Small business owners see corporate tax loopholes and accounting gimmicks used to shift U.S. profits offshore to avoid taxes as serious problems, according to independent nationwide opinion polling released on February 6. Small business owners say big corporations and the wealthy don’t pay their fair share of taxes. They support increasing taxes on millionaire incomes, allowing high-end tax cuts to expire, and closing the carried interest loophole that gives big tax breaks to hedge fund managers.
These are among the key findings of a scientific nationwide survey of small business owners commissioned by the American Sustainable Business Council, Main Street Alliance and Small Business Majority.
With Tax Day around the corner, tax policy is front and center this week. So are claims about how changes to the tax code will affect small businesses. The Main Street Alliance released a pair of new fact sheets in its "straight talk" series separating truth from fiction when it comes to small business and taxes. One fact sheet focuses on the Buffett Rule, which would ensure that taxpayers earning over $1 million a year pay a minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent. The other fact sheet focuses on corporate taxes and small business views on corporate tax contributions.
November 1: Small Businesses to Supercomm: Tax Reform Should Restore Lost Revenue, Not Reward Tax Dodgers
Click here to read the joint press release from the Main Street Alliance, Business for Shared Prosperity and the American Sustainable Business Council.
Click here to read the joint business letter to the Congressional Supercommittee.
See related quotes from Main Street Alliance leaders:
“Let me get this straight – the same corporate players that routinely use their market power to steamroll over small businesses are now asking us to foot the bill for their tax holidays?” said Aimee McQuilkin, owner of Betty’s Divine in Missoula, MT, referring to a push by the “WIN America Campaign” for a temporary or even permanent tax holiday for the return of off-shored profits. McQuilkin serves on the steering committee of the Montana Small Business Alliance, affiliated with the national Main Street Alliance network. “Enough is enough,” she added. “If you want to fly the American flag outside your corporate headquarters, you should be paying your way.”
“At a time of unprecedented long-term unemployment, a glaring need for investment in our crumbling infrastructure and an educated workforce, and a realization that some of our largest banks and Fortune 500 companies are sitting on trillions of dollars – unwilling or unable to invest and hire American workers – our government has a responsibility to raise the revenues necessary to assure our economic recovery,” said Jim Houser, owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, Oregon and co-chair of the Main Street Alliance of Oregon. “There’s no excuse for delay now, given the length and depth of our current economic crisis.”
On October 20, an all-star team of small business leaders from across the Main Street Alliance network made the trek to Washington, DC to represent the voice of Main Street small businesses in the nation’s capital.
Business owners came from Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington to participate in meetings on Capitol Hill. In a day and a half, the team conducted close to 20 meetings with Senate and House offices, including three face to face meetings with U.S. Senators.
The group held wide-ranging conversations with congressional offices, covering topics including job creation and regulations, revenues and investment, health care, immigration reform, and fixing the housing market.
Some Hill staffers acknowledged that it was helpful – and refreshing – to hear from real small business owners back in their home states and districts, and to hear business owners with a different perspective on topics like taxes and regulations than you hear from the inside-the-beltway business lobbies. Mission accomplished!
Here’s a quick taste of some of the issues the group discussed in meetings on Capitol Hill:
Job Creation & Anti-Regulatory Attacks
Despite all the rhetoric in DC about “regulations,” what small businesses need is customers – demand – not deregulation. The focus on rolling back regulations is counterproductive in two ways. First, it distracts from the real issue, which is rebuilding the small business customer base. Second, the rules and standards that are under threat of being rolled back (financial reform, clean air, health insurance market reforms) are ones that protect small businesses and the communities they rely on from mistreatment by big corporate interests. Rolling back these standards and rules would only shift more risk and more costs onto the shoulders of small businesses.
See MSA’s 10 “dos and don’ts” for job creation
Revenues and Taxes
On revenues and taxes, Main Street Alliance small business owners stand squarely in support of efforts to raise revenues by closing corporate tax loopholes, ending the abuse of off-shore tax havens, and generally ensuring that large corporations and the wealthy are paying their dues. As MSA Executive Committee member Kelly Conklin puts it, “If you want to fly the American flag outside your corporate headquarters, you should be paying your way.” Raising revenues in these ways would generate resources for important investments in infrastructure and job creation, and it would level the playing field for small businesses (who don’t have access to things like off-shore tax havens) at the same time.
At the same time, MSA small business owners are strongly opposed to the push for a repatriation “tax holiday” for large multinational companies, or to giving big corporations a permanent tax holiday – and permanent incentive to off-shore jobs and profits – through what’s called a “territorial” tax system.
See the recent coalition letter MSA signed onto about tax reform
On health care, the MSA delegation discussed important advances in health care reform, and highlighted opportunities to continue building on health reform to maximize the benefits for small businesses.
The MSA delegation in DC also discussed the importance of a comprehensive approach to immigration reform for businesses, workers, and the economy. Enforcement-only policies like the mandatory E-Verify proposal currently in the House of Representatives would be bad for small businesses, bad for the workforce, and bad for the country’s bottom line.
See MSA’s fact sheet about the dangers of mandatory E-Verify
Fixing the Housing Market
On the importance of dealing with the mortgage crisis to create the space for consumer demand to bounce back and help drive the economic recovery, MSA’s small business owners believe more needs to be done. A newly announced program that may allow 1 to 2 million homeowners to refinance is a positive step, but with an estimated 11 million homeowners underwater in their homes, Congress and the Administration should advance proposals for mortgage modification and refinancing on a much larger scale to truly get at the problem of stifled consumer demand.
Rick Poore, a leader with MSA from Lincoln, Nebraska, had an op-ed published in The Hill for the 10 year anniversary of the Bush tax cuts on June 7. Rick's piece provides a forceful critique of the claim that the high-end Bush cuts help small business, and warns small business owners to watch out for small business identity theft - the use of false small business arguments to advance the narrow interests of big corporations and the wealthy.
For the 10 year anniversary, MSA released a fact sheet highlighting what small businesses need most: local investment to create jobs, not tax cuts for the wealthy.
We, the undersigned business owners, executives and investors, call on the President and Congress to end tax dodging and support a level playing field for business by enacting strong legislation to stop tax haven abuses. Offshore tax havens reward tax evaders, rob public coffers of needed revenue and offload taxes to responsible businesses and households.
The country observed National Small Business Week in May (see the Presidential Proclamation). The Main Street Alliance marked the occasion by releasing its “State of the Small Business Nation – 2011.” This white paper includes a “Small Business Top Ten List” of concrete policy opportunities to level the playing field for small businesses and help them create jobs.
While pundits and politicians like to label policies “pro-business” or “anti-business,” as if there were one unified business interest, the reality is that policies that make winners out of some businesses make losers out of others. As Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, put it, “You’re never going to have one hundred percent unanimity. Never. There is inherent tension… I laugh every day when someone calls and asks what does the business community think.” (1)
While Mr. Josten pointed to tensions between oil and gas companies, wholesalers and retailers, investment banks and retail banks – all big corporate players – his point applies even more so to the dynamics between big business and small business. While pundits and politicians like to lump all business interests together, the truth is that policies that benefit large corporate players very often tilt the playing field against small businesses.
In a cover letter to President Obama, senior administration officials, and congressional leaders on May 18, Main Street Alliance business leaders wrote:
Our members come from states across the country and a wide range of sectors, but we are united by a common set of values – small business values. We believe in what we do, we stand by our products and services, and we want people in government and corporate leadership who do the same. We stand for fair play and a level playing field. We stand for having each other’s backs. We believe America’s future prosperity depends on everyone contributing their fair share.
These small business values are what guide our business decisions and our commitment to advancing policies that fulfill the promise of an economy that works for all of us – small businesses, our employees, and the communities that sustain us.
(1) James Verini, “Show Him the Money,” Washington Monthly, July/August 2010, http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2010/1007.verini.html