This post is part of our ongoing series exploring the impact of technology on legal issues.  For an introduction to the series and a collection of the posts in the series, check out this post.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog article about Facebook’s New Legacy Contact, wherein you can appoint someone to manage your account posthumously. When you fail to appoint someone, Facebook’s current policy allows your next of kin to only have partial access to the account in order to either turn it into an online memorial page or to delete it entirely.

It seems that the highest court in Germany has taken issue with this limited access for a legacy contact, having recently determined that a minor’s parents have the right to inherit their daughter’s Facebook account.  The parents of a 15 year old girl who passed away in 2012 sought access to her Facebook account in order to determine if her death was suicide.  Facebook refused, citing their Legacy Contact policy and concern for the privacy of the girl’s other contacts.  The Federal Court of Justice in Germany held that the account was similar to a person’s letters or private diary, both of which would pass on to a person’s heirs under German law. Continue Reading Germany Cracks Down on Facebook

In the summer of 2017, property tax assessments and assessment appeals were a big topic of discussion.  That is because 2017 marked the countywide reassessment for all properties.  The County Tax Assessment Appeal Board heard tens of thousands of assessment appeals.  Some of the appeals resulted in substantial savings for the property owners.

This blog article is a reminder that even if you did not appeal your property tax assessment in 2017, you can still appeal that assessment in 2018.  Appeals must be filed on or before August 1, 2018.

            Here are a few of the topics that this blog covered in 2017:

If you did not appeal your assessment in 2017, but you think that your assessment is wrong, you have another chance to reduce your property taxes.  If you wonder whether you should appeal, we would be happy to help.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial and Residential Real Estate, Land Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

Kathleen Krafft Miller is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University and regularly advises homeowners and individuals on legal matters ranging from tax assessment appeals to domestic relations matters and estate planning.

Lancaster County continues to be an attractive marketplace for entrepreneurs in the technology sector. Over the last few weeks, the below articles caught my eye as interesting examples of what Lancaster has to offer to growing companies:

$50,000 Big Idea contest for tech entrepreneurs names 7 finalists

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern PA have been investing big time in Lancaster, including this contest and the TechCelerator at the Candy Factory. This article highlights the finalists in the Big Idea competition – best of luck to them!

A vision for Lancaster as the Silicon Valley of social enterprise

As co-executive director of Assets (a nonprofit that promotes entrepreneurship as a means to combat poverty), Jonathan Coleman shares his ideas for how Lancaster could be a hub for benefit corporations.

NeuroFlow is heading to Lancaster to see if its biz model makes sense

A medical technology startup takes advantage of Lancaster’s Smart Health Innovation Lab, a joint venture between Aspire Ventures, Capital BlueCross, Clio Health and Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health.

Where American Politics Can Still Work: From the Bottom Up

New York Times opinion columnist Thomas L. Friedman writes about the revitalization of Lancaster from a “crime ridden ghost town” 20 years ago to a thriving community that serves as an example for other cities.

These articles are just a few examples of the resources available to businesses and entrepreneurs in Lancaster County. We’ve previously written about other options available here, here and here. Have questions about starting or growing your business in Lancaster County? Feel free to contact us.

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University Commonwealth School of Law and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs.

With all the uproar about Facebook’s use of our data and businesses bracing to deal with the EU’s GDPR, it is easy to forget there is no general obligation to protect your personal information. The Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision last week in Enslin v. Coca-Cola, et al. is the latest reminder of that fact.

Shane Enslin is a former employee of Coca-Cola. As part of his employment, he submitted, as we all do, personal information including his social security number. Coca-Cola discovered that one of its IT staffers was stealing company laptops and taking them home for his own use or giving them to others. Among the devices stolen were machines used by human resources employees that contained sensitive personal information, like Enslin’s social security number. After the devices were stolen, Enslin was the victim of identity theft. Continue Reading Third Circuit Avoids Ruling on a Duty to Protect Employees’ Personal Information

We have written a few articles about the changes to the Tax Code.  The change that many professionals are trying to figure out is the 20% deduction for individuals using a pass-through business entity such as a partnership, LLC, “S” corporation or sole proprietorship.  Code Section 199A is not just a minor change in already settled law.  It is a brand new concept.  Even the AICPA has requested – twice – that the IRS and Department of the Treasury provide guidance on the pass-through deduction.

There are a couple of key concepts that are building blocks to understanding Section 199A.  Some of these are:

  • The business must be a “qualified business.” A qualified business is anything that is not a “specified service trade or business.”  This means that service businesses such as accounting, actuaries, brokers, consultants and lawyers are not qualified businesses and cannot take advantage of the deduction.  Engineers and architects are qualified businesses, and the owners may use the deduction.

Of course, this exclusion has an exception.  If a business would otherwise be disqualified, but the taxpayer has a taxable income less than $207,500.00 for an individual ($415,000.00 for taxpayers filing a joint return), then the taxpayer may be eligible for the deduction.  In this case the deduction is phased out depending on how close the income is to that threshold amount.

  • The deductible amount requires a lot of calculation. The deduction that a taxpayer can take is the lesser of (A) 20% of the taxpayer’s business income or (B) the greater of either:  (i) 50% of the W-2 wages paid by the business; or (ii) the sum of 25% of the W-2 wages paid by the business plus 2.5% of the unadjusted basis of qualified property of the business.

But even this confusing definition has different qualifiers.  For example, qualified business income excludes net capital gain.  This means that the higher the ratio of net capital gain to taxable income, the lower the pass-through deduction.  The deduction favors companies with employees because 50% of the W-2 wages paid could be deductible.  On the other hand, if a company has few employees, but creates income through its depreciable assets (such as landlords), they can deduct up to 2.5% of the unadjusted basis of the property. Continue Reading Questions About the Tax Deduction for Pass-Through Income

What do robots and lawyers have in common? Although some might suggest there are a lot of less than stellar similarities, none of which apply to the fine attorneys of Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, of course, they are both now able to engage in successful public debate. That’s right, a robot computer took on two humans, including the 2016 Israeli national debate champion, and won!

The program, called Project Debater, was developed by IBM and exists as a freestanding black computer that’s roughly the height and width of a person. Project Debater participated in two debates in front of an audience of mostly journalists. At the conclusion of each debate, the audience was asked whether the debate swayed their opinion on the topic. While the humans won the debate on government subsidies for space exploration, Project Debater successfully changed the mind of nine audience members regarding an increased use of telemedicine, winning that debate.  Continue Reading Debating Robot Defeats Humans. Are Lawyers Next?

This post is part of our ongoing series exploring the impact of technology on legal issues. For an introduction to the series and a collection of the posts in the series, check out this post.

By now, everyone should be mindful of the dreaded “Reply All” feature (for the uninitiated: When is it appropriate to reply all? Mostly never). I have to agree, although “mostly never” might even be too often.

On a related note, did you ever accidentally hit “Send” before you’re ready? Me too. But I’ve adopted a new trick that might help you as well. When drafting a new email, the last information I add to the email are the recipients. That way, I’m paying particular attention to the autofill feature and making sure I’m ready to send and have the right people.

While sending email to unintended recipients remains a common problem, here are two more nuanced legal issues to consider relating to email: Continue Reading Email Woes

In a ruling issued yesterday, the United States Supreme Court held that states can require internet merchants to collect sales tax, even if they do not have a physical presence in that state. This overturned the previous rule from Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, which required collection and remittance of state sales tax when a retailer has a physical presence in the state. If sales tax was not collected through the transaction, the burden fell to consumers to report and remit use tax for out of state purchases.

Here’s a link to the full text of the opinion: South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., et al. In this case, South Dakota enacted a law that required all merchants to collect a 4.5% sales tax if they had more than 200 individual transactions in the state or have more than $100,000 in annual sales in the state.

As of now, the Court’s decision only paves the way for states to collect sales tax from merchants. Therefore, merchants should pay attention to actions by Congress and state legislatures on this issue to determine what their ongoing compliance obligations will be. As states begin to implement the Court’s ruling and require collection of sales tax, in the coming months consumers may notice an increasing number of retailers collecting sales tax for online purchases.

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University Commonwealth School of Law and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs.

When we think of grandparents, we often think of sweet older men and women who sneak candy from their purse to their grandsons or pull quarters out from behind the ears of the granddaughters. As a new parent, I know better than to call my mother “older,” but I am sure she will be sneaking my son candy from her purse as soon as he learns how to chew. In fact, she has already called dibs on giving him his first French fry!

Throughout our lives, many of us have been fortunate to enjoy traditional grandparent/grandchild relationships either as children running to the door when Pop Pop comes for a visit, as parents who are relieved when Nana volunteers to play with the baby to allow mom and dad to catch up on sleep, or as grandparents who look forward to spoiling their grandchildren and letting them do things Mom and Dad won’t.

However, it is becoming more and more common for grandparents to take on the non-traditional role of sole caregiver for their grandchildren. It is estimated that in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, there are 82,000 grandparents who act as “parent” to nearly 89,000 grandchildren. These numbers continue to increase as the opioid and heroin epidemic spreads and claims the competencies and lives of the parents who would otherwise be caring for their children.  Continue Reading Expansion of Grandparents’ Standing for Child Custody in PA

I have written a number of articles about whether a condominium or homeowner association (or apartment owner) needs to allow emotional support animalsDelta airlines new policy related to service and emotional support animals created some controversy and was heavily reported in national news.  As service and emotional support animals become more commonplace, questions keep coming up, and so associations need to be reminded of what to do when a resident wants to keep a support animal.

To review, there are two federal laws to follow:  the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”).  The ADA says that a service dog is permitted in all public places.  A service dog is an animal that is specially trained to perform a task that is directly related to a person’s disability.  Under the FHA, providers of housing – like a landlord of  condominium association – need to provide reasonable accommodations for assistance animals.  Unlike a service dog, an “assistance animal” does not need to be specially trained to perform a task.  They can provide only emotional support for a person with a disability.  The definition of assistance animal or emotional support animal is much broader than a service animal under the ADA. Continue Reading Are These Dogs Allowed: Yet Another Case on Emotional Support Animals