Business Law

Friday, June 15, 2018

Why Should I Incorporate my Small Business


Why Should I Incorporate my Small Business?

Not every small business needs to form an LLC in order to function. A child selling lemonade by the side of the road has no use for a Tax ID number. It doesn’t seem practical to set up a new business entity to host a garage sale or a Tupperware party. As a venture starts to grow from a hobby to a full-time job, however, there are questions every business owner should ask to determine whether it is best to incorporate the business into a legal entity.
Read more . . .


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

An Overview of Foundational Corporate Documents

There are a number of steps involved in forming a corporation from selecting a name, obtaining the necessary licenses and permits, paying certain fees, and filing foundational documents with the appropriate state agency. While an attorney can help prepare and file the required papers, the owners, officer and directors should have a basic understanding of these documents.

Articles of Incorporation

The first underlying document is the Articles of Incorporation which states the corporate name, and the  purpose of the business. This is typically a generic statement to the effect that the corporation will conduct any lawful business in the state in accordance with its objectives.  In addition, the type and amount of stock that will be issued (common or preferred) must be established. This document should contain any other pertinent information, including the name and address of a registered agent.

Corporate By-laws

By-laws are the formal rules regarding the day-today operations of a corporation. This document outlines the corporate structure and establishes the rights and powers of the shareholders, officers and directors. By-laws specify how officers and directors are nominated and elected as well as their responsibilities. In addition this document should clarify how disputes among the parties will be resolved. By-laws establish where and when meetings will be held, whether quarterly, annually or at other times, what constitutes a quorum, as well as voting and proxy rules. Lastly, this document should also contain information on the issuance of shares of stock and other operational details.

Meeting Minutes

After the corporate existence has begun, an initial organizational meeting of the principals must be held in order to adopt by-laws, elect directors, issue stock, and to conduct any other business. All of these activities must be memorialized in meeting minutes, which must also be prepared during any subsequent meetings.

Stock Certificates

Stock certificates are the record of any stock that was initially issued.

Once these foundational documents are in place, a corporation is also required to keep complete and accurate books and records of account and must maintain a record containing the names and addresses of all shareholders. All of these documents may fall under different names and the applicable laws vary from state to state. Because this is a complicated process and one that requires careful analysis, you are well advised to engage the services of an experienced business law attorney to help prepare and file the necessary foundational documents.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Should a Non-Compete Agreement be in place to Protect your Business?

Courts typically disfavor “covenants not to compete” or “non-compete agreements.”  Therefore, the terms and provisions of these contracts must not be overly restrictive of the employee.  In order for a non-compete to be upheld, the document must “be reasonable in scope, geography, and time.”  It cannot last for years on end, or prevent the employee from working anywhere in the entire state. Likewise, an employer cannot prohibit an employee from working in a large variety of industries, especially if the restriction includes industries wholly unrelated to the employer’s line of work. 

Two other elements are analyzed by a court to determine the validity of a non-compete agreement:  (1) there must be mutual consideration between both the employer and employee at the moment the contract is signed and (2) the non-competition agreement must protect “a legitimate business interest of the employer.”  Preventing a former employee from working for an employer’s business rival, or preventing disclosure of trade secrets or personally identifiable information of important clientele, are typically considered justifiable business interests.

Non-compete agreements are generally implemented to protect a company’s most important assets:  its reputation and its confidential information.  However, the terms protecting these assets cannot be overly broad or vague.  Thus, in evaluating the “reasonableness” of a non-competition agreement, the court will conduct a “balancing test.”  This is a comparison of the employer’s need to protect its “business interests” with the “burden that enforcement of the agreement would place on the employee.” 

The validity of non-compete agreements is decided on a case-by-case basis. The court will consider circumstances such as the length of time certain information will be kept confidential, and the company’s reasons for limiting the employee's job search to a geographical area. If the court finds that the agreement serves a valid interest and does not exceed the range necessary to protect that interest, the entire agreement may be upheld. 

The court also has the option of doing away with overly intrusive terms in a non-compete, rather than invalidating the agreement entirely. In cases in which a non-compete is perceived by the court as punitive, unduly restricting an employee from obtaining employment, the agreement will not be upheld.  A licensed attorney who specializes in employment law will be able to gauge the likelihood that a particular non-compete agreement will be enforceable.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Legal Concerns for Businesses Engaged in Social Networking


Legal Concerns for Businesses Engaged in Social Networking

Social media is a phenomenon and in this day and age, it is rare that an individual, organization or business does not utilize it.  The use of websites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin can be of great benefit to your business and can assist in advertising, marketing and branding.  But, it is important to remember that their use is not without legal pitfalls.

While there are many issues to address when your business is considering entering the social media realm, some are more poignant than others.  Because the purpose of social media is to share information and to do so rapidly, privacy is a major concern.
Read more . . .


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Shield your assets with Umbrella Insurance

Umbrella Insurance: What It Is and Why You Need It

Lawsuits are everywhere. What happens when you are found to be at fault in an accident, and a significant judgment is entered against you? A child dives head-first into the shallow end of your swimming pool, becomes paralyzed, and needs in-home medical care for the rest of his or her lifetime. Or, you accidentally rear-end a high-income executive, whose injuries prevent him or her from returning to work. Either of these situations could easily result in judgments or settlements that far exceed the limits of your primary home or auto insurance policies. Without additional coverage, your life savings could be wiped out with the stroke of a judge’s pen.

Typical liability insurance coverage is included as part of your home or auto policy to cover an injured person’s medical expenses, rehabilitation or lost wages due to negligence on your part. The liability coverage contained in your policy also covers expenses associated with your legal defense, should you find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit. Once all of these expenses are added together, the total may exceed the liability limits on the home or auto insurance policy. Once insurance coverage is exhausted, your personal assets could be seized to satisfy the judgment.

However, there is an affordable option that provides you with added liability protection. Umbrella insurance is a type of liability insurance policy that provides coverage above and beyond the standard limits of your primary home, auto or other liability insurance policies. The term “umbrella” refers to the manner in which these insurance policies shield your assets more broadly than the primary insurance coverage, by covering liability claims from all policies “underneath” it, such as your primary home or auto coverage.

With an umbrella insurance policy, you can add an additional $1 million to $5 million – or more – in liability coverage to defend you in negligence actions. The umbrella coverage kicks in when the liability limits on your primary policies have been exhausted. This additional liability insurance is often relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of the primary insurance policies and potential for loss if the unthinkable happens.

Generally, umbrella insurance is pure liability coverage over and above your regular policies. It is typically sold in million-dollar increments. These types of policies are also broader than traditional auto or home policies, affording coverage for claims typically excluded by primary insurance policies, such as claims for defamation, false arrest or invasion of privacy.
 


Friday, November 20, 2015

Tax Deductions for your Small Business

Common Tax Deductions for Small Businesses

Automobile deductions: Whether an individual uses a personal vehicle for his or her own business or company owns a vehicle, the depreciation of value and costs associated with that vehicle may be deducted from the company’s income at year's end. A taxpayer must keep track of all of these expenses and document them by maintaining receipts and records of expenditures in order to claim the deduction. Alternatively, a business may declare standard deductions for the vehicle based on the mileage of the vehicle. In 2015, this standard deduction is 57.5 cents for every business mile driven. If a vehicle is driven for both business and personal use, the IRS will require a taxpayer to identify the percentage of use dedicated to business.

Capital expenses: Also called startup costs, the IRS allows a business to deduct up to $5,000from its income in its first year of expenses for expenditures made before the doors of the business opened. Any capital expenses remaining after the first $5,000may be deducted in equal increments over the next 15 years.

Legal and professional fees: Fees paid to professionals like lawyers, accountants, and consultants, may be deducted from a company’s income each year. If the benefit of a professional’s advice is spread out over a number of years, the tax deduction must also be spread equally over the same period. The cost of books or tuition for classes to help avoid legal or professional costs may also be deducted.

Bad debt: A business may deduct the losses suffered as a result of a customer who fails to make payment for goods sold. However, a business that deals in providing a service may not deduct the time devoted to a client or customer who does not pay. A service business may deduct expenses made in an attempt to help that customer or client.

Business entertaining:The cost of meals or entertainment purchased for business purposes must be documented by receipts in order to maintain the right to deduct the cost from income for tax purposes. Only 50percent of the total cost of entertainment expenses may be deducted.

Interest: If a business operates on a business loan or a line of credit, the interest on that loan may be deducted from income for tax purposes.

Normal business expenses: The cost of advertising, new equipment, depreciation of existing equipment, moving expenses, business cards, office supplies, travel expenses, coffee and beverages, software, casualty and theft losses, postage, business association dues, and all other business expenses can be deducted.

 

Make sure to consult with your tax advisors before year-end 2015. Ruggiero Law Offices welcomes the idea of becoming part of your advisory team for 2016 and beyond.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What Happens to your Business in a Divorce?

Given that this situation encompasses various areas of law, you should consult both a matrimonial and a business law attorney. Depending upon the type of business the division between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse may be straightforward. However, more than likely, it may take significant work to be able to divide the business. If you and your wife intend to continue to own and/or operate the business together, you could simply divide the ownership between the two of you.

Otherwise, the two of you have to continue to work together until the business is actually sold or dissolved. If the business is such that it has two distinct areas you could spin off one of those into a separate entity that can be owned by one of you.  If the business owns real estate, perhaps some of the real estate could be transferred into a new entity to be owned by one of you with the other of you retaining the ownership of the original entity. If the business is such that it is almost impossible to divide, then perhaps one of you becomes the sole owner of the business and has to pay the other over some period of time for the value of one half of that business. Instead of paying the other of you perhaps an outside loan from a bank or other lending institution could be obtained to provide the funding for the purchase price.

A final option may be that the business has to be sold to an outside third party and the proceeds would be divided between you and your spouse in accordance with any agreement between the two of you that have been approved by the divorce court or pursuant to an order.

Consult with legal tax and financial professionals for proper guidance.

Additionally register for our tax and business succession planning sessions here.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Will your Business Carry On?

Business Succession Planning Tips

Business succession plans contemplate and instruct regarding any changes in future ownership and management of a business. Most business owners know they should think about succession planning, but few actually end up doing so. It is hard to think about not being in charge of the business you have built up, but a proper succession plan can ensure that your business continues long after you are there to run it, providing an enduring legacy.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you begin to think about putting a succession plan into place for your business.

  • Proper plans take time - often years - to develop and implement because there are many steps involved. It is really never too early to start thinking about how you want to hand off control of your business.

  • Succession plans are a waste of time unless they are more than a piece of paper. Involving attorneys, accountants and business advisors ensures that your plan is actually implemented.

  • There is no cookie-cutter succession plan that fits all businesses, and no one way to develop and implement a successful plan. Each business is unique, so each business needs a custom-made plan that fits the needs of all parties involved.

  • It may seem counterintuitive, but transferring a business between people who are familiar with the business - from one family member to another, or between business partners - is often more complicated than selling the business to a complete stranger. Emotional investments cannot be easily quantified, but their importance is real. Having a neutral party at the negotiating table can help everyone involved focus on what is best for the business and the people that are depending on it for their livelihood.

  • Once a succession plan has been established, it is critically important that the completed plan be continually reviewed and updated as circumstances change. This is one of the biggest reasons having an attorney on your succession planning team is important. Sound legal counsel can assist you in making periodic adjustments and maintaining an effective succession plan.

If you are ready to start thinking about succession planning, Ruggiero Law Offices is available for an initial consultation or a presentation with your management team and business advisors.

Contact us at info@paolilaw.com.

 


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Are your corporate bylaws in compliance with state laws?

Corporate bylaws are a critical component in the foundation of any corporation, partnership or association. Generally speaking, the bylaws establish the rules for internal operations and governance.  While business owners have a large degree of control when it comes to the bylaws, they must be in compliance with state law. Some states have strict mandates on what information must be included, while others may not specify exactly what must be covered and there may not be a set format. However, there are certain things that are typically covered in a company's bylaws.

Bylaws often set forth what officers the company is to have, what the responsibilities are for those officers, and how they are elected. It will also set forth the term of office such as a one, two, or three year term. Most companies also have a board of directors. The bylaws would also set forth how many board members are allowed or required and their term of office. Most of the time the shareholders will elect the board members, and then the board members will elect or appoint the officers of the company. So, the officers report to the board, and the board reports to the shareholders.

Other matters that are often found in the bylaws include the procedure for notifying the board of an upcoming meeting and the timeline for doing so. In addition, the bylaws can establish the number of board members that are required to be present at a meeting for there to be a “quorum” in order to do business and how many votes are needed for something to be approved. One thing that likely will not be in the bylaws but you might want to consider if there will be multiple owners of the business, is a buy-sell agreement. That agreement would outline rights and responsibilities for each owner and generally would provide the right or option to buy out a one of the co-owners’s shares.

It’s important to consult with a business law attorney to make certain that your bylaws are in compliance with all applicable state statutes. Seek legal guidance to help you identify potential pitfalls and minimize any future risks that might harm your company down the line.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Business owners - Evaluate your Lease

Top 3 Real Estate Tips for Small Businesses

The only real estate transaction most small businesses engage in is to enter into a lease for commercial space. Whether you are considering office, manufacturing or retail space, the following three tips will help you navigate the negotiation process so you can avoid costly mistakes.

 

“Base Rent” is Not the Only Rent You Will Pay

Most prospective tenants focus their negotiation efforts on the “base rent,” the fixed monthly amount you will pay under the lease agreement. You may have negotiated a terrific deal on the base rent, but the transaction may not be the best value once other charges are factored in. For example, many commercial lease agreements are “triple net,” meaning that the tenant must also pay for insurance, taxes and other operating expenses. When negotiating “triple net,” ensure you aren't being charged for expenses that do not benefit your space, and that you are paying an amount that is in proportion to the space you utilize in the building. Another provision to watch for is tenant's responsibility to also pay a pro rata share of increases in real estate taxes. 

 

There’s No Such Thing as a “Form Lease”

Most commercial property owners and managers offer prospective tenants a pre-printed lease containing your name and various terms. They present these documents often with a rider, and adamantly explain that it is the landlord’s “typical form lease.” This, however, does not mean you cannot negotiate. Review every provision in the agreement, bearing in mind that all terms are open for discussion and negotiation. Pay particular attention to the specific needs of your business that are not addressed in the “form lease.”

 

Note the Notice Requirements

Your lease agreement may contain many provisions that require you to send notices to the landlord under various circumstances. For example, if you wish to renew or terminate your lease at the end of the term, you will likely owe a notice to the landlord to that effect, and it may be due much earlier than you think – sometimes up to a year or more. Prepare a summary of the key notice requirements contained in your lease agreement, along with the due dates, and add key dates to your calendar to ensure you comply with all notice requirements and do not forfeit any rights under your lease agreement.

 


Friday, April 4, 2014

Protect your Business with the Right Insurance

Protecting Your Business with the Right Insurance

Starting a business is the dream of a lifetime for many Americans. While most entrepreneurs prefer to focus on the aspects of the business that will result in profit, it’s equally important to consider what will happen in the event of an emergency, injury or even sudden death. In preparing for the “worst case scenario”, insurance coverage must be carefully considered. Selecting insurance policies can be challenging; there are dozens of options and the necessity of some will depend largely on the type of business, the number of employees (if any) and the physical location(s).

To help you get started with your planning, we’ve compiled a quick checklist of different types of insurance that all business owners should consider:

General Liability Insurance – Regardless of the type of business or where it is located (even if it is in your home office), all owners should purchase this type of insurance which provides protection if you or your employees cause bodily harm or property damage to a third party. This type of insurance can protect against a customer who brings legal action after taking a sip of hot tea that you served in the reception area or even a vendor who was injured when an item from a closet shelf fell on him during a delivery to your office.

Commercial Property Insurance – If you own an office building, or have valuable business property such as equipment, inventory or tools, you should carefully consider this option which protects your company from any damage or loss which might occur as a result of fire, theft, vandalism, etc. In assessing which policy you need, also take time to consider whether you need business interruption insurance which may protect your business from a loss of earning when you are unable to operate; this may be helpful in the aftermath of a natural disaster where your building is without power for several days.

Product Liability Insurance – If your company manufactures, distributes or retails products to consumers, you might consider purchasing this insurance which protects against financial loss suffered as a result of a product defect that causes injury to the user.

Business Owners Policy (BOP) – This type of package is essentially a bundle offering of all of the required policies that a business owner would need. This will often include property, liability, vehicle, business interruption, etc. These policies often save business owners more money than if they were to purchase each one separately.

Professional Liability Insurance – If you provide a professional service to consumers, you may consider carrying this type of coverage which provides defense and damages for improperly rendering professional services, or failure to deliver them at all. Depending on your industry, this insurance may be mandated by your state. Professional liability insurance has become quite standard among healthcare professionals, attorneys, veterinarians, pharmacists and architects.

Commercial Auto Insurance – If you have a single vehicle, or an entire fleet, that is used to carry employees, equipment or products, you should consider purchasing commercial auto insurance which protects from damages and collisions. If your employees use their own vehicles, you may have the option to purchase non-owned auto liability, which protects your business in the event that an employee has an accident but does not have sufficient coverage to pay for the damages.

Data Breach Insurance – Also known as cyber insurance, this type of policy protects against any damages incurred as a result of a hacking attack or loss of sensitive client date. Due in large part to recent high-profile data breaches where customers’ credit card numbers were compromised, one in three U.S. companies now carries this type of coverage.

Directors and Officers Liability Insurance – This type of insurance protects your board of directors and officers from any legal action resulting from their performance of duties as it relates to your company. Many investors and potential board members will require this type of policy to ensure their personal assets are not jeopardized.

Life Insurance – In a company where there are multiple shareholders, it’s not uncommon to find life insurance policies in the mix. Generally, the policy is structured in such a way that upon the passing of one of the shareholders, the remaining shareholders or the company will receive compensation so they can buy out the shares of the deceased. This can help to protect the business and ensure continuity despite the loss of one of its leaders. In small businesses, a partner may purchase a life insurance policy on a fellow partner or key employee who is crucial to the business. The reasoning behind this coverage is that in the absence of this individual, the company would suffer severely and could even lead to its closing.

If your business has employees, there are a number of other policies which you will want to consider. These include:

Workers Compensation Insurance – As the name explains, this insurance simply provides wage replacement and covers medical expenses for employees who are injured on the job. All states require this type of coverage if you have any W2 employees.

Disability Insurance – This type of employer-sponsored insurance provides income replacement to disabled employees who are unable to work and receive their regular wages. This type of coverage is only required by law in five states: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

Unemployment Insurance Tax – While you don’t have to purchase an unemployment insurance policy, any company with employees must pay unemployment insurance taxes as determined by the state. This program is designed to provide benefits to unemployed workers who have been terminated by no fault of their own (e.g. think of a company that has major cut backs and “lays off” an employee). It’s important that you consult with your state’s workforce agency for up to date information and to learn what’s required of you.

In some cases, your state may require certain insurance coverage based on your industry and the services or product provided. To ensure compliance and make sure you properly protect your business and your own personal assets, it’s important that you consult a knowledgeable business law attorney and insurance advisor who can advise you on the best course of action and review your needs annually.


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