Orlando, Florida – ShuffieldLowman law firm recently announced that veteran litigator Keith J. Hesse has joined the firm as a partner. Hesse brings more than 32 years of legal experience litigating cases in state and federal courts throughout Florida.

Hesse’s strong background covers a broad spectrum of legal experience, including commercial and corporate matters, non-compete agreements, real property litigation and class actions. In addition, he has extensive experience in probate, trust and guardianship disputes, representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries and creditors. He is a trusted advisor to a variety of individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations.

Hesse graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. and University of Michigan Law School with a J.D., where he won the Henry M. Campbell Moot Court competition. He is a member of The Florida Bar and admitted to all Florida State Courts, U.S. Tax Court. U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit and U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida. He holds the AV preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell and is a frequent speaker and author.

He is a member of both the Florida Bar and the American Bar Association’s Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Sections, active in the Orange County Bar Association and Legal Aid Society, a graduate of the Leadership Orlando program and the former Chair of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee. In the community, he serves on the Board of Directors of the Manufacturers Association of Central Florida, is the Immediate Past President of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, on the Advisory Board of Barry University Law School, a member of the Central Florida Estate Planning Council and a member of the Tiger Bay Club of Orlando.

ShuffieldLowman’s four downtown offices are located in Orlando, Tavares, DeLand and Daytona Beach.   The firm is a 33 attorney, full service, business law firm, practicing in the areas of corporate law, estate planning, real estate and litigation. Practice areas include, tax law; securities; mergers and acquisitions; intellectual property, trademarks and copyrights; estate planning and probate; planning for families with closely held businesses; guardianship and elder law; tax controversy – Federal and State; non-profit organization law; banking and finance, land use and government law; commercial and civil litigation; fiduciary litigation; construction law; bankruptcy and creditors’ rights; labor and employment; environmental law and mediation.

Corporate clients should be aware that Florida companies have a public presence in the database of the State’s Sunbiz website, and as a result, their information is open to any who may want to seek it. Third parties may try to take advantage of their access to this public information.

It has been reported that fraudulent notices and solicitations have been recently distributed to Florida companies. These solicitations ask for money in return for a certificate of status, which the solicitors say is required to be considered a valid business entity with the State of Florida. Be aware that these notices are NOT from the Department of State, the Division of Corporations or any other state or federal agency. Once an entity is properly formed, incorporated, organized or registered on the records of the Division of Corporations, it is not required to purchase or receive a certificate of status to be considered a valid business entity or registration. DISREGARD ANY NOTICES OR SOLICITATIONS YOU MAY RECEIVE TO THE CONTRARY.

Businesses may also begin to receive solicitations regarding “Annual Minutes” or “Annual Corporate Record Forms” for a fee of $125. The solicitations which companies may receive regarding these annual minutes may request confidential ownership information. These mailings are not from the ShuffieldLowman office and they are not from the Department of State or any other state or federal agency. DISREGARD THESE NOTICES.

There is a warning on the State of Florida’s Division of Corporations website reiterating this information. Clients who have questions about materials received in the mail regarding their company, are urged to call the firm’s offices to confirm the validity of the material.

Orlando: (407) 581-9800           Deland: (386) 736-9225           Tavares: (352) 253-2222

Experience shows that many people do not read their tax returns; whether it be their personal, partnership, corporation, sole proprietorship, or other business entity returns. While tax preparers work to anticipate all questions that may apply to a tax return, there may be a tendency to presume an answer, unless a taxpayer addresses a specific issue. For this reason, the taxpayer must read all of their return to help their preparers know more about each of their current business dealings. For example, on Form 1040, Schedule B there is a question: Do you have an off-shore bank account? Then there are several follow-up questions. Studies reveal that a taxpayer is frequently not even aware that an applicable question is on the return. The outcome is that this answer is sometimes incorrectly answered by the taxpayer, with the inadvertent commitment of perjury. Taxpayer punishment, rather than accident-forgiveness, is more often than not the result. This is because the IRS makes it clear, under the signature line on the return, that a false statement could constitute perjury.

Similarly, business returns, that is partnership returns, corporate returns, and sole proprietorship returns, among others, contain questions concerning whether or not the taxpayer made any payments during the year that would require the taxpayer to file Forms 1099. For example, on the partnership return (Form 1065), that question appears as question 18a. On Form 1120 (corporate return), it is question 15a. The concern is that, once again, the taxpayer is sometimes not even aware the question is on the return. As noted above, this is due to the taxpayer very frequently not reading the return, except for their own dollar numbers. Penalties for failure to file Forms 1099 continue to be high, as do penalties for late 1099s, running as high as $100 each.

These questions as to whether or not the taxpayer made any payments during the year that would require the taxpayer to file Forms 1099 could also result in even more serious difficulties. If the answer is “yes,” then the IRS wants to know whether the taxpayer did, or will, file the required 1099s. If the answer is “no,” but, in fact, should have been “yes,” then the taxpayer faces the possibility, once again, that they have made a false statement. If the taxpayer answers “yes,” but then states the 1099s have not been filed, then that is a red flag for an audit. Payroll tax audits are becoming more and more frequent as a result of the IRS having conducted national research on this issue and determining that there was a high level of noncompliance. Further, since the Affordable Care Act requires that businesses having a certain number of employees provide a specific level of insurance for staff, the IRS is aware that many entities are trying to avoid having the requisite employees and are treating people as independent contractors. Therefore, the IRS is focused on whether 1099s are being filed for those individuals.

The point is that you need to be sure that, if you have to file 1099s, you are doing so. But, in addition, also be fully aware that the IRS is specifically checking, when you file your individual sole proprietorship, corporate, or partnership return, whether or not you did so. Being alert of these issues can avoid unnecessary and accidental problems, and all the difficulties that those may lead to in terms of audits, the expense of correcting the issue, and possible penalty assessments or more serious punishment.

Are you signing on the bottom line? Then read all of your tax return, because the buck really does stop with you.