Understanding Your Contract: Top Seven Questions to Ask Yourself Before Signing a Contract

The standard definition of a contract states that: a contract is a promise or set of promises, for breach of which the law gives a remedy, or the performance of which the law in some way recognizes as a duty. Therefore, an enforceable contract, whatever its type or form, inevitably creates rights and obligations. This is why it is so important to make sure you understand the contract before you sign it. Therefore, ask yourself the following questions before you bind yourself to an agreement with another party:

1. Do I understand exactly the extent, timing, and nature of my contractual obligations?

2. Do I understand exactly the extent, timing, and nature of the other party’s contractual obligations?

3. Do I understand exactly my rights under the contract and when I can enforce them?

4. Do I understand exactly the other party’s contractual rights and when they can enforce them?

5. Am I personally liable (i.e. your personal assets are at risk) for the promises made in the contract?

6. Is the contract enforceable?

7. If the contract is enforceable, where and under which state’s or country’s laws can it be enforced?

There are many more detailed questions that should be asked before you sign a contract. Never, however, sign a contract without at least positively answering these seven questions.

Obviously, it is best if a contract attorney reviews your agreement before you sign it. Sherayzen Law Office has extensive experience in drafting and reviewing a wide variety of U.S. and international contracts, including but not limited to: confidentiality agreements, disclaimers, distributor agreements, sale of goods contracts, personal services contracts, general employment contracts, independent contractor agreements, franchise agreements, manufacturing agreements, non-compete agreements, lease agreements, licensing agreements, operating agreements, partnership agreements, and sale/purchase of business contracts.

Call Now at (612) 790-7024 to discuss your contract with a Minnesota and international contract lawyer.

Reporting Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) Income to the IRS

U.S. citizens and resident aliens (for U.S. tax purposes) who have financial interest in Canadian Registered Retirements Savings Plans RRSPs)and/or Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) must report their RRSP and RRIF income to the IRS by using Form 8891. The taxpayers (even if resident aliens from Canada) must comply with this reporting requirement even if their earnings from these retirement plans are not considered as taxable income in Canada.

Prior to year 2003, the IRS maintained that RRSPs and RRIFs are foreign trusts and the annuitants and beneficiaries of these plans must annually file Form 3520 with the IRS. See IRS Announcement 2003-25. IRS was authorized to impose heavy penalties for failure to file Form 3520. 26 U.S.C. §6677.

In 2003, however, the IRS adopted a new simplified reporting regime which is still the current law. Under the new rules, U.S. citizens and resident aliens who hold interests in RRSPs and RRIFs only need to file the new Form 8891 in lieu of the burdensome Form 3520 required earlier. See IRS Announcement 2003-75. Moreover, in the new form, the filers are able to make the election under Article XVIII(7) of the U.S.-Canada income tax convention to defer U.S. income taxation of income accrued in the RRSP or RRIF. Id. The filers are still required to maintain supporting documentation relating to information required by Form 8891 (such as Canadian Forms T4RSP, T4RIF, or NR4, and periodic or annual statements issued by the custodian of the RRSP or RRIF). Id. Nevertheless, the new simplified reporting regime substantially reduces the reporting burden of taxpayers who hold interests in RRSPs and RRIFs.

If you have any questions with respect to your RRSP and/or RRIF income, or if you failed to disclose this income during the prior years, CALL Sherayzen Law Office to discuss your case NOW!

Definition of “U.S. person” for FBAR (Report on Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) Purposes

Since October of 2008, the definition of a “U.S. person” has been going through a turbulent phase of uncertainty with periodic expansions and retractions. The pre-2008 FBAR instructions (dating back to July of 2000 version) defined the “U.S. person” broadly as: “(1) a citizen or resident of the United States, (2) a domestic partnership, (3) a domestic corporation, or (4) a domestic estate or trust.” See IRS Announcement 2010-16.

Two important features of this definition stand out. First, the term “person” is defined to include not only individuals, but also virtually any type of business entity, estate or trust. 31 C.F.R. §103.11(z) Even a single-member LLC, which is generally disregarded for tax purposes, may be classified as a U.S. person because it has a separate juridical existence from its owner. A partnership or a corporation created or organized in the United States is considered to “domestic” under 26 U.S.C. §7701(a)(4). Second, the definition of who should be considered as a U.S. resident is interpreted under 26 U.S.C. §7701. Under 26 U.S.C. §7701(b), an individual is a U.S. resident if he meets any of the three bright-line tests: (1) lawful admission for permanent residence to the United States (“green card”); (2) substantial presence in the U.S.: the sum of the number of days on which such individual was present in the United States during the current year and the 2 preceding calendar years (when multiplied by the applicable multiplier determined under the following table) equals or exceeds 183 days; (3) and first-year election to be treated as a resident under 26 U.S.C. §7701(b)(4). Thus, the definition of a U.S. resident under the tax rules is much broader than the one used in immigration law.

In October of 2008, the IRS revised the FBAR instructions and further expanded the definition of a “U.S. person” by including the persons “in and doing business in the United States.” This revision caused a widespread confusion among tax professionals. The outburst of comments and questions prompted the IRS to issue Announcements 2009-51 and 2010-16, suspending FBAR filing requirement through June of 2010 (i.e. for calendar years 2008 and 2009) for persons who are not U.S. citizens, U.S. residents, and domestic entities. Instead, the tax professionals were referred back to July of 2000 FBAR definition of a “U.S. person.”

In the meantime, in February of 2010, the IRS published new Proposed FBAR regulations under 31 C.F.R. §103. The proposed rules modify the definition of a “U.S. person” as follows: “a citizen or resident of the United States, or an entity, including but not limited to a corporation, partnership, trust or limited liability company, created, organized, or formed under the laws of the United States, any state, the District of Columbia, the Territories, and Insular Possessions of the United States or the Indian Tribes.” 75 Fed. Reg. 8845 (proposed February 23, 2010) (to be codified as 31 C.F.R. 103.24(b)). This definition applies even if an entity elected to be disregarded for tax purposes. Id. The determination of a U.S. resident status is to be done according to 26 U.S.C. §7701(b) and regulations there under, except the meaning of the “United States”(which is to be defined by 31 U.S.C. 103.11(nn)). Id.

Thus, if the proposed regulations will ultimately be codified in their current form, the definition of the “U.S. person” will be slightly broader than that of the July of 2000, but will represent a major regression from October 2008 definition. Nevertheless, based on even existing (July of 2000) definition of the “U.S. person,” the IRS has been able to cast a wide net over U.S. taxpayers, trying to force disclosure of as many foreign financial accounts as possible.

Net Worth Requirement for Money Transmitter License in Minnesota

An applicant for a money transmitter license in Minnesota must comply with Minn. Stat. §53B.05 net worth requirements. Under Minnesota law, each licensee engaging in money transmission in three or fewer locations in the state, either directly or through authorized delegates, must have a net worth of at least $25,000. However, if a licensee engages in money transmission at more than three locations in the state, but fewer than seven locations (either directly or through authorized delegates), he must have a net worth of at least $50,000. If there are more than six locations in the state, the licensee should have a net worth of $100,000 and an additional net worth of $50,000 for each location or authorized delegate located in the state in excess of seven, to a maximum of $500,000. The net worth is calculated in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”).

The required net worth must be maintained throughout the licensed period. Failure to meet the statutory net worth requirement may lead to license revocation and denial of the license renewal application. Minn. Stat. §53B.19 (2).

The burden of proof is on the initial licensee. This means that when the applicant files its money transmitter license application for the very first time, he must prove by preponderance of evidence that he satisfies the net worth requirements and any other issues raised by the Minnesota Department of Commerce (“Department”). When an application for license renewal is filed, however, the issue of who bears the burden of proof is not yet settled by courts. There is a very good argument that the Department bears the burden of proof once the initial burden of production is satisfied by the applicant. Sherayzen Law Office can help you make this argument once the need arises.

It is very important to hire a Minnesota attorney to review your license application. The regulatory compliance costs are very high and making sure that your application satisfies the statutory requirements prior to its filing may be crucial to containing legal expenses and even ultimate ability to obtain (for the first time) or renew the license.

If, however, you submit your license application without professional review of a Minnesota attorney and the Department raises issues with respect to the application, it is indispensable to retain a Minnesota business lawyer as soon as possible. Timely professional intervention may lead to quick resolution of the issues and led to significant savings in accounting and legal expenses.

Sherayzen Law Office can help you file a new license application as well as a renewal application. If your application has been rejected and you appeal the case with the Office of Administrative Hearings, Sherayzen Law Office will provide you with a vigorous yet cost-effective legal representation. Call now: (612) 790-7024!

Eugene Sherayzen is a new Legal Advisor to Bright New Ideas

It is with pleasure that Sherayzen Law Office announces that on May 5, 2010, Eugene Sherayzen became a Legal Advisor to the Bright New Ideas (“BNI”), a Minnesota non-profit corporation devoted to the alleviation of worldwide poverty through the use of solar energy. In his new capacity, Mr. Sherayzen will help overview the BNI’s U.S. and international contracts, and provide legal support for the BNI’s import and export strategy.