Pennsylvania’s Tax Amnesty Program

Beginning in April of 2017, Pennsylvania will begin offering a Tax Amnesty Program to eligible taxpayers. The program is geared toward taxpayers, both individuals and businesses, who owe outstanding taxes. This program will allow eligible taxpayers to ultimately pay less than the total owed to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue if the taxpayer is able to pay the entire amount of the principal tax due.

If the delinquent taxpayer can satisfy the principal tax amount in its entirety, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue will waive all penalties associated with the outstanding balance and also waive one-half of the interest associated with the underlying tax. To participate, taxpayers must file an online amnesty return, file all delinquent tax returns and make the required payment within the 60 day amnesty period.

Timing is critical and inflexible. This amnesty program will only be in effect from April 21 through June 19, 2017. The Department of Revenue will not accept requests for extensions of time to file an amnesty  application, so June 19, 2017, is the absolute cut-off date established by the program as currently written.

The amnesty program is applicable to almost all state taxes. However, failure to take advantage of this program if you are eligible carries significant consequences. After June 19, 2017, when the amnesty window closes, an additional 5 percent penalty will be added to eligible taxpayers who did not participate, and the interest which would otherwise have been cut in half will continue to accumulate. This essentially means eligible taxpayers can either pay less now or owe more down the line.

Pennsylvania had a similar program in 2010. Those taxpayers who participated in the 2010 tax amnesty program are presumed ineligible.

 

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell, LLP, nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Understanding Annulments

For many married individuals in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the pathway to legally ending a marriage is through divorce. However, that’s not the only way. In addition to divorce, a marriage in Pennsylvania can also be dissolved through what is known as an annulment. This is a term which many are familiar with, but few actually understand.

Unlike an action for divorce, a court ordered annulment is a statement that the marriage itself is void or invalid and, in some circumstances, has the effect of establishing that the marriage never occurred. Not all annulments are made the same, however, and there are two types of marriages which can be annulled: those which are void and those which are voidable.

A void marriage is one that was never valid. As a result, this type of marriage must be deemed annulled. There are four categories specified in the Pennsylvania Divorce Code at Section 3304 which dictate that a marriage be deemed void. Those four circumstances include:

  1. If either party to the marriage was married to another person at the time of the second marriage;
  2. If the parties to the marriage are related by blood;
  3. If either party had a serious mental illness or was deemed mentally incompetent at the time of the marriage such that that party could not have provided legal consent to the marriage; and/or
  4. If either party to the marriage was under the age of eighteen (18) at the time of marriage.

On the other end of the spectrum are voidable marriages. Voidable marriages are marriages which can be annulled but the decision is ultimately based on the circumstances of the individual relationship. The Pennsylvania Divorce Code, at Section 3305, specifies five separate categories of marriages which are voidable and therefore subject to annulment by either parties filing such an action. It is important to remember that these marriages, unlike void marriages, are not automatically annulled by operation of law. The categories for a voidable marriage include:

  1. Where either party to the marriage was under 16 years of age, unless the marriage was expressly authorized by the court.
  2. Where either party was 16 or 17 years of age and lacked the consent of parent or guardian or express authorization of the court and has not subsequently ratified the marriage upon reaching 18 years of age and an action for annulment is commenced within 60 days after the marriage ceremony.
  3. Where either party to the marriage was under the influence of alcohol or drugs and an action for annulment is commenced within 60 days after the marriage ceremony.
  4. Where either party to the marriage was at the time of the marriage and still is naturally and incurably impotent, unless the condition was known to the other party prior to the marriage.
  5. Where one party was induced to enter into the marriage due to fraud, duress, coercion or force attributable to the other party and there has been no subsequent voluntary cohabitation after knowledge of the fraud or release from the effects of fraud, duress, coercion or force.

If you’re a party to a marriage which would qualify to be annulled, either you or your spouse has the right to bring an action for annulment. It is worth noting that an annulment has no direct or immediate effect on custody or child support. If you are considering terminating your marriage and want to learn more about your rights and options, call today for a free consultation at (215) 947-6240 or contact us online.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell, LLP, nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Potential Ban on Questioning Job Applicants on Wage History Gaining Momentum

On December 8, 2016, Philadelphia City Council passed new legislation, Bill No. 160840, which would make it illegal for Philadelphia employers to ask an applicant any questions regarding their salary history and fringe benefits history. The Bill would amend Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance and prohibit both employers and employment agencies from questioning potential employees about their wage history.

Under the Bill, an “Employer” is defined as “any person who does business in the City of Philadelphia through employees or who employs one or more employees exclusive of parents, spouse, Life Partner or children, including any public agency or authority; any agency, authority or other instrumentality of the Commonwealth; and the City, its departments, boards and commissions.” It’s certainly important to note that in order to be deemed an “Employer”, one only needs to employ one person and the definition is broad enough to include those who do business in the City of Philadelphia even if they’re not headquartered there.


The Bill
certainly has teeth, including an anti-retaliation provision which precludes employers from taking any sort of retaliatory action against a prospective employee for refusing to offer wage history information. Under this new piece of legislation, employers will be prohibited from inquiring about a prospective employee’s past earnings and basing employment or interviewing decisions on an employee’s disclosure of wage history.

There are, of course, certain scenarios where a potential employee would want to disclose their wage history in efforts to entice a higher offer from a potential employer. Bill No. 160840 does have an exception for such a scenario which permits a potential employee to knowingly and willingly disclose their wage history. In such a scenario, this information may be relied upon by an employer in making an offer.

The Bill will take effect 120 days from Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s signing it into law. Assuming this Bill is indeed signed by Mayor Kenney, with all signs indicating that this is the likely outcome, employers in the City of Philadelphia covered by this legislation would be wise to remove questions on their application forms which inquire into an applicant’s current or past wage information and to train their hiring or HR Department to avoid questions which could be viewed as attempting to uncover past salary information of a potential employee.
It is worth noting that the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce has strongly voiced their opposition to this legislation.


Legal Disclaimer
: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell, LLP, nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Pennsylvania Reduces Waiting Period for Divorcing Couples

Through House Bill 380, Pennsylvania has shortened the time period required for married couples seeking a divorce to live separately.

The Bill, which was signed by both the Pennsylvania Senate and the House of Representatives on September 27, 2016, allows courts overseeing a divorce to grant a divorce when a spouse files a complaint alleging the marriage is irretrievably broken accompanied with an affidavit that the parties have lived separate and apart for one year.

In order for the divorce to actually be granted based solely on these grounds, however, the defendant cannot deny any allegations in the affidavit that must accompany the complaint for divorce filed by the moving party. Even if the other side to the divorce denies an allegation in the affidavit or complaint, however, a court may still grant a divorce as filed if the court is satisfied that the parties have been living separately for at least one full year and the party seeking the expedited divorce demonstrates to the court that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Prior to this new legislation, if one party to a divorce did not consent, there was a two year waiting period. Of course, in the alternative, if both parties consented to the divorce it could be granted in as little as 90 days.

This new law will go into effect 60 days after Governor Wolf signs the bill into law and is geared to streamlining the process of a divorce and reducing the emotional and financial burden a divorce has on the parties involved.

 

It is important to note this law does not impact divorces already filed and pending. If you have questions regarding a potential divorce or a related matter, the family law attorneys at Howland Hess O’Connell are available to take your call today, or feel free to contact us through our website.

 

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell, LLP, nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Howland Hess O’Connell Partner Michael W. Cassidy Recipient of La Salle High School’s President Medal

On Wednesday, December 14, 2016, Michael W. Cassidy, a named partner at the Law Firm of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy & O’Connell, LLP, received the President’s Medal from La Salle College High School in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania.

 

Mr. Cassidy is a graduate of La Salle College High School, class of 1974. He received the medal during a dinner reception at his alma mater.

 

mwc

In selecting Michael Cassidy to be the 2016 President’s Medal recipient, Brother James Butler,
FSC, President of La Salle College High School, explained the selection of Mr. Cassidy as follows: Michael proposes to the school community an eloquent example of a La Salle graduate who used his college preparatory education to earn outstanding professional credentials, qualifications he has unselfishly used in the service of his alma mater since receiving them. Furthermore, Mr. Cassidy’s deep knowledge of zoning and land use law was cited as being of inestimable value to La Salle College High School as the school has undertaken several campus development and expansion projects in recent decades.

 

Regarding Michael’s outstanding professional credentials, La Salle emphasized Mr. Cassidy’s time served as Springfield Township Commissioner in the 1990s and as legal counsel of many years’ standing to La Salle College High School. There is no doubt that Michael has found numerous ways remain of service to his alma mater for more than three decades.

 

Howland Hess O’Connell congratulates Michael on this well-deserved achievement, and thanks La Salle College High School for selecting Mr. Cassidy as the recipient of the 2016 President’s Medal.

 

 Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell, LLP, nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Enhanced Bucks County DUI Patrols Beginning at 10:00 PM This Evening

As highlighted in our most recent article, Thanksgiving Eve marks the beginning of an increase in DUI patrols in the local area with the objective of cracking down on accidents, injuries and deaths caused by impaired driving throughout Pennsylvania during the holiday season.
DUI PIC
An article published in the Newtown Patch, a source for local news in Bucks County, details the county’s planned attack to monitor impaired driving throughout the county this evening. According to the article, linked here, police units from eight (8) separate departments will be out this evening with the objective of detecting and deterring drunk driving.

In what is anticipated to be “the most heavily traveled Thanksgiving in almost a decade”, the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office intends to combat the potential for a heightened number of impaired drivers by rolling out DUI patrols who will be roving along the Street Road corridor.

According to the article in the Newtown Patch, starting at 10:00 PM this evening “21 police from Bensalem, Middletown, Solebury, Upper Southampton, Warrington and Warwick Townships, as well as Newtown and Penndel Boroughs, will patrol the four-lane thoroughfare from Bensalem to Warrington, as well as its feeder streets, until approximately 3 a.m. Thursday…”

To understand why Bucks County is taking such a progressive and aggressive stance against drunk driving, the Newtown Patch provides the following startling data. Just in Pennsylvania, the Thanksgiving weekend was the third-deadliest holiday period in 2015. There were 1,428 crashes, which resulted in 21 traffic deaths. These statistics provide a very clear picture of exactly why Bucks County has targeted Thanksgiving Eve as a night to unveil its most recent strategy to deter impaired driving. Furthermore, as cited in the Newtown Patch article, ten (10) drivers were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence just last year.

As noted in our previous article, the upcoming holiday season should be one of joy and festivities celebrated with family and friends. Please take special note of this early alert regarding the presence of impaired drivers on the road, the heightened police awareness, and to always think twice before getting behind the wheel after imbibing in the holiday spirits.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell, LLP, nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Thanksgiving Eve: The Beginning of the DUI Danger Zone

It should be no surprise to most to hear that the Thanksgiving weekend is the most traveled holiday period of the year. Students are returning home from college and families are traveling from all over to be together for the holiday. But did you know that DUI arrests are categorically at their highest between Thanksgiving Eve and the end of New Year’s weekend? That means we are now entering what can be described as the “DUI Danger Zone”.

For that reason, you can expect police presence to be ramping up in the following week and continuing into the New Year. This means more DUI Checkpoints as well as patrol forces out specifically for monitoring potentially impaired driving.

To understand why Thanksgiving marks the beginning of this ramped up police presence and concentration on DUI detection and accident prevention, consider the following. In 2013, over 300 people died in motor vehicle accidents nationally just during the Thanksgiving weekend. In 2014, and just in Pennsylvania alone, there were 499 crashes reported over Thanksgiving weekend and 13 deaths attributable to impaired driving.

The time-frame between Thanksgiving and New Years is a festive time intended to be celebrated with family and friends. That said, it is important to remain smart, alert and safe. Please take special note of this early alert regarding the presence of impaired drivers on the road and also to think twice before getting behind the wheel this holiday season.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell, LLP, nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.