September 2010 Archives

September 30, 2010

Major Changes Coming for Philadelphia Business Taxes?

It's been discussed for years (decades?) and the subject of numerous mayoral campaign debates, but it looks like major changes to Philadelphia business taxes may be in the works. The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that a majority of City Council has signed onto a plan to shift the business tax burden away from profits towards gross receipts. All at first blush this seems to be a counterintuitive move since our firm, like many others, has for years advised clients who located their businesses outside of the city because of the onerous gross receipts tax. However, there are provisions which may make this shift not only palatable, but beneficial to small businesses in the city.

The Inquirer is reporting that the first $100,000 of sales will be exempt from the gross receipts tax. Further, certain industries such as manufacturing and retail will be taxed at preferential gross receipts tax rates, some as low as 0.10%. for other businesses, the proposed 0.53% tax, on receipts over $100,000, is targeted to hit out of town operations harder than local mom-and-pop's. Whether that holds true or not, or if Mayor Nutter even goes along with the plan, is something that remains to be seen.

One thing the does seem to be certain is that we're going to see a major shift in the compensation packages paid to owners and principles of small businesses in Philadelphia. For years the business privilege tax pushed owners to take their income as salary and bonus, rather than profits and distribution, unlike their colleagues in the rest of the country. With the abolishment of the Business Privilege Tax we're nearly certain to see small business owners in Philadelphia making a change to pay themselves a distribution, subject to the lower capital gains tax rate, rather than the higher taxed bonuses we've seen over the past few years.

If this bill goes through, savvy business owners will start to think about establishing secondary entities outside the city limits to reduce the gross receipts subject Philadelphia taxes.

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September 20, 2010

Businesses Required to Accomodate Nursing Mothers

Hidden well over a 1,000 pages into President Obama's health care bill that was passed earlier this year is a provision that all working mother's can appreciate. Employers are now required to provide "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk." Businesses with less than 50 employees can claim it's an undue hardship if they can prove it truly is, but larger companies will have to comply. Mother's can take time to express milk as often as they like, but they don't have to be paid for that time.

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September 15, 2010

Cybersquatting and Protection of your Good Name

Did you know your disgruntled customers could set up a website using your business name? It's called cybersquatting, and unfortunately it's a growing problem for businesses these days. While the issue has been resolved in some areas of the country, for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware businesses cybersquatting is still a very real threat.

These so-called gripe cites are set up by disgruntled customers and even former employees to tarnish your businesses good name. A recent example of this phenomenon was the gripe site levinsonaxelrodreallysucks.com, set up by a former associate at the Levinson Axelrod law firm. In that case, the former associate had also set up a squatting site at levinsonaxelrod.net (the real firm site has a .com address). Although both sites were ultimately taken down as a result of litigation and a confidential settlement, the firm had to deal with months of time and cost in order to protect their business reputation. No doubt significantly more expensive where the services of the online reputation management firm they were forced to hire in order to keep perspective clients from finding the wrong website.

Currently, there is another case pending before the Third Circuit addressing a similar gripe site. In this case the site was set up by the former patient of 2 Lasik doctors who lost his sight after surgery. The jury found in favor of the doctors in the medical malpractice case, but the patient found another way to go after the doctors - he set up multiple sites in an attempt to ruin the reputation of the doctors who performed the surgery. The physicians responded by filing both a federal lawsuit as well as an arbitration dispute under the rule set out by ICANN, the organization set up to oversee Internet names. The arbitrator ruled that the sites were confusingly similar and ordered them taken down. The federal court claim is still proceeding to determine if the patient's First Amendment right to complain trumps the doctors' right to their own names. Because this issue has not been decided by the Court of Appeals in the Third Circuit before, businesses in the area are waiting on the results.

The most effective time for businesses to take action, as always, is before the problem arises. In many cases the simplest and cheapest thing to do is to register not just your domain name but all variations on your name and site address so that they're under your ownership and control. If you become aware of a gripe site attacking your business, the intellectual property laws require that you take action promptly in order to protect your good name, or you could lose the right to do so. The attorneys at Danziger Shapiro & Leavitt believe in a multipronged approach to protecting your business, while litigation is often at the heart of that approach, sometimes there are faster ways to protect your good name wall the court case is ongoing.

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