Tag: corporation

Taxpayer Held Liable For Withholding Tax Penalty After Agent Embezzles The Funds

Plaintiff was the owner of a corporation which was the owner-operator of five McDonald’s restaurant franchises. Plaintiff paid certain withholding penalties assessed against him and sought to recover penalties and related interest paid to IRS for the corporation’s alleged failure to make Federal tax deposits and pay taxes regarding its payroll taxes.

Plaintiff alleged that beginning “some 30 years ago,” the corporation engaged an outside payroll service to process all aspects of the corporation’s payroll, including the issuance of paychecks to the corporation’s employees, the withholding of federal and state taxes from these paychecks, the preparation of employment tax returns, and the depositing of withheld taxes with the IRS. The corporation would electronically transfer the funds necessary for payroll and associated taxes from its bank account to a third party payroll service. Plaintiff claimed that it “reasonably relied upon the outside payroll service and the clearinghouse bank to discharge their duties to remit withheld employment taxes to the IRS,” but instead, “the payroll service and/or the bank absconded with the timely submitted Federal Tax Deposits, which were not remitted to the IRS, resulting in the imposition upon Plaintiff of penalties and interest.

Plaintiff claimed that it learned that its payroll tax deposits to the IRS and had been embezzled, perhaps by the bank or the payroll service. It was later informed by representatives of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General’s Office that the bank was the subject of a Federal grand jury investigation. Plaintiff alleged that:

Through no fault of Plaintiff, unscrupulous third parties illegally diverted the EFTs intended for the payment of Plaintiff’s payroll taxes to their own purposes and failed to tender such amounts to the IRS. Plaintiff reasonably relied on [the payroll service] to tender its tax deposits to the IRS and exercised reasonable business care and prudence in so doing. An employer, like Plaintiff, is entitled to rely on a professional payroll tax service, such as [payroll service], to deposit payroll taxes from the employer’s sufficient available funds with a federal-authorized depositary, like [the bank], and to thereby discharge the employer’s obligations under the Internal Revenue Code and related Treasury Regulations to pay over withheld payroll taxes.

The Court held that, “at the heart of this action is plaintiff’s contention that its good faith delegation-to a third-party agent-of the responsibility to pay taxes in a timely manner may constitute “reasonable cause.” The Court concluded, as many other courts with similar facts have concluded, “a taxpayer may not avoid the adverse consequences of the failure of its agent to perform the taxpayer’s responsibility to timely file and pay federal taxes.”

If you have any questions regarding withholding tax liability, please contact:

Morris Saunders at:

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

If You Sell Stock In Your Start-Up Business Can You Exclude the Gain From Income?

You started your business and it grew beyond your wildest dreams. Now, a potential purchaser has approached you to acquire your business. Your first thought after, “I’m going to be rich!”, is “How much of my money will the IRS want from me?”

If your stock qualifies as “qualified small business stock” (QSBS) then that big payoff could escape income tax. Prior to 2015, Internal Revenue Code Section 1202 provided a tax free benefit in certain situations for stock acquired after September 27, 2010, but before 2015. The “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015” (PATH Act) restored the QSBS provisions for stock acquired in 2015 and thereafter.

Now, subject to certain limits, you may exclude from gross income 100% of any gain realized on the sale or exchange of QSBS held for more than five years. Also, the excluded portion of the gain from eligible QSBS is not treated as an alternative minimum tax preference item.

Stock qualifies as QSBS only if it meets all of the following tests:

  1. it must be stock originally issued after Aug. 10, 1993;
  2. as of the date the stock was issued, the corporation was a domestic C corporation with total gross assets of $50 million or less (a) at all times after Aug. 9, 1993 and before the stock was issued, and (b) immediately after the stock was issued;
  3. in general, you must have acquired the stock from the corporation, either in exchange for money or other property or as pay for services to the corporation; and,
  4. during substantially all the time you held the stock:  the corporation was a C corporation; at least 80% (by value) of the corporation’s assets are used in the active conduct of one or more qualified businesses; and the corporation was not a foreign corporation, or certain other types of companies.

A qualified business cannot be: a business involving services performed in the fields of health, law, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, financial services, or brokerage services or a business whose principal asset is the reputation or skill of one or more employees; a banking, insurance, financing, leasing, investing, or similar business; a farming business (including the raising or harvesting of trees); a business involving the production of products for which percentage depletion can be claimed; or a business of operating a hotel, motel, restaurant, or similar business.

For each tax year, the amount of gain eligible for the exclusion is limited to the greater of: $10 million ($5 million for married persons filing separately), or 10 times your total adjusted basis in QSBS of the corporation disposed of by you in the tax year.

The above is a brief synopsis of the rules regarding QSBS. If you’d like to discuss these rules or any other business issue you might have, please contact:

Morris R. Saunders at:

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

Essential Legal Matters: What Foodservice Operators Must Know

As any foodservice operator knows, the food business is changing daily.  Margins are thin, competition is fierce and fickle consumer demand and constantly changing dietary fads create increased daily pressure on operators. There numerous legal issues you should consider to give you a leg up. 

Type of Business Entity 

While many food service companies may operate as sole proprietorships, it is always better to operate under the umbrella of a legal entity that will protect you as the owner from personal liability.  This is particularly so in the food service industry where you are feeding people (or distributing to those who do) and interacting with a multitude of guests and employees.  Typically, a corporation or limited liability company (LLC) is the way to go.  And if you open in more than one location or operate separate food service businesses, you would be well advised to set up a separate corporation of LLC for each operation; this way only one entity’s assets will be at risk in the event of a lawsuit.

Intellectual Property Rights

Nearly every food service business creates intellectual property, and these assets can be very valuable in the highly competitive foodservice industry, particularly when your business becomes successful.

One of the most commonly used methods of protecting your food service business intellectual property rights is obtaining trademark protection for any distinctive marks, emblems or symbols or form of words.  The protected mark must be something that distinguishes your business from others and be distinctive, i.e., not something generic like “great food.”  In order to obtain the right to use a trademark, an application must be filed with the United States Patent & Trademark Office.  Most businesses retain an attorney to file the application.

Another form of intellectual property common in the foodservice sector are copyrights.  The purpose of a copyright is to protect creative work and to grant authors the exclusive privilege to produce, create or display the work.  It may be possible to copyright a book containing recipes and sometimes even certain recipes themselves or the method or technique of preparation of food products.

Local Regulations

In addition to organizing a business entity and protecting intellectual property, food service operators need to obtain all appropriate permits and licenses.  The permitting and licensing process varies widely from state to state and even city to city and county to county.  Often local government offices can be a great resource for determining what type of licensing and permitting you will need for your business.  In addition, you will likely need additional licensing if you serve or distribute alcohol.  Your business may also be subject to food and safety health inspections.

Conclusion

With the foregoing in mind and, facing the legal side of the foodservice industry does not have to be a daunting task.

If you have any questions in this area, please contact:

Jonathan M. Weis at:

jweis@lgattorneys.com or 312-368-0100.

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

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