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Consumer tax hikes vex small businesses

– Small-business owners who are worried about the so-called fiscal cliff are concerned beyond their own finances – they’re also uneasy about higher taxes on consumers, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The survey commissioned by Small Business Majority, a lobbying group, found that owners are most worried about losing tax breaks that will help their companies, like higher deductions for equipment purchases. They are equally concerned that a 2 percentage-point increase in payroll taxes will force consumers to cut spending – which will lead to less revenue for small business.

The results of the survey indicate that business owners generally aren’t focused on one of the most highly publicized aspects of the cliff, an increase scheduled to begin Jan. 1 in tax rates on individuals earning $200,000 or more or households earning $250,000 more.

During the election campaign, Republicans including presidential nominee Mitt Romney contended that small-business owners would be hurt by that increase, and that they would cut back on hiring new workers.

The survey questioned 500 business owners, 47 percent of whom described themselves as Republican. Thirty-five percent described themselves as Democrats. Eight percent said they were independent.

The survey was released as Congress, back in session following the elections, is expected to consider legislation that will prevent the fiscal cliff. Lawmakers are sharply divided on the upper-income tax increases. President Obama has said he will veto any bill that gives tax cuts to upper-income taxpayers.

In results from the same survey that were released last month, 52 percent of the participants said that raising upper-income taxes is necessary to help reduce the federal budget deficit.

Payroll taxes were a big concern for survey participants. Seventy-six percent worried that an increase in payroll taxes will force consumers to cut their spending.

That in turn will mean less revenue for small businesses. Employees’ portion of payroll taxes was cut by 2 percentage points for 2011 and 2012 to help stimulate consumer spending. That reduction expires Dec. 31 unless Congress extends it.

The survey found that owners were concerned about budget cuts in areas like education, health care and the nation’s infrastructure.

The survey was conducted from Sept. 27 to Oct. 12.

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