July 2015 Volume IX No. 3 Taking Care of Business
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Taxpayer: Is Your Property Receiving The Proper Tax Cap Application As Set Forth In The Indiana Constitution As Amended In 2012?

Gerold Stout

In 2012 the Indiana Constitution was amended through a taxpayer referendum to establish a maximum percentage amount that property could be taxed. This referendum is commonly referred to as the tax cap provision and is set forth in Article X, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution. Those percentages are as follows:

  1. Principal Place of Residence    1%
  2. Other residential property    2%
  3. Agricultural land    2%
  4. Other real property    3%
  5. Personal Property    3%
(Personal Property that is associated with 1 or 2 above is capped at 1 or 2%)

Beginning with the assessments in 2013, the Department of Local Government Finance (“DLGF”) began changing the classification of some property to be classified as other real property. This became very apparent to those individuals whose principal place of residence consisted of multiple parcels. DLGF stated that the parcel with the home on it would qualify for the Principal Place of Residence tax cap of 1%, and the remaining parcels, even though they are part of the taxpayer’s yard, would be subject to the other real property tax cap of 3%.

In a petition to correct errors that I filed for Michelle Cubit, the Indiana Board of Tax Review decided this month that this approach is inconsistent with the Indiana Constitution. If a Taxpayer’s Principal Place of Residence consists of multiple parcels, all of the parcels qualify for the 1% tax cap set forth in the Indiana Constitution.

Every taxpayer should review their respective tax bills to ascertain the application of the tax caps to their property. If the property is the taxpayer’s principal place of residence the assessed value of the property should be listed on line 1a of the tax bill, which is the 1% tax cap. For all other residential property owned by the taxpayer, the taxes should be capped at 2% and reflected on line 1b of the tax bill.

If a taxpayer should notice line 1c of their tax bill has an assessed value listed, and the property is residential property, the taxpayer needs to question the application of the 3% tax cap to their property. Any application of a 3% tax cap to residential property would be inconsistent with the Indiana Constitution.

If you have questions regarding the contents of this article, or other similar issues, please contact your HWE relationship attorney or visit us at http://www.hwelaw.com.

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National Labor Relations Board And The Employee Handbook

Jim Jorgensen

For many reasons, I imagine the Founding Fathers would be surprised to see the form of today’s government. Specifically, they envisioned three (3) branches of government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. They probably never contemplated the powerful fourth branch: Administrative Agencies.

One of the most powerful agencies, and surely the most ideologically aggressive, is the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”). The Board administers numerous federal laws, and most importantly, the National Labor Relations Act (“Act”).

It is tempting to believe that the Board - and the Act – only affect union businesses. This would be an incorrect assumption. One section of the Act – Section 7 – applies to non-union businesses as well.

The Board has been aggressively challenging employer (including non-union) policies. Often, its scrutiny extends to provisions of employee handbooks. Recently, the Board’s General Counsel issued a report identifying eight (8) employment policies which the Board will closely scrutinize and challenge.

The Board has long taken the position that even neutrally worded employment policies can violate the Act if they have a chilling effect on the right of employees to engage in protected Section 7 concerted activities. These activities include discussing wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment with other employees and with outside parties, such as government agencies, union representatives and the news media.

These policies are often contained in Handbooks. Let us take a somewhat abbreviated look at the four (4) of eight (8) policies targeted by the Board.

The first are confidentiality policies. Many businesses have legitimate confidential or proprietary information, like trade secrets, customer lists, manufacturing processes and the like, to protect. However, the Board has stated confidentiality policies may not prohibit employees from discussing their wages, hours, workplace complaints or other personal information.

The Board has also challenged policies designed to govern the manner by which employees engage the employer and its supervisors. Prohibiting employees from disparaging the employer’s products, or requiring employees to be respectful to customers, vendors and competitors will typically be acceptable. However, policies prohibiting employees from generally being rude or disrespectful would be challenged.

How about the relationships between co-workers? The Board will approve a policy which prohibits harassing and discriminatory conduct amongst co-workers. However, it will prohibit a policy which attempts to bar all negative or derogatory conduct: the Board believes a policy like this would impede frank discussions about terms and conditions of employment.

Let’s try one more. Many employers have a conflict-of-interest policy. For example, the policy may prohibit employees from having a financial interest in a customer or competitor. For the Board, this type of policy does not impede Section 7 activities. However, a policy prohibiting acts which are “not in the company’s interest” are too broad, and are therefore prohibited.

In light of the Board’s report, and its aggressive position with respect to Section 7 protected activities, employers should have their Handbooks reviewed, and if necessary, revised.

If you have questions regarding the National Labor Relations Board and The Employee Handbook, or other similar issues, please contact your HWE relationship attorney or visit us at http://www.hwelaw.com.

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