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Monday Aug. 30, 2010

State sales tax on clothing and footwear to be reinstated Oct. 1

The New York State Legislature’s approval of the state budget revenue package earlier this month throws an unprecedented curveball into the clothing/footwear sales tax situation that will serve to render the program even more confounding and complicated than it already is.

The fundamentals are:

  • Beginning Oct. 1, 2010, the state re-imposes, on an everyday basis, its 4 percent sales tax on clothing and footwear costing up to $110 per item. 
  • Beginning April 1, 2011, the state is scheduled to remove, on an every day basis, its 4 percent sales tax on clothing and footwear costing up to $55 per item.
  • Beginning April 1, 2012, the state is scheduled to remove, on an every day basis, its 4 percent sales tax on clothing and footwear costing up to $110 per item (i.e., returning to the current status quo).

Throughout the convoluted history of the clothing/footwear sales tax exemption, the state has given to local sales tax jurisdictions the right to opt in to the clothing/footwear exemption only when the state is providing the same exemption from its sales tax. In other words, no local government ever has been given the right to provide an exemption from its local sales tax when the state levy is in place.

Not so this time.

This directly from the state’s Department of Taxation and Finance: Any locality that currently exempts MUST continue to do so after Oct. 1, 2010. The earliest date they can opt out is March 1, 2011. According to the department, “Another difference that begins Oct.1 relates to the MCTD 3/8 percent tax. Currently, clothing is exempt from the tax only in localities in the MCTD that opted in to the exemption (currently, only NYC). But, beginning Oct. 1 and through March 31, 2011, clothing sold in NYC will be subject to the MCTD tax.”*

The department continues: “The change is definitely complex.”

The department currently is drafting official guidance on the re-imposition of the clothing and footwear sales tax. In the meantime, they and we direct you to the department’s summary of the budget provisions approved earlier this month, including a lengthy dissection of the clothing and footwear sales tax issue(s).

The department’s Publication 718-C (effective June 1, 2010) lists those localities which currently provide for the clothing/footwear sales tax exemption. Read it at this link.

We will post the department’s official guidance on the re-imposition of the state’s 4 percent sales tax as soon as it is available, but encourage members to call with questions in the meantime. Retail Council Executive Vice President Ted Potrikus or Assistant Director of Government Relations Melissa Googas can be reached by e-mail or call (800) 442-3589.

* MCTD is an acronym for Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District.

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Get a refresher on wage and hour law
Webinar scheduled for Sept. 15

If it’s been a while since you have had a refresher on New York State wage and hour law, here’s an opportunity to receive a free crash course. Join the Retail Council’s workplace law expert, Richard Landau, Esq. from Jackson Lewis LLP, on Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 8:30 a.m. for a review of topics that commonly affect retailers such as meal breaks, overtime and exempt/non-exempt employees, independent contractors and child labor. Mr. Landau will also answer any of your specific workplace questions. This program is designed to help you decrease your workplace litigation risks!

The Council is delivering this free event via webinar versus the teleseminars we’ve hosted in the past. We’re experimenting with the webinar format as we believe members will be able to follow the presentation with more ease and ask questions as you think of them via instant messenger. If you like the teleseminar format or won’t have access to a computer on Sept. 15, you can still participate in the event by phone.

You can learn more about the event and our speaker by reviewing the registration form. If you would like to attend, simply register online or print out a copy of the registration form and fax it to our office at (518) 465-7960. If you would prefer to register by good ole’ telephone, call our office at (800) 442-3589.

Like past seminars, the Council will provide registered seminar participants with all the information you’ll need to gain access to the event. To get you primed for Sept. 15, be sure to read Mr. Landau’s column below, which outlines some common workplace questions and answers.

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Council launches new Marketing Support Program for members

Struggling with a website? Want to jump into social media, but are unsure how? Need a new logo or professional signage? The Retail Council is proud to announce a new partnership that gives members access to the marketing services they need at a discounted price.

Through a partnership with Burst Marketing, the Council has created packages that deliver a combination of the latest and most effective marketing tactics for retailers. You’ll have access to special pricing on services like:

  • Web Design
  • Social Media Marketing
  • E-mail Marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Identity Packages
  • Point of Sale Packages

Our partnership with Burst has just begun and there’s a lot more to come. Soon we’ll have a Web page just for members with information about the program; we’ll also provide more specifics in future mailings and Council publications, including this e-newsletter. Utilizing Burst’s experts, the Council is also planning a series of free marketing webinars to begin in early 2011.

In the meantime, please check out Burst Marketing’s website at www.burstmarketing.net. If you have questions about the new program, contact Council Vice President of Membership and Communication Rebecca Flach via e-mail or call her at (800) 442-3589.

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The Workplace Hotline
By Richard D. Landau, Esq.

The following article reflects some common questions and sensible answers for Council members.

Q: One of our hourly employees is always starting work early and staying late. While we appreciate her industriousness, we cannot afford the overtime. Can we simply make her a salaried employee to avoid this potential problem?

A: Not unless she is also “exempt” from overtime obligations under federal and state law, generally as either a professional employee, an administrative employee or an executive (supervisor). There are strict guidelines which severely limit who can be placed in these categories. If she does not fit into one of them, she must either be paid for all the work she does or stopped from doing it.

Q: We are planning to lay off a couple of people. Do we have to go by seniority or can we let go of our weakest performers? Are we required to give severance pay?

A: There is no law dealing with the basis on which layoffs are made; nor is there any requirement that severance pay be provided. However, you should take care that, in the event you do not use seniority as a basis, some objective standard is used. Otherwise, you may face legal challenges, including discrimination claims, as well as cause a great deal of unrest and confusion among both those laid off and those not being let go.

Q: One of our employees hurt himself off the job and brought us a note requesting “light duty – no heavy lifting.”  His job has a good deal of lifting and bending. Do we have to grant his accommodation request?

A: First, you should not make any decision until you have more complete and specific medical information, including for how long the accommodation is needed and the specific pound limitation. After getting this from his doctor, you should review whether the accommodation is workable or if in fact the employee is unable to perform the essential functions of his job.  If that is the case, you can reassign him to another job, if one is available that he can perform, or require the employee to take a leave of absence as your policy provides.

Q: We have several openings we have been unable to fill. As a result, we need our existing employees to put in extra hours and even work Saturdays on occasion. Can we require that employees work overtime or do we have to ask for volunteers? Is there any limit to how many hours or days we can require employees to work?

A: Businesses have the right to require overtime, although this should be explained both at hire and in your employee handbook. As for a limitation on hours, New York requires that an employee must be given at least one consecutive 24-hour period off each calendar week (commonly known as a day of rest).

Richard Landau is a partner in the White Plains and Albany offices of Jackson Lewis LLP, labor and employment counsel to the Retail Council of New York State. 

Editor’s Note: This article is provided for informational purposes only. Readers should consult counsel for advice on how these matters relate to their own concerns or questions. 

Get More Labor Law Advice – Free of Charge! Jackson Lewis LLP, one of the nation’s preeminent labor and employment law firms, offers Council members a free Workplace Issues Hotline. To use it, simply call the nearest Jackson Lewis Office, White Plains, N.Y.  (914-328-0404) or Albany, N.Y. (518-434-1300) – tell the receptionist you are making a Retail Council of NYS Hotline call and an attorney will assist you.

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Custom solutions available with Retail Council Business Owners' Insurance Program

You’ve worked hard to create a successful retail business. From writing the initial business plan, to selecting the merchandise, to hiring the best employees, you have labored over every detail to ensure the success of your business. Wouldn’t it be comforting to know your insurance company has been as thorough in designing coverage to protect your assets? The Retail Council is now working with The Hartford, one of the nation’s leading insurance carriers, to provide custom Business Owners’ Insurance (BOP) that fits members’ unique needs.

The Hartford’s BOP package, called Spectrum®, covers a wide range of property and liability risks specific to your business. Here are some examples:*

  • Building and Business Personal Property coverages may pay to repair or replace your building and any equipment, stock, furniture or fixtures in the event of a covered loss.
  • You may also consider these additional lines of coverage:
    • Peak Season provides an automatic increase to your insurance limit of up to 25 percent for business content to cover season variations in your inventory.
    • Identity Recovery Coverage for Business Owners provides services such as a Help Line for policyholders who believe they may be a victim of identity theft, case managers who can speed up the recovery process and expense reimbursement.
    • Equipment Breakdown covers the cost to repair or replace equipment, such as computers, air conditioners, phone systems and steam boilers from loss or damage caused by mechanical breakdown or artificially generated electrical current.
  • A Spectrum policy with The Hartford provides your business with protection against claims of bodily injury or property damage caused to others by you or your employees. For example:*
    • Premises and Operations Liability provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage sustained by others at your premises or as a result of your business operations.
    • Employment Practices Liability covers claims, including legal defense costs, for employment-related lawsuits brought against you by your employees or job applicants.

Unrelated to BOP, but just as important, The Hartford also offers Commercial Auto Coverage.

Don’t forget! The Council already offers The Hartford’s Statutory Disability Insurance program to members. If you have yet to enroll your business in this program, call today for a free estimate. The Hartford offers Retail Council members very competitive quarterly billed rates in New York State for this mandatory coverage.

If you would like more information on any of these insurances, please call the Retail Council at (800) 442-3589 and ask to speak with Mark, Virginia or Ken in our Insurance Services Department. Alternatively, send an e-mail to Virginia, Ken or Mark.

*This document contains only general descriptions of coverages which may be provided and does not include all of the features, exclusions, and conditions of the policies it describes. Certain coverages, features, and credits vary by state and may not be available to all insureds. You should consult the actual policy language and speak with the appropriate Hartford representative to resolve any questions. In the event of a loss, the terms of the policy issued will determine the coverage provided.

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Browser-based virtual terminal available to Council credit card processing customers

If you’re ready to get rid of your landline phone, if you travel for your business or would just prefer to use your PC instead of a separate terminal, the Global Transport® – VT (virtual terminal) may be a great solution for your credit card processing needs.

The Global Transport® – VT is a browser-based, secure virtual terminal that uses a PC with a high-speed Internet connection to process all major credit, debit and EBT cards. The VT provides fast transactions and near real-time, browser-based reporting of critical information with extensive online search capabilities.

Other features of the Global Transport® – VT include:

  • Supports recurring billing transactions (e.g., home heating oil payments, monthly gym membership payments)
  • Supports an unrestricted number of simultaneous users
  • Employs industry standard secure data encryption technology – 128-bit Secure Socket Layer (SSL)
  • Handles a large number of transactions
  • Supports card swipe, PIN entry and ACH check guarantee transactions
  • Includes easy-to-use, cost-effective interface requiring little or no disk space on your PC and application upgrades are automatic
  • Settles batches and allows you to reprint receipts, void transactions and view transactions back 24 months
  • Allows you to customize the footer message on all receipts printed

The Global Transport® – VT must be run on a PC (no Macs) that uses Windows XP or Vista Business, with 1 GB RAM, 30 MB of uncompressed disk space, Pentium® 4 Processor or higher and Internet Explorer 6.0 or 7.0.

Members who are interested in trying the VT should call Michele or Nicholl, our processing experts, at (800) 442-3589 for more information on this new processing technology.

© 2007-2010 Global Payments Inc.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED,

10 Glenlake Parkway, North Tower, Atlanta, GA 30328

Global Payments Inc. GLOBAL PAYMENTS and GLOBAL TRANSPORT are registered trademarks of Global Payments Inc. and may not be copied, imitated, or used, in whole or in part, without its prior permission. All other trademarks,product names, and logos identified or mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.

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Office supply invoices and receipts still needed
Help the Council develop another money-saving program for members

The Retail Council is on the hunt for members’ invoices and receipts for office supplies. Why you ask? Because we are attempting to develop a discount office supply program for our membership. If we are able to launch it, this program would decrease the cost of typical goods every business owner needs – from pens and paper, to toner cartridges, office furniture, break room basics and even janitorial supplies.

Every supplier we have approached to bring our office supplies idea to fruition has had a similar request: They want to know what office supplies members currently purchase and at what price.

Each has asked the Retail Council to collect copies of office supply invoices from members.

This is where we need member assistance. If you haven’t done so already, please locate one or two recent invoices or receipts for office supplies and send copies of them by fax, U.S. mail or e-mail to the attention of Rebecca Flach, Retail Council vice president of membership and communication:

Fax:  (518) 465-7960
U.S. Mail: Rebecca Flach, Retail Council of New York State, 258 State Street, Albany, NY 12210
E-mail:  rflach@retailcouncilnys.com

The invoices you provide will be stripped of personally identifiable information and aggregated into a spreadsheet so our potential vendors can put together a program that will supply members with what they need at the lowest possible cost.

We would truly appreciate your support of this initiative as it’s unlikely we’ll be able to launch a discount office supply program without this needed data. If you have questions about this request or about this potential program, please contact Rebecca at (800) 442-3589. Thanks in advance for your assistance with this project.

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