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June 13, 2012
5 election-year issues for small business

If there was ever a time for HR and employee benefits to intersect on major political and societal influence, it's now. This is true especially of small businesses, which account for 99.7 percent of all employer firms and employ half of all private sector employees int he United States, according to the Small Business Administration. So what are the top issues being identified as being the most important for this election year? Taxes, Overall Regulations, Employment Regulations, Immigration and Retirement Security.


 

As anyone who regularly reads this website knows, we're a mixed bag of economic and political discourse, in addition to news and information relevant to HR and employee benefits. But, as we'll see in the run-up to this contentious presidential election, if there ever was a time for the two to intersect on major political and societal influence, it's now. This is true especially of small businesses, which account for 99.7 percent of all employer firms and employ half of all private sector employees in the United States, according to the Small Business Administration. Just this past week, we've learned a few things about the current state of small business ownership. For starters, it's more "stressful than raising a child"—at least according to Bank of America's Small Business Owner Report, which was released late last week. Second, the report points out, small biz owners are cautiously optimistic, with 42 percent expecting their own local economic conditions to improve compared to 35 percent who expect the national economy will improve. Third, 75 percent of owners are concerned about the effectiveness of government leaders— that's slightly above the 70 percent concerned about health care costs, which any benefits pro knows has been a fulcrum of worry for years. That being said, in observance of National Small Business Week, let's look at the top issues identified as being the most important for this election year (courtesy of Paychex, a payroll and benefits outsourcing firm). And, no, health reform is not one of them.

 

1) Taxes: Deficit reduction and tax reform are sure to be significant areas of dialogue during the election, especially when considering the potential provisions that could specifically impact small businesses. These provisions include: the continued viability of business structures (such as S-corps) largely intended to provide insulation from certain types of tax; the possible scaling back (or conversely, creation) of certain tax breaks targeted specifically to 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.

 

2) 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, also referred to as freedom from undue regulatory burden, is usually seen as a primary factor in a small business owner's appetite for expanding and/or investing in his or her business.

 

3) Employment regulations: A particular area of focus this election season will be the topic of worker-focused regulation by the federal government. Such regulations 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), steps to ease the formation of labor unions, and other items which might not garner broad support from the business community.

 

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

 

5) 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.

 

Source: BenefitsPro

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