Updates Made to Nebraska Homestead Exemption Information Guide

By Joshua A. Diveley.

The Nebraska Department of Revenue (NDOR) has updated its information guide regarding the Nebraska property tax homestead exemption. The homestead exemption provides property tax relief to certain homeowners by exempting from tax all or a portion of the taxable value of the taxpayer’s residence. The homestead exemption is available to persons over the age of 65, qualified disabled individuals and qualified disabled veterans and their widow(er)s. Specifically, revisions were made in the disabled veterans category to remove the requirement, effective for periods prior to January 1, 2015, that a veteran had to serve during a recognized war of the United States to be an eligible disabled veteran. Effective January 1, 2015, military service during peace is sufficient to qualify as a disabled veteran.

The homestead exemption form must be filed with the county assessor by June 30, 2015.

The updated homestead exemption information guide may be viewed on the NDOR’s website at: http://www.revenue.nebraska.gov/info/96-299.pdf. Release, Nebraska Department of Revenue, February 9, 2015

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IRS Announces There Will Be No Refunds of Taxes on Severance Payments

After the United States Supreme Court decision in United States v. Quality Stores, Inc., the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has responded in kind with Announcement 2015-8. The issue in both the Supreme Court decision and the IRS announcement pertain to refunds of taxes on severance payments.

The United States Supreme Court in Quality Stores determined that severance payments to employees were taxable wages, subject to Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (FICA). Other cases have found that severance payments were subject to other taxes, such as the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) and Railroad Retirement Tax Act (RUTA).

The IRS announcement made clear that no refunds will be issued for taxes paid on severance payments. However, the only exception is a FICA tax exemption for severance payments in conjunction with state unemployment benefits, as per Revenue Ruling 90-72. A claimant may still appeal for a refund of FICA taxes if it is on an “additional or different basis,” such as taxes on certain fringe benefits. However, generally, severance payments are taxable and the IRS will not issue refunds thereupon.

 Further information may be found in the IRS announcement, found here: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/a-15-08.pdf

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Nebraska Department of Revenue Issues Guidance on Market-Based Sourcing Method for Sales Tax Collection

The Nebraska Department of Revenue issued guidance on the market-based sourcing method for sales tax collection. For the year-end 2014 and subsequent years, the market-based sourcing method replaces the previously used costs of performance method. This guidance applies to the sale of intangible property or services, but not to tangible personal property.

The market-based sourcing method focuses on the receipt or use of the product. This method allocates Nebraska taxes based upon the proportion of the sale received or used within the state of Nebraska. In contrast, the previous rule applied the tax based upon the location where the costs of the income producing activity were incurred.

Specific details regarding the various rules for different types of sales may be found at the following link or by going to the Nebraska Department of Revenue website.

http://www.revenue.nebraska.gov/info/market_based_sourcing.html.

© 2015 Houghton Vandenack Williams Whitted Weaver Parsonage LLC
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IRA Charitable Rollover Remains an Option for 2014

By Mary E. Vandenack.

The tax law provision allowing a taxpayer age 70.5 or older to direct up to $100,000 of the taxpayer’s minimum required distribution to charity has been extended. Thus, taxpayers can choose to accomplish such a rollover to charity through December 31, 2014.

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Updates to Nebraska Local Sales Tax

By Joshua A. Diveley.

The Nebraska Department of Revenue announced that beginning April 1, 2015, the following locations will implement a local sales and use tax:

  • Benedict (1.5%);
  • Callaway (1.0%);
  • Dakota County (0.5%);
  • Decatur (1.0%);
  • Elwood (1.0%);
  • Stanton (1.5%);
  • Upland (0.5%); and
  • Utica (1.5%).

Beginning April 1, 2015, the following cities and villages will increase their local sales and use taxes as follows:

  • Bancroft (1.5%);
  • Bassett (1.5%);
  • Burwell (1.5%);
  • Duncan (1.5%);
  • Fairbury (2.0%);
  • Howells (1.5%);
  • Minden (2.0%);
  • Nebraska City (2.0%);
  • Norfolk (2.0%);
  • Rushville (1.5%);
  • Wayne (1.5%); and
  • York (2.0%).

Also, beginning April 1, 2015, municipal boundaries for the following cities will be modified: Beatrice, Fairbury, Kearney, Lincoln, Neligh, Plattsmouth, West Point, and York. Additional information is available at:   http://www.revenue.nebraska.gov/salestax.html.

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Unbundling Fiduciary Fees

Recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued final guidance on Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 67 as it pertains to a 2 percent floor for miscellaneous itemized deductions. This is important to fiduciaries of non-grantor trusts and estates because it will impact what fees can be deducted for the taxable year. The issue stems from several court cases, including a United States Supreme Court case, that placed confusion regarding the generally held notion that all fees and expenses associated with trust and estate administration were deductible.

The specific question pertains to a 2 percent floor and whether administration expenses, in aggregate, must exceed 2 percent of the adjusted gross income prior to being deductible. Before this confusion, a fiduciary could simply bundle all their administration expenses, classify it as such, and not concern themselves with the 2 percent floor. However, the various court interpretations have interjected confusion regarding fee bundling and whether each fee inside the bundle is subject to the 2 percent floor.

The guidance issued by the IRS attempts clarify the problem. Although the expenses can still be bundled, they must be bundled as expenses subject to the 2 percent floor and expenses that are not. This is much simpler in theory than in practice. Determining whether an expense falls into one category or the other remains tricky. Ultimately, this means that all expenses incurred by fiduciaries in the administration of a non-grantor trust or estate must be unbundled and classified. Although the IRS guidance lists specific expenses, it is not an exhaustive list. Unfortunately, there is not a perfect solution to this process and great care must be taken in the classification process.

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Corporate Wellness Programs Receive Scrutiny From the EEOC

The United States Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a petition, their third in three months, regarding a corporate wellness program. The latest petition alleges that Honeywell International, Inc. violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) through the administration of workplace biometric screening.

The program is similar to those seen at companies across America. The employee receives health care discounts and other financial benefits for undergoing workplace biometric screening and choosing healthy lifestyles. The EEOC claims the program violates the law because it is an involuntary, non-work related, medical inquiry. Second, the EEOC alleges the employer is illegally inducing employees to provide family medical history. If the court views the program similarly, it would be a violation of the ADA and GINA.

It is unclear what this challenge will mean for corporate wellness programs.  In the short term, with the end of year approaching, it will unlikely have an immediate impact. However, it will be important to monitor the evolution of the challenges because it could  change how these programs must be administered or even whether these programs can be offered.

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Nebraska Voters Approve Minimum Wage Increase

By Eric W. Tiritilli.

The 2014 midterm elections saw a number of significant races and ballot measures across the country.  One of particular importance to Nebraska employers is Initiative Measure 425 which sought to raise the minimum wage in Nebraska.  This measure passed by a large margin.

As a result, beginning on January 1, 2015, the minimum wage in Nebraska will rise from $7.25 per hour to $8.00 per hour.  Then, beginning on January 1, 2016, the minimum wage will raise to $9.00 per hour.  Nebraska was one of four states in the 2014 elections that passed measures to raise their state’s minimum wage.

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2015 Wage and Investment Levels for Nebraska Advantage Act

Recently, the Nebraska Department of Revenue issued regulations to qualify for benefits under the Nebraska Advantage Act in 2015. The Nebraska Advantage Act, as amended in 2012, was designed to promote relocation of businesses to Nebraska, expansion of business currently in Nebraska, and general business investment within the state. In order to qualify for the tax benefits, the Department of Revenue issues annual investment and wage guidelines that must be met. The average annual wage and investment requirements for 2015 are as follows:

  • Tier 1: Investment of $1 million and a wage requirement of $23,979 for a minimum of 10 employees.
  • Tier 2: Investment of $3 million and a wage requirement of $23,979 for a minimum of 30 employees.
  • Tier 2 large data center: Investment of $1 million and a wage requirement of $23,979 for a minimum of 30 employees.
  • Tier 3: Wage requirement of $23,979 for a minimum of 30 employees.
  • Tier 4:Investment of $12 million and a wage requirement of $23,979 for a minimum of 100 employees.
  • Tier 5: Investment of $37 million.
  • Tier 5 renewable energy projects: Investment of $20 million.
  • (Super) Tier 6: Investment of $11 million and a requirement of 75 new employees; or an investment of $111 million and at least 50 new employees. The wage requirement is a minimum of $58,948.

Other incentives built into the same law have been updated to require a $12.33/hour minimum to qualify for the Nebraska Advantage Rural Development Act and $1,154/week maximum to qualify for the Nebraska Advantage Microenterprise Tax Credit Act.

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Can Franchise Agreements Be Terminated or Not Renewed?

A Business FAQ with Mark A. Williams.

The simple answer is yes, franchise agreements can be terminated and that is pretty scary for somebody that owns a franchise business. The more complicated answer is that you have to look at your franchise agreement. Usually there are provisions in there that cover the renewal of the franchise and what happens if it is terminated.

There is also state and federal law that apply to franchises. In some states, the franchisor might not just be able to terminate your franchise even if the franchise agreement says they can.

Yes, franchise agreements can be terminated, they can be not renewed, but in almost every circumstance, whether it is by your franchise agreement or whether it is by law, you have some rights to renew and you need to make sure you pay attention to those rights when you get into a franchise relationship.

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