Tax Man: Ice Miller’s Mark Richards a 2016 Volunteer of the Year

It’s immediately evident that Mark Richards is passionate about taxes.

As a lawyer for Ice Miller, LLP, specializing in tax law for the past 30 years, he is quick to explain how taxes are essential to the Indiana economy.

Richards points to changes – from a cash to credit economy, and from brick and mortar retail to online over the last few decades – as evidence of how interesting taxes can be.

“I’m using that as an example to show how our entire economic system evolves and the tax laws have to evolve to keep pace.

Some would argue (the laws) haven’t done that very well, but the result is there’s always a new frontier, a new area that’s undeveloped, unexplored, new issues that come up. This is fundamentally important,” he stresses.

Richards has been a member of the Indiana Chamber’s tax policy committee about as long as he’s been a lawyer. He views his role as a source of support and advice to the Chamber. He has been integral to several major tax policy initiatives over the years, including the repeal of the inventory and gross receipts taxes in 2002, and, more recently, the elimination of the throwback rule…

Read the full story in BizVoice.

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Understanding Privacy in the Workplace

Patrick Devine recently penned the following column for Inside INdiana Business about privacy at the office. It's a worthwhile read for employers and employees alike, and may help you get a better understanding of where privacy begins and ends in the workplace dynamic.

My wife and I recently decided to complicate our daily routine by buying a puppy. The time came to pick up the adorable little nipper from the breeder whose location is about a two-hour drive from our home. The breeder generously offered to shorten our trip by meeting us at a highway rest stop. She included in her email that we could still opt to drive to her house as she "has nothing to hide." Did she really mean that? Being a curious and suspicious soul (aka an attorney), I chose to see the "kennel." My immediate thought after the visit was that when someone tells you they "have nothing to hide," they probably have something to hide.

When an employer is conducting an interview of a prospective employee, or a work place investigation, or simply monitoring the company’s email system, the employee may say: "Go ahead, I have nothing to hide." Does this "green light" change the equation for balance between the employer’s legal and the employee's privacy rights? An employee's expectation of privacy in the workplace can become a thorny issue. Most thorn-pricks can be avoided if the employer has well-written policies that are provided to the employee and are enforced consistently and are consonant with the employer's business interest, the type of information involved and the level of intrusion needed by the employer. This is referred to as managing the employee’s expectation of privacy.

The laws and regulations protecting employee privacy rights are too numerous to list here. One obvious example would be the expectation of privacy in certain employee medical information created under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Another example are the federal and state laws that address an employer’s right to access and monitor employees’ use of the company’s electronic communication systems.

With greater technological access to both work-related and personal information about their employees, employers should comply with any notice and consent requirements, and distribute policies consistent with the laws. A relatively recent issue is employee-owned tablets and devices connected or synced to the employer’s network. This creates a situation where the employee should be advised of the trade-off between expectations of privacy of their personal information on their devices and access to the employer’s network.

Again, the employer can limit the possibility of claims of invasion of privacy by properly managing employees’ expectation of privacy.

As for our puppy, I definitely "have nothing to hide" from the neighbors when I race out of bed in the middle of the night to take him outside to do his "business." The cold January wind whips right through what little I had time to throw on before puppy has a mistake on the floor.

A New Funding Approach for Indiana Startups

Our friend Gerry Dick at Inside INdiana Business had an interesting conversation with Kristian Andersen and Ice Miller’s Kristine Danz about Gravity Ventures, a seed stage investing fund for technology companies. Watch the video, and here’s a summary:

A seed stage venture fund is investing in Hoosier technology companies with capital from young investors and entrepreneurs. Gravity Ventures has helped Indiana-based startups including Formspring and Compendium Blogware. Co-founder Kristian Andersen and Ice Miller LLP Private Equity and Venture Services Group Partner Kristine Danz talk withGerry Dick about the fund and the changing landscape of startups.

The fund’s typical investments range from $75,000 to $100,000.

Andersen says it is becoming less expensive to launch a technology company.

He points out what used to require $5 million just a few years ago now costs up to $500,000.

Andersen says one example of the lower costs is equipment. People used to spend up to $1 million to buy hardware to help run the business. Today, they can write a check for around $500 to a company like Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) to take care of those services.
 

Health Care Reform Still a Hot Topic

If you’re still struggling to determine exactly how recent federal health care reforms will impact your business, you should probably join the Indiana Chamber for the Oct. 14 Health Care Reform Seminar, presented by Ice Miller.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) – also known as “health care reform” – sets forth a number of coverage reforms that apply to group health plans, beginning January 1, 2011, for calendar year plans. "Grandfathered" group health plans are exempt from many – but not all – of these coverage mandates. The regulatory agencies have now issued several significant pieces of guidance relating to these early coverage mandates, including what changes to a group health plan will result in loss of grandfathered status. Employers, therefore, have available to them most of the information they need to make plan design decisions for the upcoming plan year and to ensure timely compliance with the PPACA mandates.

Topics to be addressed include:

  • What plans are subject to PPACA coverage mandates
  • The significance of being "grandfathered"
  • What should employers be doing now to comply
  • Tips on handling open enrollment and employee communications
  • Penalties individuals and employers face in the future
  • Impact on health care providers

See conference details and register here.

See, This Health Care Reform Thing is Difficult

What do you get when you place a physician, hospital CEO and representatives of the insurance industry and business community in one room? In this case, a most interesting roundtable discussion on health care reform for our BizVoice magazine.

A taste of some of the comments that didn’t make the final cut:

Dr. Edward Langston, based in Lafayette, is immediate past chair of the board of trustees of the American Medical Association. He says it is "sobering" to sit down with physicians who are paying $250,000 a year in liability insurance.

In regard to quality, he states, "We realize we need to take a hard look at how we do our measures. Where there’s been a great mistrust on the physician side is the lack of transparencies and how you determine your quality standards." He says the National Quality Forum can be the vetting organization for performance measures. "If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve the quality. What we’re trying to do is find the right way to measure it. But that’s just the first step. The next one is taking those measures and how can we adapt them to quality outcomes."

Regarding the Healthy Indiana Plan, Ice Miller public affairs specialist Anne Doran notes it is a "start, but by no means the end all be all." The public private partnership is crucial, but "if we had a lot more money, it would be a lot more successful."

Finally, Goshen Health System president and CEO James Dague doesn’t argue that the partnership is a nice element. "I agree it is a start; sometimes I wish the start would be more complete because we hear too many people touting it as if we’ve really done something. I almost wish we hadn’t done it because it’s not really effective."

And that is what’s not in the story. Read the full article.

Chamber Book Helps Indiana Companies Prepare for Floods, Disasters

Floods have definitely taken a collective toll on Indiana this month. According to the Indy Star, at least 70 businesses have suffered flood damage and a major hospital had to be closed in Columbus.

For those looking to either recover or prevent future disasters from destroying your business, the Indiana Chamber has created Disaster Planning and Homeland Security for Indiana Business. The book, authored by Ice Miller, LLP, outlines what businesses need to do to make sure their finances are in order during not only natural disasters, but chemical spills, acts of terrorism, etc.

Click here to learn more about the book or to order online.