What Does Washington Have in Store for Small Business?

By Features Business on Main

What’s at the top of the 2013 House of Representatives’ legislative agenda for 2013? The same issues that dominate cable news shows and online media? Do these priorities match what you and other small-business owners around the country say matter most to creating a favorable climate for small-business prosperity?

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Recently, Business on Main caught up with Representative Sam Graves, the Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Small Business. He talked to us about the committee’s top priorities for the new Congressional year ─ below is a portion of our discussion.

Business on Main: Most Americans are not aware of the House of Representatives’ Small Business Committee. What is its purpose?

Rep. Graves: Our job is to be an effective advocate for America’s small-business owners.

What are the top three issues that will face the committee in 2013?

First, attack waste throughout the federal government ─ and in the process, streamline the Small Business Administration so it can do a better job for business owners. Second, improve the federal procurement process so more federal contracts go to small-business owners. And third, provide regulatory relief for small businesses.   

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So, if you were king for a day and could wipe out one government regulation that involves excessive paperwork that affects small-business owners, what would it be?

I’d start with the Environmental Protection Agency. Yes, we want a healthy environment, but there are too many regulations that hamstring small-business owners.

Under both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations, the amount of federal contracts that are awarded to small businesses often fail to meet the “goal” level of participation ─ especially in the Department of Defense, which has the most money to spend. Why is that?

What we are finding is that the existing practice of bundling contracts actually makes it harder for small-business owners to participate. This is true across the board, not just at the Department of Defense.

Allowable deductions for equipment purchases have been steadily falling ─ from $500,000 in 2011 to approximately $25,000 in 2013. Business owners say deductions take some of the risk out of investing in machinery and other equipment. Where do you stand on equipment deductions for small businesses?

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp released a proposal to simplify taxes for small businesses. His draft includes making permanent the expensing of investments in certain new equipment and property under section 179 of the tax code. The draft was meant to begin a robust discussion on what types of reforms are needed to benefit small business.

Over the coming months, the Ways and Means Committee and our Committee will be listening to small businesses about their preferences and concerns regarding the various tax reform options. I support permanent expensing for these investments because they are important to small companies that have a lot of capital tied up in equipment.  

Small businesses bear the brunt of a complex tax code with lost time and added accounting costs. Is this a priority to the committee?

We have held several hearings on the fact that small businesses areoverly burdened by tax compliance, because it is so difficult and daunting. The average tax-compliance cost per employee for small businesses is almost three times more than the per-employee cost for the average large firm. The nearly 4 million word tax code is estimated to cost taxpayers and small businesses $163 billion and nearly 6 billion hours a year in tax-filing requirements.

Small-business owners spend precious time on filing tax documents when they could be focusing on growing their business. Making the tax code less complex is a priority for me and the House Republicans this Congress.

It is expected that corporate tax rates will be discussed this year. What specific initiatives will you be fighting for on behalf of the smaller end of the corporate world?

Any plan for tax reform must include individual reforms, since around 75 percent of small firms are taxed at the individual rate. A report released by Ernst & Young estimates that small businesses could see their tax burden rise by about 8 percent per year, or $27 billion, if Congress passes corporate-only tax reform. Leaving small businesses out of tax reform would only continue to strangle job growth to the detriment of our already fragile economy.

How will American business owners know if the House Small Business Committee is successful this year?

I was pleased with what we were able to accomplish last Congress. Our small-business contracting reform initiative was signed into law. We reauthorized the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer research and development programs for the first time in more than a decade. And one of our regulatory reform bills, the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2011, passed the House of Representatives.

This Congress, we will focus on attacking waste and duplication at the Small Business Administration, especially their unauthorized pilot programs, as well as duplicative small-business programs across agencies. We intend on challenging the Administration on unnecessarily burdensome regulations on small companies, including those that cost jobs and hinder access to capital. I also look forward to building on the contracting reforms our committee enacted in the previous Congress to give small businesses more procurement opportunities.

Great leaders put their own leadership stamp on their service. What do you want to be known for?

I’d like to be remembered as the chairman who brought small-business concerns to the forefront of the debate in Washington.     

When you go back to your home state of Missouri and meet with business owners, what do they say to you?

They are scared about the federal deficit and worried about how it will be paid for. I hear this in every town hall meeting I attend. 

How can business owners communicate with the committee and learn about upcoming committee hearings and legislation?

Business owners can sign up for a weekly newsletter at http://smallbusiness.house.gov or send us an email or fax. At the committee’s website, business owners can also learn more about upcoming committee activities and hearings. And, of course, business owners can follow us on Twitter @SmallBizGOP.

Thank you, Chairman Graves.  We’ll check back with you next year.

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