By Attorney Kelly Jesson
Jesson & Rains, PLLC, is offering a couple of new business plan packages that include discounted legal services.
Our clients are busy and they sometimes forget to keep their information updated with the Secretary of State’s Office or file their annual reports; they pay for a registered agent who does nothing more than forward their mail; and they sometimes fall victim to scams like this and this.
We’re offering a yearly plan that includes serving as our client’s registered agent and filing their annual report, among other things. A description of the plan is attached to this email. This plan helps to ensure your privacy (if your business is ever sued, the lawsuit will be delivered to our office’s address); you will be less likely to fall victim to a scam (we will sort through and destroy junk mail); you will be more organized and have less paper (we will scan and forward your mail immediately to your attention after sorting); and we will ensure that corporate records and Secretary of State records are kept up to date.
We’re also offering an upgraded yearly plan that includes unlimited access to attorneys throughout the year. No more billing for .1 emails or .2 telephone calls. We want to encourage people to contact us anytime they need us instead of being afraid to get a bill from us.
This is a continued effort from us to offer flat fees instead of hourly billing. Annual reports are due April 15, and they can be filed now, so this is a great time to switch over to having Jesson & Rains handle it. Please contact us if you’re interested, and please forward to any busy business owners you think may need our help!
By Attorney Kelly Jesson
After a lot of delay on both sides of Congress and the President, we have a new COVID-19 stimulus law. The President signed the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021” on December 27, which contains a lot of government funding measures in addition to the COVID relief/stimulus provisions. Below are some highlights – what we think individuals and business owners would like to know:
Foreclosure, Evictions, and Student Loans
There are no provisions in the new law extending foreclosure forbearance or student loan forbearance. However, the President and government agencies have taken matters into their own hands since the first CARES Act was originally passed, frequently extending these deadlines. Currently, student loan deferment is scheduled to expire on January 31, 2021. FHA borrowers through February 28, 2021, can request forbearance of up to 12 months of mortgage payments.
The new law does extend the eviction moratorium (for tenants with less than $99,000 annual income) through January 31, 2021, but again this can be extended by the government at any time. Lots of money was appropriated to the states for rental assistance programs.
Pandemic unemployment assistance will continue for up to an additional eleven weeks if eligible, through March 14, 2021. If eligible as of that date, a worker who has not yet received the maximum amount of benefits may continue to receive benefits through April 5, 2021. Eligibility requirements did not change.
Workers with at least $5,000 in self-employment income may be eligible for an additional $100 per week benefit as part of the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (the extra payments of $600 per week) will be reduced to $300 per week but will continue for up to an additional eleven weeks if eligible, through March 14, 2021. Eligibility requirements did not change.
Many eligible individuals (eligibility requirements did not change in this new law) will receive another tax rebate in the following amounts:
• $600 ($1,200 in the case of eligible individuals filing a joint return), plus
• $600 for each qualifying child
• But the credit shall be reduced by 5 percent of so much of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income as exceeds:
• $150,000 in the case of a joint return,
• $112,500 in the case of a head of household, and
• $75,000 in the case of a taxpayer not described above.
This means that a married couple filing jointly with no children will not receive any credit if their income is $174,000.
Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”)
Lots of exciting news here! Congress has allocated funds to a “second draw PPP loan program.” The available loan amount is the same, and the business must have been in business on February 15, 2020 (like before) to be eligible, but the second draw is only available to businesses with not more than 300 employees (first round was 500). Like before, there are special rules for seasonal businesses and those with more than one location. At least 60% of the loan must be spent on payroll, like before, to be forgiven; however, Congress did broaden the types of permissible expenditures.
Forgivable business expenses now include covered operations expenditures (payment for any business software or cloud computing service that facilitates business operations, product or service delivery, the processing, payment, or tracking of payroll expenses, human resources, sales and billing functions, or accounting or tracking of supplies, inventory, records and expenses), covered property damage costs (related to property damage and vandalism or looting due to public disturbances that occurred during 2020 that was not covered by insurance), covered supplier costs (essential to the operations of the entity and made pursuant to a contract that existed prior to the covered period or perishable items), and covered worker protection expenditures (related to making customers and employees safe from COVID-19). Additionally, the forgivable health insurance expense clause in the CARES Act was amended by the new law to include other type of insurance, such as group life, disability, vision, or dental insurance. If a business has already applied for and received forgiveness for its first PPP loan, it cannot go back and amend the application to include these new expenses. However, if a business has not had its first PPP loan forgiven yet, it can go back and calculate money spent on these new permissible expenditures and include these on its forgiveness application for the first round of PPP loan.
In order to qualify for a second draw PPP loan, the business must have suffered an at least 25% drop in gross receipts for a quarter in 2020 than the same quarter in 2019. If the business wasn’t in business in 2019, then it must have suffered a 25% drop from the first quarter of 2020 as compared to one of the other three quarters of 2020.
Any amounts forgiven under the PPP will no longer be included in the business’s gross income. The new stimulus law also created a simplified certification process for forgiveness of loans no greater than $150,000.
EIDL Emergency Grants
A business no longer has to pay back / deduct from the PPP forgiveness amount money it received as part of the emergency grant of up to $10,000. If you’ll recall, the SBA limited the grants to $1,000 per employee, and the money ran out at some point. The new law provides additional funding for these grants, and there is no language in the law limiting the grant to $1,000 per employee (although the maximum amount is still $10,000). To qualify, the business must: be located in a low-income community; have suffered an economic loss greater than 30%; and employ not more than 300 employees. In addition, the business must qualify as an eligible entity as defined in the CARES Act. If a qualifying business has already received a partial grant, it can apply for the remaining balance of the $10,000.
Recipients will enjoy an additional three months of payments paid by the SBA, and some qualifying businesses may receive eight months. The maximum amount of payments is still $9,000 per borrower per month.
The refundable payroll tax credits for paid sick and family leave, enacted in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, have been extended through the end of March 2021. The CARES Act rules dealing with retirement distributions have been extended through April 30, 2021.
By Attorney Kelly Jesson
On September 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued a proposed rule regarding classifying workers as employees versus independent contractors. As we’ve written before, failing to correctly classify workers may result in employers paying thousands of dollars in fines, taxes, and back wages. The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) requires that employers pay their employees minimum wage and overtime, but these rules do not apply to independent contractors.
The DOL has proposed this rule because of conflicting court cases across the country, in order to create the “sole and authoritative interpretation of independent contractor status under the FLSA.” The proposed rule creates an “economic realities test” to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. If the worker is economically dependent on the employer for work, he/she should be classified as an employee. If a worker is considered to be in business for him or herself, that worker should be classified as an independent contractor. In the past, several factors have been used to aid in court’s determinations as to whether or not a worker is economically dependent on the employer, but with this proposed rule, the DOL specifically notes that there are two core factors that are to be given more weight than others:
1. The nature and degree of the worker’s control over the work: If the worker, and not the employer, exercises substantial control over key aspects of the work, such as by setting his or her own work schedule, working with little or no supervision, and being able to work for others, including a potential employer’s competitors, they may be classified as an independent contractor.
2. The worker’s opportunity for profit or loss: If the worker has an opportunity to earn profits or incur losses based on his or her personal initiative, managerial skills, or business acumen (including investments in money and also equipment, tools, and people), the worker may be classified as an independent contractor.
The text of the proposed rule references “entrepreneurs” multiple times. In reviewing the proposed rule, it is clear that the DOL considers independent contractors to be workers who work for themselves. “[T]he ability to control one’s work and to earn profits and risk losses strikes at the core of what it means to be an entrepreneurial independent contractor, as opposed to a ‘wage earner’ employee.”
The proposed rule has been submitted for public comments and, given that an election is happening in a month, it is unlikely that the proposed rule will become law in the next few months. But we will be keeping an eye on it.
If you’re considering hiring your first worker, or have questions about your existing workers, please give Jesson & Rains a call!
By Attorney Kelly Jesson
Creditors come in all shapes and sizes: ex-spouses, bankruptcy, personal and business debts, and claims involving real estate or professional malpractice. People in high risk professions or who deal with circumstances that are prone to litigation sometimes want to take steps to protect assets. However, this must be done before a dispute arises, because moving assets around afterwards can sometimes be deemed a fraudulent conveyance and voided by a court.
Unfortunately, there is no “magic wand,” and protecting assets oftentimes involves investing your earnings into protected accounts, such as life insurance and retirement. An individual’s retirement account is exempted from their own creditors (but not from a beneficiary’s creditors once the assets are inherited, which will be discussed in the next blog dealing with asset protection in estate planning). The cash value of a life insurance policy is also protected from the insured’s creditors, but again, not from a beneficiary’s creditors once the assets are inherited.
Additionally, the state of North Carolina exempts certain amounts of property from creditors:
One of the most important things you can do is title property as “tenants by entireties” (TBE). If a husband and wife purchase property together, by default, it is owned as TBE and is therefore protected from the creditors of just one of them, meaning a lien will not attach. However, if a creditor gets a judgment in both spouses’ names, a lien can attach. Also, if the spouses divorce or one passes away, a lien can attach if the remaining owner is the debtor. Another alternative or high-risk professionals is to have the low-risk spouse own the majority of assets because they will not be responsible for debts unless joint.
Another really important step is for self-employed people to form businesses and formalize businesses to protect assets. If you follow business formalities, business creditors cannot reach your personal assets for business debts. If you own investment properties, you are running a business. In fact, the definition of “operating a business” is pretty loose, and oftentimes people will move high-value assets over to LLCs for asset protection purposes. Again, you must follow business formalities (set up a tax identification number, maintain a separate bank account, have an operating agreement).
If you own a business but you have personal creditors, those cannot reach assets titled in the name of your business. They are limited to collecting only the distributions you receive from the business, which you control as the business owner. Distributions do not include your pay made through payroll, which is another reason to run your business like a business.
Finally, we’re often called by people to set up trusts to avoid creditors. General living trusts or revocable trusts are not protected from creditors of the grantor (the person who sets it up), although the funds could be protected from beneficiaries’ creditors after the grantor dies (the subject of our next blog). North Carolina residents have a few not-so-great options: First, they can set up an irrevocable trust for the benefit of others. For example, if you are married, you can create an irrevocable trust that benefits your spouse for his or her lifetime. Presumably, your spouse will take care of you while you’re married, so you will indirectly have access to the money you put into the irrevocable trust, although on paper it will no longer belong to you, so your creditors cannot reach it. This obviously has risks, but it is an option.
Another option is an asset protection trust. In an asset protection trust, the trustee has discretion to distribute money to the grantor as well as other beneficiaries. These trusts are not valid in North Carolina, although they are available in seventeen other states and other countries. However, North Carolina residents can pick the situs (jurisdiction) of their trust and where the trustee is located, meaning, for example, that you can state that Georgia law applies to your trust even though you live in North Carolina. However, lawmakers in North Carolina have questioned whether this practice is valid for asset protection trusts, and, therefore, there are some risks involved. Of course, transferring funds to another country is always risky.
If you are interested in implementing any of the above ideas in order to protect your assets, please give the attorneys at Jesson & Rains a call!
By Attorney Edward Jesson
It is often assumed when talking about purchasing a business that your only option is to purchase the business outright. However, there is a different solution which, depending on the circumstances, could have some benefits: purchasing the target business’s assets instead of the whole company.
When you purchase a business outright, be it all of the stock of a corporation or all of the membership interest in an LLC, you are buying everything. That includes all of the business’s assets but also includes all of the business’s liabilities, some of which could be unknown at the time of the purchase. In any business purchase agreement, there should be a “due diligence” period which will allow you to uncover as many of those hidden risks as possible, but it is nearly impossible to uncover every possible risk that exists.
Most purchase agreements will contain some form of indemnification clause providing that the seller will defend and insure the buyer from various liabilities. However, negotiating an indemnification provision that adequately protects the buyer can potentially increase the purchase price requested by the seller and can also be difficult and expensive to enforce if an issue does arise in the future.
However, when you purchase only the assets of a company you are buying the possessions of the business and putting them into a new business name. The buyer can (at least to a certain extent) dictate what liabilities of the selling business are being purchased which can assist in limiting the buyer’s liability and risk in moving forwards with the transaction. Another benefit of buying a business’s assets is that the buyer can also elect to purchase some, but not all, of the target business’s assets. For example, if you were buying a trucking company you may elect not to buy the old trucks that don’t have any useful life left.
There are downsides to an asset purchase. For example, contracts between the old business and its customers/vendors may need to be renegotiated in the new business’s name. There could also be similar implications with key employees depending on the terms of any employment agreements that were in place with the old business.
Whichever route you choose, it is important to work with a team of advisors who can assist you in the process. While not discussed in detail here, there are different tax implications depending on whether you purchase the business or just the assets, about which a CPA would need to advise.
If you’re thinking of purchasing a business, or a business’s assets, the attorneys at Jesson & Rains are ready to help you through the process.
By Attorney Edward Jesson
Hearings were recently scheduled on a proposed North Carolina state bill entitled “An Act to Provide Consumer Protections Related to Roofing Repair Contractors.”
If passed, the law would have a big effect on the roofing industry in North Carolina--written contracts between roofing contractors and consumers would now be required. The proposed bill would require the following provisions to be included in these contracts:
1. The roofing contractor’s contact information;
2. The name of the consumer;
3. The physical address of the property being worked on and a description of the structure being repaired;
4. A copy of the repair estimate that addresses:
a. a precise description and location of all the damage being claimed on the repair estimate;
b. an itemized estimate of repair costs, including the cost of raw materials, the hourly labor rate, and the number of hours for each item to be repaired; and,
c. a statement as to whether the property was inspected prior to the preparation of the estimate and a description of the nature of that inspection.
5. Date the contract was signed by the consumer;
6. A statement that the contractor shall hold in trust any payment from the consumer until the materials have been delivered to the job site or the majority of the work has been done;
7. A statement providing that the contractor shall provide a certificate of insurance to the consumer that is valid for the time during which the work is to be performed;
8. If the consumer anticipates that insurance funds will be used to pay for any portion of the job, a disclosure from the consumer that states that the consumer is responsible for payment if the insurance company denies the claim in whole or in part and a disclosure from the contractor that he or she has made no guarantees that the claimed loss will be covered by an insurance policy.
The new law, if passed, will also give the consumer the right to cancel the contract if the consumer’s insurance company denies the claim. Further, it will prohibit various practices from roofing contractors, including offering to pay insurance deductibles for the consumer or offering the consumer anything of value in order to display a sign or any other type of advertisement at the consumer’s property.
It is important to note that the proposed law specifically excludes licensed general contractors or subcontractors working underneath a licensed general contractor from the definition of “roofing repair contractors.”
While the new law would create an extra requirement that roofing contractors in NC may not be happy about, we always recommend having written contracts in place between contractors and the consumer. Too often the only written documentation is a cost estimate and, if there are any disputes, there are no provisions in these cost estimates for handling those disputes. The proposed law may also strengthen the reputation of the roofing industry by weeding out unscrupulous roofing contractors.
Jesson & Rains will continue to keep our clients updated on the passage of this law and are happy to assist with the drafting or review of any construction contracts. You can follow the status of the law yourself at: https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookup/2019/S576.
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