What Is a Copyright?

An Intellectual Property FAQ with Mark A. Williams.

Copyright is a federal right that is granted to the author of a work of art. So, you can think about someone who writes a book, someone who writes music or performs a play. Those people get a copyright, or a legal right, to reproduce and distribute that to the exclusion of all others.

Copyrights can be registered, but the nice thing in the United States is that as soon as you write a book, whether you have sold it to anyone or given it to anyone else to read, you have copyright protection. You do not have to register it. There are some benefits of registering it but a copyright attaches immediately and protects your intellectual property.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Who Must File a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR)?

An International Law FAQ with Mary E. Vandenack.

Anyone who has a signatory on an account in a foreign country should take a look at whether they are subject to the rules concerning the foreign bank financial account reporting rules. A lot of people are caught by surprise because they have moved out of the U.S. but retain their U.S. citizenship and find out that they are subject to these laws. So if you have a signature on a bank account of any type, perhaps you are trustee for a parent’s trust in another country, you are likely to be subject to the U.S. laws.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in International Tax

What Is a Tax Treaty?

An International Law FAQ with Mary E. Vandenack.

A tax treaty is a special agreement between countries about the way citizens from different countries are going to be treated when they live or work in different countries. For example, the United States might have a tax treaty with Russia and that might specify what happens if a U.S. company has an employee in Russia or simply a U.S. resident goes over and lives in Russia. The treaty will specify who is going to be subject to tax, how much and how do credits work between the two countries.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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What Does My Business Need to Know About International Law?

An International Law FAQ with Mary E. Vandenack.

 If your business is going to engage in business in international waters, then your business is going to be subject to a variety of international laws. You need to get someone who is an expert in those. Often, that does mean engaging co-counsel in the country that you are going to do business in. So you need to be very apprised of the tax laws. The tax laws will affect your business. They are also going to affect your employees. You are going to want to understand the implications of the tax laws and any tax treaties between the U.S. and the country in which you are doing business.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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What Type of Retirement Plans Should Employers Consider?

An Employee Benefits FAQ with Joshua A. Diveley.

With respect to qualified retirement plans, there are generally two types of plans to consider, one being the defined benefit plan and the other being a defined contribution plan.

A defined contribution plan is just that, it defines what the employer and you as the employee are going to contribute to the plan. What you end up getting at retirement is going to depend on what your contributions are and what those market returns are. If it does well, you have more. If it does not-so-well, you have less.

A defined benefit plan is going to be one in which the amount contributed each year is going to vary based on what the end benefit is going to be, so, regardless of what the market returns are, you are still going to know as an employee what your benefit is going to be when you retire. For example, you plan may say that at retirement if you have worked there for 20 years you will receive a 50% compensation benefit based on the average compensation over the last 3 years. So that would be an example of a defined benefit.

Based on those 2 types of main plans there are a lot of variations within each type.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in Benefits, Qualified Retirement Plans

When Does an Employer Have to Make Accommodations Under ADA?

An Employee Benefits FAQ with M. Thomas Langan II.

The ADA applies to state and local governments, as well as private employers with 15 or more employees. The ADA generally prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities.

One of the main requirements of the ADA is for employers to make reasonable accommodations for the known disabilities of qualified individuals. The disability must be known; therefore, this requires the employee to notify the employer.

Once known, the employer has to make reasonable accommodations, which is defined as adjustments or modifications to the job that would allow the individual to perform essential work functions.

Employers are not obligated to make an accommodation if it gives rise to an undue hardship, which is defined as an accommodation requiring significant difficulty or expense.

Overall, the ADA requires most employers to provide for reasonable accommodations to allow qualified individuals with disabilities to perform essential work functions.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in Benefits, Employment Law, Health and Welfare Benefits

Are All Employers Required to Give FMLA Leave?

An Employee Benefits FAQ with M. Thomas Langan II.

The Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, requires certain employers to provide for job protection or unpaid leave for employees facing certain medical- or military-related events. FMLA does not apply to all employers, but rather two groups.

First, it applies to all public agencies regardless of size. This includes federal, state and local public employers, including schools.

Second, it applies to private employers who employ 50 or more employees throughout most of the year. For purposes of counting employees, the definition of “employee” is defined broadly so employers should error on the side of inclusion.

Overall, FMLA does not apply to all businesses and most private small businesses are exempt.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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What Is COBRA Continuation Health Coverage and What Does It Do?

An Employee Benefits FAQ with M. Thomas Langan II.

COBRA continuation coverage requires employers under certain conditions to offer temporary continuation health coverage to qualified beneficiaries upon the occurrence of a qualifying event. If your company is subject to COBRA, then upon a qualifying event, which with some caveats includes termination of employment or reduction in hours, then your company is required to give notice and offer temporary medical coverage to qualified beneficiaries, which generally includes the subject employee, the subject employee’s spouse or former spouse and dependent children.

During this continuation period, you are not obligated to pay for the premiums of the qualified beneficiary, you are just obligated to provide the coverage.

The continuation period generally lasts from 18-36 months, depending on the given situation.

COBRA does not apply to all employers but rather to state and local public agencies and employers with 20 or more employees, although states are free to reduce this number.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Does an Employer Have to Provide Benefits for an Employee’s Domestic Partner If the Employee Is in a Same-Sex Union?

An Employee Benefits FAQ with Joshua A. Diveley.

In 2013, there was a Supreme Court case named Windsor in which the Supreme Court said that for federal law purposes, the term “spouse” must include a same-sex spouse. The Department of Labor and IRS recently came out and said that to determine whether someone is a same-sex spouse covered by that law, you look at the state of celebration of the marriage. So, with one exception, that is going to apply for all federal benefits–benefits covered by federal law.

The exception is FMLA, which says that the state of residency is what determines whether it is a marriage or not. For example in Nebraska, if an individual lived there then the state of residency would say that we don’t recognize same-sex marriage, but if somebody from Nebraska went to Iowa and was married, the state of celebration, Iowa, would say that the same sex marriage would be valid. So in that case, that would be the one exception where for FMLA purposes, the Nebraska resident would not be covered.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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What Are the Benefits to Offering Group Health Insurance?

An Employee Benefits FAQ with Joshua A. Diveley.

One of the big benefits to offering group health insurance is tax benefits. For example in 2014, there is a small business tax credit that allows small businesses that pay a portion of their employees’ health care premiums to take up to a 50% credit. In addition, the premiums can be paid on a pre-tax basis rather than after tax, which is helpful for employees because if you pay after tax the only tax benefit you can get is by taking an itemized deduction on your personal return and that is subject to a 10% floor so a lot of people don’t hit that because of their income levels so the pre-tax premium payments can be a significant benefit.

Another benefit is that employees may be able to get a preferred group rate as compared to everyone going out and buying individual policies and having their personal demographics determine their rate.

And lastly, with health care costs going up significantly each year, the health care insurance and benefits you provide can be a significant recruitment and retention tool for your employees.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in Benefits, Health and Welfare Benefits
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