Business and Financial

Legal GroundworkBy Robert Moore, Attorney and Research Specialist, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

 

Establishing a new entity in Ohio is relatively easy.  The first step is to submit an application to the Ohio Secretary of State along with a $99 fee.  This application can be done online with the fee being paid with a credit card.  For an LLC, the application only needs to include the name of the entity and the name and address of a contact person.  Applications for corporations and other entities may require a bit more information but nothing overly burdensome.  The Secretary of State reviews the application and either approves the application or rejects and provides information as to what needs corrected. 

Upon approving the application, the Secretary of State will issue an Articles of Organization certificate, or similar document, for each new entity.  This certificate is confirmation that the state of Ohio recognizes the entity, and it is permitted to conduct business in Ohio.  Upon the entity being registered, business documents such as operating agreements and ownership certificates should be completed. 

Usually, a few weeks after registering a new entity, credit card applications will begin to show up.  As mentioned previously, each new entity must provide the name and address of a contact person for the entity.  The name and address are publicly available on the Secretary of State’s website.  Credit card companies retrieve this information and send applications hoping the new entity needs a credit card to conduct business.  Credit card companies are not the only solicitors to use the contact information. 

The credit card applications are easily identifiable, obvious in their intent and can be easily discarded if not needed.  However, a more nefarious letter is likely to show up as well.  It is common for new entities to receive an envelope that looks like it is from an official government entity.  Upon opening the letter, a form that also looks official will request $67.50, $90 or some other amount for a copy of the certificate of organization or certificate of good standing.  Upon first glance, the letter and enclosed form looks like something you would receive from a government agency. 

The certificate of organization will be provided to the new entity upon registration.  At any time, a copy of the certificate of organization can be obtained from the Ohio Secretary of State web site for no cost. A certificate of good standing, sometimes requested by lenders, can be obtained from the Secretary of State for $5.  The certificate of good standing merely states the entity is still registered with Secretary of State.  The point being, there is likely no reason to pay a company for the articles of organization or a certificate of good standing. 

There is nothing illegal about the letters requesting money for a certificate of organization.  If you look closely at the form, somewhere it will say it is not from a government agency.  If someone wants to pay $90 for a certificate that is provided for free by the Secretary of State they are within their rights to do so.   

The intent of this article is to make new business entity owners aware that they do not need to spend extra money on certificates after their entity is registered with the state.  Paying for the requested certificates is probably just a waste of money.  Unfortunately, people who are registering entities for the first time are often not aware of what is required by the state and just assume they are required to pay the extra fees.  If in doubt, contact your attorney. 

 

Below is an example form letter requesting $67.50 for a certificate of good standing.  You will need to look closely to find the disclaimer that it is not from a government agency. 

 

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Farmer holding clipboard with tractor in background and Legal Groundwork Series title

By Robert Moore, Attorney and Research Specialist, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

There is no doubt that Long-Term Care (LTC) costs are a financial threat to many farms.  Some farmers go to great lengths to protect their farm assets from potential LTC costs.  Protection strategies include gifting assets to family members, transferring farm assets to irrevocable trusts and buying LTC insurance.  But what do the statistics say about the actual risk to farms for LTC costs?

According to the Administration for Community Living, someone turning age 65 today has an almost 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services in their remaining years.  Due to women having longer life expectancies, predictions are that women will need an average of 3.7 years of care and men will need 2.2 years.  While one-third of today's 65-year-olds may never need long-term care support, 20% will need it for longer than 5 years.  The following data from the ACL provides more details as to the type and length of care needed:

This table shows that of the three years of LTC needed on average, two of those years are expected to be provided at home and one year in a facility.  It is noteworthy that a majority of LTC services are typically provided at home because most people do not want to leave home for a facility, some at-home care isn’t paid for, and home care is less expensive than facility care.  Many people may think all LTC will be provided in a facility, but as the data shows, this is not usually the case.

The next important statistic is cost.  The following are costs of various LTC services from the 2021 Cost of Care Survey provided by Genworth Financial, Inc. 

Nursing home costs are significantly higher than in-home services.  People may think of LTC costs in terms of nursing homes, but as discussed in the previous paragraph, the majority of LTC services are the less expensive, in-home type. So, while all LTC costs are significant, they might not be as high as commonly thought.

Let’s use this data to come up with some possible numbers for an Ohio farmer.  Assume the following:

  • A 65year-old farmer has a 67% chance of needing LTC
  • The length of that care will be around 3 years
  • 1 year of care will be unpaid inhome services
  • 1 year of care will be paid, inhome services at around $60,000/year
  • 1 year of care will be in a nursing home at around $90,000/year

Based on the above assumptions, a 65-year-old Ohioan, on average, can expect about $100,000 in LTC care costs ($60,000 + $90,000 x 67%). Keep in mind that these costs are per person and a married couple will have double these potential costs. The next question is, can the average farmer absorb LTC costs without jeopardizing the farm?  That's a question we'll examine in a future post in the Legal Groundwork Series.

 

Photo of Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Friday, April 08th, 2022

UPDATE:  Governor DeWine signed H.B. 95, the Beginning Farmer bill, on April 18, 2022.  The effective date for the new law is July 18, 2022.  The Governor signed the Statutory Lease Termination bill, H.B. 397, on April 21, and its effective date is July 19, 2022.

Bills establishing new legal requirements for landowners who want to terminate a verbal or uncertain farm lease and income tax credits for sales of assets to beginning farmers now await Governor DeWine’s response after passing in the Ohio legislature this week.  Predictions are that the Governor will sign both measures.

Statutory termination requirements for farm leases – H.B. 397

Ohio joins nine other states in the Midwest with its enactment of a statutory requirement for terminating a crop lease that doesn’t address termination.  The legislation sponsored by Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) and Rep. Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville) aims to address uncertainty in farmland leases, providing protections for tenant operators from late terminations by landowners.  It will change how landowners conduct their farmland leasing arrangements, and will hopefull encourage written farmland leases that clearly address how to terminate the leasing arrangement.

The bill states that in either a written or verbal farmland leasing situation where the agreement between the parties does not provide for a termination date or a method for giving notice of termination, a landlord who wants to terminate the lease must do so in writing by September 1.  The termination would be effective either upon completion of harvest or December 31, whichever is earlier.  Note that the bill applies only to leases that involve planting, growing, and harvesting of crops and does not apply to leases for pasture, timber, buildings, or equipment and does not apply to the tenant in a leasing agreement.  A lease that addresses how and when termination of the leasing arrangement may occur would also be unaffected by the new provisions.

The beginning farmer bill – H.B. 95

A long time in the making, H.B. 95 is the result of a bi-partisan effort by Rep. Susan Manchester (R-Waynesfield) and Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville).  It authorizes two types of tax credits for “certified beginning farmer” situations. The bill caps the tax credits at $10 million, and sunsets credits at the end of the sixth calendar year after they become effective.

The first tax credit is a nonrefundable income tax credit for an individual or business that sells or rents CAUV qualifying farmland, livestock, facilities, buildings or machinery to a “certified beginning farmer.”  A late amendment in the Senate Ways and Means Committee reduced that credit to 3.99% of the sale price or gross rental income.  The bill requires a sale credit to be claimed in the year of the sale but spreads the credit amount for rental and share-rent arrangements over the first three years of the rental agreement.  It also allows a carry-forward of excess credit up to 7 years.  Note that equipment dealers and businesses that sell agricultural assets for profit are not eligible for the tax credit, and that an individual or business must apply to the Ohio Department of Agriculture for tax credit approval.

The second tax credit is a nonrefundable income tax credit for a “certified beginning farmer” for the cost of attending a financial management program.  The program must be certified by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, who must develop standards for program certification in consultation with Ohio State and Central State.  The farmer may carry the tax credit forward for up to three succeeding tax years.

Who is a certified beginning farmer?  The intent of the bill is to encourage asset transition to beginning farmers, and it establishes eligibility criteria for an individual to become “certified” as a beginning farmer by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.  One point of discussion for the bill was whether the beginning farmer credit would be available for family transfers.  Note that the eligibility requirements address this issue by requiring that there cannot be a business relationship between the beginning farmer and the owner of the asset. 

An individual can become certified as a beginning farmer if he or she:

  • Intends to farm or has been farming for less than ten years in Ohio.
  • Is not a partner, member, shareholder, or trustee with the owner of the agricultural assets the individual will rent or purchase.
  • Has a household net worth under $800,000 in 2021 or as adjusted for inflation in future years.
  • Provides the majority of day-to-day labor and management of the farm.
  • Has adequate knowledge or farming experience in the type of farming involved.
  • Submits projected earnings statements and demonstrates a profit potential.
  • Demonstrates that farming will be a significant source of income.
  • Participates in a financial management program approved by the Department of Agriculture.
  • Meets any other requirements the Ohio Department of Agriculture establishes through rulemaking.

We’ll provide further details about these new laws as they become effective.   Information on the statutory termination bill, H.B. 397, is here and information about the beginning farmer bill, H.B. 95, is here.  Note that provisions affecting other unrelated areas of law were added to both bills in the approval process.

Farmer holding clipboard and title of "Legal Groundwork Series, legal planning for the future of your farm"

By Robert Moore, Attorney and Research Specialist, Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Anyone who has ever been an Executor of an estate knows how much paperwork is involved with administering an estate.  The county probate court, which oversees the estate process, requires many filings to verify the assets the deceased person owned, determine the value of those estates and to ensure that the correct beneficiaries receive the assets.  Typically, administering an estate requires the assistance of an attorney familiar with probate rules and forms.

Like any professional providing services, attorneys will expect to be paid for their estate administration services.  Legal fees charged by an attorney for an estate must be approved by the probate court.  Many probate courts have established a schedule of fees that provides a benchmark for attorneys.  Basically, if the attorney’s legal fees are no more than the schedule of fees, the court will approve the fees.  The approved probate fees vary from county to county but are usually between 1% to 6% of the value of the estate. 

It is important to note that the court approved probate fees are a benchmark, not a requirement.  That is, the court is not requiring an attorney to charge those rates.  Instead, the court is merely stating that fees that do not exceed the benchmark will likely be approved.  It is up to each attorney to determine the fee structure to implement for their services.  Some attorneys may use the probate rates for fees while other attorneys may bill based on an hourly basis.

Before hiring an attorney, Executors should have a thorough discussion regarding the attorney’s fee structure.  The Executor should ask if the attorney charges on an hourly basis, flat rate basis or uses the county probate rates.  Based on the fee structure used, the attorney should be able to provide a good estimate of legal costs for the estate administration.  If the Executor has reason to believe the fees charged by the attorney may be too high, it’s helpful to consult with other attorneys who use a different fee structure and compare. 

Consider the following examples:

  • The county probate court allows a 2% legal fee rate for real estate that is not sold.  Joe passes away owning a $100,000 house.  Joe’s Will directs the house to be inherited by his daughter.  The attorney assisting with the estate administration uses fees based on the county rate.  The attorney will be entitled to $2,000 in legal fees.
  • Let’s change the scenario so that Joe owned a $1,000,000 farm when he passed away.  The attorney will be entitled to $20,000 in legal fees.

The above examples illustrate how probate rates work and also illustrates why executors should not automatically agree to pay the probate rates.  In the examples, the attorney basically does the same work – transfers one parcel of real estate to the daughter.  However, because the farm was worth ten times more in value, the attorney received ten times more in legal fees.

Let’s continue the scenario. 

  • The Executor thinks $20,000 in legal fees to transfer the farm may be too much.  The executor finds an attorney that charges hourly for estate administration, rather than using the county rates.  The attorney charges $200/hour and thinks it will take about 15 hours of work to have the farm transferred to Joe’s daughter.  Executor quickly decides to hire the second attorney and saves $17,000 in legal fees.

Often, probate rates can result in reasonable legal fees.  Charging $2,000 to transfer a $100,000 house is probably reasonable.  In some situations, particularly for smaller estates, the probate rates may be inadequate, and the attorney may seek permission from the court to charge in excess of the rates.  However, for farm estates, the county rates can result in excessive legal fees.  Due to the capital-intensive nature of farming, farm estates will tend to have a much higher value than typical, non-farm estates.  A modest farm estate of $5 million, at a 2% probate fee rate, will result in $100,000 of legal fees.  An attorney charging $250/hour would have to bill 400 hours to make those same legal fees.  A $5 million farm estate is not going to take 400 hours to administer.

Executors administering farm estates should carefully evaluate legal fees charged by the estate attorney.  Applying county probate rates to farm estates can result in very large legal fees.  Before agreeing to accept the probate rates as the fee structure, Executors should also inquire as to what legal fees would be if charged on an hourly basis.  After getting an estimate of legal fees for both fee structures, the Executor can then make an informed decision as to how best to proceed with legal counsel.

Photo of farmer in the field with a clipboard

By Robert Moore, Research Specialist and Attorney, Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Prior to LLCs becoming available for common use, Limited Partnerships (LP) were used extensively to hold farmland.  LPs provide liability protection for the limited partners and usually allow the land to be distributed out to the partners without tax liability.  Additionally, the land in the LP can receive a stepped-up tax basis upon the death of a partner.  LPs were a good choice to hold farmland.

The primary disadvantage of an LP is the liability exposure of the general partner.  Because the general partner is tasked with management responsibilities for the LP, they receive no liability protection.  Therefore, any liability created by the activities of the LP will transfer to the general partner and put all of the general partner’s assets at risk.

LLCs were developed in the 1990’s and started to become popular in the early 2000’s.  LLCs can be taxed as partnerships and thus provide all the tax benefits of an LP.  Also, LLCs provide liability protection for all owners regardless of their management roles.  Therefore, LLCs provide all the benefits of an LP plus provide liability protection for the manager.  Due to the superior lability protection of LLCs, LPs have been made obsolete in Ohio.

If you have an LP, you should consider converting it to an LLC.  The conversion will extend liability protection to all the owners while maintaining the partnership taxation structure.  Converting from an LP to an LLC is relatively easy.

The conversion is performed by completing Form 700 provided by the Ohio Secretary of State.  The form can be filed through the mail or by submitting online.  A $99 fee is required to be paid when the conversion is submitted.  The form asks for the identification and structure of the current entity and the name and structure of the future, converted entity.

Any asset held by the LP is automatically owned by the LLC after conversion.  For real estate, an affidavit is recorded with the county recorder stating the LP has been converted to an LLC.  Because both the LP and LLC will have a partnership taxation structure, the same tax identification number can be used after the conversion.  An operating agreement should be drafted for the new, converted LLC as the old LP agreement will no longer be in effect.

Consider the following example.  XYZ Farms Ltd. is an LP and holds farmland.  The owners of the LP wish to convert to an LLC to provide liability protection for the manager partner.  Form 700 is filed with the Ohio Secretary of State along with the $99 fee.  The conversion form states that XYZ Farms Ltd. is converting to an LLC and will have the new name of XYZ Farms LLC[1].  After the conversion, the LLC files an affidavit with the county recorder stating that XYZ Farms was converted from an LP to an LLC and the farmland is now owned by the LLC.  The owners of XYZ Farms LLC draft a new operating agreement with terms and provisions applicable to an LLC.

LLCs have replaced LPs as the entity of choice to hold farmland.  LPs that were established prior to the availability of LLCs can be converted to LLCs relatively easily.  Owners of an LP should consider converting to an LLC to provide liability protection for the managing partner.

 

[1] Form 590, “Consent for Use of Similar Name”, and Form 610, “Articles of Organization”, must also be filed with the conversion form.

Row of Case IH Combines.

By Robert Moore, Research Specialist, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

A common business strategy for farming operations is to place their machinery in a separate, stand-alone LLC.  The idea behind this strategy is that by putting the high-liability machinery in its own LLC the other farm assets are protected.  Unfortunately, the liability protection of a machinery LLC is sometimes overstated and may not provide as much protection as intended.

The compromised liability protection of a machinery LLC is not due to a defect in LLCs, but rather it is a result of who is operating the machinery.  Typically, the persons operating the machinery are the owners or employees of the farming operation.  Many liability incidents involving farm machinery are the result of operator error which pulls the liability back to the farming operation.

Consider the following example.  XYZ Farms is a grain operation.  To mitigate the liability of having large machinery traveling on roadways, XYZ Farms establishes Machinery LLC and transfers all machinery to the LLC.  An employee of XYZ Farms causes an accident while driving machinery on a roadway.  Because employers are liable for the actions of employees, XYZ Farms is liable for the accident even though the machinery was held in Machinery LLC.

A machinery LLC does provide some liability protection.  If the liability incident is caused solely by an issue with the machine and not the operator, the LLC may prevent liability from transferring to other assets. Again, most accidents are caused by operator error so relying on this liability protection is planning against the odds.

As seen in the example, machinery LLCs do not completely insulate owners and other assets from liability.  In fact, no entity used in a farming operation is guaranteed to prevent liability exposure for the owner.  Therefore, liability insurance should always be the primary liability management plan for farm operations.  Business entities should be used as the backup plan if liability insurance fails to cover liability exposure.

Machinery LLCs do have other beneficial uses.  One of the more common uses is to consolidate various machinery ownership among family members.  Having one entity own, buy, and sell all machinery is often a simpler plan than multi-ownership.  For example:

Mom and Dad, Son, and Daughter each own some machinery. Each time they need to buy a new piece of equipment, it is a challenge to determine how the trade-in is handled and who should be the new owner.  Instead, they establish a machinery LLC and put all their machinery in the LLC.  They each receive ownership in the LLC in proportion to the ownership in the machinery.  For all future purchases, the LLC provides the trade-in and buys the new machine.  

The liability protection provided by machinery LLCs may not be as thorough as sometimes expected but they can still be a valuable component of a business structure plan.  They do provide some liability protection and are useful in other ways such as consolidating ownership.  Before establishing a machinery LLC, be sure to have a thorough discussion with legal counsel to fully understand it’s benefits and limitations.

 

Vintage picture of cowgirl on a horse with a lasso.
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Friday, February 25th, 2022

It’s time to round up a sampling of legal questions we’ve received the past month or so. The questions effectively illustrate the breadth of “agricultural law,” and we’re happy to help Ohioans understand its many parts.  Here’s a look at the inquiries that have come our way,

I’m considering a carbon credit agreement.  What should I look for?   Several types of carbon credit agreements are now available to Ohio farmers, and they differ from one another so it’s good to review them closely and with the assistance of an attorney and an agronomist.  For starters, take time to understand the terminology, make sure you can meet the initial eligibility criteria, review payment and penalty terms, know what types of practices are acceptable, determine “additionality” requirements for creating completing new carbon reductions, know the required length of participation and how long the carbon reductions must remain in place, understand how carbon reductions will be verified and certified, be aware of data ownership rights, and review legal remedy provisions.  That’s a lot!  Read more about each of these recommendations in our blog post on “Considering Carbon Farming?”

I want to replace an old line fence.  Can I remove trees along the fence when I build the new fence?   No, unless they are completely on your side of the boundary line.  Both you and your neighbor co-own the boundary trees, so you’ll need the neighbor’s permission to remove them.  You could be liable to the neighbor for the value of the trees if you remove them without the neighbor’s approval, and Ohio law allows triple that value if you remove them against the neighbor’s wishes or recklessly harm the trees in the process of building the fence.  You can, however, trim back the neighbor’s tree branches to the property line as long as you don’t harm the tree.  Also, Ohio’s line fence law in ORC 971.08 allows you to access up to 10 feet of the neighbor’s property to build the fence, although you can be liable if you damage the property in doing so.

I want to sell grow annuals and sell the cut flowers.  Do I need a nursery license?  No.  Ohio’s nursery dealer license requirement applies to those who sell or distribute “nursery stock,” which the law defines as any “hardy” tree, shrub, plant, bulb, cutting, graft, or bud, excluding turf grass.  A “hardy” plant is one that is capable of surviving winter temperatures. Note that the definition of nursery stock also includes some non-hardy plants sold out of the state.  Because annual flowers and cuttings from those flowers don’t fall into the definition of “nursery stock,” a seller need not obtain the nursery dealer license.

Must I collect sales tax on cut flowers that I sell?  Yes.  In agriculture, we’re accustomed to many items being exempt from Ohio’s sales tax.  That’s not the case when selling flowers and plants directly to customers, which is a retail sale that is subject to the sales tax.  The seller must obtain a vendor’s license from the Ohio Department of Taxation, then collect and submit the taxes regularly.  Read more about vendor’s licenses and sales taxes in our law bulletin at this link.

I’m an absentee landowner who rents my farmland to a tenant operator.  Should I have liability insurance on the land?  Yes.  A general liability policy with a farm insurer should be affordable and worth the liability risk reduction.  But a few other steps can further minimize risk.  Require your tenant operator to have liability insurance that adequately covers the tenant’s operations, and include indemnification provisions in your farm lease that shift liability to the tenant during the lease period.  Also consider requiring your tenant or hiring someone to do routine property inspections, monitor trespass issues, and ensure that the property is in a safe condition. 

My neighbor and I both own up to the shoreline on either side of a small lake--do I have the right to use the whole lake?  It depends on where the property lines lay and whether the lake is connected to other waters. If the lake is completely surrounded by private property and not connected to other “navigable” waters, such as a stream that feeds into it, the lake is most likely a private water body.  Both of you could limit access to your side of the property line as it runs through the lake.  You also have the legal right to make a “reasonable use” of the water in the lake from your land, referred to as “riparian rights.”  You could withdraw it to water your livestock, for example; but you cannot “unreasonably” interfere with your neighbor’s right to reasonably use the water.   The law changes if the lake is part of a “navigable” waterway.  It is then a “water of the state” that is subject to the public right of navigation.  Others could float on and otherwise navigate the water, and you could navigate over to your neighbor’s side.  Public users would not have the riparian rights that would allow them to withdraw and use the water, however, and would be trespassing if they go onto the private land along the shore.

If I start an agritourism activity on my farm, will I lose my CAUV status?  No, not if your activities fit within the legal definition of “agritourism.”  Ohio law states in ORC 5713.30(A)(5) that “agritourism” activities do not disqualify a parcel from Ohio’s Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program. “Agritourism,” according to the definition in ORC 901.80, is any agriculturally related educational, entertainment, historical, cultural, or recreational activity on a “farm” that allows or invites members of the general public to observe, participate in, or enjoy that activity.  The definition of a “farm” is the same as the CAUV eligibility—a parcel devoted to commercial agricultural production that is either 10 acres or more or, if under 10 acres, grosses $2500 annually from agricultural production.  This means that land that is enrolled in the CAUV program qualifies as a “farm” and can add agritourism activities without becoming ineligible for CAUV.

Send your questions to aglaw@osu.edu and we’ll do our best to provide an answer.  Also be sure to check out our law bulletins and the Ag Law Library on https://farmoffice.osu.edu, which explain many of Ohio’s vast assortment of agricultural laws.

Ants and aphids on a plant stem.
By: Jeffrey K. Lewis, Esq., Friday, February 04th, 2022

Did you know that ants are the only creatures besides humans that will farm other creatures?  It’s true.  Just like we raise cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens in order to obtain a food source, ants will do the same with other insects.  This is particularly true with aphids.  Ants will protect aphids from natural predators and shelter them during heavy rain showers in order to gain a constant supply of honeydew.

Like an ant, we have done some heavy lifting to bring you the latest agricultural and resource law updates.  We start with some federal cases that deal with the definition of navigable waters under the Clean Water Act, mislabeling honey products, and indigenous hunting rights.  We then finish with some state law developments from across the country that include Georgia’s right to farm law and California’s Proposition 12.  

Supreme Court to review navigable waters definition under the Clean Water Act.  The Supreme Court announced that it would hear the case of an Idaho couple who have been battling the federal government over plans to build their home.  Chantell and Mike Sackett (“Plaintiffs”) began construction on their new home near Priest Lake, Idaho but were halted by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”).  The EPA issued an administrative compliance order alleging that Plaintiffs’ construction violates the Clean Water Act.  The EPA claims that the lot, on which the Plaintiffs are constructing their new home, contains wetlands that qualify as federally regulated “navigable waters.”  Plaintiffs are asking the Court to revisit its 2006 opinion in Rapanos v. United States and help clarify how to determine when a wetland should be classified as “navigable waters.”  In Rapanos, the Court found that the Clean Water Act regulates only certain wetlands, those that are determined to be “navigable waters.”  However, two different tests were laid out in the Court’s opinions.  The Court issued a plurality opinion which stated that the government can only regulate wetlands that have a continuous surface water connection to other regulated waters.  A concurring opinion, authored by Justice Kennedy, put forth a more relaxed test that allows for regulation of wetlands that bear a “significant nexus” with traditional navigable waters.  Justice Kennedy’s test did not take into consideration whether there was any surface water connection between the wetland and the traditional navigable waters.  In the lower appellate court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals used Justice Kennedy’s “significant nexus” test to uphold the EPA’s authority to halt Plaintiffs’ construction.  Now, Plaintiffs hope the Supreme Court will adopt a clear rule that brings “fairness, consistency, and a respect for private property rights to the Clean Water Act’s administration.”  

SueBee sued for “bee”ing deceptive.  Sioux Honey Association Cooperative (“Defendant”) finds itself in a sticky situation after Jason Scholder (“Plaintiff”) brought a class action lawsuit against the honey maker for violating New York’s consumer protection laws by misrepresenting the company’s honey products marketed under the SueBee brand.  Plaintiff claims that the words “Pure” or “100% Pure” on the Defendant’s honey products are misleading and deceptive because the honey contains glyphosate.  Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit and a federal district court in New York granted Defendant’s motion in part and denied it in part.  Defendant asked the court to find that its labels could not be misleading as a matter of law because any trace amounts of glyphosate in the honey is a result of the natural behavior of bees interacting with agriculture and not a result of Defendant’s production process.  However, the court declined to dismiss Plaintiff’s mislabeling claims.  The court concluded that a reasonable consumer might not actually understand that the terms “Pure” or “100% Pure” means that trace amounts of glyphosate could end up in honey from the bees’ foraging process.  The court also declined the Defendant’s request to dismiss Plaintiff’s unjust enrichment claim because of the alleged misrepresentations of the honey.  However, the court did dismiss Plaintiff’s breach of express warranty claim and request for injunctive relief.  The court dismissed Plaintiff’s breach of express warranty claim because Plaintiff failed to notify Defendant of its alleged breach of warranty, as required by New York law.  Plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief was also dismissed because the court could not find any imminent threat of continued injury to Plaintiff since he has now learned that the honey contains trace amounts of glyphosate.  The court ordered the parties to proceed with discovery on Plaintiff’s remaining claims, keeping the case abuzz.

Indigenous Hunting Rights.  Recently, two members of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation (“Northwestern Band”) were cited for hunting on Idaho lands without tags issued by the state.  The Northwestern Band filed suit against the state of Idaho declaring that its members possessed hunting rights pursuant to the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868 (the “1868 Treaty”).  The 1868 Treaty provided that the Shoshone Nation agreed to permanently settle on either Fort Hall Reservation, located in Southeastern Idaho, or Wind River Reservation, located in Western Wyoming.  By agreeing to settle on one of the two reservations, the Shoshone Nation was granted hunting rights on unoccupied lands of the United states.  However, the Northwestern Band ended up settling in Northern Utah and not on one of the two named reservations.  After considering the 1868 Treaty, the Federal District Court of Idaho dismissed Northwestern Band’s lawsuit.  The court held that the hunting rights contained in the 1868 Treaty were tied to the promise to live on one of the reservations, and that a tribe cannot receive those hunting rights without living on one of the appropriate reservations.  Thus, the court found that because the Northwestern Band settled in Northern Utah and not on one of the reservations, the hunting rights of the 1868 Treaty did not extend to the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.  

Tensions rise over Georgia’s Freedom to Farm Act.  A few days ago, Georgia lawmakers introduced legislation that seeks to further protect Georgia farmers from nusiance lawsuits.  House Bill 1150 (“HB 1150”) proposes to change current Georgia law to protect farmers and other agricultural operations from being sued for emitting smells, noises, and other activities that may be found offensive by neighboring landowners.  Georgia’s current law, which became effective in 1980, does provide some protection for Georgia farmers, but only from neighboring landowners that have moved near the farm or agricultural operation after the current law went into effect.  All neighboring landowners that lived near the farming operation prior to the current law going into effect have retained their right to sue.  HB 1150, on the other hand, will prevent these nuisance lawsuits by all neighboring landowners, as long as the farm or agricultural operation have been operating for a year or more.  Passing a right to farm law has proven to be difficult in Georgia.  In 2020, House Bill 545, also known as the “Right to Farm bill” failed to pass before the final day of the 2019-2020 legislative session. Private landowners, farmers, and their supporters, are divided on the issue and seek to protect their respective property rights. It doesn't look like HB 1150 will have the easiest of times in the Georgia legislature. 

Confining California's Proposition 12.  Meat processors and businesses that sell whole pork meat in California (collectively the “Petitioners”) have delayed the enforcement of California’s Proposition 12 (“Prop 12”), for now.  Prop 12 is California’s animal confinement law that has sent shockwaves across the nation as it pertains to raising and selling pork, eggs, and veal.  Last week, the Superior Court for Sacramento County granted Petitioners’ writ of mandate to delay the enforcement of Prop 12 on sales of whole pork meat.  Petitioners argue that Prop 12 cannot be enforced until California has implemented its final regulations on Prop 12.  To date, California has yet to implement those final regulations.  California, on the other hand, suggests that final regulations are not a precondition to enforcement of Prop 12 and the civil and criminal penalties that can be brought against any farmer or business that violates Prop 12.  The court disagreed.  The court found that the language of Prop 12, as voted on by California residents, explicitly states that California voters wanted regulations in place before the square-footage requirements of Prop 12 took effect.  Therefore, the court granted Petitioners’ writ of mandate to prevent the enforcement of Prop 12 until final regulations have been implemented.  The court’s writ will remain in effect until 180 days after final regulations go into effect.  This will allow producers and businesses to prepare themselves to comply with the final regulations.  Opponents of Prop 12 believe this is another reason why the Supreme Court of the United States should review California’s Proposition 12 for its constitutionality.  

Side profile of a Harpy Eagle.
By: Jeffrey K. Lewis, Esq., Friday, January 21st, 2022

Did you know there is a bird with talons larger than grizzly bear claws?  The Harpy Eagle’s back talons can reach lengths of 5 inches, which is larger than a grizzly bear’s claws which reach lengths of around 4 inches. Thankfully, the Harpy Eagle is not usually found in the United States, they are traditionally found in the rainforests of Central and South America.  

The variety and extent of the animal kingdom can be a good analogy when we talk about the scope and variability of agricultural and resource law.  “Ag law” isn’t in and of itself a core area of law, at least not an area of law taught in most law schools across the country.  Those core areas of law are traditionally contracts, constitutional, tort, property, and a few others.  But ag law includes most, if not all, of the core legal subjects.  This includes property law, tax law, tort law, international law, intellectual property law, environmental law, contracts, business, labor and employment, and others.  This week’s edition of the Ag Law Harvest shows you how diverse ag law really is.  We review some legislation moving in parts of the country that deal with tax law, property law, and administrative law.  We also review Federal regulations and court cases that address food law, trademark law, and antitrust law.  

Florida introduces legislation to protect farmers’ preferential tax benefits amid agritourism boom.  Florida’s legislature is hard at work to ensure the success of Florida’s agriculture and agritourism industries.   Recently, Florida’s legislature introduced Senate Bill 1186 and House Bill 717.  The purpose of both bills is to promote Florida’s agritourism industry and protect farmers when it comes to land classification, taxation, and regulation.  Both pieces of legislation look to: 

  • Eliminate duplicate regulatory authority over agritourism by preventing local government from enacting regulations that prohibit, restrict, or otherwise limit an agritourism activity from taking place on land classified as agricultural land. 
  • Prevent land from being classified “non-agricultural” simply because an agritourism activity takes places on the land, so long as the agritourism activity is taking place on a bona fide farm. 
  • Implement a hybrid property taxation scheme which allows the buildings and other structures used for agritourism activities to be assessed at just value and added to the agriculturally assessed value of the land.  

Both bills are currently making their way through their respective chamber’s committees and should be voted on soon.  

Michigan looking to pass legislation to reduce fines for family farmers that do not report accidental workplace deaths to the state.  The Michigan Senate recently passed a substitute for House Bill 4031, which is focused on reducing the fine incurred by family farms for not reporting the death of a family member within eight hours.  Under current Michigan law, a family farm must report any fatality to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration within eight hours or face a fine of at least $5,000, which is exactly what happened to the Eisenmann family in 2019.  The Eisenmann family ran a family farm and was fined $12,000 after Keith Eisenmann fell to his death while repairing a barn roof.  The bill seeks to reduce the fine for families that are grieving the unexpected loss of a loved one.  Although a family farm will still be required to report the accidental work-related death of a loved one within eight hours, if a family fails to do so, the substitute bill drastically reduces the penalty.  The original bill passed Michigan’s House of Representatives late last year, but the substitute bill passed by the Michigan Senate clarifies the definition of family farm.  The substitute bill now goes back to the House of Representatives for approval.  

Bioengineered food standard now in effect.  January 1st marked the first day of compliance for the Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (the “Standard”).  The Standard requires food manufacturers, importers, and certain retailers to disclose to consumers that foods are or may be bioengineered.  The Standard defines bioengineered foods as “those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through certain lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature.”  The Agricultural Marketing Service has created a list of bioengineered foods to identify the crops or foods that are available in a bioengineered form.  For more information on the Bioengineered Food Disclosure Statement visit https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/be.

A bite into the cheesier side of trademark law.  Last month, a federal court in Virginia decided on a dispute between European and American cheesemakers.  The dispute arose over whether the term “Gruyere” should only be used to identify cheeses produced in the Gruyère region of France and Switzerland or whether the term can be used generically to describe a type of cheese, regardless of where the cheese is produced.  The Plaintiffs, two European business groups, filed an application with the United States Patent Trademark Office (“USPTO”) to register “Gruyere” as a certification mark under 15 U.S.C. § 1127 which would only allow cheesemakers to use the term “Gruyere” if the cheese came from the Gruyère region.  The U.S. Dairy Export Council and others (“Defendants”) filed an opposition to Plaintiffs’ application with the Trademark Trials and Appeals Board (“TTAB”).  The TTAB found the term “Gruyere” to be generic term used to describe a type of cheese, not a cheese’s origin.  Plaintiffs’ then filed suit in a federal court in Virginia.  The federal court held that the “Gruyere” term had become a generic term to describe a type of cheese and failed to find the term worthy of trademark protection.  The court reasoned that although the term “Gruyere” may have once been understood to indicate where a cheese came from, over time “Gruyere” became a generic term to describe a type of cheese.  The court noted the term “Gruyere” has become generic overtime because: (1) U.S. regulations allow the use of the term “Gruyere” regardless of where the cheese is produced, (2) there is widespread sale and import of Gruyere cheese that is produced outside the Gruyère region, and (3) “Gruyere” is commonly used in dictionaries, media communications, and cheese industry events to describe a type of cheese without regards to where the cheese is produced.  Plaintiffs have since appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which means we still have a gooey situation on our hands.  

USDA and Department of Justice announce commitment to protect farmers against unfair anticompetitive practices.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) each announced their shared commitment to enforcing federal competition laws that are aimed at protecting farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural producers from unfair, anticompetitive practices.  In continuing their commitment to enforcing such laws, the agencies released a statement of principles and commitments which include: 

  1. Farmers, ranchers, and other producers and growers deserve the benefits of free and fair competition.  The DOJ and USDA are therefore prioritizing matters impacting competition in agriculture. 
  2. The agencies will develop an accessible, confidential process for agricultural producers to submit complaints about potential violations of the antitrust laws and the Packers and Stockyards Act.  
  3. Increased cooperation between the agencies to enforce the laws that protect agricultural producers and to identify areas where Congress can help modernize rules and regulations.   

As we have seen over the past few months, the federal government is keen on preventing the consolidation of the agricultural industry in order promote fair and equal competition.  The announced commitments and principles demonstrate the government’s continued dedication to cracking down on unfair practices. 

Stack of W-2 forms.
By: Jeffrey K. Lewis, Esq., Friday, January 14th, 2022

As promised, here is the next and final installment of “An Agricultural Employer’s 2021 Tax Obligations: A Series” discussing an agricultural employer’s requirements and obligations under Ohio law.  This installment of the series provides an overview of Ohio employment taxes and additional employer obligations for Ohio’s agricultural employers.  This series covers an employer’s Ohio tax obligations and requirements that arise simply because a business has employees.  This series does not cover the business income or personal income tax reporting obligations of agricultural employers.  

We first discuss Ohio’s income and school district taxes and then we focus on Ohio’s unemployment insurance tax and Ohio’s workers’ compensation requirement for all employers.  The information contained within this series is not meant to be legal and/or tax advice, it is for educational purposes only.  Agricultural employers should seek out the counsel and guidance of an attorney or other tax professional to help ensure compliance with Ohio tax law.  

Ohio Employer Withholding Tax.   

Ohio Employer Withholding Tax.  Generally, employers are required to withhold Ohio income tax and school district tax from employees’ wages.  However, under Ohio law, Agricultural employers are not required to withhold Ohio taxes from wages paid to employees, so long as the employees fall under the definition of agricultural labor in 26 U.S.C. § 3121(g).  “Agricultural labor” includes all services performed:

  • on a farm, in the employ of any person, in connection with the cultivating, raising, and/or harvesting of any agricultural or horticultural commodity; or
  • in the employ of the owner or other operator of a farm, in connection with the operation, management, conservation, or maintenance of such farm and its tools and equipment. 

Can Ohio’s Agricultural Employers Agree to Willingly Withhold Ohio’s Taxes?  In short, the answer is yes.  An agricultural employee must still pay Ohio income tax and their local school district tax on all income earned throughout the year.  If an employee does not have their Ohio taxes withheld from their pay, they may be required to make quarterly estimated tax payments to the state.  Because of this, an employee may request their employer to withhold their Ohio taxes from each paycheck.  An agricultural employer is under no obligation to withhold Ohio taxes, but some do.    

Ohio Withholding Exemption Certificate.  It is important that each employer, even an agricultural employer, have its employees complete an Employee’s Withholding Exemption Certificate (Ohio IT 4).  For agricultural employers that are not going to withhold Ohio’s taxes, it must have each employee check the box next to “I am exempt from Ohio withholding under R.C. 5747.06(A)(1) through (6)” under Section III of Form IT 4.  If no Ohio IT 4 is completed, then an employer must withhold the Ohio’s taxes from an employee’s wages.  

Ohio requires an employer to keep Ohio IT 4 in its records for at least four years and must make it available to the Ohio Department of Taxation upon request

Registering as an Ohio Withholding Agent.  Employers that are required (or choose) to withhold Ohio’s taxes from employees’ wages must register with the Ohio Department of Taxation. This can be done one of three ways. 

  1. By internet.  Registration can be completed online through the Ohio Business Gateway
  2. By phone. Call 1-888-405-4089, listen for the message, and then press 2 to connect with an agent. 
  3. By mail or fax.  Complete Application for Registration as an Ohio Withholding Agent (Ohio IT 1) and mail it to the address provided on the form or fax it to the Ohio Department of Taxation at (614) 387-2165. 

How Much Ohio Income Tax Should an Employer Withhold?  To determine how much Ohio income tax to withhold, visit the Ohio Department of Taxation’s Employer Withholding Tables website

How Much School District Tax Should an Employer Withhold?  School districts impose a tax using one of two methods: traditional or earned income.  School district tax rates and a district’s method of taxation can be found on the Ohio Department of Taxation’s "Employer Withholding: Table of Contents" website.  

For traditional tax base school districts, an employer must use the same wage base and number of exemptions they use when calculating the employee’s Ohio income tax rate.  For earned income tax base school districts, an employer must withhold at a flat rate equal to the school district’s tax rate with no reduction or adjustment for personal exemptions. 

An employee’s school district is determined by the address of the employee’s residence.  School districts and the corresponding four-digit codes can be found at https://www.tax.ohio.gov/finder or by contacting the applicable county auditor. 

Electronic Filing Requirement.  Employers are required to file and pay Ohio income and school district withholding taxes electronically.  The easiest way to do this is through the Ohio Business Gateway.  

Filing Frequency and Payment of Ohio’s Employer Withholding Tax.  An employer’s filing frequency is determined by the combined amount of Ohio and school district income taxes that were withheld or required to be withheld during the look-back period.  Ohio’s look-back period is the 12-month period ending June 30th of the preceding calendar year.  An employer’s filing frequency is re-evaluated every year.  

Ohio’s Income Tax Filing Frequency

Quarterly.  Ohio employers that withheld $2,000 or less in Ohio taxes will be required to file and pay taxes every calendar quarter.  Ohio’s form IT 501 and payment are due by the last day of the month following each calendar quarter.  

Monthly.  Ohio employers that withheld more than $2,000 but less than $84,000 in Ohio taxes will be required to file and pay taxes every month.  Form IT 501 and payment are due within 15 days after the end of each month.  

Partial-weekly.  Ohio employers that withheld $84,000 or more in Ohio taxes are required to make payment of withheld taxes within three banking days from the end of each “partial-weekly period.”  There is no form that is required to be filed each time tax payments are filed.  There are two “partial-weekly periods” in which an employer can be categorized.  An employer’s partial weekly period depends on the day it issues payroll.   

Partial-weekly Period 1:  An employer is in period 1 if it issues payroll on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday. 

Partial-weekly Period 2:  An employer is in period 2 if it issues payroll on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.

Remember, payment is due within three banking days from the end of each period.  So, if an employer issues payroll on Wednesday, it must submit payment of Ohio taxes within three banking days starting on Friday. 

School District Tax Filing Frequency.  School district tax filing frequency is the same as an employer’s Ohio income tax filing frequency except for employers that qualify as partial-weekly filers.  Partial-weekly employers are required to file school district tax on a monthly basis.  Every time an employer files and remits the school district tax they must complete “Payment of School District Income Tax Withheld” (Ohio SD 101), which can be found on the Ohio Business Gateway.  

Quarterly and Annual Forms.  An employer’s filing obligations do not end by filing the above forms each time it remits payment of Ohio’s taxes.  The following are additional forms that must be completed by an employer either on a quarterly or yearly basis.  Not every form listed below needs to be completed by every employer.  Certain forms correspond with an employer’s filing frequency classification.  These forms can be found on the Ohio Business Gateway.  

Quarterly/Monthly Filers.  Employers that qualify to file and pay Ohio income taxe on a quarterly or monthly basis must file an “Annual Reconciliation of Income Tax Withheld” (Ohio IT 941).  Ohio IT 941 is typically due no later than January 31 of the following year (the 2021 tax year deadline has been extended to March 2, 2022).  The total tax withheld on Ohio IT 941 must equal the amount reported on Ohio IT 3 (discussed below).  

Partial-weekly Filers.  Employers that must pay Ohio taxes on a partial-weekly basis must file a “Quarterly Reconciliation of Income Tax Withheld” (Ohio IT 942) by the last day of each month following a calendar quarter for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Quarters.  A different Ohio IT 942 form titled “4th Quarter/Annual Reconciliation of Income Tax Withheld” is to be filed by partial-weekly employers by January 31 of the following year (the 2021 tax year deadline has been extended to March 2, 2022).  Partial-weekly employers do not submit Ohio IT 941.  

“Transmittal of W-2 and 1099-R Statements” (Ohio IT 3).  All employers must submit Ohio IT 3, which can be done electronically on the Ohio Business Gateway.  Ohio IT 3 requires an employer to report and upload employee W-2s/1099-Rs.  The amount of Ohio taxes withheld and paid by an employer must match the information contained within the W-2s and 1099-Rs.  Ohio IT 3 is usually due by January 31 of the following year (the 2021 tax year deadline has been extended to March 2, 2022).

“Annual Reconciliation of School District Income Tax Withheld” (Ohio SD 141). Employers must also submit Ohio SD 141, which can be done electronically on the Ohio Business Gateway.  Ohio SD 141 compares the amount of school district tax withheld and paid by an employer and the information contained within the W-2s and 1099-Rs uploaded when an employer files Ohio IT 3 (see above).  The amount of school district tax withheld and paid should match the information contained within the W-2s and 1099-Rs submitted by an employer.  Ohio SD 141 is usually due by January 31 of the following year (the 2021 tax year deadline has been extended to March 2, 2022).

Ohio Unemployment Insurance Tax. 

When are Agricultural Employers required to pay Ohio’s Unemployment Insurance? Agricultural employers must pay the Ohio Unemployment insurance tax if it: 

  • Paid cash wages of $20,000 or more in a calendar to agricultural employees in the current calendar year or the preceding calendar year; or 
  • Had at least 10 agricultural employees for some portion of a day in 20 different weeks in the current year or the preceding year

Other Ways Employers can Become Liable for Ohio’s Unemployment Insurance Tax.  An employer can also be required to pay the Ohio Unemployment Insurance tax if it:

  1. Is subject to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (“FUTA”) in either the current calendar year or preceding calendar year.  
  2. Acquires a business that was subject to Ohio’s unemployment insurance tax. 
  3. Elects to cover its employees voluntarily. 

Employer Must Report Its Own Liability.  Employers are required to report liability by filing “Report to Determine Liability” (JFS 20100) to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (the “ODJFS”), which can be done online at https://thesource.jfs.ohio.gov.   The ODJFS will determine an employer’s liability based on the information provided in JFS 20100.  If an employer is deemed to be liable for Ohio Unemployment Insurance, the ODJFS will issue a 10-digit employer account number.  

Employer Reporting.  Liable employers are required to file quarterly reports to the ODJFS.  Agricultural employers that must pay into the Ohio unemployment insurance fund must file the “Employer’s Wage Detail Report” and the “Quarterly Summary Report.” Employers who had no workers or paid no wages during a quarter are still required to file the above-mentioned reports.  Employers with fewer than 200 employees should file their quarterly reports by using the Ohio Business Gateway or ODJFS’s “The SOURCE Online”  The reports must be filed no later than the last day of the month following the end of a calendar quarter.  

Employer Contributions.  Like FUTA, only the employer is responsible for Ohio’s unemployment insurance tax. Payments made into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund are called “contributions.”  Contribution rates are determined by an employer’s “experience rating” which is a measure of how much an employer has paid in unemployment taxes and has been charged in benefits.  For more information about contribution rates, visit https://jfs.ohio.gov/ouio/uctax/rates.stm.

Contributions are due no later than the last day of the month following the end of a calendar quarter.  To determine how much tax is due each quarter, an employer multiplies its unemployment tax rate by the amount of taxable wages paid during the quarter.  Contributions must be made each quarter until the “taxable wage base” for each employee has been met.  The taxable wage base for 2022 is $9,000.  This means that an employer is only required to pay its unemployment insurance tax rate on the first $9,000 dollars earned by each employee.  If an employer is unable to make a contribution, the unpaid balance will bear an annual interest rate of 14%, compounded monthly.  

Ohio Workers’ Compensation

While not technically a “tax,” every employer in the state of Ohio, with one or more employees, must have workers’ compensation coverage.  This includes agricultural employers.  There are, however, certain businesses that do not have to carry workers compensation coverage.  These businesses include: 

  • Sole proprietors with no employees
  • Partnerships with no employees
  • Family farm corporations with no employees
  • Limited liability company acting as a sole proprietorship with no employees
  • Limited liability company acting as a partnership with no employees

As you can see, the common attribute shared by the exempt businesses listed above is the fact that those businesses have no employees.  What this means is that if anyone, other than an owner, is performing services for a business and being paid for those services, then the business is required to carry workers’ compensation coverage.  So, for example, if a couple owns and operates a small family farm corporation and only the couple performs the work on the farm, then workers’ compensation coverage is not required.  

Elective Workers’ Compensation Coverage.  For those employers that are not required to carry workers’ compensation coverage, they may still elect to do so.  Oftentimes, businesses elect to carry workers’ compensation insurance to prevent the devastating side effects of a serious injury sustained by an owner.  Using the example of the family farm corporation from above, if the couple decides not to carry workers’ compensation coverage and one of them is injured while farming, their health insurance company may deny their claim because the injury was work-related.  Generally, on-the-job injuries must be covered through workers’ compensation, not an individual’s health insurance.  So, the couple could begin to amass a large sum in medical bills due to the lack of insurance coverage, possibly bankrupting the farm corporation.    

Applying for Workers’ Compensation Coverage.  Employers required to carry workers’ compensation coverage must apply for coverage by submitting the “Application for Coverage (U-3)” to Ohio’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (“BWC”) which can be found at https://www.bwc.ohio.gov/employercoverage.  Employers electing to obtain coverage can apply by submitting the “Application for or Request to Cancel Elective Coverage (U-3S)” which can be found by visiting https://info.bwc.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/bwc/for-employers/employer-forms/application-for-request-cancel-elective-coverage.

Workers’ Compensation Premiums.  The BWC calculates an employer’s premium based on several factors, including total payroll, type of work performed by employees, and an employer’s workplace injury record.  

Premium Payments.  Installment payments of an employer’s premium is based upon a schedule chosen by the employer.  The BWC will send an invoice to each employer for premium/installment payments.  Payments can be made through an e-account on the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation website

Alternative Premium Rate Plans.  It's no secret that workers' compensation insurance can be a costly expense for an employer.  However, the BWC does have alternative premium rate plans for employers looking to reduce the cost of workers' compensation insurance.  These alternative rate plans allow employers that operate similar businesses to join together to potentially achieve a lower premium rate than they could obtain as individual employers.  For more information on alternative premium rate plans visit https://www.bwc.ohio.gov/downloads/blankpdf/altrate.pdf 

Conclusion.  This series was split into two posts because of the massive amount of information presented.  However, the broad overview of this series was very surface level.  There are many exemptions, exceptions, alternate requirements, or additional requirements based on an employer’s unique circumstances that we did not cover for the sake of brevity.  That is why is it important to speak with an attorney or other tax professional so that they can help you navigate federal and state tax laws to make sure you are fulfilling your obligations as an employer and to address any questions or concerns that you may have.  

References and Resources: 

Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 4123, Bureau of Workers’ Compensationhttps://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-administrative-code/4123

Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, BWC Basics for Employershttps://www.bwc.ohio.gov/downloads/blankpdf/BWCBASICS.pdf

Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, Workers’ Compensation Overviewhttps://info.bwc.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/bwc/for-employers/workers-compensation-overview

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Employer’s Guide to Ohio Unemployment Insurance,http://www.odjfs.state.oh.us/forms/num/JFS08201/pdf/  

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Unemployment Insurance: Employer Resource Hubhttps://unemploymenthelp.ohio.gov/employer/

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, UI Tax for New Employershttps://jfs.ohio.gov/ouio/uctax/UITaxForNewEmployers.stm

Ohio Department of Taxation, 2022 Ohio Employer and School District Withholding Tax Filing Guidelines,https://tax.ohio.gov/static/employer_withholding/2021%20filing%20guidelines%20updates_rev%2012-22-21.pdf

Ohio Department of Taxation, Estimated Paymentshttps://tax.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/tax/individual/resources/estimated-payments

Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4141, Unemployment Compensationhttps://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/chapter-4141

Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4123, Workers’ Compensationhttps://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/chapter-4123

Ohio Revised Code Chapter 5747, Income Taxhttps://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/chapter-5747

Ohio Revised Code Chapter 5748, School District Income Taxhttps://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/chapter-5748

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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