Republican tax reform plan heartens small business owners

Small business owners are increasingly hopeful they won’t get left out in the cold in tax reform, and say they feel

Small business owners are increasingly hopeful they won’t get left out in the cold in tax reform, and say they feel encouraged by lawmakers’ prioritizing relief both for larger corporations and for such smaller companies that are often subjected to even higher tax rates.

“Now more than ever, the conversation is about small business,” said Joseph Semprevivo, who runs a diet cookie shop in Sebastian, Florida. “I’m very optimistic. I’d say glass is full. Not even half full — it’s full.”

In addition to lowering corporate and individual rates, Republicans are trying to provide relief for the vast majority of businesses in the U.S. that file their taxes as individuals and often end up taxed at rates even higher than the top individual level of 39.6 percent.

Republicans are expected to release more details about their tax framework this week. The plans aren’t finalized, but lawmakers have been talking about lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to somewhere around 20 percent, and setting the rate for smaller, so-called “pass-through” companies at around 25 percent, down from a top rate that can approach 50 percent.

President Trump said Sunday he hopes the corporate rate comes down to 15 percent and that the plan is about the middle class.

“I believe we will be successful in the largest tax cut in our nation’s history,” he told reporters.

Dina Rubio, who owns a restaurant in Florida, said it’s “urgent” that Congress passes some sort of tax-cut package this year and says she’s hopeful lawmakers get it done.

“If you wait too long, things get confusing,” she said. “It’s a great moment that we don’t want to lose.”

Mr. Semprevivo said lower overall rates directly benefit smaller companies like his, and that he would immediately plow the additional revenue back into his business to provide raises for employees or hire new ones.

“Day one, literally when I say tax cuts pass, I’m sitting down — we revise our budget,” he said.

Mr. Semprevivo also pushed back on the notion that tax cuts would be a giveaway for the wealthy, saying they would simply return money to the job-creating businesses that are likely to use them to stimulate the economy.

“To say a florist is wealthy, or to say a restaurateur is wealthy, it’s not the case,” he said. “We’re just working every day to get by to provide for, of course, our families and our team members.”

More traditional business lobbying groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been actively pushing for tax reform, but they’ve been joined in earnest by groups geared toward smaller companies like the National Federation of Independent Business and the Job Creators Network, which counts former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as an ally.

Democrats, meanwhile, have argued that carving out a special rate for smaller “pass-through” companies would provide outsize benefits to wealthy hedge fund and investment firm employees, and would lead to a rush of companies and individuals reorganizing their tax structures to try to exploit the new system.

Alfredo Ortiz, the president of JCN, said concerns over the potential exploitation of the new, lower rate for smaller companies are valid, but that some critics are casting too wide a net.

“So let’s find the language and the mechanics that will prevent that. Let’s not go into the business of picking winners and losers by industry,” he said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is helping lead the White House’s tax reform push, has said there will be some sort of checklist to make sure people aren’t exploiting the system.

“If you’re an accountant firm and that’s clearly income, you’ll be taxed an income rate, you won’t be taxed a pass-through rate,” Mr. Mnuchin said earlier this month, according to The Wall Street Journal. “If you’re a business that’s creating manufacturing jobs, you’re going to get the benefit of that rate because that’s going to be passed through to help create jobs and better wages.”

The NFIB said recently that at the very least, small businesses should not pay a higher rate than large corporations and that no small business should pay a higher rate than they do right now.

“If the purpose of tax reform is to jump-start the economy and create jobs, then tax reform must start with small business,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan.


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