Small-business owners have a lot to be thankful for next week.
The recently introduced tax-reform bills in the House of Representatives and Senate make small-business tax cuts a centerpiece. This long overdue relief would finally address the overtaxation that most small business owners say is the biggest hurdle they face.
At the moment, small businesses, the vast majority of which pay tax at individual rates, face a marginal federal tax burden of 39.6 percent. When state and local taxes are factored in, this figure can rise to 50 percent. This puts small businesses at a competitive disadvantage with their big business and international competitors, whose tax burdens are much lower.
Partially as a result of years of overtaxation, American small businesses — like the communities where they locate — have not recovered from the Great Recession. New business formation remains at historic lows. Boarded-up shops dot Main Streets throughout the country. I believe that if The Home Depot started today, overtaxation would have prevented it from achieving its current success.
Proposed tax cuts can change this by allowing small businesses to keep a little more of their earnings necessary to survive and thrive in today’s competitive business environment.
The House and Senate bills differ in the avenues they take to arrive at small-business tax relief. The House bill creates a separate small-business tax rate structure. It lowers the top marginal rate on small businesses to 25 percent. And for small businesses that earn a maximum of $150,000 a year, it lowers their tax rate to just 9 percent on their first $75,000 of earned income.
In lieu of a separate small-business rate structure, the Senate bill calls for a 17.4 percent business income deduction. This means that a business with $200,000 of taxable income will only have to pay tax on $165,200, accruing the other $34,800 tax-free.
Both plans have similarities that would further help small businesses. Both bills call for doubling the income threshold under which businesses and families pay zero tax to $24,000. Both would significantly expand the child tax credit, helping business owners and families cover the ever-increasing cost of child care.
Both call for the elimination of the 15 percent and 28 percent tax brackets in favor of expanded income thresholds at lower rates.
Then there are the important technical changes that shouldn’t be overlooked. Both plans would allow for immediate capital investment deductions and full interest expensing, incentivizing business expansion and the economic activity that comes with it.
Small businesses wouldn’t be the only ones to benefit from these tax savings. According to a recent nationwide poll of small-business owners conducted by the Job Creators Network, most respondents would direct their tax savings to new jobs, higher wages and business expansion.
This isn’t to say that the tax cut bills couldn’t be improved upon. Both the House and Senate reduce taxes for middle-class professional service businesses, including accounting, law and advertising firms, though that benefit does not apply for those businesses earning more than $150,000 in the House bill or $500,000 under the Senate bill. (Higher-earning white-collar businesses would still benefit from the other proposed changes to the code.)
These businesses provide tens of millions of good jobs and are often pillars of their communities. The government shouldn’t be in the position of picking which small businesses get tax relief and which do not. My dentist, for instance, provides middle-class livelihoods for dozens of people and should not be discriminated against because of her profession.
As these bills move through the legislative process, policymakers should expand specific small-business relief provisions to all small businesses, regardless of industry classification. The small business that designs a home shouldn’t have to subsidize the taxes of the business that builds it.
But small businesses and legislators should not let their pursuit of better tax legislation mar this good one. These bills give small-business owners, and all Americans, much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Anything else would be gravy.
Bernie Marcus is the chairman of the Marcus Foundation, the co-founder of Job Creators Network and the retired co-founder of The Home Depot.