Election-year issues of interest to small business owners

Taxes, regulations, retirement security examined

By BRUCE FREEMAN Scripps Howard News Service Published:

Dear Professor Bruce: I am a small business owner who closely follows issues that impact my business. With campaigns heating up around the country, what election year issues should I be paying attention to?

Answer: Having a conversation during an election year about issues of interest to small business owners is a good idea. With so many reporters and "experts" talking about election issues, it is often best to gather regulatory or legislative-related information from a company that focuses on supporting small businesses.

According to Mike Trabold, senior manager of compliance risk at Paychex, there are five key issues small businesses should pay attention to this year:

-- Taxes. There are a number of tax-related issues to be aware of. These include: continued viability of business structures (such as S-corps) largely intended to provide insulation from certain types of tax; the possible scaling back or creation of tax breaks targeted specifically towards businesses; the ongoing potential for increased unemployment tax burdens on businesses; and the general question of whether the basic federal business tax rate should be adjusted.

-- Overall regulatory burden. Another likely election subject will be the degree of existing and proposed regulations facing small businesses and the appropriate balance between business and consumer priorities. In addition to taxes, the existence of a 'business-friendly' environment/freedom from undue regulatory burden is usually seen as a primary factor in a small business owner's appetite for expanding or investing in his or her business.

-- Employment regulations. A compliance-related area likely to get play this election season is the degree to which the federal government will pursue additional worker-focused regulation. This could include an increase to the federal minimum wage, the creation of additional 'protected' categories during the hiring process (i.e., the unemployed, those with criminal records or poor credit histories) and steps to ease union representation in the workplace.

-- Immigration. Early indications are that immigration policies may be a key point in the elections, particularly in some swing states. A focus of the debate will likely be the extent businesses should play a role in managing and enforcing immigration policy through their hiring practices.

-- Retirement security. An item which could emerge as an election issue is the growing concern over the inadequacy of retirement savings for many Americans, and the possible role that some think employers could play in a mandated solution, such as an Auto IRA program or other similar option.

For more information visit www.paychex.com.

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