Some interesting tidbits from our practice....
View this email in your browser
  Are you Ready for tax season ?
                We are!       
Dear <<First Name>>,

Tax filing time is sneaking up faster than you think. Don't stress out! Let our experienced, knowledgeable tax attorneys handle your annual income tax return. We can deal with everything quickly and efficiently while you have a worry-free tax season.
We can't collect your documents for you - but we can give you a convenient tool to send them to us (even using your mobile phone to take a photo!).
We can't sign your return for you - but we can give you a convenient tool to sign it electronically.
The estate planning, business, and tax lawyers at Lippman, Semsker & Salb have prepared estate tax, gift tax, income tax, and fiduciary returns for years.  Give us the word, and we will be happy to help you, too, with your taxes.  You will be pleased to see that our rates are similar to those of skilled accountants.
And if you have tax compliance issues, need to file gift tax returns, have past-due FBARs, or other tax issues, let us know.
Micah, Dennis, Paul, Bear, and Sarah, wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year

What you'll find in this email. . .

An update on the DC Estate Tax change.
   A reminder of your annual retirement contribution limits and other key changes in tax limits.
   The new MyRA federal retirement program.
   A New Focus on Arbitration.

Scroll to the bottom for links to each of our practice areas.


Have you          
on Facebook

Like Are you ready for Tax Season?  We Are! on Facebook

Update on the DC Estate Tax Exemption

The District of Columbia Estate Tax exemption will not be increasing from $1 million to $2 million as had been provisionally planned for 2016 because of revenue shortfalls. Naturally, this is not good news for residents and property owners in the District who were hoping for the increase, but it also adds to the uncertainty which has long plagued estate tax planning.

The DC City Council passed a broad tax reduction law in 2014 but ranked the various tax reductions that it listed, based on projected revenues.  The estate tax threshold change to $2 million  is the 15th of 26 possible changes.  This year, only the top 13 will be implemented.

It will not be clear until June of this year whether the increase will simply be put off until 2017 or even later. 

The District's plan to increase the estate tax exemption amount promises tax relief for some residents.  But the uncertainty of the implementation of the tax reduction complicates estate planning.  It also offers value to only a privileged few, part of a race to the bottom, as states race to reduce their estate taxes.

To navigate the uncertain future of the DC Estate Tax, property owners and residents should make sure that their estate plans possess sufficient flexibility to accommodate changes. Residents with estates from $1 million to $5 million should continue to use estate planning techniques to address the DC estate tax and not count on the exemption increasing in the near future. This situation highlights the importance of staying up to date on estate planning legislation and of reviewing your estate plan annually to ensure that it remains as effective as possible. 

How Rosy is Your Future?

Tax Changes for 2016

Take a look at the chart below for the key changes in taxes for 2016.

Are you saving enough for retirement?  If not, this is a good time to figure out if you can afford to increase your contributions.  And remember:  Most retirement contributions reduce the amount of your taxable income, so $1 contributed only reduces your paycheck by about 70 cents.

Can't afford to increase your retirement contributions?  Here's a tip:

If you have savings in the bank that are not earmarked for some other purpose, how about increasing your retirement contributions and spending some of those savings?  This will effectively transfer cash from an account that is subject to taxation each year to one that has deferred taxation --- which can make an enormous difference in the amount of money you will have at retirement or which you can pass along to your children.

Haven't Started Saving for Retirement? No Excuses. 
The federal government has just launched a free, no-risk saving plan called myRA.

The program is aimed at workers without access to retirement programs through their jobs: roughly 55 million people, according to AARP. Beginning this week, any American earning less than $131,000 a year — or $193,000 if they are married and filing taxes jointly — will be able to start saving money from their paycheck, bank account or even tax refund in the government-backed account.

"To have a secure retirement, the earlier you start, the better off you're going to be and we know that there are some challenges in getting people started," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in an interview. Read more about myRA at CNBC. 

On the Employment Front: A New Focus on Arbitration.

Arbitration, used properly, can help save costs for both sides in a dispute and give the court system much-needed relief. However, a recent New York Times article has cast light on the darker side of arbitration, in which corporations use it as a forced alternative system of justice in which judgments are sold to the highest bidder. 

With more and more frequency, employers and corporations - even hospitals - have begun to include clauses in their contracts, compelling signers to resolve disputes through arbitration instead of in court. The range of the disputes these contracts cover is striking, often including serious matters such as sexual harassment, discrimination, and negligence. It is troubling enough that victims have no recourse to public courts under these contracts, but it becomes even more troubling when one considers that arbitration firms have a financial incentive to find in the favor of the defendants, who direct cases to them.  In addition, arbitration proceedings rarely have the right to appeal that is such an essential safeguard to justice.  And because arbitration decisions are private, there is no way to track whether justice is being served.

Ideally, both parties in a case would have a say in which arbitration firm to use. However, many of the contracts which force arbitration also put it in the hands of a specific firm. If an arbitration firm does not find in favor of the defendant they are under a real risk of losing what is for all intents and purposes a client.

This is a problem that our Firm has gone toe to toe with many times. In one recent employment case, the contract limited us to a single deposition even though there were two separate entities involved in the case, meaning we had to chose which company to depose! Forced arbitration often imposes such limitations on plaintiffs to cripple their cases while maintaining the arbitrator's facade of neutrality.

It is sometimes possible to prevail when faced with arbitration, however. For example, back in 2000 we defeated an effort to demand arbitration when the arbitration agreement would have allowed the defendant to change the terms but not our client. Sadly, such successes are too few and far between.


If you have questions regarding employment law matters, we invite you to contact Dennis Chong.

For more information about our practice areas, click on the images below.

Copyright © 2016 Lippman, Semsker & Salb, LLC, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences