By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG
NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ In 2013, small business owners will contend with many of the same issues that made it hard to run their companies over the last 12 months.
They're also heading into the new year with a lot of uncertainty. It's unlikely that negotiations in Congress will resolve all of lawmakers' disagreements over tax and budget issues that affect small businesses. And there are still many questions about the implications of the health care law for small companies.
That points to continued caution â¿¿ and perhaps slow hiring â¿¿ among the nation's small companies.
"Uncertainty is the bane of every small business," says Scott Shane, a professor of entrepreneurship at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland. "Their only rational response is to pull in their horns and slow down."
Small businesses aren't likely to get much encouragement from the economy. It's expected to grow by no more than 3 percent in 2013, according to the Federal Reserve. That's a moderate pace, better than the 1.7 percent that the economy grew during the first three quarters of 2012. But it's also far from robust.
Here's a look at some of the issues facing small businesses in the coming year:
Lawmakers are still haggling over what's called the fiscal cliff, the combination of billions of dollars in tax increases and budget cuts. Even if Congress reaches an agreement, small business owners won't have the certainty they need, according to Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association, a group that lobbies on behalf of small companies.
"It almost surely won't be comprehensive enough that we won't be revisiting it next year," McCracken says. He's concerned that there'll be another fiscal cliff in six months â¿¿ which would mean more negotiations and more uncertainty.