New Nebraska Tax Credit for Volunteer Emergency Responders

In an effort to aid in the recruiting and retention of volunteer emergency responders, volunteer firefighters, and volunteer rescue squad members, Nebraska passed LB 886, known as the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act. By enacting this law, volunteer first responders are potentially eligible for a $250 refundable tax credit.

To qualify for the tax credit, the volunteer must be an active rescue squad member, active volunteer firefighter, or active emergency responder. To meet the activity requirements, the law uses the point system currently in place, requiring the volunteer to acquire 50 points out of a potential 100 in the given year. These points are awarded based upon the volunteer responding to emergency calls, participating in training, and other similar activities.

The point system will be maintained by each volunteer department, which will annually certify a list of volunteers meeting the points threshold to the Nebraska Department of Revenue. Starting with the second year that a volunteer is certified on the list, the volunteer can claim the $250 refundable tax credit.

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Nebraska Bill Recognizing Fantasy Sports Fails to Pass

by M. Tom Langan, II

A bill seeking to recognize fantasy sports as a game of knowledge and skill (and not illegal gambling) failed to pass through the Nebraska Legislature.  In addition to permitting fantasy contests for cash prizes, LB862 would have required fantasy contest operators to register with the Department of Revenue and implement certain safeguard features, such as preventing employees from participating and/or sharing confidential “insider” information.  The bill was met with heavy opposition and was indefinitely postponed on April 20, 2016 leaving the legal status of fantasy contests for cash prizes uncertain in Nebraska.

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Initial Steps for Victims of Tax Related Identity Theft

As the 2016 tax season comes to a close, many taxpayers may have discovered they were victims of identity theft. Taxpayers often discover that they have been a victim of identity theft after they receive information that a tax return has already been filed using their social security number. If you are e-filing and a return has already been filed, your filing will likely be rejected. If the IRS suspects identity theft, you will receive Letter 5071C, which will request you verify your identity. Such verification can be completed online at https://idverify.irs.gov/IE/e-authenticate/welcome.do.

 After discovering that you have been a victim of identity theft, you should take multiple actions to protect your identity and correct any fraudulent returns with the IRS. It is recommended that you contact the FTC at identitytheft.gov and contact one of the major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit. If you have received a notice from the IRS or your attempt to e-file a return was denied, you should immediately contact the IRS. If your e-filing has been denied and you believe it is related to identity theft, you must complete Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Form 14039, a paper copy of your return, and any required payment of tax should be mailed to the IRS.

 If issues persist related to any fraudulently filed tax returns, additional information can be obtained from the IRS’s website, https://www.irs.gov/, or by contacting Vandenack Williams LLC.

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Tempted to Ask for An Employee’s Personal Password? Just Say No

By Eric W. Tiritilli

If you’ve ever had the inclination to ask a job applicant or employee for their log-in information or passwords to their personal accounts, you should run – and not walk – away from such ideas.  Not only is requiring an employee to reveal passwords to their personal accounts unlikely to win any points with the employee, it will become illegal in Nebraska once a bill passed by the Nebraska legislature is signed by the Governor.

Legislative Bill 821 will make it illegal to require an employee or an applicant to disclose their user name or password to a personal internet account, to require them to log into their personal account in front of the employer, to require them to change their personal account settings, to add someone (including the employer) to their personal account or to penalize an employee for failing to take such actions.

LB 821 does not prohibit employers from maintaining polices regarding the use of the employer’s equipment and internet (but don’t forget that the NLRB has had a lot to say on these topics).  Nevertheless, the new law would prohibit an employer from intruding on the “personal” internet accounts of an employee.  So, if you’ve ever been tempted to ask an employee for a peek at their personal internet accounts – just say no!

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New Nebraska Law Limits Employer Access to Employee or Applicant’s Social Networking Accounts

On April 13, 2016, the Nebraska legislature passed LB 821, sending the Workplace Privacy Act to the governor for signature. Recently, with over 43% of employers using social networks to research employees and applicants, a significant debate occurred pertaining to the privacy an applicant should have in regards to the information on these sites. In light of the failed attempts to regulate at a federal level, almost half the states have enacted legislation that deals with the same issues as Nebraska’s Workplace Privacy Act.

The new law prohibits an employer from requesting or requiring the employee, or even an applicant, from turning over passwords and usernames for social networking accounts. Similarly, the law also prohibits the employer from requesting access to the account via the employee or applicant logging on for them. Moreover, these protections cannot be waived by the employee, nor should an employer ask for a waiver as a condition of employment.

While the new law provides protection to an employee or applicant from giving unfettered access to social networking accounts, it does not change the employer’s access to information already in the public domain. However, should an employer violate this law, the employee or applicant now has recourse and can file a civil action within one year of the violation.

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IRS Announces New Corrective Procedure for Failure to Adopt a Plan Restatement

By Joshua A. Diveley

Retirement plan sponsors that adopted a defined contribution plan document pre-approved for use by the IRS generally must restate their plan in full every six years. The next restatement deadline is April 30, 2016. If a plan sponsor does not adopt a restated plan document by the deadline, the plan is considered disqualified and is no longer entitled to tax-favored treatment. This may reduce the permissible deduction for contributions to the plan and make it harder for employees to save for their retirement and make tax-favored rollovers of distributions to other plans or individual retirement accounts.

Previously, the only way an employer could correct a failure to adopt a pre-approved plan by the deadline was to complete a submission under the Voluntary Correction Program. A new option allows a financial institution or service provider to request a closing agreement on behalf of plan sponsors. These would be similar to a group submission under the VCP, but under these closing agreements the organization doesn’t need to have made a systemic error.

For more information regarding the new corrective option, see: https://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/New-Program-Allows-Providers-of-Pre-Approved-Plan-to-Correct-Missed-Deadlines.

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Annual HSR Act Threshold Increases Announced

By M. Tom Langan, II

The Federal Trade Commission recently announced its annual increases to the Hart-Scott Rodino Act filing thresholds.  The new numbers went into effect on February 25, 2016.  Under the new thresholds, acquisitions of $78.2 million or less are not reportable.  Transactions above this amount may be reportable depending on other conditions.

For the complete set of numbers, please see Revised Jurisdictional Thresholds.

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