Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Telecommuting: A Reasonable Accommodation?

A recent analysis of telecommuting growth and trends found that between 13 and 30 million Americans may be working from home at least one day a week.

Employers may not realize that employees who work remotely may impact the organization's responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission guidelines, allowing a disabled employee to work from home may be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

The Employment Law Lookout blog has some good tips for employers who need to evaluate these reasonable accommodation requests:

So how does an employer decide whether working from home can be a “workable” accommodation? The answer lies with the essential job functions and their application in practice. 

First, identify the essential functions of the position. The job description is usually a good place to start – but make sure it is accurate. Second, decide whether some or all of those functions can be performed at home.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Detroit's Bankruptcy and Your Charitable Donations

Last month, federal proceedings began to determine whether the city of Detroit is eligible to file for bankruptcy. As part of the city’s process to review its assets, Detroit hired the renowned auction house Christie’s to appraise the priceless works of art by Picasso, Monet, Rembrandt, and others housed at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

This action is controversial because it could lead to an art sale and a potential violation of ethical guidelines prohibiting a museum from deaccessioning – selling art from its collection - for any purpose other than acquiring more art. Institutions who violate these guidelines risk losing accreditation and creating controversy in the art world.

Aside from affecting a museum’s collection, Detroit’s move is also extremely relevant to clients or donors. Clients often donate art to museums to meet their tax or estate planning goals, or simply to improve their community. Detroit’s bankruptcy filing is another warning that it is essential to have a carefully drafted agreement before donating property to a museum.

Most art is donated without strings or explicit constraints on sales, so a clearly written document ensures that the donor’s wishes are known and that the museum will abide by those wishes. For example, agreements may explicitly say that a particular piece may never be sold or may never be sold for operating expenses of the institution.

Attorneys and donors should also inquire about a museum’s deaccessioning policies. Since Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, the DIA has amended its deed of gifts to clearly state that the donated work can only be sold to buy more art. But most institutions are not so clear, relying only on ethical guidelines.

As museums face financial difficulties and courts may be more likely to allow the sale of donated artifacts, traditional ethical guidelines may no longer be enough to prohibit a sale. Attorneys and donors would be wise to seek additional protections.

Friday, November 15, 2013

New Markets Tax Credit Set to Expire

An important tax incentive for investments in economically distressed neighborhoods is set to expire at the end of 2013.

The New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) is designed to increase the flow of capital and spur investment and job creation in communities with high unemployment and other measures of economic distress. The NMTC provides private investors with a 39 percent federal tax credit for investments made in businesses or economic development projects in some of the most distressed communities in the nation.

Since 2003, NMTC investments have directly created over 350,000 jobs -- including more than 40,000 in Ohio – and leveraged $55 billion in capital investment to credit-starved businesses in communities with high poverty and unemployment rates. In Columbus, for example, the NMTC helped investors purchase land and construct a grocery store in a distressed neighborhood.

Legislation sponsored by Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) is currently pending in Congress to make the NMTC permanent. S. 1133, The New Markets Tax Credit Act of 2013, would extend the Credit indefinitely by making it a permanent part of the Internal Revenue Code, and enhance the potential impact of the Credit by increasing the annual NMTC allocation. However, Congress must pass the legislation before the end of the year in order for the NMTC to continue.

Learn more about the credit or congressional efforts to extend it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Comprehensive Tax Reform Unlikely Before 2015

Experts at this week’s American Institute of Certified Public Accountants National Tax Conference predicted that Congress is unlikely to pass comprehensive tax reform legislation in the near future despite ongoing positive discussions.

The House and Senate tax-writing committees are on track to produce bipartisan tax reform legislation that will receive lawmakers’ approval, but it is unlikely to occur until the next Congress, said tax experts on November 4. Speaking at the AICPA National Tax Conference, Donald R. Longano, former Democratic chief tax counsel to the House Ways and Means Committee, said tax reform is “more likely to come to fruition in 2015,” despite the intense activity going on behind the scenes. 

Observers also predicted that lawmakers would not extend $64 billion in energy and business tax provisions scheduled to expire at the end of 2013.

Any proposals not enacted into law by the end of 2014 would have to be reintroduced in the 114th Congress in January 2015.

Read the full report from the CCH Group Blog.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Franchise Agreements, Part 2

In addition to carefully reviewing a franchise agreement, a potential franchisee has much more information to examine before purchasing a franchise.

Federal law requires that a franchisor provide detailed written disclosures to a potential franchisee. These disclosures include information on franchise fees, obligations of the franchisee, and more.

Ohio law also governs franchise relationships. In 2013, the Ohio legislature updated the Business Opportunity Purchasers Protection Act, which regulates many franchise agreements in the state. Similar to the federal rule, Ohio also requires detailed disclosures to the franchisee. Ohio also allows franchisees to sue the franchisor for damages or a rescission of the agreement, along with other opportunities for relief.

The Federal Trade Commission, Ohio State Bar Association, and Attorney General Mike Dewine have more answers for potential franchisees.