NPR Planet Money Episode 760: Tax Hero

Really interesting podcast about a Stanford tax law professor and his effort to make paying taxes more like paying credit card bills, and the remarkable resistance he encountered from paid lobbyists for Intuit Inc. and from the Americans for Tax Reform.

The fear is that by making paying taxes very easy, we open the door for our governments to bury tax increases.

Recent European Legal Disruptors

This article provides a list of the “10 top legal disruptors,” with a focus on the European market. I found this list to be quite interesting, as I had never heard of any of these companies before. Looking over the list, it appears as though a good deal of these solutions employ machine learning of some kind–which means we may be seeing automation of more legal processes and perhaps even some legal decision making. For example, the “DoNotPay” bot mentioned in the article is a chatbot that will help you fight parking tickets, and now helps refugees find emergency housing. (See article). It will be interesting to see where these companies go, and to continue to monitor the numerous legal disruptors who have emerged in recent years.

Tax Deductions for the Small Business

This article notes five tax deductions that a small business owner could be allowed to take, if he or she meets the requirements. For example, the home office deduction, vehicle deductions, meal deductions, travel expenses, etc. (See article). I am not sure I agree with the presentation of this article, however. Although the author makes a mention of commonly-known audit risk that comes with a home office deduction, I do not think he warns readers enough: readers should know that there are very specific rules for each of these deductions, and that they should consult with a tax professional before invoking the deductions. Yes, the deductions are legal, as they are in the Internal Revenue Code, but they are not legal to take if you do not meet the requirements. This article from QuickBooks outlines some of the more common so-called audit “red flags” that may lead to a higher likelihood of being audited.

Google’s Plan to Engineer the Next Silicon Valleys


Google’s Plan to Engineer the Next Silicon Valleys

The article discusses Google’s Launchpad Accelerator that provides free training and business advice to promising “mature startups.” Google is focusing on helping startups who are about 2 to 3 years old and already have a strong customer base. Since Google does not take an equity stake in the company, Google is free to play the “accelerator game” further down a startup’s evolution. Moreover, Google is expanding this program worldwide in hopes of creating more “Silicon Valleys” abroad. In the past month, 31 companies from 9 countries participated in the 2 week intensive program and around 150 mentors joined in.

Business Owners Should Think About Employment Law

Once an entrepreneur’s business becomes big enough to begin hiring employees, he or she should take care to ensure that the business complies with employment laws. For example, this article shows us five employment laws that entrepreneurs should not violate: “Do not label independent contractors as employees;” “Don’t use exempt classification to avoid overtime;” “You may not subtract loan payments from pay;” “Do not fire an employee for taking leave;” and “Do not refuse to pay employees for rest breaks.” (Article). The article also explains some of the consequences for violating these laws, including fines, penalties, and back wages. Id. Business owners should take care to follow these and other employment laws–creating a compliance strategy up front could come at the cost of hiring an attorney, but may prevent expensive litigation and penalties down the road.

New York City law may soon impact small businesses and entrepreneurs

Late last year, the New York City Council passed the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act.” The act will go into effect in May of this year. The act provides that: “If a business hires a freelancer for $800 or more worth of work over six months (for either one project or a cumulative series of projects), a written agreement must be put in place,” and provides for several terms that must be placed into the written agreement. (Article). It also creates a complaint process and government body to hear the complaints, and includes penalties for flouting the law. Id. 

Since small businesses and entrepreneurs can often be well-served to use freelancers, as opposed to hiring a new employee, see, e.g., here and here, such business owners must take note of the new law, and should have a plan for hiring freelancers after the law goes into effect. It will be interesting to see how the new law plays out, and if other cities or states decide to follow New York City’s lead in passing this law.

Gift and Curse of Being an Entrepreneur

This article notes what the author calls the “gift and curse of being an entrepreneur.” The author asserts that “An entrepreneur’s gift is being an innovator,” while his or her curse is that that “same drive” will “take over everything [they] do.” Essentially, says the author, the curse boils down to the old maxim that “it is lonely at the top.” The author then offers a few possible lessons that entrepreneurs can use to alleviate themselves of this “curse.”

I think this article can help us in our practice in two different ways. First, it can give us some insight into what our entrepreneur-clients are going through as they build their startup company. It can help us emphasize with them, and can let us be better lawyers for our clients.

Second, this article reminds me of problems that plague the legal profession. A simple search of Above the Law shows us what we already know: lawyers are quite bad at maintaining a work-life balance. Being aware of this fact, and trying to be conscious of it, perhaps can help us in our own lives, regardless of what type of law we practice or the size of organization in which we practice it.

Falcon Dubai 100

I came across this initiative through conversations with friends about this class and the various projects we’ve looked at throughout the semester and thought it was absolutely fascinating. The initiative is aimed at entrepreneurs who have created or are in the process of creating innovation in the world of digital health. This program acts as an incubator in that it basically just brings the innovators to Dubai and gives them 100 days to focus on launching their ideas. Everything from travel costs to housing to basic capital to start the project is given to these innovators with the caveat being that the project must be ready for investors in 100 days. I found this to be quite impressive because most times when you ask entrepreneurs what their biggest obstacle is they usually say something along the lines of lack of budget or lack of expertise, and this program brings both these things right to them.


Lean Startup Is Dead — Long Live Lean Startup


Interesting article that argues that the lean startup movement actually benefits large companies the most if they adopt innovative startup methods. The author predicts that the coming “Third Wave” of technology involves products and services that the are costly to make and heavily regulated by the government, such as healthcare and education. Thus, if large companies can apply the lean startup model to their business model then they have the most potential for growth in the new era of technology.