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.

* 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)

I recently wrote about a trend in Pennsylvania case law that has permitted short-term vacation rentals, such as Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and others, in otherwise residential neighborhoods. In each of these cases, a homeowner rented out their single-family residential dwelling to vacationers, the municipality claimed the short-term rental was a violation of the Zoning ordinance, and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court said that the short-term rentals were still residential uses, not hotels or tourist homes.  All of these cases said that if the municipality wanted to prohibit short-term vacation rentals, they needed to specifically and unquestionably prohibit that use.  Continue Reading How Can Associations Deal With Renters – Either Short Or Long Term?

I had the pleasure of attending the 2017 general membership meeting for the BIA of Lancaster County at the Inn at Leola Village.  The featured speaker for the event was Dr. Robert Dietz, the chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.  Dr. Dietz gave a detailed status report about the state of the building industry today, and some projections for the near future.  Most of Dr. Dietz’s discussion centered on one main theme:  there are not enough single family homes to meet today’s demand.  He spent time discussing why this is happening and the effects it could have over the next few years.  Continue Reading Notes from the 2017 Annual Building Industry Association County Meeting

The Today show announced this week that Matt Lauer has been fired after nearly 24 years on the show following an allegation made by a colleague of “inappropriate sexual behavior.”  I won’t bother linking to any of the news stories as you’ve probably already seen quite a few on this subject.  What made this story more shocking was that Lauer’s termination came less than 48 hours after the allegation was made.  This swift reaction demonstrates how attitudes in the public arena regarding workplace misconduct are beginning to shift.  But power can be exploited at all levels, which is why it’s imperative that every business owner, large or small, is aware of the laws and their responsibility to maintain a workplace that is free of sexual harassment.  An Associated Press article posted on Lancaster Online this morning discusses how Failing to address harassment allegations can cost employers.

This blog is the first in a series focusing on sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace.  Follow up posts will look at what’s important from the employer’s view, the employee’s and that of the accused.  As we become more comfortable having open discussion about workplace conduct, employers and employees need to learn more about this problem.   A key starting point for this discussion is the understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment. Continue Reading Employers and Employees: Do You Understand the Law and Sexual Harassment?

When you think of a document drafted by an attorney, what do you expect? Crisp, clean prose that conveys its meaning in as few words as possible? Probably not. Large walls of incomprehensible text that no one (maybe not even the lawyer) has read carefully? Sounds more like it.

In the legal profession we refer to these regularly used blocks of text as “boilerplate” language (although boilerplate can also refer to blocks of frequently used computer code). The term boilerplate comes from the similarity between the curved steel used to make boilers and the curved plates that printed newspapers in the early 1900s. Boilerplate legal language often covers repeatedly used topics like the court where disputes will be resolved  or indicating that an agreement may be signed electronically. Continue Reading Boilerplate Language – What is it Good For? (Absolutely somethin’?)