Thursday, August 13, 2009

Focus on Franchising

This posting was written by John W. Arden.

News and notes on franchising and distribution topics:

 The Franchise and Business Opportunity Project Group of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) has proposed that states amend their franchise disclosure laws to change the delivery rules for franchise disclosure documents. The group proposes that states (1) eliminate the requirement that franchisors provide a disclosure document at the “first personal meeting” with prospective franchisees and (2) revise statutory provisions requiring disclosure within “10 business dates” to require delivery “14 calendar days” prior to the signing of an agreement or payment of money. The proposal follows the franchise delivery requirements of the new FTC franchise disclosure rule, which was adopted in 2007. The NASAA project group has solicited internal and public comment on this proposal. The comment period, which began on July 29, extends through August 18, 2009. Further information on the proposal and the procedure for filing written comments appears here at the NASAA website.

 U.S. franchisors faced with a sluggish domestic economy are discovering “willing investors and growth opportunities overseas,” according to an article published August 11 in the Wall Street Journal. The article—by reporter Richard Gibson—says that the overseas push is fueled in large part by saturation of the U.S. market. However, in this challenging economy, the ability of overseas master franchisees to bankroll franchise operations has become even more important, as domestic franchisees find it more difficult to obtain bank loans to finance their businesses. The numbers are compelling. McDonald’s Corp. has opened 286 foreign units this year, compared with only 53 U.S. units. Subway has opened 1,432 units abroad and only about 1,230 here at home. Meanwhile, Curves International Inc. has experienced double-digit growth abroad, particularly in Brazil, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe. Japan is now its biggest overseas market, with 744 locations. It opened its first unit in China in May. Text of the story (“U.S. Franchises Find Opportunity to Grow Abroad”) appears here on the Wall Street Journal online.

 The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance is creating an automatic 90-day extension process for franchisors required by a new law to report gross sales of each franchisee within the state, sales by the franchisor to the franchisee, and any franchisee income reported to the franchisor, according to Troy Flanagan of the International Franchise Association. New legislation, effective on April 7, 2009, requires franchisors to file annual information returns with the State Department of Taxation and Finance on or before March 20. That return must cover the four quarterly sales tax periods immediately preceding. The law provides that the first returns must be filed on or before September 20, 2009, and cover the period of March 1, 2009 through August 1, 2009. Returns filed on or before March 20, 2010, must cover the period from September 1, 2009 through February 28, 2010. Prior to the initial September 20, 2009, deadline, the Department will post on its website instructions to request an automatic 90-day extension to December 20, 2009. All future annual deadlines will be given a similar treatment, according to Flanagan. Further information on the reporting requirement appears here at the Department website.

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