We are still screaming over ice cream!

Several years ago, I wrote a blog about ice cream trucks. Multiple incidents throughout the past year were highlighted, including the dispute between Sno Cone Joe pushed Mr. Ding a Ling.

Well according to CNN, this was only the tip of the ice cream and things have stayed icy for ice cream truck businesses. CNN reported that over 45 ice cream trucks have been seized by the city. The reasons included summons of 22,000 citations for traffic violations resulting in at $4.5 million in fines. However, it gets better. The ice cream truck owners are accused of creating shell companies to avoid the fines.

If you buy ice cream from a truck this summer, make sure to tip well! This is a dangerous business.

If you are thinking about starting an ice cream business, or any other business, call me, your Denver small business attorney, Elizabeth Lewis today at 720-258-6647.

Yes, you do need business insurance if you work from home!

Someone on NextDoor.com asked how bad flooding could be in the Denver area. Here are some pictures of the flooding over the years. I think the one in 2013 was a water main break, but it gives you an idea of what the area looked like before the water receded in the 2015 flood. The 2015 flood pictures (all of the cars) just show the aftermath of of the rainstorm we had. The area has flooded a couple of other times as well, unfortunately I didn’t take pictures the other times. The cars are all of the sidewalk (or wherever they ended up) because of the force of the water. The water reached up to the front door (and probably further inside) in the picture with the cab if memory serves me right. This is right at 14th and Kearney/Krameria behind Mayfair Liquors for reference. Just another good reason to make sure you have business insurance – and especially a rider for business equipment if you work from home as your home owner’s insurance may not cover business property in your house without a rider.

 

Essentials, Elements, and Errors in Contract Law

Essentials, Elements, and Errors in Contract Law

Business News

As a small business owner, you are constantly faced with contracts. A contract is an agreement between two or more parties in which there is a promise to do something in return for a valuable benefit. You may have contracts with customers, vendors, employees, contractors, and other individuals or businesses. Oral agreements are sometimes used, but formal written contracts provide legal documentation. Contracts are legally enforceable and should be used to safeguard your resources. Small or new businesses may be more susceptible to mistakes when it comes to the numerous types and complex legal terms of contracts. The Law Office of EC Lewis PC can help create contracts, clarify existing or new contracts and agreements, and provide protection before or after you enter into any binding contract, making sure you understand the essentials, elements, and common errors in contract law. This post will cover contracts that are essential to the success of your small business, the elements of a solid contract, and the most common errors made in business contracts.

1. Essential Contracts

Contracts help to build relationships and protect your business. With the right legal documents, you will protect your property (intellectual and actual), avoid contract disputes, and limit your liability. Here are some contracts that are essential to your small business.

Service Contract – outlines exactly what you will provide or be provided by another company
Employment Agreement/Employment Offer Letter – specifies the rights and obligations of every full time or salaried employee; an employment offer letter should include all of the components of the employment agreement
Independent Contractor Agreement – signed agreements should be in place for every consultant or short-term employee
Equipment Lease – use this contract to lease equipment or lease out your own equipment
Business Lease – the lease for your office or retail space should fit your needs, have a sufficient lease term, clearly spell out the landlord’s obligations, and limit the amount of rent/tax increases allowable
Confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Agreement – potential employees should sign this before interviews, so your proprietary information does not leave the building
Non-Compete Agreement – prevent a former employee or business partner from competing against you while they are employed and for a specified period of time after leaving your company
Software or Website Terms of Use Agreement – understand and comply with the terms of software licensing and website use agreements to avoid violations and potential fines or litigation

All of these contracts need to be carefully thought out, crafted, and reviewed. A small business attorney will help you through this process and represent you in the event of a dispute or litigation.

2. Elements of a Solid Contract

Entering into contracts with customers or clients for the sale of your products or services is an integral part of your small business. There are key elements every contract should contain. Without them, your contracts may be invalid.

Offer – an offer is an invitation or putting the word out that you are accepting contracts, like an advertisement in a store window
Acceptance – the customer accepts by taking you up on your offer; details of offer and acceptance will vary
Capacity – those who enter into contracts must be of mental, physical, and legal capacity to do so
Undue Influence – negative influence or coercion to enter into the contract is not permitted
Intention – both parties must intend for the contract to have legal consequences
Legality – certain formalities must be followed to make a contract legal; the purpose of the agreement must not be illegal

When key elements are omitted or one party does not comply with the terms, a contract has been breached. Whether you are allegedly at fault or the one who has been offended, a small business attorney will help you through your contract issue(s).

3. Errors Most Often Made in Contracts

Negotiating contracts is daunting, but it means you are in business. It also means you have to make decisions that have real legal implications. One poorly drafted or neglected contract can have devastating results for your business. You can avoid some of the most common mistakes before it is too late.

Not Having a Contract – do not allow the small or intimate nature of your business to leave you unprotected; contracts are necessary regardless of your business structure or employee relationships
Not Recognizing a Breach – have a clear process in place for dealing with a failure to pay, a product not delivered as expected, poor quality, or bad behavior
Not Providing an Opportunity for Termination – think beyond the breach; every business contract should have a way for both parties to exit the contract
Not Thinking About Dispute Resolution – consider mediation or arbitration before litigation; these are far less costly options
Not Specifying That a Contract Can be Assigned – make sure every contract can be assigned in the event of a merger, sale, or purchase of the company if an acquisition is the goal
Not Considering Intellectual Property – from day one, have everyone in the company sign a contract that assigns the intellectual property to the company

Before you commit any of these errors, a small business attorney can create, review, or revise your business contracts from startup contracts to ongoing contracts and specialty agreements.

If you need help with essentials, elements, and errors in contract law, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney

Mailing Address and Main Location:

100 Fillmore Street, 5th Floor
Denver, CO 80206
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

With additional meeting locations at:

8354 Northfield Blvd Building G, Denver, CO 80238
 
720 S. Colorado Blvd Penthouse North, Denver, CO 80246

Online at:

10 Ways to De-Stress Your Business Tax Time

10 Ways to De-Stress Your Business Tax Time

Business News

As a small business owner, tax time can be very stressful, especially if you wait until the last minute to try to organize a year’s worth of paperwork. In order to ease the stress and avoid potential trouble with the Colorado Department of Revenue or Internal Revenue Service (IRS), start thinking about tax time as all year round. There are steps you can take throughout the year to make a big difference in your total income and tax liability when it comes time to file. A small business attorney can give you tax advice on the right business structure and paying the right taxes on time as well as provide representation in the event of an audit or penalty. This post will cover 10 keys to getting organized and keeping accurate records to eliminate the anxiety of tax season.

Getting Your Taxes Organized

    1. Appoint time each month to reconcile your receipts, bank slips, statements, invoices, etc. By dedicating just a couple of hours every month to basic bookkeeping, you will avoid dealing with 12 months’ worth of accumulation all at once. You can make a list of steps to be prepared and add important deadlines, dates, and digital reminders to your calendar.
    2. Create a simple filing system for your paperwork. Keep everything in one place, and clearly label or name your folders. Both paper and electronic bookkeeping can be organized by month and type of record.
    3. Separate business and personal finances. Not only will separate bank and credit card accounts for your business make it easier to manage your books, it will enable you to produce legitimate business documents in the event of an audit.
    4. Review your business reports and records even if you have a bookkeeper or an accountant. It is your business and liability on the line, so it is vital to know what is going on. If you are looking to hire someone to do your taxes, the IRS suggests a list of questions to ask the prospective tax preparer.
    5. Prepare for next year as soon as you have filed for the current year. Make a list of steps and possible improvements for the following tax season while the success and/or struggle of the current one is still fresh on your mind.

 

Keeping Accurate Tax Records

 

  1. Understand your business structure and how it impacts your taxes. As your business grows and changes, it is important to reevaluate whether your current structure still works for you.
  2. Know how to claim your home office on your taxes. Whether you rent or own, you can claim a space that is designated for your business. It can be a partial space, rather than the whole room, and it must not be used for any other purpose. Once you have measured the space, you may be able to deduct a portion of expenses, like your mortgage interest, insurance, and utilities. The IRS has a home office deduction page with instructions.
  3. Record your mileage and car expenses if you use your car for business. There are two methods for calculating this deduction – one is based on your standard mileage rate, and the other is based on actual car expenses, like gas, repairs, and insurance. Whichever formula you choose, you will need documentation, including dates, mileage, tolls, parking fees, and the reason for your trip.
  4. Remember to save receipts from meals, travel, entertainment, and gifts. While you can deduct 50% of business-related meals, the cost of travel is 100% deductible. Most client entertainment expenses fall under the 50% deduction limit, while a direct gift to a client or employee is 100% deductible (up to $25 per person per year).
  5. Deduct office supplies even if you do not take the home office deduction. Furniture and other equipment, software/subscriptions, and telephone charges are also tax-deductible.

There are endless tips on how to streamline your business tax process as well as how to avoid a business tax audit. From starting a retirement plan, donating, and deferring income to not hiring too many independent contractors and limiting your business loss claims, the possibilities are seemingly endless. A small business attorney will help you sift through the checklists and keep prepared for each new tax season.

If you need help with your business taxes, or just need to find ways to de-stress business tax time tasks for your small business, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Lawyer. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney

Mailing Address and Main Location:

100 Fillmore Street, 5th Floor
Denver, CO 80206
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

With additional meeting locations at:

8354 Northfield Blvd Building G, Denver, CO 80238
 
720 S. Colorado Blvd Penthouse North, Denver, CO 80246

Online at:

Join Elizabeth Lewis at a Free Seminar on Legal Issues at Denver Startup Week!

Join Elizabeth Lewis at a Free Seminar on Legal Issues at Denver Startup Week!

Business News

Join Elizabeth Lewis at Denver Startup Week!

Are you going to Denver Startup Week? If so, make sure to join me and an awesome panel as we discuss legal issues for start ups. Information is as follows:

Legal Roadmap for Startups
Monday 9/25/17 12:00pm—2:00pm
WeWork Union Station 1550 Wewatta St.
This session about business basics is for new, small, or expanding businesses. With a panel of startup lawyers, topics include corporate structure, vesting and related documents, contracts, intellectual property, and confidential information that every founder should be aware of when starting or growing a business. In addition to me, Tricia Meyer of Meyer Law and Jeffrey Schell of Rocky Mountain Patent will also be on the panel.

If you can’t make it to my panel, make sure to make it to other events. Denver Startup Week is a massive – FREE – summit unmatched in size and caliber, Denver Startup Week (DSW) celebrates entrepreneurial energy, innovation, and connection. Each day offers premium sessions in tech, design, DIY-making, marketing, and leadership, presented by experts and distinguished guests from the local community. The mission of Denver Startup Week is “to foster an environment where every member of a team, in every industry, can come to learn, grow, and prepare for their next challenge.”

Reflecting the rich diversity of Denver’s startup community, the summit incorporates useful and meaningful programming to spark ideas and solutions for improving skills, product, process, approach, or project. Each year, DSW adds more to its impressive roster, which includes several different tracks, clusters, expos, socials, and tours throughout the week.

Tracks Offer Business Advice by Team Member

Tracks cover functional roles within a startup team and give valuable insights for your career and success. For example, if you are a founder, you may want to check out a session from the Founder Track:

Session Sample – Founder Track

Legal Roadmap for Startups
Monday 9/25/17 12:00pm—2:00pm

WeWork Union Station 1550 Wewatta St.

This session about business basics is for new, small, or expanding businesses. With a panel of startup lawyers, moderated by Tricia Meyer of Meyer Law, topics include corporate structure, vesting and related documents, contracts, intellectual property, and confidential information that every founder should be aware of when starting or growing a business. Panelists include Elizabeth Lewis of the Law Office of E.C. Lewis and Jeffrey Schell of Rocky Mountain Patent.

Find a Track that Meets Your Colorado Business Needs

  • Designer
    The designer track focuses on the critical elements of design – from fashion to architecture to breakout digital design and artwork. Come learn from designers responsible for some of the best projects in Colorado.
  • Developer
    Learn new technologies, refine your skills, or just check out something completely different in this track.
  • Founder
    Whether you are just thinking about starting a business or are a seasoned entrepreneur, the founder track will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to found a company.
  • Growth
    Growing a startup depends on numerous variables, including digital marketing, inbound and outbound sales, and customer experience. These skills will be covered throughout Denver Startup Week.
  • Maker
    These sessions encompass every type of physical product from outdoor recreation, distilling or brewing, and crafting to connected devices, open-source hardware, and 3D printing among many others.
  • Product
    In this track, you will learn how to improve your product management, development, and marketing skills.

Small Business Tips by Topic

Clusters highlight unique sessions related to the same topic area or industry vertical. Here are the clusters available this year:

  • Social Impact
    A company’s impact is not just measured by profit, but it is also measured by the lasting effects it has on the people and communities around them. Learn how you can start to build social good into your company.
  • IoT
    The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the way we interact with the world. From smart devices to integrated homes to intelligent vehicles, check out the latest technologies and trends
  • HealthTech
    Explore the significant transformations coming and already being implemented in the healthcare industry from both technologists and healthcare professionals.
  • Diversity and Inclusion
    Building an inclusive organization and culture is a critical part of any early-stage company, particularly in a world of increasingly global and diverse customer bases. Hear firsthand the experiences of those on the front lines enabling diversity in the startup realm.
  • Canabis
    At the forefront of entrepreneurship, technology, and the emerging cannabis industry, Colorado is leading the way for the intersection of technology and cannabis. See how these two seemingly different fields interoperate.
  • Business Basics
    Covering a range of fundamental topics required to run a successful company – accounting, finance, operations, marketing, accessing capital –
    come learn the ins and outs of running your company from the people in the community who have done it most sucessfully.

Youth Business Expos and Field Trips

For the first time, Denver Startup Week is providing exciting opportunities for Denver’s young entrepreneurs.

  • YouthBiz Marketplace and Expo
  • Youth Early Access

Basecamp – Complimentary Happy Hours and Coffee!

Say no more! Basecamp, located in downtown Denver in The Commons on Champa, offers opportunities to speak with leading panelists and speakers, share your own startup plans with seasoned pros, and kick back and socialize with free food and beverages.

If you need help with your startup, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney

Mailing Address and Main Location:

100 Fillmore Street, 5th Floor
Denver, CO 80206
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

With additional meeting locations at:

8354 Northfield Blvd Building G, Denver, CO 80238
 
720 S. Colorado Blvd Penthouse North, Denver, CO 80246

Online at:

What’s in a Name for Your Home Business?

What’s in a Name for Your Home Business?

Business News

Your home-based business may be something you have been dreaming about for a long time, or it may be the result of a lay-off or need to supplement your existing income. Being your own boss, making your own hours, and having endless possibilities for growth are just some of the many perks. Whether you are a designer making custom jewelry or a freelance programmer looking to expand your business, you will need to consider all of the legal, technical, creative, and minute details of starting, protecting, and broadening your home business. Small Business Attorney Elizabeth Lewis will not only help keep your business legally upright, but she will also help with the things you may not have considered. This post will cover three often overlooked areas of home business planning:

  1. Choosing a Name
  2. Choosing a Legal Structure
  3. Choosing an Address

1. Choosing A Name For Your Home Business

Coming up with a name can be the easiest and most fun start to your home business. Testing out names on your family and friends and drafting logos are an exciting part of the creative process, but there are important steps to take before you settle on a name or establish a brand. Your name should identify your products/services, be memorable, and stand out. If it is too generic – Denver Jewelry – it may be difficult to register or trademark. If it is too narrow – Carla’s Breakfast Cupcakes – it may inhibit or restrict the growth of the business. The name should match the spirit and purpose of your business and inspire your logo and marketing. But first… make sure it is available. Before you do a national trademark search, check with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. You can register or reserve your trade name online on the Secretary of State’s website. The Denver Public Library also has resources, like trade name searches, for small business. It is also important to secure a domain name for your website. Your small business attorney will help with both the legal aspects of your home business name as well as your online marketing presence and, if needed, refer you to a trademark attorney to help secure your name.

2. Choosing A Legal Structure For Your Home Business

The structure of your business impacts many other decisions, affecting your liability, taxes, permits, and licenses. You might start doing business as a sole practitioner, but later decide to become a limited liability corporation (LLC) or an a corporation. Operating as a corporation can give you legitimacy that you may not have as “some guy who works out of his house.” With an LLC or Corp, you may be able to protect your personal assets from creditors, avoid paying both personal and corporate taxes, and deduct pre-tax expenses (e.g. travel, computers, phone bills, advertising, and health care premiums). Here are some pros and cons for LLC versus a corp.

Pro LLC

  • easy to set up
  • inexpensive to start
  • less red tape than forming an S corp

Con LLC

  • required to pay self-employment tax on income generated in the LLC
  • must operate the LLC distinctly and separately from personal affairs

Pro Corp

  • profits after payroll expenses, federal taxes, and FICA can be distributed to owner and are taxed at a lower rate than income if s-corp status is chosen

Con Corp

  • stricter tax code guidelines than LLCs
  • costs more to form a Corp
  • can have additional state taxes

Make sure you know the difference between the tax status and legal status of your entity though. For example, a LLC or a corporation can be an “s-corporation” as s-corporation just means you have elected to be taxed under subchapter s of the internal revenue code. If you are an LLC taxed as an s-corp, you may have many of the restrictions (and costs) of a corporation.

Because each state has its own rules, a small business attorney will help you choose both the best legal and tax structure for your home business and, with the help of a CPA, make sure you remain compliant with Colorado’s tax, licensing, and permit laws.

3.

Choosing An Address That Isn’t Your Home Address (And Why It Matters)

There are so many wonderful benefits of working from home – having clients or customers know where you live might not be one of them. For LLCs or Corps, a registered agent’s address can be substituted for your own. However, if you are not incorporating, you can get a P.O. Box or use a “Doing Business As (DBA)” mailing address. These are options if you would like your personal residence to remain private or if you live somewhere, like an apartment complex, you fear will come off as unprofessional. There are home address alternatives. A mail-receiving service can provide a street address and a suite number rather than your actual address or a P.O. Box. These mail service companies will also pack, ship, and track your packages. An email account will further reduce the volume of mail and phone calls you receive. Whichever address you choose for your home business, remember to respond to all inquiries promptly and establish an efficient system. This will keep your operations running smoothly and your customers satisfied.

Another issue relevant to your home address and your home business is how your address appears to listing services such as Google My Business. If you don’t want you home address with a map to your front door being displayed, make sure you double check and correct how your listing is shown.

If you need help setting up or keeping up your home business,
contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Lawyer. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney

Mailing Address and Main Location:

100 Fillmore Street, 5th Floor
Denver, CO 80206
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

With additional meeting locations at:

8354 Northfield Blvd Building G, Denver, CO 80238
 
720 S. Colorado Blvd Penthouse North, Denver, CO 80246

Online at: