Posts Tagged ‘minnesota small business law’

Should you take advantage of a deferred compensation plan?

Monday, July 3, 2017 @ 11:07 AM
Author: Peter Brehm

Deferred compensation plans are a way for highly paid employees to save more money than their 401(k)’s typically allow for.  By deferring earned income, the employee is able to defer taxes until after retirement, when the employee’s tax bracket is more favorable.   This allows for individuals to supplement their income after retirement. The plan, however, comes with risks. While 401(k)’s are protected if the company faces financial struggles, nonqualified deferment plans are not.  If the employer goes bankrupt, the employee becomes an unsecured creditor of the company. Less than 50% of employees enter into this type of deferment plan. Each employer and employee must consider the risks and benefits carefully before establishing a deferred compensation plan.

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The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) has swiftly expanded across the country, and has already been enacted in 32 states including Minnesota in August 2016. The RUFADAA places the responsibilities of properly planning for digital property on estate professionals. A common misconception is that this law automatically allows fiduciaries access to review accounts. This simply is not true, and blanket digital executor language in the estate documents will not be recognized by site owners.

Personal accounts: Many recent changes.  In 1995, the average American had 10 traditional accounts (savings, checking, credit cards, merchant accounts, etc.).  Today, that same population has 130 different digital and traditional accounts.

Estate administration is undergoing a sea change. Digital assets are creating new challenges. I see more and more estate planning clients coming to me with an increasing number of personal accounts and they’re unclear what to do with them. Clients have everything from financial accounts to travel rewards programs to social and professional networks online with no method of managing them. There’s risk of any number of these accounts becoming hidden or forgotten during estate administration, leaving loved ones to deal with finding and closing them. I see personal representatives left with the task of re-opening and finalizing an estate they thought was settled.

Loved ones are left confused. Navigating the complex requirements of tracking down and notifying the myriad of personal accounts can be overwhelming and complicated. The multitude of accounts, lack of awareness of their existence and not knowing where to turn result in procrastination and avoidance. This can potentially become a breeding ground for identification theft and fraud. It’s an emotional and logistical nightmare leading to incomplete estate administration as well as potential liability.

The needs of our estate planning clients are changing. The proliferation of digital technology (and its adoption by all generations) is changing the role of the estate planning attorney. Legislation and regulation in this area are being introduced to guide estate planning attorneys. Our clients count on us for effective estate planning and administration. We are remiss in our responsibilities if we fail to be proactive in ensuring the proper handling of all types of accounts. Effective planning and peace of mind are critical but now must also include digital assets to complete their portfolio of off-line assets. My clients and my reputation demand more.

We need solutions. Clients aren’t aware of the impact hidden accounts may have on their estate nor do they have the resources available to properly plan for them. DCS provides me the opportunity to offer an efficient, cost effective way to keep track of and ultimately close or resolve accounts in the manner my clients wish.

Facts:

  • Non-account holders using passwords can be in violation of state and federal regulations.
  • Sharing passwords can encourage the breach of account holder agreement and is unsecure.
  • The custodian’s terms of agreement may prevail over a court order. Custodians determine approval for access to accounts. Once an account is closed, all account contents may no longer available. To ensure disclosure, consent must be clear & express by the living account holder.
  • Cash-value assets can be hidden almost anywhere, including online storage, email, e-commerce or even in a gaming account.
  • Americans 65 and older spend an average of 4+ hours daily online.

Fictions:

  • The estate is authorized to use the account holder’s password to access their digital account.
  • Recommending that clients provide passwords to friends and family is a best practices.
  • A court order will always give access to digital account contents.
  • Closing an account and account content requests are the same.
  • Digital assets can wait to be dealt with until the time of death. Only financial institutions hold cash-value
  • Digital estate management is just for younger

 

Fiduciaries that may be granted rights:

  • Personal Representatives;
  • Conservators;
  • Agents acting pursuant to a power of attorney;

Each of the above categories of fiduciaries is subject to different opt-in and default rules based on the presumed intent of the account holder and the applicability of other state and federal laws.

Under the Act, a personal representative is presumed to have access to all of the decedent’s digital assets unless that is contrary to the decedent’s will or to other applicable law. A conservator may access the assets pursuant to a court order. An agent acting pursuant to a power of attorney is presumed to have access to all of a principal’s digital assets not subject to the protections of other applicable law; if another law protects the asset, then the power of attorney must explicitly grant access. And a trustee may access any digital asset held by the trust unless that is contrary to the terms of the trust or to other applicable law.

 

Additional/Optional POA Clause:

_____   (N)           digital property management and transactions as defined in Minnesota Statutes, Section 523.24, or applicable Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.

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Alternative Financing for Small Businesses

Saturday, May 27, 2017 @ 10:05 AM
Author: Peter Brehm

Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD) is a network of nonprofits that provide small loans and financial advisement to small business owners in the metro area, in addition to affordable housing development. MCCD has loaned over $6.7 million to over 550 entrepreneurs for start-up and expansion projects. There are five focus areas that MCCD works with. The programs include advising, lending, emerging leaders, and owning a home. Requirements for each program and possible membership can be found at www.mccdmn.org. The website also provides ways for community members to get involved or receive the weekly “Rundown” newsletter.

 

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Succession Planning Workshops

Monday, January 16, 2017 @ 11:01 AM
Author: Peter Brehm

SCORE-Workshop-Succession Planning Series flyer

Together with SCORE and Northeast Bank, on March 2, 2017, and March 16, 2017, Business Law Center will be hosting two seminars geared towards helping small business owners protect their business, and improve the value of their business.

In Session 1, Succession Planning – Preparing to Leave Your Business, you will learn:

• Why should I have a plan?
• What happens to my business when I die?
• What happens if my partner dies, gets disabled, or divorced?
• How to get my business ready to sell?
• Could I sell my business now? And retire?
• How do I protect my family?
• How do I minimize taxes?

In Session 2, What’s Your Business Worth? you will learn:

• How can I determine the value of my business?
• What is the value of my goodwill?
• How do I decide how much insurance I need?
• What are my partners’ shares worth?
• Can I buy them out?
• Can my employees afford to buy me out?

For more information, and to register, you can go to SCORE’s website HERE or you can contact our office.

Peter Brehm

952-943-3904

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Preparing Your Business for Sale

Thursday, January 12, 2017 @ 10:01 AM
Author: Peter Brehm

I have been working with small businesses for nearly 20 years, and I can’t say how often I have seen sellers leave money on the table because they hadn’t prepared their business for sale.  People buying small businesses are usually looking to buy a job, and are seeking confidence that they can make your business work for them.  The more turn-key the business, the better it will be for the buyer.  Which is why franchises are so successful. 

If you think you will be selling your business one day (and you probably will), here are some basic steps you can take to help make your business easier to sell, and make it more valuable.

1.      Eliminate the Black Box.  Obviously, buyers want to know if your business is making money, but presenting a potential buyer with historic EBITDA, revenue, or cash flow numbers is not enough. Buyers aren’t buying your profits from last year, they are buying the profits they might earn in the future.  If they don’t feel confident that they will be able to replicate what you earned, they will pay less for your business.  Be prepared to explain not just what your business made, but exactly how sales, marketing, equipment, suppliers, customers, intellectual property, and labor contributed to your profits.  You are, after all, the world’s foremost expert on your business, and should be able to explain how it runs in detail.  When buyers can see how your business makes money, they will be more confident that they can make money too. 

2.      Eliminate You from Your Business.  Think about your business as a money printing engine.  If a buyer purchased that engine, would it run efficiently without you, or are you the only one that knows how to prime it, or where the throttle is?  As a small business owner, of course you are vital to your business, but you must take steps demonstrating to a potential buyer that the engine will run efficiently without you.  Help you buyer visualize your business without you.  Identify key employees, and start delegating responsibilities to those people.  Prepare a transition plan that explains how you will help train and mentor your buyer in your business.  Communicate to your buyer exactly how he will be able to retain your key customers, vendors, and employees. 

3.      Clean up Your Books I.  When you own a small business, and there is enough money coming in to cover your expenses and pay expected profits, there is little incentive to keep great looking books.  But your profit and loss statement (P&L) and balance sheet say a lot about your business, and speak volumes about your attention to detail.  When a client presents me with financial statements prepared by a professional accounting firm, my confidence in those numbers goes up.  If all they have are tax returns, or some hastily assembled P&L, my confidence goes down, and I will generally advise my client to either walk away, or make some ridiculously low offer.  With the advent of QuickBooks, and other online accounting packages, there is simply no good reason why you should have bad books.  Hire a good bookkeeper or accountant, and get your books in order.   

4.      Clean up Your Books II.  I get it, you are a small business owner and you want some of the perks of owning a small business.  So, you decide to buy a building and have your company pay (mildly excessive) rent to you.  You hired your son to be your bookkeeper for $75,000 a year in stead of paying a bookkeeper $10,000.  You bought a company condo in Florida, and decided that the company could really use a yacht and a Porsche 918 to run (business related) errands.  I’m not here to judge (well maybe I am a little), but if those expenses are on your books when you present your P&L to a buyer, you are shooting yourself in the foot.  When you are getting ready to sell, stop thinking about reducing your tax bill (and living like a Rockefeller), and clean up your books.  Get a real estate agent to give you’re the market value of your rent.  Reduce salaries paid to family members to market rate (or just hire someone else).  Eliminate all non-business related expenses from your business.  Your books should reflect the most efficient operation of your business to get you a better return.

5.      Make Your Business Shiny.  Quick question:  who has more leverage, a person who looks like they must sell, or a person who looks like they don’t have to sell?  Years ago, I worked with a man who owned a restaurant and decided that he was going leave his business in a couple years.   So, for close to three years he spent next to nothing to fix his equipment, his furniture, his fixtures or anything else.  When buyer came around and saw the mess that was waiting for them (torn carpets, ovens on their last legs, dated furniture, and worn out fixtures), it directly reduced what they were willing to pay.  More importantly, the buyers knew that the seller had to sell, otherwise he would have to absorb the costs of updating the FF&E.  He had painted himself in a corner.  When you present your business for sale, it should look like you could run it for another 10 years if you wanted to.  Operate your business as if you will never sell, until you do.  Keep your vital equipment in good repair, replace worn fixtures, keep employment agreements up to date, enforce non-compete agreements, protect your copyrights and trademarks, and update your vendor and customer agreements. 

There are, of course, more things you can do, and each industry has other steps that might be useful. But, if you can take simple steps that will give potential buyers confidence that they can replicate the success of your business, you will  be more likely to sell your business and get paid fairly for it.

Peter C. Brehm, J.D., LL.M., CVA

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DOL Overtime Rule Changes on Hold

Wednesday, November 23, 2016 @ 10:11 AM
Author: Steven Ness

U.S. Department of Labor’s new unlegislated rules (to become effective on December 1) regarding overtime pay were indefinitely halted.  On November 22, 2016, a federal judge temporarily blocked the Department of Labor from implementing and enforcing a final rule that would have altered the way workers are classified as exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  A temporary sigh of relief for many small and medium sized businesses with “hybrid executives” who perform a variety of tasks/functions.

While this means the implementation of the rule has been delayed, and it will not go into effect on December 1, 2016 as expected, it could easily be implemented in the near future. Proactive employers that already implemented policies consistent with the new rules may have a difficult time reversing those new policies.  It is always prudent, if unsure, to consult legal counsel for additional guidance.

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Tax Savings for Companies Selling in Foreign Countries

Friday, February 1, 2013 @ 01:02 PM
Author: Steven Ness

An Interest Charge Domestic International Sales Corporation (commonly called an “IC-DISC”) is a unique tax savings entity, available to U.S. companies that have substantial sales to foreign countries, which includes sales to Canada and Mexico. An IC-DISC reduces tax liability by converting a portion of export income, which is taxable at ordinary income rates as high as 35% into qualified dividends generally taxed at 15%.

In short, an IC-DISC is a tax-exempt, domestic “paper” C corporation set up to receive commissions on the company’s export sales. The IC-DISC must have its own bank account, keep separate accounting records and file U.S. tax returns. But this separate entity need not have an office, employees or tangible assets nor is it required to perform any services.

To qualify as and IC-DISC a U.S. corporation must:

1. Be incorporated in one of the 50 states or District of Columbia;
2. File an election with the IRS to be treated as an IC-DISC for federal tax purposes (the application can be found at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1120icd.pdf);
3. Maintain a minimum capitalization of $2,500;
4. Have a single class of stock;
5. Meet a qualified export receipts test and a qualified export assets test;

Meeting a qualified export receipts test and a qualified export assets test indicates that at least 95% of an IC-DISC’s gross receipts and assets must be related to the export of property whose value is at least 50% attributable to U.S. produced content. Some services, such as engineering and architectural services related to construction projects outside the U.S. may also generate qualified export receipts.

The internal processes followed by an IC-DISC can be summarized as follows:

1. An owner-managed exporting company organizes a new C corporation and applies for qualification as a tax-exempt IC-DISC;
2. The exporting company pays IC-DISC a commission;
3. The exporting company deducts commission from ordinary income taxed at 35%;
4. The IC-DISC pays no tax on the commission;
5. The shareholders of the IC-DISC must pay income tax on dividends at a qualified rate of 15%;
6. The result is 20 percent tax savings on commissions.

Steven E. Ness is a busienss attorney with Business Law Center in Minneapolis Minnesota

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Think Your Business Can Keep A Competitor from Using Your Intellectual Property?

Friday, June 22, 2012 @ 07:06 PM
Author: Peter Brehm

Judge Posner’s opinion in Apple Inc. v. Motorola Mobility Inc. demonstrates here why businesses need to demonstrate something more than the risk of financial loss to justify injunctive relief.   Just having intellectual property rights is not enough to force a competitor to stop using your property.

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