The Trump tax plan that has now been drafted in the House includes the biggest small business tax cut in at least 15 years. We believe the small business employers who hire well over half of American workers are big winners here, and kudos to President Trump and House Republicans for giving them long overdue relief. Anything that benefits small businesses by allowing them to succeed and expand is unquestionably good news for American workers.
The bill calls for a new 25 percent top marginal small business tax rate, down from the current 39.6 percent rate on successful businesses. This reform will allow millions of American manufacturers, retailers, and other small businesses to keep more of their earnings necessary to compete with their big business and international competitors. It will also help keep them located here in the United States.
There are caveats to the new 25 percent rate. First, only 30 percent of qualifying earnings can be considered business income and subject to this new rate. The other 70 percent will be considered wage income and will be taxed at the new individual tax rates. By the way, the current 39.6 percent rate on America’s small businesses is one of the highest in the world. Most other nations already provide a lower tax rate for the small entrepreneurial firms.
Why this 30-70 split? This is a much needed guardrail to prevent taxpayers from gaming the system by simply shifting their wage income to business income. This is what tens of thousands of wage earners did in Kansas after it eliminated its small business tax in 2012 without implementing similar guardrails. A memorable example: University of Kansas football coach David Beaty classified more than $500,000 of his salary as tax-free business income. But, if some businesses don’t like this simple 30-70 rule, they can elect to apply a formula based on the facts and circumstances of their business.
Second, professional services small businesses such as accounting, financial, and communication firms would be prevented from accessing the 25 percent rate altogether. While we agree the optics of a hedge fund paying a lower tax rate than a wage earner in the heartland are bad, we would like to see this 25 percent rate extended to all small businesses that are also employers, regardless of industry classification, in order to do the most good for employees, job seekers, and the overall economy.
The bill isn’t perfect, but some of the complaints we’ve been hearing aren’t justified. We were surprised and disappointed the National Federation of Independent Businesses responded negatively to the plan. Its president, Juanita Duggan, said, “This bill leaves too many small businesses behind.” But in reality, nearly all American small businesses, even those that don’t qualify for the new 25 percent rate, would get tax relief under this bill. Since the vast majority of small businesses pay tax at individual tax rates, they will benefit along with all hardworking taxpayers from the bill’s new individual rate structure.
Remember, small business owners pay their taxes through the individual tax code. This means they will save from many features of the tax plan, such as the doubling of the standard deduction and the lower rates across the income spectrum. These two provisions alone will save ordinary small businesses thousands of dollars a year in taxes that can be reinvested back into their businesses, employees, and communities.
Small businesses that earn more will benefit from the elimination of the 28 percent and 33 percent tax brackets as well as the higher income thresholds on the 25 percent and 39.6 percent tax brackets. For instance, the 25 percent rate will apply to family earnings up to $260,000. The cap is currently at $153,000. These better capitalized small businesses, which are often pillars of their communities, could save tens of thousands of dollars a year, reinvigorating Main Streets across the country.
One of our favorite reforms that isn’t getting much attention is that businesses will get an immediate tax write-off for their capital investment expenses, such as computers, trucks, buildings, equipment, technology, and so on. This tax incentive will highly motivate small employers to expand their operations, which is good for everyone.
Similarly, full loan interest expensing means businesses can fully deduct interest expenses, making the debt most businesses need to start and expand a little more manageable. It may even make it easier for start-up companies to get the loans they need, which have been hard to get of late, to provide the seed capital to get growing.
The two of us routinely talk to the men and women who own and operate small businesses. Most of them tell us that if Congress delivers on the Trump tax cut, they will invest most of their tax savings into growing their businesses so they can become medium and even large businesses over time. This is how we will create the next generation of Home Depots, Googles, and FedExes.
Taken together, these small business provisions in the new tax bill bring vital relief to the nation’s job creators. President Trump said last week that one primary goal of this bill is to make America’s business tax system one of the most competitive in the world, where businesses can expand, hire, and raise wages. All small businesses should support it.