Category: Law

The Illinois Independent Tax Tribunal: A New Forum for Certain Tax Protests

For years, Illinois taxpayers have been complaining about the Illinois Department of Revenue’s (the “Department”) handling of tax disputes. Complaints ranged from long delays in the Department’s administrative process to taxpayers not feeling like they were properly heard or their disputes fairly considered. Well, the Illinois General Assembly answered taxpayer’s calls in its creation of a new administrative forum, separate and apart from the Department, to handle certain types of tax disputes called the Illinois Independent Tax Tribunal (the “Tribunal”). The Tribunal’s self-proclaimed purpose is, among other things, “to increase public confidence in the fairness of the State tax system.” See 35 ILCS 1010/1-5(a).

In most cases, the Tribunal only has jurisdiction over protests filed after January 1, 2014. Any protests filed prior to January 1, 2014 continue with the Department. Typically, the Tribunal only has jurisdiction over protests if the amount of the tax liability exceeds $15,000, exclusive of penalty and interest. In situations where there is no additional tax liability assessed, but the total penalties or interest or both exceed $15,000, the Tribunal has jurisdiction.

Only certain types of tax protests may be heard by the Tribunal. These include tax liability under the:
• Illinois Income Tax Act
• Tobacco Products Tax Act of 1995
• Motor Fuel Tax Law
• Cigarette Tax Act
• Hotel Operators’ Occupation Tax Act

Other types of tax protests do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. These include tax liability under the:
• Charitable Games Tax
• Cigarette Machine Operators’ Occupation Tax
• County Motor Fuel Tax
• Private Party Vehicle Use Tax
• Real Estate Transfer Tax

The Tribunal maintains its principal offices in both Sangamon County and Cook County, Illinois. A protest must be filed within the time permitted by statute and in the form prescribed by the Tribunal (which is similar to a complaint filed in state court). The Department is required to answer, in writing, within 30 days after a protest is filed. The Tribunal charges a $500 fee for the filing of a petition and the discovery process is governed by the Illinois Supreme Court Rules and the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure. Following the completion of discovery, a hearing will be held before an administrative law judge, independent of the Department, and the Tribunal will issue its decision in writing no later than 90 days after the completion of the hearing.

To discuss a tax dispute you have with the Illinois Department of Revenue, please contact:

Jonathan M. Weis at:

jweis@lgattorneys.com or 312-368-0100

or

Dean J. Tatooles at:

dtatooles@lgattorneys.com or 312-368-0100

New Illinois Law Provides Greater Protections for Pregnant Employees

In August 2014, Governor Pat Quinn signed into law Public Act 98-1050, which is commonly referred to as the “Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act” (the “Act”). The Act, which becomes effective January 1, 2015, provides greater protections for pregnant workers, requiring all Illinois employers to provide reasonable accommodations to any employee or job applicant for pregnancy and child-birth related conditions, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

The Act amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to include pregnancy as a protected class. “Pregnancy” is defined as “pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.” Employers are now required to provide pregnant employees with “reasonable accommodations”—the same type of accommodations employers are already required to provide to workers with temporary disabilities. Reasonable accommodations may include light duty, assistance with manual labor, and additional or extended bathroom breaks.  An employer may only refuse a requested accommodation if the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation presents an undue hardship on its ordinary business operations. The Act also prohibits discrimination in the hiring and employment of pregnant workers and those affected by a medical or common condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.

Employers must also post a notice regarding employees’ rights under the Act in a conspicuous location or include this information in the employer’s employee handbook.

To discuss any questions you may have about the effect of this new law on your business, please contact:

Kristen E. O’Neill at:

(312) 368-0100 / koneill@lgattorneys.com

The Importance of Website “Terms and Conditions”

You may have noticed that many of the websites you visit have what are often called “Terms and Conditions” or “Terms of Use Agreements” (“Agreement”).  Links to such Agreements are often found at the bottom of the home page and/or the website, and the user must accept the terms and conditions in the Agreement in order to use the website. Prudent business owners include such Agreements on their business’s websites to make it clear on what basis information, products or services are being provided through the website and, to the extent possible, limit any liability that may arise out of use of the website.  If your business operates a website it is to your advantage to include an Agreement.  Such Agreements are especially important to companies that sell products, distribute content, and permit users to post messages or other content that raises the potential for third-party liability on their websites. The specific terms contained in the Agreement will vary depending on the nature of the website and the underlying commercial relationship between the user and the website owner.

Most Agreements should address some or all of the following: (1) a clear statement that use of the website constitutes acceptance of the terms set forth in the Agreement; (2) a detailed description of the services, products and/or  information provided through the website; (3) any payment terms and return policies for e-commerce websites; (4) the method for creating and canceling accounts, if applicable; (5) general disclaimers and website-specific disclaimers depending on the nature of the website; (6) ownership of the intellectual property rights in and to the website  content; (7) intellectual property rights in and to any submissions by the user;  (8) limitations of liability; (9) any age restrictions; (10) Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbor language; (11) restrictions on the user conduct; and (12) a dispute resolution section, including choice of law and arbitration provisions.

To discuss your website’s “Terms and Conditions” or “Terms of Use Agreements”, or other important disclaimers which may be appropriate for your business, please contact:

Cynthia B. Stevens at:

(312) 368-0100 / cstevens@lgattorneys.com

New Business Ventures: Register as a “New Business Venture” and Attract Investors Seeking to Take Advantage of the Illinois Tax Credit for Angel Investments

New business ventures can register with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (the “DCEO”) to qualify as “eligible” to participate in the Illinois Angel Investment Credit Program (the “Program”). If a new business venture is qualified by the DCEO to participate in the Program, then an angel investor who invests in the new business venture may claim an “Angel Investment Credit” against its Illinois income taxes in an amount equal to 25% of an “angel investment” made by the individual angel investor, as reflected on the Tax Credit Certificate issued by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (86 Ill. Adm. Code 100, eff. July 9, 2014), and subject to certain rules and restrictions. Therefore, the Angel Investment Credit is an incentive for investors to invest in your business.

Any business desiring to qualify as a new business venture must meet certain requirements, including but not limited to, being headquartered in Illinois, having at least 51% of the employees employed by the business employed in Illinois, having fewer than 100 employees at the initial time of registration, and the business has received not more than $10,000,000 in aggregate private equity investment in cash or $4,000,000 in investments that qualified for tax credits.

The Illinois Angel Investment Credit Program has allocated $10 million in tax credits annually, from 2011-2016, and the Angel Investment Credit is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. New business ventures and “angel investors” should act fast to either submit a registration application (for new business ventures) or claimant application (for investors). An investment is considered to be an “angel investment” if the investor invests in a “qualified new business venture” in exchange for an ownership interest, with such investment being at a risk of loss.

To discuss the “Angel Investment Program” generally, the benefits and procedures of registering your business as a new business venture, or how it can help reduce an investor’s Illinois income tax liability, please contact:

Morris R. Saunders at:

(312) 368-0100 / msaunders@lgattorneys.com

Attention Employers and Employment Agencies: Criminal Records and Criminal Histories of Prospective Employees Off-Limits at Application Stage!

The Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act (the “Act”), a new Illinois statute, will become effective January 1, 2015. The Act restricts employers and employment agencies from inquiring about or requiring the disclosure of an employment applicant’s criminal record or criminal history at the application stage, i.e., until the employer or employment agency has determined the applicant is qualified for the position and notified the applicant that he or she has been selected for an interview or, if there is not an interview, until after a conditional offer of employment is made to the applicant.

The Act defines an employer as any person or private entity that has 15 or more employees in the current or preceding year and employment agencies as any person or entity regularly undertaking, with or without compensation, to procure employees for an employer or to procure for employees opportunities to work for an employer.

The prohibition on inquiring into an applicant’s criminal record or criminal history at the application stage does not apply for positions where: (i) employers are required to exclude applicants with certain criminal convictions from employment due to federal or state law; (ii) a standard fidelity bond or an equivalent bond is required and an applicant’s conviction of one or more specified criminal offenses would disqualify the applicant from obtaining a bond; or (iii) employers employ individuals licensed under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act.

Employers and employment agencies are allowed to notify applicants in writing of the specific offenses that will disqualify an applicant from employment in a particular position due to federal or state law, or the employer’s policy. Therefore, if an employer has a company policy which would disqualify an applicant from being hired based on specific offenses, the employer may notify applicants in writing of that fact.

Civil penalties that apply to employers or employment agencies that violate the Act range from a warning for the first violation to a civil penalty of up to $1,500 for every 30 days that passes without the employer’s or employment agency’s compliance with the Act.

In addition to the new rules under the Act, the ban against employers and employment agencies inquiring into or using an arrest record or expunged criminal history as a basis to refuse to hire remains in effect.

To review your business’ employment application and procedures or to review your business’ policies regarding specific offenses which may disqualify an applicant, or develop a notice letter to potential employees, please contact:

Morris R. Saunders at:

(312) 368-0100 / msaunders@lgattorneys.com

or

Mitchell S. Chaban at:

(312) 368-0100 / mchaban@lgattorneys.com

Alert to Property Owners: What the Firearm Concealed Carry Act Means to You.

The Firearm Concealed Carry Act became effective on July 9, 2013, and applications for concealed carry licenses became available to Illinois residents in early 2014.

What does this mean for property owners? Generally, an owner of private property may prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms on the property under his or her control, but must do so in compliance with the Firearm Concealed Carry Act.

However, the Firearm Concealed Carry Act allows holders of concealed carry licenses to keep a firearm, subject to certain requirements, in their vehicle, even if their vehicle is located in a parking area of a prohibited location.

To determine whether you are in compliance with the Firearm Concealed Carry Act’s procedures and requirements, or to review your employee handbooks and policies generally, please contact:

Mitchell S. Chaban at:

(312) 368-0100 / mchaban@lgattorneys.com

Important Notice to Privately Held Corporations: Compliance with Corporate Formalities Helps Stave Off Personal Liability

Many believe that by incorporating their business, they are shielding themselves from personal liability.

However, to avoid personal liability for the business’s actions, the business must have a separate identity apart from its shareholders, officers, directors, and employees. Strictly following corporate formalities, such as maintaining annual consents, maintaining corporate records, and meeting additional requirements can help maintain protection from liability.

The Illinois Appellate Court, in Buckley v. Abuzir, 2014 IL App (1st) 130469 (2014), recently held that while traditionally shareholders, officers, directors, employees, may be held liable if the business’s corporate formalities and additional procedures are not followed, now, even certain third parties, may face liability if such third parties exercise certain amounts of control over the business.

At a minimum, a corporation must have adequate capitalization, issue stock, observe corporate formalities, maintain corporate records, not commingle funds, not divert corporate funds from the business, and maintain arm’s-length relationships among related entities.

To protect shareholders, officers, directors, employees and now certain third parties from personal liability, business owners should review their books and records. If you have any questions regarding corporate law or business law matters, please contact:

Morris R. Saunders at:

(312) 368-0100 / msaunders@lgattorneys.com

Mike Weissman to Speak at 2012 IBA Bank Counsel Conference

When:  December 7, 2012

Where: The Westin Chicago River North, 320 North Dearborn, Chicago, Illinois  60654 Tel. (312) 744-1900

Register: https://www.ilbanker.com/default.aspx

Topis Covered:

· Illinois Update – Recent Developments in Banking Law and Litigation. New Illinois versions of SCRA and HOEPA, more Power of Attorney Act changes, still broiling mechanics lien issues, foreclosures, voidable mortgages, eminent domain, debtors prisons, new trust laws, a Dodd-Frank update, Basel III, major court decisions, and as always, much more!

(more…)

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