News & Commentary

Property values in Santa Barbara and on the Central Coast have, for the most part, recovered from the Great Recession. Property values are generally rising. For many families, primary residences, vacation homes and vacation rentals are their most valuable assets, and therefore worthy of some thought to protect and leverage them. There are good estate planning techniques available to take advantage of these properties. One of the more straightforward of these techniques is the use of a Qualified Personal Residence Trust, otherwise known as a "QPRT". Gifting a primary residence or a second home to a QPRT is a clear-cut way for grantors to significantly reduce the value of their taxable estate with minimal disruption to their daily lives, and to ultimately pass more assets along to their heirs.

Read more: Estate Planning: How Your Vacation Property Can Provide Savings →

"Until Death Do Us Part…Then Everything Can Change" is a new report from RBC Wealth Management that simplifies some of the challenges of estate planning faced by families when they transfer assets. The report gets pretty deep into the role of the surviving spouse in managing family wealth for future generations. 

Read more: The Golden Rule of Estate Planning: Your Spouse Comes First →

Proposition 8 (“Prop. 8”) requires California County Assessors to tax property based upon the lower of the base year value or the current market value of the property. The "base year value" is what the County Tax Assessor calls the property's purchase price. Property taxes typically only increase 2% per year over the base year value, but when a property’s value drops below the base year value, Prop 8. allows for temporary property tax reductions due to the lower value. 

Read more: Annual Reassessments Are Required By Prop 8, Are Assessors Ignoring The Law? →

In today’s online social media era, it is especially easy for professional litigants and scam artists to harvest useful content, masquerade as prospective tenants and victimize the landlord like targeted prey.  That is why it is absolutely essential landlords utilize a systemized approach to reduce the likelihood of selecting the scheming tenant who, inevitably, will be armed with powerful knowledge that fair housing laws are slanted heavily against property owners.  Such information, when combined with unwitting landlord missteps, may be leveraged into lucrative settlements.  Don’t be fooled.  Discrimination lawsuits are not confined to San Francisco, Berkley and Santa Monica.  If they have not emerged in your town, they will soon.

Read more: Smart Landlords Use Screening Criteria to Combat Discrimination Lawsuits →

TRAVIS C. LOGUE, a partner of Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell, LLP, is a featured speaker at the 11th annual Santa Barbara "Fundamentals of Landlord-Tenant Law" seminar put on by Sterling Education Services, Inc. Travis is a member of the State Bar of
California and the District of Columbia Bar, and is a licensed California real estate broker. He routinely represents landlords as well as buyers and sellers of office buildings, shopping centers, large vineyards and luxury residential properties. For Travis' complete biography, browse to his attorney profile.

Sterling Education Services provides in-community seminars on timely topics relevant to professionals, educators, businesses and more. Mr. Logue will be will be presenting on tenant screening.

Read more: Travis Logue Speaking at the Fundamentals of Landlord-Tenant Law Seminar Lawsuits →

On April 4, the State Water Resources Control Board gave a sober warning to more than 36,000 water rights holders across the state of California. Due to California's continuing drought and extremely low snowpack levels, their water rights are likely to be curtailed, and soon. This came right on the heels of Governor Brown announcing stricter urban water conservation requirements by Executive Order on April 1.

While the Governor’s Executive Order was directed at community water use, the warning by the Water Resources Control Board was to provide water rights holders in agriculture enough advance notice that they could make difficult spring planting decisions.

Read more: California Water Rights Curtailment Is Imminent →

In commercial real estate transactions, whether it’s a purchase or lease, letters of intent are ubiquitous. They appear absolutely harmless.  After all, they are non-binding and only a “tool” for future negotiation, right?. In fact, most letters of intent go out of the way to explicitly state that “it shall not be construed in any way to be legally binding” or that “your signature below merely means you are agreeing to this invitation to negotiate”.

Be careful about accepting this ostensibly harmless “invitation“.

Read more: Commercial Real Estate: Do Letters Of Intent Create Enforceable Contracts? →

Kickstarter has a tax help page on their website that states that funds raised on Kickstarter are generally considered income. Their website also says that recipients may be able to classify funds as "nontaxable gifts", with no additional guidance as to what qualifies as a gift.  So how do you know if the funds are income or gifts, and what are the tax implications? 

For creative entrepreneurs, a Kickstarter project is an alternative way to raise money. For those not familiar with the paradigm, it works like this: A Kickstarter Project Creator sets a funding goal and a deadline date for their project. If people like it, they can pledge money to the project. If the project does not raise enough money to meet the funding goal within the project deadline, everybody gets their money back. All or nothing. 

Read more: Kickstarter Funds Raised Are Taxable Income- Or Are They? →

"Death Taxes" generally refer to estate taxes. Estate taxes are any taxes applied to the transfer of a person’s assets at death. Taxable assets include personal property such as a house, cars, furniture or musical instruments, business assets like land, equipment and inventory, and investments like stocks, bonds and real estate.

President Obama proposed a change to estate tax policy in his January State of the Union address that was aimed at removing the step up basis at death provision. The proposed change would affect a lot of families and family-owned businesses, including many in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.

So what is the step up basis and what is its purpose? The step up at death basis works like this:

Read more: What are Death Taxes And What Does The POTUS Want Changed? →

President Obama recently called corporate tax inversions an "unpatriotic tax loophole".  The multi-national American corporations that are the beneficiaries of the loophole responded by saying that, if the U.S. had a lower corporate tax rate and a simpler tax code, fewer companies would pursue inversions. Although tax inversions have been around since the early 1980's, tax inversions have been in the news in 2014.

What, exactly, is a tax inversion? How much do tax inversions actually affect corporate taxes? Is the tax inversion loophole different than other tax loopholes? How soon are tax inversions going to be shut down by DC?  

Read more: Tax Inversions: An Unpatriotic Loophole Or An All-American Response to Overtaxation? →

All of us should be proud of the SBCBA's performance in 2014, and thankful for all of the volunteers that made it happen.

Financially, the SBCBA is in great shape, possibly its best financial condition ever. This year we were able to fund an investment account from which we hope, in the future, to make charitable donations to SBCBA-supported organizations. We were also able to make a donation to the Legal Aid Foundation, in its year of dire need. This year's CFO, Katy Graham, and Fiscal Committee member, Nathan Rogers, did a great job.

Read more: A Final Letter (Of Gratitude) From The SBCBA President In 2014 →

The Honorable Frank J. Ochoa is retiring, effective January 5, 2015. If we are lucky, he may come back from time to time to sit on assignment.

Born and raised in Long Beach, Judge Ochoa came to Santa Barbara initially as a student. Not surprisingly, he thought this community might be a good place for a career. After graduating from UCSB in 1972, with degrees in English and History, he attended the then-new UC Law School at Davis, graduating in 1975.

Read more: The Honorable Frank J. Ochoa Retires →

You may know somebody in the twilight of their life that has worked and saved and invested diligently over the decades, and is now reaping the rewards of that lifelong effort. This somebody may even be you. All the smart 65+ folks I know don't shut their brains off in retirement- if they are even retired. In fact most I know are still eager to find something new to succeed in.  For the Seniors that haven't invested in a while that want to get back in the game, though, there are a few things to keep in mind while considering new investment products that weren't relevant earlier in life.

Read more: For Seniors Looking For New Investments, Some Tips →

The Treasury Department has released figures showing that federal tax revenue exceeded $3 trillion in fiscal year 2014. This is a new record. There was a nearly $247 billion increase in revenue in fiscal year 2014 from 2013. There were two large tax increases passed in that time: the 2013 tax increases to offset the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts, and the tax hikes in the Affordable Care Act. The economy is still bumping along pretty slowly. Even in a slow economy, though, just a little bit of growth will equate to more tax revenue for the federal government...

Read more: Federal Tax Revenue Officially Above $3 Trillion for First Time Ever →

Ernst & Young (EY) recently released their 2014 outlook for global tax policy. As of the publication of this report, EY had surveyed 61 countries, including the United States. Just 10 countries out of the 61 surveyed had announced any reductions to statutory corporate income tax (CIT) rates for 2014. Based on the fragile nature of the world's recovery from the Great Recession, this isn't particularly surprising, no matter what your political leanings are. Something that got our attention, though, was the fact that there will be fewer changes to headline corporate, personal and indirect tax rates in 2014 compared with 2013 and 2012. Instead, more governments are putting legislative changes in place that will adjust and expand the tax base for 2014 and beyond, often at the net expense of taxpayers. Some other interesting notes from the report:

Read more: Brace For A Higher Tax Burden In 2014- Notes From Ernst & Young's Tax Policy Outlook →

September was an especially enjoyable month for golfing and tennis-playing SBCBA members. While SBCBA has already thanked the volunteers and participants for the great tournaments and fine dinner, Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell would like to second the motion and thank all the volunteers again. 

Hearty thanks again go out to Clark Stirling and John Richards for running the tennis tournament and Catherine Swysen for assisting with the golf tournament. Thanks also to events coordinators Emily Allen and Lauren Wideman, and to photographer Michael Lyons.  Oh, and our Rogers Sheffield & Campbell team had a good showing, too...

Read more: We All Were Winners In SBCBA's September Golf and Tennis Tournaments →

Anyone who has thought about what to do with the wealth they've accumulated when they die has also thought about the cost of transferring that wealth. We all know we can't take it with us when we go, and we all go. Death is one of those "law of nature" things. Right now, Baby Boomers are in the middle of the greatest transfer of wealth in our nation's history ($59 trillion, according to the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College), yet the savings/investing statistics for this generation are not good. Baby Boomers didn't start investing soon enough, didn't invest enough, and now it costs more per dollar to preserve what there is. OK, so I guess this generation just blew it.

Instead of wringing their hands and moaning, "woe is me", though, the Baby Boomers are already over it, and looking to the future. Now it's about the grandchildren.

Read more: The Most Expensive Way To Transfer Your Wealth Is To Die With It →

It is September already and the SBCBA has hit a number of milestones this summer. By the time you read this message, our Member Benefits program will be up and running. Visit our website and click on our Member Benefits page to get more details. We have been working for months to coordinate with vendors and service providers in the Santa Barbara area to offer discounts and incentives to SBCBA members in exchange for exposure in our magazine and on our website. We hope these programs will continue to grow and that they will provide additional value to all of our members.

The SBCBA’s Fiscal Committee (Katy Graham and Nathan Rogers) helped us to reach another goal – prudent investing of our reserves. Over the past few years, the SBCBA has been able to meet its operating expenses and save additional monies. For a small organization with as many events and responsibilities as we have, being able to create reserves is, in and of itself, a source of pride. Now we have enough in reserves to justify establishing conservative investment vehicles to generate more income while maintaining safety. As of this summer, we have done so.

Read more: President's Message- SBCBA Hits Milestones →

Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell, LLP (RS&C) recently assisted a client in the City of Ventura gain approval from the Ventura City Council for an entitlement project on a six acre site which included a change in zoning from industrial to mixed use, 125 condominiums, 7,300 SF of commercial, a publicly accessible park, and two new public streets. We are thankful for the opportunity to contribute to community development projects like this. 

Read more: RS&C Contributes To The Revitalization of Ventura →

Opening a traditional bricks-and-mortar winery can be complicated, expensive, and time consuming. As an alternative, new vintners can elect to start a “non-traditional” winery, which allows them entry into the wine business without incurring the substantive acquisition and development expenses of a traditional winery. The two basic structures of a non-traditional winery are the custom crush arrangement and the alternating proprietorship arrangement.

Read more: The “Non-Traditional” Winery →

It’s already August, yikes. Tempus fugit.

June was a great month for the SBCBA. On June 20, the SBCBA’s Legislative Liaison Committee met with Assemblyman Das Williams to start a dialogue that we hope will continue with our State Representatives. We engaged in a good conversation on subjects ranging from his efforts to pass legislation regarding obtaining temporary restrain- ing orders against certain mentally unstable gun possessors to our interests in protecting the public’s access to justice through adequately funded courts and programs. We hope to continue the dialogue in these pages with a published interview. Assemblyman Williams has a lot to say about the legislative process that we believe will be of interest to our members.

Read more: SBCBA Hosted Assemblyman Das Williams and Famed Law Scholar Laurence Tribe In June →

We are pleased to announce that Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell has been ranked by Martindale-Hubbell® as one of the top law firms in California for 2014

Martindale-Hubbell has been a source for information about U.S. lawyers since 1868To compile the 2014 list of Top Ranked Law Firms in California, Martindale-Hubbell researched their database of lawyers and firms and identified law firms headquartered in the state that have 10 or more attorneys, in which at least one out of five of their lawyers achieved the AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating. This rating indicates the rated lawyer has been deemed by his or her peers to have demonstrated the highest level of ethical standards and legal ability.

Read more: Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell Ranked One Of California's Top Law Firms In 2014 →

You just inherited a $300,000 Roth IRA from a recently deceased relative. If you handle it correctly, you can parlay this into a very pleasant addition to your retirement income. Since the Roth IRA income is tax-free, you can cash it in right now, and you'll get all $300,000. Very nice. You could also leave it alone for 21 years, and your $300,000 would grow to $756,072. Also nice. There is, however, an even better way to make the IRA inheritance work for you.

Read more: You Just Inherited An IRA, Want More From It? →

The SBCBA’s new Legislative Liaison Committee, led by Angela Roach, with members Sue McCollum, Jim Griffith and Emily Allen, got off to a successful start. In late May we met with Supervisor Janet Wolf to encourage the Board of Supervisors to provide additional funding to the Santa Barbara Legal Aid Foundation. We learned that there might be additional funding available, if the Legal Aid Foundation moved quickly to make a specific funding request. It did so, and we then supported that request with additional letters to the Supervisors. On June 11th, Legal Aid’s request for $30,000 to help fund its Legal Resource Center and for approximately $3,000 to help fund an attorney to assist with domestic violence cases in North County was considered and approved by the Board of Supervisors. We are both deeply gratified by the Board of Supervisor's decision and proud of our contribution to the process.

Read more: President’s Message: Summer is Here! →

If you are a high-income taxpayer, 2013 was a drag. You had to pay the new Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT), essentially a 3.8% assessment on some of your investment income. The NIIT was passed into law in 2010 to help pay for ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act), but it didn’t take effect until 2013. The NIIT affects everyone whose modified adjusted gross income is above $200,000 for an individual or $250,000 for a couple. This income bar won’t be adjusted for inflation as the law is written, which is also a drag. What’s subject to the NIIT, you ask? Quite a bit...

Read more: A New 3.8% Income Tax Increase For You, Compliments of Obamacare →

Practice Areas And Regions Served

Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell, LLP primarily serves individuals, families and businesses up and down California's Central Coast and North Los Angeles County, including many Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura County communities.

Our experienced legal team includes business lawyers, real estate lawyers, tax lawyers, estate planning lawyers and civil litigation lawyers. Our areas of legal practice expertise include Business Law, Entity Formation, Real Estate Law, Tax Law, Estate Planning, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Wine Law, Vineyard Law, Civil Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution.

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