting involved with the ASTM.
 
As I write this, we still remain one vote shy of the 90% threshold needed to move the standard forward. Efforts are ongoing to garner that vote, and I am optimistic. By the time the ALC meets in Miami on May 17th, we should know definitively if we have succeeded in passing that threshold. If we do succeed, we hope to ballot a final version of the standard starting on May 17th. This stage of balloting requires a 60% affirmative vote, and I encourage you to assist in that effort.
 
In the event that we are unsuccessful in reaching the 90% threshold, we will re-focus our energies on balloting a revised standard, and I look forward to your participation in that effort. Though I personally won’t be able to attend the Miami meeting due to a schedule conflict, I’m confident that my colleagues Kathleen Diamond, Susan Amarino and Bill Rivers will be successful in carrying us forward in this ongoing process. Thanks in advance for your active support.
 
Please note: there will be an ASTM meeting at the ALC conference on May 17th at 1pm. Consult your registration packet for the exact location.
 
If you have any questions about the standard, or about joining the ASTM, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at vhertz@accreditedlanguage.com. Meanwhile, I wish everyone safe travels to Miami!
 
 
Regards,
 
Victor
 
 
Victor Hertz
President
Accredited Language Services
15 Maiden Lane (Suite 300)
New York, NY 10038-4011
p. (212) 766-4111
f.  (212) 349-0964
vhertz@accreditedlanguage.com
Celebrating Our 35th Year in Business

 

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ASTM F43 Standard--We Need Your Vote!

Posted By Administration, Friday, April 14, 2017

Dear Fellow ALC Members and Travelers,

I want to express my sincere pleasure in having met so many of you in Sonoma at the recent UNConference. As my maiden missive on the subject of industry standards, let me focus on the work currently proceeding in the ASTM.

What Is the ASTM?
For those who aren’t familiar with the ASTM, it's essentially a standards-setting body in the United States that acts (among other things) as a feeder organization to the ISO. The ASTM helps coordinate efforts to codify standards, both in manufacturing and service industries, in the U.S. and around the world.

The F43 committee, of which I have been a member for more than six years, is that section within the ASTM that focuses on the language industry. The membership of the F43 committee includes company owners, CEOs, practitioners, linguists and users of translation and interpreting services (such as US government agencies and private clients), as well as individuals with a general interest in language and linguistics.

Goals of the F43 Standard
For much of the time I've been involved with the ASTM, I and my colleagues have been working on a draft standard for language companies which will accomplish two major goals: 1) help professionalize companies within our industry, and 2) provide some differentiation within the industry among companies in order to help clients select who will best serve their needs.

In order to meet our first goal, the standard aims to establish a baseline definition of a “Language Services Company,” as distinct from an individual provider of interpreting or translation. To create, if you will, an aspirational set of criteria that can guide new and emergent companies in the language service sector.

The second goal is providing a mechanism to help clients decide whom to use. If successful, it follows that those companies that meet the proposed standard can justify a higher price for their services, since they will have proven their value-added proposition.

It is my belief (and the raison d’être of the F43 committee) that operational standards will offer mutual benefits to both the companies who adhere to them and the customers who purchase our services.

Where Do We Stand?
So after six years and more than two dozen drafts, which I and others have written (and re-written), where are we today? As of mid-April, we have garnered approval from the vast majority of committee members for a new standard. We are in fact mandated under the ASTM guidelines to achieve 90% affirmative votes within the full committee for the standard in question.

I had hoped, as of this writing, that we would have cleared the 90% hurdle.

However, we are still one vote shy of the 90% threshold required for us to move the standard forward. 

The critical issue is the metric for the size of the entity and the experience of the entity to meet de minimis standards. The current draft requires that “during each of its three years of continuous operation, the LSC [Language Services Company] shall have grossed at least $100,000 per annum and/or an aggregate of $500,000… for the language services for which it is seeking certification.” 

The rationale for this requirement is to demonstrate that a company has the necessary experience to serve its clients. By meeting this benchmark, a company is assumed to have sufficiently developed procedures and methods that ensure a properly functioning company and a quality deliverable.

We hope to secure the one vote needed in the next week or two in time to unveil the newly-adopted standard at the ALC Annual Conference in Miami.

I urge all and sundry to please get involved with the ASTM, and I welcome your emails and/or phone calls.

If you wish to learn more about the process, or be involved in future projects to move our industry forward, please do not hesitate to email me at vhertz@accreditedlanguage.com.

Respectfully submitted,

Victor Hertz
President
Accredited Language Services
vhertz@accreditedlanguage.com

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2017 Legislative Session in the State of Washington

Posted By Administration, Friday, April 14, 2017

By Rick Antezana, Dynamic Language

The 2017 legislative session in the state of Washington has been a rollercoaster of a ride, and a fascinating one for language companies seeking clarity in the law when it comes to linguists and whether they can legally be classified as either independent contractors or employees.

As people in other states can attest to as well, there is a lot of confusion on the part of auditors from both state (usually L&I and ESD) and federal (IRS) agencies on this issue, and many language company owners have been the victims of audits implemented based on laws that were written without the language industry in mind. This lack of clarity has resulted in audit rulings that have put some companies out of business, and financially devastated others. Even Washington language companies that defended themselves with few or no findings against them, have ended up paying tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to protect their rights throughout a complicated and arbitrary process.

But a collective crossing of fingers is not the only way to deal with the murky legal situation that language companies find themselves in. Through the leadership of the late, great, Bill Graeper - founder of CLI - a bill was passed in the state of Oregon more than 15 years ago, exempting interpreters and translators from worker’s compensation and essentially solving the issue by making it very clear to state agencies and auditors how the law should be applied. Basically, with the passage of that bill, even less-than-competent auditors could no longer misinterpret the status of workers.

Fast forward to October of 2016, at an ALC Roundtable hosted by my company, Dynamic Language at our offices in Seattle, Elena Vasiliev of Universal Language Services, took inspiration from Bill Graeper's success. She presented the idea of collaborating as a group of language companies to pass similar legislation to the Oregon bill, in Washington state. Together, we all agreed to put together a coalition, and invest money and time into this endeavor, the success of which would have a hugely positive impact on all language companies in the state.

In November, we were able to engage with an experienced, and highly recommended lobbyist that would take the lead on every aspect of this effort. Unfortunately, as we found out from her, issues like this have the highest chance of success if you can start the process well ahead of the legislative session (more like summertime), so we were operating at a time deficit right out of the gate. Another challenging factor is that our issue is one that doesn’t come without opposition, and in particular, the state of Washington has an Interpreter’s Union which immediately came out against the bill from the start.

We did make quick progress during January and February, putting together a coalition of 20 language companies, and getting sponsors for our bill in both the

house and senate. And although the house version of the bill died fairly quickly in the Democrat-leaning house of representatives, we were able to get the bill heard in the senate committee on labor, where Sandy Dupleich, Vic Markus and others testified in favor of its passage. Their compelling testimony and some strategic lobbying by a number of coalition members led to successful passage out of the committee level, and onto the senate floor where with a vote of 30-18 (with one abstention), the bill passed.

According to our lobbyist, Vicki Christophersen, with a Republican-leaning senate, this result was not unexpected, though it was fortunate that we were able to have some bipartisan support on an issue that was actively being opposed by organized labor. Needless to say, because of the interpreter’s union being opposed to the bill, all of the state’s unions came out in opposition as well.

This is where the situation became more challenging as the bill, SB 5233, moved through the senate to the house earlier this month. Our coalition focused our phone calls, emails and meetings on the various representatives who could help convince the house labor committee to hear testimony, and eventually vote on the bill. We were surprised and very pleased when the committee did decide to allow testimony to be heard on SB 5233, and Sandy, Elena, and myself ended up giving our respective thoughts on the issue, and the opposition (including both the union, and a representative from L&I) did as well.

Unfortunately, there was too much political influence from the collective unions this year, and so the bill never came to a vote in the committee. And for 2016, it became official this week that it will not pass. However, we now have the rest of the year to get ourselves more organized, and to take the steps we wish we could have taken last summer to connect with, educate, and influence our legislators. With the continued efforts of our coalition and lobbyists, we plan to make our political presence felt, and we will get the bill over the finish line in the 2018 legislative session.

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The Climate for the Language Industry in the New Administration

Posted By William P. Rivers Ph.D., Friday, April 14, 2017

Bill Rivers
Executive Director, Joint National Committee for Languages


The question I’m asked most often goes like this: “What will the Trump Administration mean for our industry?” There are a few different versions of this question, depending on the vertical, the location, or the inclinations of the person asking it, but as a businessperson, change and the potential for instability is always uncomfortable. The short answer to the question – that it’s far too early to tell, and let’s keep calm and carry on – isn’t very satisfying. But I think that a careful analysis, coupled with a deep breath or two, should give us a more than a bit of optimism about the next few years for our industry. Change, of course, is the real constant, and we’ll talk about that, too, a little further on.

From what I gather from industry leaders and clients, as well as outside experts, is that the ground conditions for the industry as a whole haven’t changed much at all. Of course, macroeconomic factors still matter – are the US and global economies growing, what does monetary policy look like, and so forth – but historically, we’ve been pretty well insulated from downturns. This has to do with two key factors, inherent to our space: first, technology is the accelerant for growth and efficiency in localization, translation, and increasingly in interpreting. Our workflows become ever more efficient, to be sure, but more importantly, technology continues to open up exponentially more content to the high-touch, high-value added services we provide. Secondly and concomitantly, we’re expanding into new verticals in the broader economy, as the client side sees the value we bring. Online retail, point of service financial and insurance, medical device trials, customer opinion and commentary on social media – and many more verticals have come into our clientele.

As to areas which might be perceived as more politicized, in particular health care and social services, the basics of the situation have not changed. The 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Affordable Care Act (and §1557 thereof) are still the law of the land. More importantly, as social service and health care providers see more value added from language services – better outcomes, higher levels of patient satisfaction, and so forth – the legal framework mandating language services becomes less important. At the moment, the Joint National Committee for Languages sees no areas of immediate concern here; moreover, we’ve heard from LSPs in this space that growth continues.

That’s not to say that we should rest easy. Some of our verticals may well be under duress, such as those servicing international negotiations, as overseas visitors reconsider coming to the States. And, of course, Federal contracting rules – or more exactly, the inappropriate use of Federal contracting – bedevils us.  Unequal enforcement of the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contracting Act of 1965 (SCA), erroneous prevailing wage rates under the SCA, inappropriate use of contracting vehicles such as Lowest Price Technically Acceptable and reverse auctions, and the national mess of fifty-five different regimes for independent contractor classification are all perennial challenges for our industry. What the Trump Administration offers in these areas is a positive opportunity to address these issues in the Congress and the US Department of Labor, and we’re moving aggressively to do so. We’ve an informal partnership with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, whose help has been invaluable at the state level, and we’re working with the Small Business Committee in the House of Representatives on the whole range of contracting and regulatory issues laid out above. We will raise awareness – we’re still the biggest industry that nobody’s heard of – through briefings and meetings this summer, as well as working on legislative approaches to the thornier challenges –in particular the 1099/W-2 issue.

What you need to do is to stay informed! Sign up for the JNCL-NCLIS newsletter at www.languagepolicy.org for news on policy and advocacy; follow us on twitter @jnclinfo, and follow all of ALC’s feeds. Second, as always, bring value to our clients and passion to what we do. The Language Enterprise has always been dynamic, innovative, and forward-looking. These qualities will serve us well in the years ahead.

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