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Kauffman Smallbiz Expert On Taxes, Fiscal Cliff

Here are excerpts from the interview with Stangler, edited for clarity and brevity:

Q. How important is government policy for small business owners?

A. If you are a business owner, your primary concerns probably have to do with your business. Policy impacts at the margins but I still think that for most entrepreneurs and for most business owners, their top concerns are still customer demand, because consumer spending is still making its way back. Households are still deleveraging. Policy is very important, but getting sales, getting customers, running your business, dealing with employees probably still dominate the daily thinking of a lot of business owners. Policy obviously impacts that, but not always centrally.

When you do get into policy concerns that either are, could be, or should be at the top of a business owner's mind, I think tax policy is probably the biggest one because tax rates are about to go up and that's important because so many small business are taxed at personal income rates â¿¿ like S corporations and sole proprietors.

There's a lot of disagreement in the literature, both academic and nonacademic research, about the impact of tax rates on business owners â¿¿ how many businesses are actually subject to those rising individual tax rates. ... We worked with a company called Thumbtack.com on a survey of 6,000 businesses and individuals. One of the things our researchers dove into was the impact of taxes. And we released a paper in October that said it's not necessarily the level of taxes (that's the problem). That doesn't matter, because no one expects to pay no tax. It's the sheer complexity of dealing with taxes. So it's not necessarily the rate, it's just the burden, the time burden, the money burden of compliance, and not knowing all the different kinds of taxes you're subject to. Depending on the type of business, you're going to have local taxes, municipal taxes, county fees, state, federal. Our tax code is just a continuing full employment act for accountants and lawyers. It obviously adds something to the economy, but it's also itself a tax on people who are trying to create other forms of wealth.

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