Congress has low profile on small business this term

2013-03-24T00:00:00Z Congress has low profile on small business this termThe Associated Press The Associated Press
March 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

WASHINGTON - Small-business bills and proposals introduced in the first two months of the 113th Congress aren't the sweeping legislation seen in recent years, like last year's Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act - a law that aimed to give companies new ways to get investment money.

With the exception of a House proposal to change tax laws that affect small business, lawmakers have been targeting relatively narrow issues. That's because Congress is preoccupied with the federal budget deficit and is avoiding legislation that would add to it, says Todd McCracken, CEO of the National Small Business Association.

"They're focused on things that don't cost money. It seems like they're nibbling around the margins a little," McCracken says.

Here is a look at some of the legislation:

SMALL-BUSINESS TAXES

The House Ways and Means Committee has put together a bipartisan draft of tax proposals aimed at helping small businesses.

Most prominent is a proposal to increase and make permanent what's called the Section 179 deduction, which allows businesses to deduct equipment expenses.

The draft also includes suggestions that the deduction for startup costs be doubled, to $10,000 from $5,000; that tax-return filing deadlines be pushed back for small corporations; and that the tax differences be minimized or eliminated between two types of companies that have many similarities, partnerships and what are called S corporations.

The committee released the draft for public comment. If it proceeds with the proposals, they could be part of an overall tax-reform bill. Small-business advocates generally welcomed the proposals, but some said lowering overall tax rates is a more important step.

SBA LOANS

Owners who want to use Small Business Administration loans to refinance mortgages would be able to do so under a bill introduced by members of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

The Commercial Real Estate and Economic Development Act would revive a law that allowed businesses to use a type of SBA loan known as a 504 loan for refinancing. Until the recession, 504 loans could only be used for property purchases or expansions. The refinancing provision was enacted to help owners strapped for cash, but it expired Sept. 27.

Sponsors say that reinstating the law would give companies more money to expand and hire.

SMALL-BUSINESS INVESTMENT

A bill would increase the amount of SBA-supported investment in small businesses. The Expanding Access to Capital for Entrepreneurial Leaders Act would raise to $4 billion from $3 billion the authorization for the Small Business Investment Company Program.

Under that program, investment companies licensed by the SBA invest in small businesses using money raised through SBA guarantees.

MINIMUM WAGE

An expected fight over an increase in the minimum wage - which many small businesses pay their employees - has already begun in Congress.

During his State of the Union address, President Obama proposed an increase in the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour from the current $7.25.

Democrats from both houses on March 5 introduced legislation that would raise the minimum to $10.10, but it was defeated last week.

Many small businesses with hourly employees - for example, fast-food restaurants and retailers - oppose a higher minimum because it would cut into their profits.

INTERNET SALES TAX

Small retailers could be forced to collect sales tax on transactions made in states where they're not physically located under a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate; there's a similar House bill.

The Marketplace Fairness Act is an updated and consolidated version of three bills that died in the last Congress.

The bill exempts retailers who have out-of-state sales of $1 million or less. That's up from $500,000 in past bills, a change made to satisfy opponents of the legislation who said it would be too much of a burden on small retailers to have to collect the tax.

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