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Friday, February 28, 2014

Buddy Bear coming to Charlotte

Charlotte is the only American city to receive a Buddy Bear sculpture which is the symbol of a public art movement. The Buddy Bear project started in Berlin and from there on, "traveled" around the world.

For Charlotte this is a great honor, hence there is no other one in the US. The Buddy Bear will be installed in front of the main branch of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. It is a six foot tall, fiberglass statue which is supposed to reward Charlotte's cultural as well as economic ties to Germany. Especially notable is that Mecklenburg County and Charlotte were originally named after Queen Charlotte from Meckleburg Stewitz in Germany.

Circle Bebelplatz, Berlin
Moreover, the designer, Sharon Dowell, used essentially the queen as a feature for her creation of the Buddy Bear. She also incorporated the state flower of North Carolina, namely the dogwood flowers.

Starting in March Dowell will fly to Berlin to paint the sculpture which after that will make its journey to Uptown, Charlotte. In just a few months, the Buddy Bear will stand tall in front of the library and, hopefully, it will make people think about the Charlotte's ties to Germany.

The German honorary consul Kurt Waldthausen led the efforts to bring the bear to Charlotte. This project was also sponsored by the Alemannia Society, the German Saturday School, the German American Chamber of Commerce and the Language and Culture Foundation.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Why More Americans Are Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

A couple of years ago, the Treasury Department published a list of those Americans who had abandoned their citizenship. A decade ago, this number always circled around 500 people, however, last year the number hit a record high of almost 3,000 Americans

This change was not foreseeable, but more the result of different parts leading to this unexpected outcome.
Starting in 2008, when the federal prosecutors accused a Swiss bank of helping wealthy Americans hide their money tax-free in overseas accounts. Barney Frank, the Democratic congressman from Massachusetts told NPR in 2009 that they just found UBS in a terrible scheme of encouraging tax evasion - speaking of billions of dollars. 

Therefore, in 2010, Congress passed the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (see also our FATCA articles), which effected everybody - not only - that did business with the United States. 

Nevertheless, renouncing citizenship is not as simple as "burning ones passport", it is a long process involving interviews, paperwork and legal procedures. People who are renouncing their citizenship clearly have a compelling motivation to do so. Everybody may have their own personal reasons, however, the recent tremendous spike is more than likely caused by the 2010 tax law than anything else. 

Having to immediately report all American clients, cause a huge hassle for the foreign banks, so that most of them decided to cancel all accounts of Americans in Europe. Congress wanted to actually catch tax cheats, but they also snagged those Americans with foreign bank accounts who need them to pay their bill, hence they live abroad. 

The United States is very uncommon in this respect that most other countries do not tax their citizens living abroad. So that today, Americans who do not want to pay double taxes and plan on living outside the U.S. will give up their citizenship

In Switzerland, for instance, so many people want to renounce their citizenship that the local U.S. Embassy has a waiting list. For most of them, it is not about the tax value they would have to pay, rather than the hassle and work they would have to go through filing these taxes. People are ready to renounce, despite the fact that they still feel closed and tied to their place of birth.

Also officials from the Treasury Department, the State Department, the IRS and Congress agreed to this problem behind curtains, but for the government the main goal of the law is to catch the tax cheats

If this is really this is worth losing thousands of Americans over the years, is up to them!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Charlotte on the Rise!

Charlotte, NC, the Queen City, confirms its reputation as one of the most affordable cities in the US. Charlotte ranks No. 4 in the brand-new ranking the online platform has published.

They awarded the cities a score of 1 to 6 for each data point, based on where they fell relative to the competition. The most weight was given to cost of living, as calculated by Sperling’s, which accounts for housing, food, transportation, and health care, among other expenses. They also factored in median household incomes from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and, to a lesser extent, state and local income and sales tax rates from the Tax Foundation.

Correspondingly the online platform published a top 10 of the best US cities for Job seekers. Charlotte ranks No. 5 followed by Raleigh, NC. That’s what they wrote about Charlotte, NC:

“Charlotte is a major financial center in the country. It has a diverse economy, with the largest employers ranging from manufacturing to financial services. Bank of America has its worldwide headquarters in town, and Wells Fargo has its East Coast division headquarters in downtown Charlotte. Charlotte has a thriving arts community as well, and the Arts & Science Council offers many workshops to foster the professional development of creative individuals.”

That’s why the prestigious Forbes magazine names North Carolina 4th best state for business and career.

According to the trend the insurance group AIG, announced plans to open a technology center in Mecklenburg County, NC. They will invest more than $5.5 million in the facility and create 230 jobs in the region. Furthermore Huber+Suhner, a swiss company, is moving its headquarters to Charlotte, NC from Vermont. That’ll bring 50 new jobs to Charlotte. Also Electrolux announced plans to expand its headquarters here in Charlotte. The plan would bring 810 additional jobs.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bonomi North America Relocates to Charlotte

Bonomi North America Inc., a subsidiary if the worldwide Bonomi Group located in Brescia, Italy, announced the relocation of their headquarter from Rock Hill, S.C. to Charlotte, N.C. With the relocation Bonomi was able to create 11 new jobs in Charlotte and expects to grow within the next years. The new headquarters office will be located on 750 Imperial Court.

After outgrowing their facilities in Rock Hill, Charlotte was just the ideal place to move to; for one Charlotte is the center of their customer base and gives the company the opportunity to expand even more due to the international and professional settings of the city.

Rubinetterie Bresciane Bonomi (RB) was founded in 1901 in Lumezzane, Italy as a faucet manufacturer. Nowadays, The Bonomi Group of Italy consists of three different manufacturing centers, in which the production is fully automated. Valpres is located in Marcheno, Italy and was founded in 1978. Valbia, though, is again located in Lumezzano and was founded in 1995.

The Bonomi Group proudly manufactures all of their own components and forgings in under 500,000 square feet of manufacturing space. Concerning the quest for vertical manufacturing integration, Bonomi is unmatched by any other competitor.

In 2003, Bonomi North America - back then Bonomi USA - started its business in Rock Hill, where it combined all products of RB, Valpres and Valbia in one source. Moreover, Bonomi has another location in Oakville, Ontorio Canada.

As one of the fastest-growing valve manufacturers in North America, Bonomi has now decided to locate their headquarters in Charlotte. It's success is a result of Bonomi's ability to stock millions of dollars of specialized products and for it's immediate delivery capacity. The company is the only manufacturer of low-torque, high - performance, direct mount ball valves and pneumatic and electric actuators, which are mated in one another for a long - term performance.

Process of Liquidation of an LLC or Inc.

Voluntary liquidation occurs when the members of the company resolve to voluntarily wind-up the affairs of the company and dissolve. To liquidate a company in the United States - outside of a bankruptcy process - one has to fulfill certain requirements and undertake certain steps.

Dissolving an LLC or Corporation is similar to the liquidation of a general partnership. Generally, members or shareholders (etc.) cannot be held personally liable for the company's debts or actions, unless the undertook any improper distribution of company assets, namely in cases of piercing the corporate veil, absent fraud or gross mismanagement. However, to avoid legal problems the liquidation must be taken properly and in the right order. If the company is not dissolved correctly, one could face accumulated fees and penalties up to thousands of dollars

First, a written dissolution resolution has to be created and approved by all the members of the LLC or all directors or the board of directors/shareholders of the Corporation. In most states - same in North Carolina - the vote has to be unanimous. 

Then one has to file a dissolution statement with the Secretary of State (SoS) according to the necessary termination forms. Depending on the state one would either just have to fill out a standardized form or would be required to completely winding up the company, before filing the dissolution statement. 

The next step would be to inform and notify all creditor's to the company about the liquidation of the company. Therefore all pending business transactions have to be complete within in the time frame of this process. 

The 4th step is to catalog all company assets and liabilities and attempt to pay off and settle any remaining debts. After that, one has to file the final taxes and tax returns with the IRS and state tax authorities, the so-called "Final Return".

Then the company needs to get a tax clearance certificate from the state government and submit that to the SoS or Attorney General, as the law of the state of the company's formation requires. 

Followed by the liquidation of all company assets, which proceeds should be used to pay the creditors. Firstly, of course, satisfying the secured external and then the unsecured external creditors. At the end, the company should reimburse internal creditors. Finally, any remaining liquidation proceeds would be distributed among the company's partners. 

Last but not least, after filing the liquidation paperwork, one is obligated to retain these for a minimum of six to seven years

When assets or liabilities are discovered after the company has been terminated, despite the termination, the managers of the LLC or Inc. at the time of the termination or, if none, the members or shareholders may / have to act for the company to liquidate and wind up the remaining newly discovered assets or liabilities. If there are sufficient assets to meet these claims, the claims must be paid in full, otherwise the claims must be paid according to priority or ratably if equal in priority.

Under North Carolina law, a dissolved company may dispose of known claims by notifying claimants in writing of the dissolution at any time after it has filed its articles of dissolution. This notice must contain certain information specified by statute. A claim against a dissolved LLC is barred if not received by the deadline set forth in the notice or if a claimant whose claim was rejected by written notice from the dissolved LLC or Inc. fails to commence a proceeding to enforce the claim within 90 days of the rejection notice. 

Alternatively, a dissolved North Carolina company may publish notice of its dissolution and request persons with claims present them as provided in the notice. This notice must be published in accordance with and contain the information required by statute. If the dissolved LLC publishes such a notice, the claim of each of the following claimants is barred unless the claimant commences a proceeding to enforce the claim within five years after the publication date of the notice: (1) a claimant who was known but did not receive written notice; (2) a claimant whose claim was timely sent to the LLC but not acted on; and (3) a claimant whose claim is contingent or based on an event occurring after the filing of the articles of dissolution. 

Although the North Carolina Act offers more technical grounds by which a dissolved LLC or Inc. might cut off claims (i.e., by compliance with the statutory notice provisions), North Carolina law is less forgiving to dissolved members or shareholders who receive distributed assets, since imposition of liability does not require a finding that such members received the assets wrongfully, as required under the Delaware Act. In addition, a member of a North Carolina LLC or a shareholder of a North Carolina Corporation may not know for such time period whether he will be required to retain or reserve for all, or some portion, of his distribution proceeds, since an unknown claimant has five years to bring its claim against the company.

Friday, February 21, 2014

USCIS revises Form N - 400

On February 4th, 2014 the USCIS released a new revised N - 400 Form for the Application of Naturalization. The revised Form was part of an improvement initiative.

The revisions to the N - 400 provide USCIS with additional tools to make necessary and important eligibility determinations. The improvements shall increase the efficiency and accuracy for the USCIS and the customers, whereas the customers is presented even better instructions.

The improved N - 400 now includes especially the following points:

Additional questions to conform with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) of 2004 and Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2008. The additional information is important for USCIS to make a complete and informed determination of an applicant’s eligibility for U.S. citizenship, not only relating to concerns surrounding good moral character but also to issues relating to the security of the United States.

Clearer and more comprehensive instructions now highlight general eligibility requirements and help customers understand the naturalization application process by providing specific instructions on how to complete each part of the application.

2D barcode technology at the bottom of each page that greatly enhances USCIS’s ability to more efficiently scan data for direct input to USCIS systems. This feature results in improved data quality, efficiency in processing, and overall integrity of the naturalization program.

Customers may continue to use the previous form for a 90-day transition period. Starting May 5th, 2014 the older forms will no longer be accepted by the USCIS. Additional resources concerning that form are online. On February 20th, 2014 the USCIS will also hold a stakeholder engagement to inform the public about the revisions.

Like before customers are encouraged to fill the form out electronically, print, sign and mail it to the USCIS according to the form instructions (see 

No Unions in the South?!

The United Automobile Workers (UAW) pursued the formation of unions all across the South.

On February 14, 2014 they wanted to start with the unionization at Volkswagen in Tennessee. The president of the UAW, Bob King, was stunned when the workers at the VW plant voted against joining a union with a 712 to 626 vote. For months, UAW organizers have been contacting and preparing the unionization at the Mercedes - Benz plant in Vance, Alabama, hoping that Mercedes would follow VW into a union fold. 

These results were not expected and might slow as well as perhaps derail the ambitious plans of the UAW to unionize Southern plants. Unlike American companies, Volkswagen remained neutral and not opposed to forming a union. King blamed Republican lawmakers, like Senator Corker and Governor Haslam, for this loss, hence they threatened the workers at VW. For instance it was stated that by joining a union the VW would end up in a struggle and being less competitive. Furthermore, the workers were told that the executives of VW were planning a second production line in Chattanooga, Tennessee if they rejected the UAW. Overall the workers at VW had reason to believe that these threats would come into effect. For example, about five years ago, workers of the Continental Tires plant in the Southwest (Charlotte, North Carolina), planned on forming a union. After receiving enough votes for the unionization, the company followed through with their statement prior to the voting and shut the plant down the next day, while relocating to Mexico.

Not too long ago, in September 2013, a majority of the VW workers had even signed cards saying they wanted the UAW to represent them. King had hoped that the unionization of, especially, foreign-owned factories would be his legacy.

After the votes were counted the anti-union employees were happy about the outcome, because they are convinced that UAW hurt the Detroit automakers and even pointing out that people came to the South because it does not have union.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gewerkschaften in den USA

Die USA gelten seit jeher als eine der liberalsten Volkswirtschaften der Welt, was den amerikanischen Gewerkschaften per se eine im Vergleich zur europäischen Tradition verschiedene Rolle in der amerikanischen Wirtschaftshistorie zuschreibt. Die Organisation der Gewerkschaften ist eine andere als die der zentralistischen Strukturen europäischer und insbesondere deutscher Gewerkschaften und Dachverbände

Den amerikanischen Gewerkschaften kommt vielmehr eine deutlich lokalere Bedeutung zu. So sind die vielen einzelnen Ortsvereine – meist unter dem Dachverband AFL-CIO organisiert oder in branchenspezifische Gewerkschaften, wie die U.A.W. für die Automobilindustrie im Falle des Volkswagenwerkes in Chattanooga, Tennessee – im Vergleich zu ihren deutschen Äquivalenten deutlich mächtiger und handlungsbefugter. Sie sind es, die an Tarifverhandlungen teilnehmen und dort die Interessen der Arbeitnehmer vertreten. Auch Streiks finden örtlich und regional begrenzter statt, als man dies von den klassisch europäischen, vor allem französischen Generalstreiks gewohnt ist.

Deutlich zu differenzieren ist dabei jedoch zwischen den Regionen der Vereinigten Staaten, die sich vereinfacht betrachtet in den Norden und den Süden der USA aufgliedern lassen. Gewerkschaftliche Strukturen finden sich vor allem in dem klassisch hoch industrialisierten Norden mit seiner besonders ausgeprägten Metall- und Automobilindustrie, wohingegen im - historisch vor allem in der Agrar- und Baumwollindustrie angesiedelten – Süden der USA eine Gewerkschaftskultur nie richtig etabliert werden konnte. Dies führt dazu, dass vorwiegend ein Abwanderungstrend einiger Firmen, wie z.B. VW und Boeing, in den überwiegend – aus einem traditionellen historischen Selbstverständnis heraus - gewerkschaftsfreien Süden zu beobachten ist. Doch auch andere deutsche Autofabrikanten produzieren aufgrund dieses Standortfaktors in den Südstaaten der USA. So etwa Mercedes- Benz in Alabama oder BMW in South Carolina. Im Ranking der Gewerkschaftsdichte liegt der an der kanadischen Grenze gelegene Bundesstaat New York mit 23,2% auf Platz 1, wohingegen der Südstaat North Carolina, der vor allem für den zweitgröβten Bankensektor der USA und Firmen aus dem Informationstechnologiesektor bekannt ist, mit legidlich 3,2% den letzen Platz belegt (Quelle: Frankfurter Rundschau, 28.01.2013).

Da sich die Wirtschafts- und Produktionsstruktur erheblich und vor allem in einem globalen Kontext verändert, worauf sich auch die europäischen Gewerkschaften einstellen, haben auch die amerikanischen Gewerkschaften mit dem stetig wachsenden Mitgliederschwund zu kämpfen. Während Mitte der fünfziger Jahre etwa 40% aller Angestellten in den USA einer Gewerkschaft angehörten oder unter einen Tarifvertrag fielen, waren im Jahr 2011 nur noch 11,8% aller amerikanischen Arbeitnehmer und Arbeitnehmerinnen – mithin etwa 14,8 Millionen - gewerkschaftlich organisiert (Quelle: Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln, 2014).

Monday, February 03, 2014

Employers, get ready for the H-1B filing season

In 2013 many companies were unable to hire all of the foreign professional workers that they desired, because the number of cap-subject H-1B petition filed during the first week of April exceeded the number of available H-1Bs. Even for employers who filed their petitions that week, the petitions had to be selected according to a lottery system.

With the economy picking up, there is little doubt that there will be another H-1B lottery this year. These are the steps how to get ready to the H-1B filing season:

1) Remember that there is a limit of 85,000 H-1B petitions which can be approved during the fiscal year. Of these, 20,000 are reserved for persons with advanced degrees from a university in the United States. Employers are more likely to have their petitions approved for these advanced-degrees professionals, even if the position being offered only requires a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.

2) Employers which are “cap-exempt” do not have to worry about H-1B quotas. They can sponsor H-1B employees year round and pay less in filing fees. These employers include: (a) institutions of higher education; (b) non-profit entities which are “related to” or “affiliated with” an institution of higher education; (c) non-profit research organizations; and (d) government research organizations.

3) An H-1B petition cannot be submitted to the USCIS until a Labor Condition Application (LCA) has been approved by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Last year, the processing times for LCAs became elongated. Therefore, it may be wise to file your LCAs in February even though this may shave off a few months from the usual 3-year H-1B initial validity period.

4) Is the prospective employee a citizen of any of the following countries – Canada, Mexico, Australia, Singapore or Chile? If so, you may be in luck. Canadian and Mexican professionals may be employed right away in Trade NAFTA (TN) status. Similarly, professionals who are citizens of Australia may be employed in E-3 status. Finally, the U.S. has Free Trade Agreements with both Singapore and Chile. Professionals from these countries are entitled to “H1-B1” status. They are guaranteed a certain amount of visas each year, and this amount has yet to be reached.

5) Do you want to obtain an H-1B visa for a physician who has obtained a J waiver? If so, you are in luck. Physicians with J waivers are not subject to the H-1B cap.

6) If you wish to hire a professional who is currently working in H-1B status for another cap-subject employer, he is exempt from the cap, and can start working for you as soon as you file an H-1B petition on his behalf even though the petition has yet to be approved.