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Employment Law Update: Employer-Provided Leave as a Reasonable Accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act standard

On May 9, 2016 the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a resource document that addresses workplace leave policies in the context of an employer’s duty to accommodate employees with disabilities. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state civil rights laws, including the Iowa Civil Rights Act, require that employers provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities unless doing so would cause undue hardship on the employer’s operations or finances. The EEOC’s new document entitled, “Employer-Provided Leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act,” which can be accessed on the EEOC’s website, reminds employers that workplace policies denying or limiting the use of leave may be subject to challenge if they unlawfully restrict the rights of disabled employees.  ...

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Tips for Those Who Missed the Tax Deadline standard

Did you file your federal income tax return on time?  Monday, April 18, was the tax deadline for most people in 2016. If you didn’t file a tax return or an extension to file but should have, take action now. If you missed the tax filing deadline: File and pay soon. If you owe taxes, you should file and pay as soon as you can, which will stop the interest and penalties that you will owe. The IRS doesn’t charge a penalty for filing a late return if you are due a refund. The sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get your refund. Pay as much as you can. If you owe but can’t pay in full, you should ...

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Special Needs Trusts: Estate Planning for a Disabled Family Member standard

Are you thinking about leaving assets to a disabled loved one?  Stop!  A gift of cash or property to a disabled person may disqualify them receiving their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid.  You need to plan carefully so that the money and benefits that they are receiving are not terminated. A Special Needs Trust may be one solution.  This kind of trust is formed on behalf of an elderly or disabled beneficiary to provide benefits beyond those that they already receive through government benefits like SSI or Medicaid. Depending on specific requirements set by each state, a Special Needs Trust can only be used for items and services beyond what is already being supplied by governmental assistance programs, meaning essentials ...

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Premarital Agreements: A Potentially Critical Element of an Effective Estate Plan standard

Despite public perception, premarital (also called prenuptial or antenuptial) agreements are not only about planning for divorce.  Yes, they can provide protection in the event of a divorce, however, they can also provide necessary protection for estate planning purposes as well. In Iowa, absent a premarital agreement, it is impossible to disinherit your spouse.  If you have a will or trust your spouse can “elect against” the plan and take up to 1/3 of your assets (note that it is possible to “disinherit” your spouse via a trust if the appropriate elements, including your spouse’s written consent, are met).  If you don’t have a will your spouse can elect to take all your assets (when you do not have kids ...

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TAX PLANNING USING CHARITABLE GIFTS standard

With the April 15 income tax filing deadline looming, many taxpayers are looking for ways to reduce their income tax liability.  One way to reduce income taxes is to make gifts to charity. Perhaps the most efficient way to make a charitable gift is to give long-term appreciated assets such as stocks, bonds and/or mutual funds to charity.  There are two primary advantages to giving appreciated assets to charity.  First, the donor may take (subject to certain limitations) a deduction from the donor’s taxable income for the full fair market value of the asset at the time of the gift.  The second advantage to giving appreciated assets is that the donor pays no capital gains tax on the appreciation of ...

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Wage and Hour Issues for Employers: Do I Have to Pay Our Summer Intern? standard

If your company is considering hiring unpaid interns this summer, you should keep in mind that there are certain requirements that must be met before you can treat an internship as an unpaid position. Generally speaking, interns who receive training for their own educational benefit may be considered “unpaid interns.” However, the Department of Labor, which is the federal agency that enforces the federal wage and hour laws has identified the following six criteria that must be met in order to have an unpaid intern in your workplace: The internship, even though it includes performance of the actual operations of your workplace, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment; The internship experience is clearly for the benefit ...

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FILING DEADLINES FOR THE IOWA BUSINESS PROPERTY TAX CREDIT ARE APPROACHING standard

The Iowa Code provides for a property tax credit for certain qualifying commercial, industrial and railroad properties.  The credit is granted per “property unit” with property units consisting of contiguous parcels of the same classification that are owned by the same person and operated for a common use and purpose. If the property tax credit has already been claimed, it will continue  to apply to the property unit for successive years so long as the property unit continues to satisfy the requirements of the credit.  However, if the property unit is sold or transferred, the new owner must refile in order to claim the credit. The current deadline for applying for the Iowa Business Property Tax Credit is March 15, 2016 for ...

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UPCOMING OPPORTUNITIES EXIST FOR SOUTH DAKOTANS TO REDUCE THEIR REAL ESTATE TAX LIABILITY standard

  Most people don't think about their real estate tax liabilities until the County Treasurer issues a bill for taxes due.  By then, taxpayers have already missed out on the opportunity to address how much is owed as that chance occurs when the County sends out notices of assessment.  Assessment notices detail the value of your property as determined by the Director of Equalization. The amount of tax you pay on real estate is based on a relatively simple formula: Assessed Value     X     Tax Levy %  =  Amount of Tax Due The only aspect of this formula a taxpayer can control is to ensure that the assessed value of their real estate is correct.  In South Dakota, taxpayers are ...

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IOWA COURT OF APPEALS RULES THAT IN PERSONAL INJURY CASES INVOLVING INTENTIONAL TORTS, A CLAIM FOR PUNITIVE DAMAGES SHOULD USUALLY BE DECIDED BY THE JURY standard

In the case of Lasser vs. McNeal, decided on February 24, 2016, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled that in personal injury cases involving intentional torts, a claim for punitive damages should usually be decided by the jury. On September 13, 2009, Clifford McNeal and Ray Lasser were involved in a physical alteration over a motor vehicle.  Lasser filed a personal injury lawsuit against McNeal seeking damages for pain and suffering, medical and dental bills, mental anguish and punitive damages.  Before the case went to the jury, the judge in the case excluded Lasser’s claim for punitive damages.  The jury ruled in Lasser’s favor and awarded him money for his personal injury case.  Lasser appealed the judge’s ruling on punitive ...

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Three Hot Topics for Employers in 2016 standard

Proposed Changes to Overtime Rules – Planning for More Overtime Eligible Employees Pregnancy Accommodations in the Workplace Independent Contractor vs. Employee – An Important Distinction Plan Now for New Overtime Rules You may have heard that the federal Department of Labor (DOL) issued a proposed rule that would change the test for determining which employees are exempt from overtime requirements.  The rule will have the effect of greatly expanding the number of employees who will need to be paid overtime for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek.  Although the DOL does not expect to issue its final rule changing the overtime exemptions until mid-to-late 2016 now is a good time to consider which of your employees may lose their exempt status ...

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