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

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.

With one week left before the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) takes effect, we have been fielding a lot of questions about how, or if, it applies to businesses here in Lancaster. Here are three questions to help you determine if you should worry about the GDPR.

  1. Who does it apply to?

It is easy to think that businesses here in the U.S. need not worry about the EU’s data protection laws unless you have stores or employees in Europe. But the GDPR’s reach is much broader than that. If you have the data of an EU citizen or use a service located in Europe, then the GDPR probably applies to you. Here are a few examples where the GDPR applies:

  • You send email blasts and some recipients are in England (yes, England is still in the EU… for now!).
  • You have a digital list of mailing addresses to send out physical mail and some recipients of that mail are in Italy.
  • You use an online marketing service that processes your clients’ data on servers in Germany.
  1. What data is protected?

Okay, okay. So I have contacts in the EU on my mailing list. But names and addresses aren’t protected, right? Wrong. Unlike many U.S. laws, such as Pennsylvania’s Data Breach Notification Act, the GDPR is very broad in its definition of protected information. For example, under Pennsylvania law you need a name combined with some sensitive piece of data, like a social security number or bank account, before the law applies. But the GDPR applies to any identifying information. This includes names, email addresses, physical addresses, and social media names, plus all the sensitive stuff you would expect like financial and medical information. Continue Reading Three Questions to Determine if You Need to Worry About the GDPR

* House Bill 595 was signed by Governor Tom Wolf on Monday, May 7, 2018.  The Bill becomes effective on Wednesday, July 6.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed House Bill 595, which is expected to be signed by Governor Wolf.  This Bill gives a process for deciding disputes in Condominium and Homeowners’ Associations.  There are a few things that every Association should know about this new requirement.  They are:

  • Most Associations need to adopt bylaws or rules and regulations that establish Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedures. This includes procedures for disputes between two or more unit owners and/or between a unit owner and the Association.
  • A “unit owner in good standing” can file a Complaint with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection for a violation of the Act relating to meetings, quorums, voting, proxies, and Association records. Previously, this option was available only to disputes over Association financial records.
  • A “unit owner in good standing” is someone who has no past due assessments. So a unit owner that is behind on their assessments cannot file a Complaint with the Bureau of Consumer Protection.  Except that if the unpaid assessments are related to a Complaint filed with the Bureau of Consumer Protection, then the unit owner is in good standing regardless of unpaid assessments.
  • A unit owner cannot file a Complaint with the Bureau of Consumer Protection until he or she has exhausted the ADR procedure or at least 100 days after the unit owner started the Alternative Dispute Resolution procedure. If there is no ADR procedure, the unit owner can go straight to the Bureau.
  • Finally, if a unit owner has a dispute with the Association and wins, he or she may be entitled to an award of costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

These additions to the Uniform Condominium Act and the Uniform Planned Communities Act are intended to help owners and Associations settle their differences without going to court.  In order to do this, Associations will need to take some steps to prepare themselves: Continue Reading Alternate Dispute Resolution Comes to Association Communities (Whether they want it or not)

Our favorite coworking space, The Candy Factory, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners has officially announced that they are teaming up to create a technology incubator in Lancaster City. The formal announcement can be seen in this Lancaster Online article: State-backed incubator for small, new tech businesses in Lancaster County to open March 29.

Last month, Brandon Harter and I attended a sneak preview headlined by Steve Fafel, Director of Business Development and Portfolio Manager for Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP). He introduced BFTP’s role as a state-funded economic development group helping early-stage technology and technology-related companies in Pennsylvania. It does this by providing direct financial resources along with indirect resources like mentoring, facilitating connections, and professional support. Mr. Fafel emphasized that encouraging and helping these entrepreneurs is better for all residents of Lancaster County, as it helps combat issues such as an aging population leading to decreased tax revenue over time, and a population that, for the seventh year in a row, has seen more households leave Lancaster County than move in. Continue Reading The Candy Factory Teams up with Ben Franklin Technology Partners in Lancaster City

Photo credit: JCT(Loves)Streisand* on Visual hunt / CC BY-NDWhen you think of Barbra Streisand, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it a career spanning six decades, including ten Grammy Awards, five Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, and more? The unique spelling of her first name? Is it her first album, titled (you guessed it!) The Barbra Streisand Album? Who could forget about her role in Meet the Fockers as Roz Focker. For me, the first thing that comes to mind is actually none of those things. And I’ll stop summarizing Barbra’s Wikipedia page now.

I would argue that no matter which of Barbra’s many talents you are most impressed with, as a business owner, the top association with Barbra Streisand should be the Streisand Effect. The Streisand Effect is “the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.” It stems from an incident where Barbra Streisand attempted to stop photographs of her house in Malibu, California, from being posted online, which unintentionally drew more attention to the photograph. You can read more about the Streisand Effect here.

Understanding the Streisand Effect is important when evaluating how to publicly respond to negative information about you or your business because it’s possible that taking certain actions could actually make the problem worse. It is inevitable that you will encounter conflict, whether it be with unhappy customers, competitors, disgruntled employees, or maybe you inadvertently get caught up in a conspiracy theory, such as Pizzagate. Negative information about your business may be posted online, or you could hear through the grapevine that so-and-so has been talking about you out in the community. Continue Reading What Would Barbra Do? A Business Lesson from Barbra Streisand

As an avid podcast listener, one of my favorite year-end activities is reading through the “best of” lists of the best podcasts and episodes of the year. Below are a few of my favorite lists of favorites (meta, right?) to get you started:

The Atlantic – The 50 Best Podcasts of 2017

Vulture – The 10 Best Podcasts of 2017

Vulture – The 10 Best Podcast Episodes of 2017

IndieWire – The 50 Best Podcast Episodes of 2017

My typical approach is to review the lists and their descriptions, then add episodes that sound interesting to a new playlist in my preferred podcast app, Overcast.

This year, I thought I’d share my own list of some of my favorite podcasts: Continue Reading My 2017 Podcast Picks