Internet contracts must be apparent to be enforceable

If you do business using the internet, you want to ensure your internet contracts are enforceable. To do that, terms need to be presented in such a way that users have reasonable knowledge of them.

Your internet agreements may cover a range of terms including allowable use of the site, privacy policies, subscriber agreements, terms of sale, and credit card agreements. These agreements can impact where a lawsuit is adjudicated and whether arbitration is mandatory, among other things. [Read more…]

Tax write-offs for government settlements restricted

Included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was a provision that disallowed tax deductions for settlements between federal agencies and companies accused of wrongdoing. While previous tax law already barred deductions for criminal fines and penalties owed to the government, businesses could still deduct payments made to compensate victims or correct damages. The effect, critics said, is that taxpayers ended up subsidizing corporate misconduct. [Read more…]

Can a business refuse service to same-sex couples?

After ruling in favor of a baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving a florist who made a similar denial. The court sent the florist’s case back to a lower court, directing it to revisit the decision in light of the ruling involving the cake, the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

In ruling for the baker, Jack Phillips, the court held that Colorado commissioners showed hostility toward Phillips’ religious beliefs because the state civil rights commission ruled against him while allowing other bakers to turn away a customer seeking cakes with anti-gay messages.

The court avoided a larger constitutional question regarding whether a business can decline to provide products or services due to religious objections to same-sex marriage. [Read more…]

Glitch in new tax law discouraging business investment

In June, a group of restaurants, retailers, and industry associations sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to correct a mistake in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The law inadvertently increased the tax burden on a category of business investment called Qualified Improvement Property (QIP).

The new tax law included a provision known as “100 percent bonus depreciation,” which allows businesses to write off immediately the cost of short-lived investments. Due to an error, the language excludes QIP investments.

QIP investments include remodeling and other improvement projects to nonresidential buildings. Now, as currently written, businesses must depreciate those deductions over 39 years. This provision is less favorable than rules that existed before the law went into effect. [Read more…]

California’s new data privacy law and your business

In June, California passed a consumer privacy law that could affect many organizations conducting business in the state.

The law, which has been likened to the European Union’s GDPR regulations, gives California consumers the right to know what personal information a business has collected about them, including where it was sourced from and how that information is being used.

Consumers also have the right to opt out of having their information sold, the right to delete their information, and the right to receive equal service and pricing even if they exercise their privacy rights. [Read more…]

Sales tax to hit online retailers

In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that online retailers can be required to collect sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence. The decision came in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. and represents a victory for brick-and-mortar stores as well as states that claimed they were losing billions of dollars in revenue.

The ruling effectively overturned a 1992 judgment in which the court ruled that states couldn’t require businesses to collect sales tax unless they had a physical presence in the state.

But as internet retailing grew, states began to feel the loss. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said, “The Internet’s prevalence and power have changed the dynamics of the national economy.” Estimates suggest that states were losing out on sales tax revenues of $8 billion to $33 billion per year. [Read more…]

Hedging Against a Trade War

As a small business owner, the words “trade war” and “tariff” can be unsettling. When cost uncertainty is on the horizon, you will want to be prepared as much as possible. Here are some ideas to help you navigate your business through a possible trade war.

Tariffs defined

A tariff is a tax on imports imposed by a governing authority. The tax can be on specific goods and services, countries of origin, or both. The current tariff conversation appears to be centered around reducing the U.S. trade deficit with China and other trading partners. When a tariff is placed, often times the affected country will impose retaliatory tariffs to protect its own businesses and reset the balance of trade to their favor. [Read more…]

Give your Credit Score a Boost

Your credit score is one of the most important aspects of your financial health. It is used by potential lenders, landlords, and even employers to analyze your financial situation in one way or another. Here are some tips that might help you improve your score: [Read more…]

Combat Employee Turnover

With unemployment at historically low rates, retaining employees is harder than ever. Here are some tips to help your business maintain a thriving workforce:

  • Invest in current employees. One of the key opportunities for business success is a continual investment in your current workforce. If you have employees with potential to grow, offer training and continuing education to help them realize that potential. With online courses, this is now easy to do without a major disruption in day-to-day activities. These courses can be as general as teaching supervisory skills or obtaining accreditation in a chosen field. Then when there is a need to be filled, often times it can be filled internally with a committed employee.
  • Convert contractors to employees. Utilizing contractors is a great strategy to handle overflow work. You can then have current employees manage the consultant’s work to develop their supervisory skills. At the same time, you can vet contractors to see if they could take an expanded role as a full-time employee. Many contractors prefer to be independent, but that is not always the case. Circumstances change and the security of being an employee might be intriguing.
  • Review compensation and benefits packages. Conduct an annual review to ensure that your company is offering competitive salaries and benefits. This will help protect your business against current employees seeking greener pastures. Consider giving impromptu pay increases and spot awards to top employees to show your appreciation. Also look at being creative with benefits and vacation packages.
  • Explore the benefits of internships. An internship program can not only help you identify your next employees, it can help develop your current employees. While it can be seen as a hardship by your current workforce, it can be a rewarding way to cement your employee’s knowledge and value to the organization as they are seen as a teacher. Plus you may find your next group of potential hires.
  • Assess your corporate culture. Employees want to enjoy going to work every day. Consider conducting an anonymous survey of your current employees to see what they like and get ideas for possible improvements.

[Read more…]

The Eye-Opening Video Games Phenomena

Over the course of the last 20 years, video games have morphed from an entertainment choice into a lifestyle. According to a 2018 Nielsen study, a whopping 66 percent of Americans 13 and older identify themselves as gamers. Here’s what you need to know:

Major Developments

  • A massive 24/7 online community. Instead of needing friends to be physically present to compete against, gamers play with people from all over the world at all times of the day. By having the community attached to the video game, an online society exists where gamers spend hours and even days immersed in this alternate online reality.
  • Video games as a spectator sport. These online game communities create a platform to give visibility to the top game players. Gamers now watch other gamers for new playing strategies and for entertainment.In May, a League of Legends video game event drew a record 127 million online viewers — 23 million more viewers than the 2018 Super Bowl! The National Basketball Association (NBA) and Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) have taken notice and have their own virtual teams (eSports leagues) as companions to their live-action leagues.
  • Gaming as a career. The top gamers in eSports leagues sign contracts with their teams and have endorsements with outside advertisers. In addition to eSports, skilled gamers can set up accounts on YouTube or Twitch to gain viewers by showing off their abilities. One of the top streamers, who goes by the nickname Ninja, has over 5 million YouTube subscribers and makes more than $500,000 per month playing and commenting on the game Fortnite. Parents can even hire Fortnite tutors for their kids.

[Read more…]