De Minimis

Definition - What does De Minimis mean?

The Latin phrase "de minimis" refers to things that are trivial in nature (small issues).

The way in which the term is used throughout law can equate to different results, but the foundation of all the uses is to clarify which matters are trivial or not very important in nature.

In general, de minimis is commonly used in government rules and regulations that describe exemptions.

Justipedia explains De Minimis

The de minimis tax rule determines that payments on capital gain tax must be made on bonds that are bought at a price that is less than the face value, i.e. at a discount. The discount must be over a quarter point per annum between acquisition and maturity periods. The reason why de minimis tax is charged is when a bondholder gains a financial advantage between the price paid and the price received at the point of maturity. Bonds subject to de minimis tax determine their rate of tax by calculating the number of whole years between the discounted bond’s date of purchase and the maturity date, and then multiplying by 0.25. This gives the amount to be subtracted from the value of the bond. If this new amount is above the price paid, then capital gains tax will be due.

The de minimis rule is also used within criminal law to determine the harm that was caused as a result of any specific criminal action. The set of governmental regulations that are put into place to govern the actions of people and businesses are there so that there is an opportunity to apply de minimis in practice. This means that actions made by people should be regulated by laws that tell them how to act and by having these laws, there is a way for a person to determine whether what they intend to do would be criminal or not. Incarceration, for example, is reserved for matters that are found to not be de minimis in nature.

In the area of libel and slander, there is a high level of importance put on de minimis, in the sense that a person has to prove that the actions are not trivial and actually had a negative effect, otherwise a determination of libel or slander would not hold.

Copyright law is another area that largely depends on the assessment of de minimis actions. If a copyright violation claim or case is to be upheld, it must show that the way in which the copyrighted material was used was not small or de minimis in nature. Many copyright cases are lost due to the fact that the copyright holder cannot prove that there were more than trivially small uses of their copyright in another product or idea.

Monopolies and competition can be broken up by court action through a plaintiff proving that by not having more competition, there is a large hole in a market (i.e. that the effect of the monopoly is the opposite of de minimis). If the plaintiff wins such a case then by law, the companies within that market would not be allowed to become any larger or to amalgamate into one strong company. An example of a market where such court action has been taken is in telecommunications.

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