Suffolk County’s Plastics Ban: What Your Business Needs to Know

Posted: May 8th, 2019

By: Don Rassiger, Esq. email

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Suffolk County is the first county in New York State to restrict the use of plastic straws according to County Executive Steve Bellone, who on Earth Day (April 22, 2019) signed a pair of bills banning restaurants and retailers from distributing plastic straws and stirrers as well as Styrofoam products. The move comes after some local municipalities have passed similar legislation regarding plastic and polystyrene products – including Southampton (read more about that law here) – as well as state and county laws banning single-use plastic bags. If you operate a food service establishment in Suffolk County, here’s what you need to know.

Under the new legislation, the ban on plastic straws, stirrers, and Styrofoam will take effect on January 1, 2020. Your server dropping a handful of individually wrapped plastic straws on your table will be a distant memory, with restaurants, delis, and food service establishments providing straws and stirrers only if asked (and even then, the product must be biodegradable, not plastic). (Note that those who have a disability or medical condition will still be able to request a plastic straw.) And as with Southampton’s ban, the new Suffolk County law also bans food and beverage business from using polystyrene (“Styrofoam”) take-out containers – unless used to store eggs, raw meat, pork, fish, seafood, and poultry – as well as the use of packaging “peanuts,” starting next year as well.

In an extension of Southampton’s ban, Suffolk County lawmakers also passed a bill to ban single-use plastic utensils, plates, and cups distributed by vendors at county parks and beaches, which would go into effect when the current park vendor contracts are up. Such a move would also require the County to install more water fountains to allow for bottle refilling.

Suffolk County restaurants and food establishments should start preparing now for the transition to biodegradable options – including paper, bamboo and cardboard, among others. According to the New York State Restaurant association, the market has not yet caught up to the demand (https://www.newsday.com/business/plastic-straw-styrofoam-ban-suffolk-1.29639871), so the supply and the cost of alternative options could become more challenging as January 1, 2020 approaches. Get your orders in now!

While the switch to biodegradable options will undoubtedly cost business owners more, savvy restaurateurs can capitalize now by switching to biodegradable options before 2020, demonstrating environmental awareness to millennial consumers who may reward this forward thinking with loyalty. Further, most Long Islanders agree that environmental cleanup costs are sky-high, and a decrease in plastic litter can make a major difference. Surrounded by water, Long Island is particularly affected by plastics polluting the waterways we rely on for food, livelihood, and pleasure. The public has been particularly focused on sea animals washing ashore sick or dying from eating or becoming trapped in plastics.

By helping to reduce this type of waste, restaurants can promote their forward-thinking attitudes and attract new customers. Once again, please contact us with any compliance questions you may have.

The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only and is not and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. The firm provides legal advice and other services only to persons or entities with which it has established an attorney-client relationship.

Recent Changes in New York Election Law and How They Affect Your Business

Posted: May 7th, 2019

By: Christine Malafi, Esq. email


The New York Election Law has been updated for 2020. Click here to read more.

Employers, take note: New York State’s Election Law was recently amended as part of the state’s fiscal year 2020 budget amendments, and the changes have important, immediate implications for employers.   

As of April 12, 2019, Election Law § 3–110 requires that employees in New York who are registered voters may request and receive up to three hours paid time off to vote, regardless of their work schedule and without loss of pay. (Previously, the law allowed for an employee to request up to two hours of paid time off to vote, but only if the employee didn’t have four or more consecutive hours off between either the time the polls opened and the start of their shift, or the end of their shift and the time the polls closed.) Every employer must post the new Election Law requirements in a noticeable place, accessible to all employees and on company grounds, at least 10 days prior to every election, and leave the notice up through at least the close of the polls on Election Day. Additionally, employee handbooks need to be updated to reflect the new Election Law requirements.

Employees are allowed time off to vote only at the beginning or at the end of their work shift, at the employer’s discretion, unless another time is agreed upon between employee and employer. Employees must also notify their employer at least two days prior to an election if they require time off to vote. Notably, the time off is “up to” three hours, not three hours.

This law applies to all elections under the Election Law in its entirety—including primary and special elections. Specifically, the Election Law covers federal, state, county, city, town, or village office elections, as well as elections on ballot questions that are submitted to voters either state, county, city, town, or village-wide.  It does not apply to school district, fire district, or library district elections and budget votes, as these are generally governed by laws other than the Election Law.

The amended law does not indicate whether an employer is permitted to request proof of voter registration or require a voting receipt or other proof that the employee actually used their time off to vote. The law is also silent as to whether an employer may deduct paid time off to vote from an employee’s established paid time off (PTO) or if employers may instead create a separate category of time off specifically for voting. Please contact us to discuss your specific situation.

Changes such as this one can leave businesses, especially small businesses, scrambling to stay on top of the requirements and at increased risk for non-compliance. For any questions about how to implement these changes at your organization in the least disruptive way possible, please contact our office.

The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only and is not and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. The firm provides legal advice and other services only to persons or entities with which it has established an attorney-client relationship.

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: How Are You Going to React?

Posted: January 22nd, 2018


By Alan R. Sasserath, CPA, MS
Partner, Sasserath & Zoraian, LLP

Whether we like it or not, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (“TCJA”) has been signed into law.  The purpose of this article is not to discuss the merits of TCJA, but rather address what New Yorkers can do to minimize the tax bite that resulted from its passing.  Just as one of the laws of Physics is “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” the laws of tax are no different.  Some states such as New York are talking about instituting a deductible payroll tax to replace the non-deductible personal income tax as a reaction to TCJA.  However, we can’t rely on our state politicians as our sole reaction.  Here are some suggestions as to what each business and individual should discuss with their tax advisor in response to the TCJA.[1]

  1. Pass-Through Entity 20% Deduction: This is where significant planning time will be spent. For 2018, individual owners of pass-through entities with “domestic qualified business income” (“DQBI”) are permitted a deduction of up to 20% of such income subject to certain limitations based on wages and “business capital.”  In other words, an individual that owns a pass-through entity with DQBI of $100 could pay tax on $80 after this 20% deduction.  This effectively reduces the maximum Federal personal income tax rate from 37% to 29.6%.

Based on a strict reading of the law, different forms of business (Sole Proprietorship, S Corporation or Partnership) could result in differing amounts of this deduction for the same business due to the limitations referred to above.  The reason we say a “strict reading of the law” is that generally when there is confusion about a section of a new tax law, we can look to what the drafters were trying to accomplish and who was supposed to benefit to determine how to interpret such legislation.  Unfortunately, such clarity does not exist for this section of the TCJA.  We can only hope that future technical corrections will provide additional clarification.

Again, under a “strict reading of the law,” wage income is not included in the definition of DQBI.  Accordingly, business owners of S Corporations may want to minimize their salaries to minimize their exposure to higher tax rates.  A single owner of an S Corporation will be tempted to “optimize” their salary to maximize this deduction and minimize their wages.  Such calculations are subject to reasonable compensation rules.  Employees that are borderline independent contractors may push harder to be considered independent contractors or partners, in the case of partnerships, as their highest tax rates could be reduced from 37% to 29.6%.

Finally, individuals with multiple pass-through business interests will be tempted to allocate income from business interests where this deduction is limited or not permitted to business interests where they are more easily able to benefit from this deduction.  The simplest example is the doctor that owns their medical practice and the building in which they practice in two separate pass-through entities.  Income from many professional service practices, including medical, generally are not included in the definition of DQBI; however, income from real estate is included in DQBI.  Simply by raising the rent the medical practice pays the real estate entity, the doctor can turn non-DQBI income into DQBI income and be entitled to this additional 20% deduction.  Again, IRS reasonableness standards come into play.

This analysis is just the tip of the iceberg; this is where significant time should be spent planning.

  1. C Corporation 21% Tax Rate: The C Corporation tax rate was reduced from a maximum of 35% to a flat 21% in connection with TCJA. While this is an enticing rate, there are still state taxes to consider as well as the second level of tax when the income is distributed to the corporate owners.  Generally, the C Corporation route will not make sense due to the second level of tax, especially in high tax states.  Also, longer term considerations must be addressed. One such consideration is if the owner believes that the ultimate sale of the business were to be an asset sale.  The S Corporation typically makes more sense in the asset sale scenario.  (These are general rules as there are certain scenarios where a C Corporation will make more sense.)
  2. Itemized Deductions: Very few itemized deductions survived the TCJA. One of the survivors is the charitable deduction.  Couple this with the higher standard deduction and it could make sense for certain taxpayers to “bunch” their deductions into one year.  To get the benefit of itemized deductions in at least one year, donate $20K in year 1 and zero in year 2, rather than $10K each in years 1 and 2.  This way, it is more likely that you will be able to utilize itemized deductions in year 1 and still get the standard deduction in year 2.  If you donate $10K in each year, you may end up with the standard deduction in both years.
  3. Depreciation: 100% asset expensing and expanded section 179 asset expensing were included in the TCJA. The takeaway here is to maximize the depreciation benefit and consider state consequences.
  4. Kiddie Tax: Pre-TCJA, children that qualified for the “Kiddie Tax” could shelter up to $2,100 of investment income from their parents’ tax rate at a very low tax rate. Under the TCJA, assuming the parents are in the highest tax bracket, qualifying children can now shield up to $12,500 of unearned income at tax rates lower than the maximum tax rate.
  5. 529 Plans: Under the TCJA, taxpayers may use 529 plans to pay for private schools from elementary onward. Previously, such plans could be used to pay for qualified college expenses only.  There are two potential benefits with the 529 plan.  The first is that some 529 plans permit a state tax deduction upon contribution and the second is that the income earned is tax-free if used for qualified expenses.

As with the Pass-Through Entity 20% Deduction, these additional items relate to the entire TCJA and also merit careful planning.

In addition to the domestic tax changes referred to above, the TCJA contains a myriad of international tax changes that has altered the playing field for US companies with foreign operations and US shareholders in foreign corporations.  Other international corporate structures and individuals can also be affected.  As with some of the domestic provisions above, there is a cloud of confusion surrounding several of the international provisions contained in the TCJA.  However, there are steps that you can take to minimize your exposure to these issues. Such considerations are beyond the scope of this article; however, you should consult your tax advisor to address these issues.

Finally, above and beyond the TCJA, there are already a myriad of often-missed tax benefits that could apply to a business.  Two such benefits are: (1) the research credit, which is available for developing new technologies, software, and processes as well as streamlining processes as some examples of its application, and (2) IC-DISCs for manufacturers, producers and sellers of US products to foreign customers.  Both benefits are still available post-TCJA.

The bottom line: over the course of the year, and for some sooner than later, every business and individual should review their situation with their tax advisor to make sure they are maximizing their tax benefits.  Once the technical corrections to the TCJA are deployed as we hope/expect later in 2018, they should then re-confirm that they are maximizing their opportunities from the tax perspective.

[1] Please note that most TCJA provisions are effective January 1, 2018.


This article does not necessarily reflect the views of CMM and does not constitute legal or tax advice. Please consult with your accountant about your particular tax situation.