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More On Sales Tax / Fire Protection And Security Contracts For Beginner - December 19, 2016

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FIRE PROTECTION AND SECURITY CONTRACTS FOR BEGINNER
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Ken,
    We have just started a safety and security company after being a sub-contracted installer/inspector for many years.  We offer fire extinguisher sales/service/inspections, hood system inspections, sprinkler system inspections, video surveillance installation and security system installations/monitoring.  We have been using forms and agreements that we have “borrowed” from other companies, but after reading some of your posts it is becoming obvious that we are WAY under protected from liability.  Our problem is that these contracts are expensive.  We can’t afford to get a contract for each service that we offer (but we can’t afford not to, either).  What do you suggest?  Do we start with one contract that covers our most common type of sales/service?  Do we start with the contract that covers us from the highest liability?  Right now commercial video pays the bills, but we have more extinguisher service customers.  Any advice, guidance, or help is appreciated.
name withheld
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RESPONSE
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    Sounds like you're coming from the Fire Protection industry, so no wonder you're not fully on board with proper contracts.  The Fire Protection industry needs contracts just as much, if not more, than the alarm industry.
    You are planning to do it all.  Fire Alarms; Fire Protection; Security alarm and systems, which includes cameras.  Do you really think you should be doing all that business with one contract?  Well, you can't.  Here is what you need, at a minimum:
Fire Protection All in One.  This will cover the sprinklers, extinguishers, hood systems, etc for sale, installation, repair service and inspection
Fire Alarm All in One.  This will cover the fire alarm system, including the sale, installation, repair service, inspection and monitoring.
Commercial All in One.  This will cover all security systems, including intrusion, cameras, audio, environmental.
Disclaimer Notice.  Use with the Commercial All in One.
    It's pretty simple.  You can't afford to be without these contracts.  If you don't have the contracts then don't do the work.  The contracts won't cost you money, they will make you money, and they will help you keep the money and grow your business.
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MORE ON SALES TAX FROM DECEMBER 12, 2016 ARTICLE
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Ken,
    Thanks for revisiting the sales tax issue, publishing my comments, and adding the endorsement.  If you revisit the topic, let me add the following.
    If you have a question about the taxability of a purchase, sale, or otherwise, don’t wait for an audit to determine if you are correct.  An auditor’s job is to ensure compliance and monitor collections.  I am not saying that they are not fair, just that their job isn’t to add clarity.  Most States have technical divisions that will make a binding interpretation and send you a written decision regarding the taxability/non-taxability of transactions or services.  In the Indiana case, I read the law and monitoring clearly wasn’t taxable.  I called the practitioner hot line and a day letter an attorney for the State called me back.  We had a five minute discussion about monitoring and I made my case that it wasn’t taxable.  He called me back the next day and told me that their Technical Committee had a meeting and had split as to whether it was taxable or not.  I sent him a Request for a Technical Opinion.  This wasn’t just an email that stated “I don’t think this is taxable,” it was a five page reasoned document that defined monitoring, cited sections of the Indiana Code, and made the case that monitoring was not taxable.  About six weeks later I received a letter from Indian stating that it was indeed, not taxable. 
    Most states will supply technical opinions.  Most times they are limited to a specific situation or Company so don’t rely on an opinion for another company or another situation.  And never rely on the results of an audit or settlement.  We have represented numerous taxpayers who were absolutely wrong and we either reached a settlement or flat out beat the State.  Many times the client was wring, the State was right, but there wasn’t much money at stake and the auditor just moved on.  Those results apply only to the specific case and/or client.  If you try to use the results of someone else’s audit (or even your own) to justify an incorrect position, you may be reminded of my Grandmother’s sage advice, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”  Remember that most advice that my Grandmother dispensed does carry legal precedent, including, “don’t touch that, you don’t know where it’s been.”  Don’t touch someone else’s tax issue, get informed advice. 
    And never, never, never, take the position that the tax laws in one state, apply in another state.  In essence, saying to a Texas auditor, “This is the way that we do it in New Jersey,” isn’t going to get you very far.  I commiserate with my clients who don’t understand why tax laws don’t reflect economic reality.  My explanation is that, unlike Accounting Principles, which are designed to report economic and financial performance, tax laws are designed to collect money and, many time, implement social programs. 
    Thanks again Ken for your great forum, and for a medium to get information out to our industry.
Mitch Reitman
Reitman Consulting Group
Fort Worth, TX 
817-698-9999
www.reitman.us