Published by the National Small Business Association
WINTER ISSUE - 2010
Making the grade At the midway mark for the 111th
Congress, NSBA evaluates the
progress Congress has made on the top 10 priorities as voted on by small-business owners.
Volume 24, Issue 1
FrOm The hILL
INsIde The BeLTwAy
By The NumBers
Chair Keith Ashmus First Vice Chair Larry Nannis Secretary Pedro Alfonso Treasurer Chris Holman Immediate Past Chair Marilyn Landis Vice Chair, Communications Jeffrey VanWinkle Vice Chair, Advocacy David Ickert
Small-business owners continue to struggle, according to NSBA’s recentlyreleased 2009 Year-End Economic Report. However many see a light at the end of the tunnel in the coming year.
FrOm Our AFFILIATes
AdvOcAcy ANd eveNTs
President Todd McCracken
Staff Writers Molly Brogan Jere Glover Daniel R. Jones Kyle W. Kempf Jody Milanese
In this issue we take a look at the uncertainty surrounding the Estate Tax and what it means for America’s smallbusiness owners.
Vice Chair, Membership Tim Reynolds
Editor Molly Brogan
U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R Maine) talks to NSBA about smallbusiness owners role in creating jobs.
In spite of the challenging times, the Arizona Small Business Association explains how seizing the moment with a positive and productive frame of mind and perspective can push your business forward. As the nation’s oldest advocate for small business, we’re always working on behalf of you, the small-business owner. Take a moment to see some of our recent activity as well as ways you can get involved.
FeATure ArTIcLe In February 2009 small-business owners gathered together to deliberate on the top issues facing small business. NSBA took these issues to the hill and worked the hallways of Congress to help get the small business voice heard. Now at the midway mark for the 111th Congress, NSBA evaluates the progress Congress has made on the top 10 priorities as voted on by small-business owners.
How To ReacH Us
National Small Business Association 1156 15th Street NW Suite 1100 Washington, DC 20005 Phone: (202) 293-8830 Fax: (202) 872-8543 Web: www. nsba.biz
Notification of address changes should be sent to the address listed above.
NSBA is a volunteer-led association. Our primary mission is to advocate federal policies that are beneficial to small business and promote the growth of free enterprise
2010 WINTER ISSUE
NSBA Leadership Corner
THE SMALL BUSINESS FACTOR THERE’S LITTLE QUESTION THAT POLITICIANS ARE PAYING LIP SERVICE TO SMALL BUSINESS, BUT ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.
By Keith Ashmus, Chair of NSBA
uring Franklin Roosevelt’s first 100 days in office, Congress granted every request the new president made. Barack Obama, despite enjoying a decisive majority in both houses of Congress, hasn’t been so fortunate. Even with a clear Democratic majority controlling the nation’s purse strings and the bully pulpit, it appears that Washington is tied in the usual knots when it comes to the issues impacting America’s small businesses. Despite lip service to the undeniable fact that small business is the creator of American jobs, most of the effort in 2009 has gone to behemoths deemed “too big to fail” and to emergency relief for the individuals thrown out of work by these institutions. Meanwhile, the approval rating of Congress has dropped to 21 percent, and the President’s to 50 percent. What is going on? when NSBA issues a legislative action Is it possible that our elected officials are so inundated by lobbyist and special alert; to regularly visit and familiarize interest groups in Washington that they are not hearing the voice of their constituents yourself with the priority issues posted on back at home, many of whom own or work for a small business? Can they really be the NSBA website; and to utilize NSBA’s thinking that what they have been doing creates real value for America’s engine of online advocacy system to connect with economic growth? your elected officials to share with them NSBA is the nation’s oldest advocacy organization representing small business, but your passion and concern on issues what’s unique about NSBA is that it truly is OUR organization and it takes direction important to your small-business. from real small-business owners. As you flip through the pages of NSBA’s government affairs staff members serve as ambassadors of the smallthis issue of the NSBA ADVOCATE business community at large, advancing our small business agenda. They provide you will find numerous resources that day-to-day contact with elected will help you become fully officials and their staff, reminding effective at getting your point them that there is nothing small Is it possible that our elected officials are so across; find out what Congress about small business, and that it inundated by lobbyist and special interest did to advance the smallis the economic engine that fuels groups in Washington that they are not business agenda; and hear from our economy. It is an uphill battle a few members of Congress against unions, consumer groups, hearing the voice of their constituents back who are working hard for small foreign businesses and big, but at home, many of whom own or work for a business. We may not get paid failing American companies. small business? like Beltway insiders, but we In spite of all the great live with the consequences of advocacy work that NSBA does on what Congress does, and we can behalf of the small-business community, I can’t help but wonder if we – small business provide the dose of reality that Congress owners and employees – are doing all we can to help further elevate small business needs. When Congress listens to us, it issues and concerns in our nation’s capital. We are numerous, and we can be much more might even see its approval rating break powerful—but only if we join our voices together. 30 percent! That is why I am challenging each and every member of NSBA to take action
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FROM THE HILL
New Small Business Initiatives Can Help Small Business Owners Create Jobs
By U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe
early one year ago, our nation’s economy was at the brink of collapse and rapidly contracting. Consumer confidence was at a record low. And countless financial institutions refused to lend critical capital to small businesses, leading to a full-blown credit crisis. As a result, our nation’s job creators were simply unable to generate the necessary opportunities for employment and expansion. In February of last year, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Included in the package were provisions to temporarily reduce or waive lender and borrower fees for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) flagship 7(a) and 504 loan programs, and temporarily raise the guarantee level up to 90 percent for 7(a) loans. As a result of our action, average weekly SBA loan volume for these programs has increased 86 percent, and over 1,070 financial institutions that ceased issuing SBA loans at the onset of the financial crisis are once again lending today. That said, there is still significant work that remains to be done, which is why I was pleased when President Obama recently adopted my ideas
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to increase the maximum loan caps on the SBA’s 7(a) and 504 loans to $5 million in most instances, and to raise the maximum loan size for microloans from $35,000 to $50,000. These actions will help satisfy the capital requirements of small businesses looking to start or expand their operations, and Congress should swiftly make them law. Entrepreneurs all across Maine have told me that they want to create jobs and opportunities for American workers, but they find themselves stymied by a lack of available capital. The President’s announcement in support of my initiatives puts us one step closer to ensuring that these critical provisions can have a deep and meaningful impact on the availability of credit to Maine and America’s small businesses. At the end of the day, these measures will help small business owners invest in new equipment, grow their companies, and create wellpaying, quality jobs. If we are to clear one of our biggest remaining hurdles – a high unemployment rate – we will once again have to rely on this nation’s 30 million small businesses to come to the rescue and help revitalize our economy.
Inside the beltway
Estate Tax 2010 Brings Uncertainity By Jody Milanese
chamber could not agree and nothing was passed before the end of the year.
Now Congress has a nine-month window to extend the estate tax regime before the estates of decedents dying on Jan. 1 would be required to file an estate tax return. Most agree that the Senate will take action and pass some kind of temporary fix, likely extending the 2009 rates sometime in the coming months. Usually, when a law is passed, it becomes effective when the president signs the legislation. However, in order to avoid a complete repeal of the estate tax in 2010, this law is expected to contain a provision making it retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010—a real disaster for many small firms. Additionally, the application of the estate tax retroactively could face constitutional challenges in court. ust a short month ago, it seemed unthinkable that Congress would allow the federal estate tax to temporarily disappear in 2010. At the very least, Congress was expected to adopt a short-term patch that would maintain the estate tax at the 2009 rates and give legislators time to craft a permanent solution.
Yet while health care reform captured the most attention on Capitol Hill, lawmakers allowed the estate tax to expire on Dec. 31, 2009 after Congress was unable to reach an agreement on either a permanent or short-term extension of the tax. Senate tax-writers have indicated that they intend to act quickly in the beginning of 2010 to work to restore the estate tax on either a permanent or temporary basis, although formal plans have yet to be seen. Unless Congress enacts some kind of compromise reform, the estate tax is slotted to return in full in 2011 with a mere $1 million exemption and a 55 percent top rate. The blame rests on both chambers, but for different reasons. The House of Representatives did pass a version of estate tax reform on Dec. 3 of last year. The Permanent Estate Tax Relief for Families, Farmers and Small Businesses Bill of 2009 (H.R. 4154) permanently extended the 2009 top federal estate tax rate of 45 percent with an exemption level of $3.5 million for individuals and $7 million for couples. Unfortunately, the failed to index the exemption rates to exemption, meaning the exemption would lose its value over time and impact more families, farmers and small businesses. While the House did attempt to provide some stability and certainty for families, NSBA would have preferred a measure with a lower rate, higher exemption levels and indexing for inflation. H.R. 4154 failed to win support in the Senate mainly because Senate Democrats could not agree on the terms of the extension, and faced difficulties working with Republicans, most of whom oppose the tax. Adding to the complications, some Democrats—such as Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) were pushing for an estate tax policy that would be more generous to business-owners, with a 35 percent top rate and a $5 million exemption. As a result, the
By letting the tax lapse, Congress has created myriad unintended consequences and increased the likelihood of an administrative and legal nightmare for some families. Many of the beneficiaries of those who die during the lapse— including those who are not so wealthy—may not save money to pay for a retroactive any tax and may have to deal with uncertainty and lawsuits for years to come. All we know for certain are the current disagreements over the tax will persist well into 2010 and make any modification nearly impossible. NSBA continues to urge Congress to enact legislation this year that provides permanent estate tax relief for family businesses and farms. The uncertain nature of the estate tax regime over the next two years is a cause for major concern for family businesses, many of which are struggling to guarantee that their business survives into the next generation. In order to ensure their survival, NSBA continues to work to encourage the House and Senate both move estate tax reform that provides certainty and permanency without increasing the burden on families.
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Innovative Thinking Increasing your bottomline while helping out your favorite cause Ken and JJ Ramberg, Co-Founders GoodSearch.Com
s a result of the declining economy, individuals are looking for innovative and free ways to help their favorite charities, knowing that because of a national drop in donations, these causes need help more than ever. More than 81,000 nonprofits have partnered with the online shopping mall GoodShop.com and Yahoo! powered search engine GoodSearch.com to enable their supporters to generate donations just by shopping online or searching the Internet. What makes the system so compelling is that it doesn’t cost the users a thing. It’s philanthropy on a shoestring! Consumers are helping their favorite causes by shopping at GoodShop.com where they can choose from more than 1,000 top online retailers including Amazon, Target, Best Buy, Apple Store, Sephora, Macy’s, 1-800-Flowers, and Expedia among others. The shopping experience and the prices are exactly the same as going to the retailer directly, but by going through GoodShop, up to 30% of the purchase price is donated to the user’s favorite cause. GoodShop also offers hundreds of great deals and coupons so not only are the consumers helping their favorite non-profit, but they are saving money while doing so! Similarly, with every search conducted on Yahoo!-powered GoodSearch.com, approximately one penny is donated to the user’s favorite charity. It’s used exactly like any other search engine and the pennies add up quickly! 2010 WINTER ISSUE
GoodSearch and GoodShop have grown into a massive online grassroots movement attracting the attention of leaders in the nonprofit industry, students, bloggers, writers, and even celebrities such as Jessica Biel, Montel Williams, and Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 who have all created videos on behalf of their favorite charities and GoodSearch. To give you a sense of how this has worked: •
Supporters of the ASPCA, to date, have raised nearly $30,000 to help animals in need!
A single purchase placed at retailer Gaiam.com resulted in a $284 donation to the Motion Mania Dance Theater in Maryland!
The Bubel Aiken Foundation, which helps children with disabilities, has earned almost $12,000!
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has earned more than $11,500!
Internet users have found GoodSearch and GoodShop to be a compelling idea. Leslie Philips, a veterinarian in Tennessee, uses ADVOCATE
The economic downturn inspires people to utilize online shopping to help their favorite causes generate funds.
GoodSearch and GoodShop to support The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee – the nation’s largest natural habitat refuge developed specifically for endangered African and Asian elephants. “Why wouldn’t I use it? It makes me feel good knowing that when I’m shopping for gifts online, some of that money is going to help endangered species!” The GoodSearch and GoodShop team is revolutionizing online philanthropy so that no one is denied the opportunity to support the causes most important to them. “The response to this idea has truly been overwhelming,” said Ken Ramberg, Co-Founder of GoodSearch and former President of MonsterTRAK, the largest online career site for college students (now a division of Monster.com). “More than 100 new nonprofits and schools register daily and GoodSearch and GoodShop are helping make a difference in communities across the country. They are alleviating the strain in resources and making it possible for everyone, regardless of how much time or money they have, to give back.” Visit www.goodsearch.com to see the organizations and individuals in your area using GoodSearch to support their favorite causes. 7
By the numbers
NSBA 2009 Year-End Economic Report: Small Businesses Still Struggling By Molly Brogan
As any of your accountants would tell you: numbers don’t lie. And despite the huge bonuses being paid to executives on Wall Street, America’s small businesses are still struggling. According to NSBA’s recently released 2009 YearEnd Economic Report, the number of small businesses citing decreases in revenue over the past 12 months rose to its highest point since we began asking the question back in 1993. Thirty-nine percent of small businesses report they are unable to get adequate financing for their business. A key piece of NSBA’s advocacy is using data mined from our members through the various surveys we conduct throughout the year. The reports NSBA develops provide critical information for members of Congress and members of the media on the critically important role small business plays—as well as offers a detailed reading of how the smallbusiness community is faring on any given issue and any given time. We greatly appreciate your participation in these surveys and we’ll keep them coming. Below, please find some key data points from the 2009 Year-End Economic Report, which was based on a survey of 450 small businesses throughout the last two weeks in December 2009.
Small-business owners overwhelmingly (64 percent) cited economic uncertainty as the most significant challenge to the future growth 8
and survival of their business. Despite the continued negative outlook on overall economy, and for the first time in two years, there was a slight increase (up from 58 percent to 61 percent) in small-business owners’ confidence in their own business. For the first time in nearly two years, the number of small-business owners projecting increase in revenues rose— up from 30 percent in July 2009 to 43 percent today. The majority of respondents (52 percent) expect growth opportunities for their business in the next year, four percent expect growth opportunities in the next three months, 11 percent expect growth opportunities in three to six months and 37 percent believe growth opportunities to occur in six to 12 months.
Despite a slight—but noteworthy three-point—increase from nine percent to 12 percent in the number of smallbusiness owners who increased their employment numbers over the last 12 months, 44 percent decreased employee size while another 44 percent made no change in employee size. For the first time in a year, smallbusiness owners are projecting a net increase in jobs—24 percent are projecting job growth while 18 percent expect job cuts. ADVOCATE
Only 61 percent of small businesses are able to obtain adequate financing for their business. That number has dropped from 78 percent in August 2008, 67 percent in December 2008 and 62 percent in July 2009. Among small-business owners for whom capital availability has been a problem, 47 percent state that they have been unable to grow business or expand business, and 24 percent state that they have been forced to reduce their number of employees. In the last six months, there has been a decrease in small-business use of all financing mechanisms, likely as a result to turmoil in the financial markets and the cost of capital. Today, 46 percent small-business owners today are using bank loans, down from 53 percent in July 2009. Twenty-four percent of small businesses experienced worsening terms on their outstanding bank loans (up from 19 percent in July 2009) and 64 percent said the fees and terms on their credit cards had gotten worse in just the last six months. 2010 WINTER ISSUE
From our affiliates
No Time Like the Present By Donna Davis, CEO Arizona Small Business Association
secret to our success?
hether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we have. At the Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA) we have chosen to embrace this reality and focus on why something can happen versus why it cannot. In spite of the challenging times, we have proactively adopted a positive and productive frame of mind and perspective. The results. We are experiencing explosive growth and record attendance at our programs. How have we been able to buck the trend of declining memberships, sponsorships and participation? What is the
Targeted services. We are focused on our members. It’s all about them. We proactively ask for and listen to their feedback and suggestions. Our sole purpose is to help our members save money, make money and create opportunities with our programs and services. We want to earn their respect so we can be their number one organization of choice. We do that by providing relevant and timely programs and services. For your members, provide what they really need . . . not what you think they need. Do a few things really well and don’t get off “in the weeds”. Be entrepreneurial and flexible. Implement new offerings as quickly as possible. Drop programs that are not working. Preserve those services and programs that have served your members so well in the past and continue to do so. Continuity gives us roots but change gives us branches letting us stretch and grow to reach new heights. New look and feel. Reinvent your organization if it has grown stale or has become irrelevant. At ASBA, we moved into new offices and refreshed our branding and identity. The
Calling All Advocates
new look and identity captures the vitality of our members and advances our brand. Don’t cut marketing if at all possible. Be more aggressive and creative at marketing than your peers. When the economy turns around, it’s an opportunity to gain members, sponsors and help grow your organization. Capitalize on social media options. Create a “buzz” and be a welcoming community. Operational expense review Sometimes we use business services for years without realizing there may be substantially cheaper or better options available. Look at your printing, security, rent, cleaning, computers, printer, faxes and telecommunications. Utilize free or nearlyfree technology from the web. Barter for services when feasible. Think strategically, act passionately Leverage your strategic alliances, community partners and networking opportunities. Let your imagination soar as you brainstorm possible alliances and partnerships. Encourage your members to join the action; get involved; and explore how we all can help each other. A candle loses nothing lighting another candle. Be passionate about your organization! Enthusiasm is contagious. Any of us who have or do run a small business knows that it takes resourcefulness, resiliency and courage. And in these challenging times, courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow”.
The 2010 Lewis I. Shattuck Small Business Advocate of the Year Award recognizes smallbusiness owners who go above and beyond in advocating for the small-business community. NSBA will choose five finalists and one award winner who will be recognized at the annual Advocate of the Year Award Luncheon on May 26, 2010 in conjunction with the NSBA Washington Presentation in Washington, D.C. Please visit www.nsba.biz/aya for more information and to download the nomination form. Nominations are due April 2, 2010.
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Making the Grade By Molly Brogan, Dan Jones, Kyle Kempf and Jody Milanese
Currently at the midway mark for the 111th Congress, NSBA sat down to evaluate the progress Congress has made on our top 10 priorities. We came up with this mid-term report card to help our members understand where our issues stand and what Congress has done to address them. Included in the mid-term report card is a status report for each priority issue, the grade NSBA assigned to Congress, and opportunities for extra credit. Additionally, NSBA recognized as â€œHead of the Classâ€? certain Members of Congress who went above and beyond on a particular issue. These grades are designed to give a broad overview of the collective progress Congress has made on key issues for small business.
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Broad Health Care Reform: C Status Report: President Barack Obama pegged health care reform as his top domestic agenda item in his 2008 campaign – so did NSBA in 2009 at the Small Business Congress. The health care reform debate tied up the House and Senate for the better part of 2009, but now hangs in the balance following the special election in Massachusetts that resulted in a game-changing win for Republicans leaving Democrats one vote-shy of the super-majority (60 votes) needed to override a filibuster. NSBA, back in 2004, was the first national small business group to call for a broad reform of the health care system. The cost of health care is becoming a greater burden on job growth and retention—according to NSBA’s 2009 Year-End Economic Report, 20 percent of small-business owners—one in every five—dealt with rising health insurance costs by reducing their workforce. The Grade: NSBA gives Congress a C because, while there has been extraordinary progress on many issues that NSBA supports, there are still significant improvements to be made before a final bill is passed. NSBA opposed the House-passed legislation, but weighed in repeatedly with the Senate urging them to work harder for true cost containment and cost reduction in health care. Although the future of health care reform remains unclear, NSBA is hopeful that
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Congress will act to make health care more affordable and of a higher quality for small businesses. Head of the Class: Congressional Republicans for standing their ground in opposition to employer mandates, and moderate Democrats for insisting on aggressive and meaningful costcontainment provisions. Extra Credit: Include in any bill that moves forward aggressive health care cost reduction and long-term cost containment; no new costly unfunded mandates; no public health insurance option that could undermine the private market; and, provide equity for the self-employed in the tax code to deduct their health premium costs. Fair Labor Practices in the Workplace: C+ Status Report: Similar to health care reform campaign promises, President Obama and Democrats in Congress promised labor law reform under the name of card check. Despite ample rhetoric on card check by its proponents, a surprise party switch by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.), and a subsequent effort to “compromise” on the legislation, the majority in Congress has failed to move card check in 2009, in large part due to NSBA and other partners’ efforts.
Feature Article The Grade: NSBA is giving Congress a C+ primarily for Republicans’ and moderate Democrats’ ability to defend the onslaught by House and Senate Democrats to pass card check legislation. Head of the Class: Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and other moderate Democrats who have opposed the legislation. Extra Credit: Put card check to rest in 2010 and refrain from using the cliché of “labor law reform” to pursue other illconceived and unfair laws that could serve to undermine small business. SBIR Reauthorization, Expansion, and Strengthening: C Status Report: The House (H.R. 2965) and the Senate (S. 1233) approved separate and divergent SBIR reauthorization bills and so far have been unable to reconcile them, resulting in a series of short-term reauthorizations. The program currently is reauthorized until April 30, 2010. In Sept. 2009, the House and Senate Armed Service Committees reauthorized the SBIR program at the Department of Defense for one year—in spite of the politics that have bogged down the reauthorization process for more than 18 months. The Grade: NSBA gives Congress a collective C for their progress on SBIR. Unfortunately, the Senate’s great efforts have been hampered by the House Small Business Committee, which has promulgated legislation that would significantly harm the SBIR program and open it wide up to large venture capital (VC) firms. The 12
House Committee refused to sit down and work toward a compromise and have thus, held SBIR reauthorization hostage for the better part of the last two years. Head of the Class: The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship has proffered a reasonable compromise and continues to stand guard against efforts to increase the allowable
Although they seem to understand small businesses’ critical need for financing, they haven’t quite figured out how to improve the situation. participation in the program by large VCs. Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) also have worked tirelessly to protect the small-business sanctity of this program against the inexplicable efforts of the House Small Business Committee. Extra Credit: Adopt compromise language based on the Senate’s language which provides a more-than-fair compromise, and provides an increase in the SBIR allocation.
Mandatory Employee Leave: CStatus Report: Legislation aimed at expanding the purview of the Family Medical Leave Act and other mandatory leave legislation (i.e. paid sick leave) were quick to be introduced in the 111th Congress. Nonetheless, mandatory employee leave legislation has taken a back seat to health care reform. Recent attention has been given to the introduction of legislation guaranteeing five paid sick days to employees in businesses with 15 or more employees with respect to H1N1 flu season. The Grade: NSBA gives Congress a C- for simply considering the legislation, and using a somewhat opportunistic tactic tying it to public concern over H1N1 flu. However, given that there has been no movement on any specific proposal to date, it is not a failing grade. Head of the Class: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and House Education and Labor Ranking Member John Kline (R-Minn.) are on the front lines fighting back mandatory employee leave proposals. Extra Credit: Pursue common-sense approaches to workplace flexibility based on a consensus-based, bipartisan approach to workplace issues that benefit employers and employees while not undermining the ability of small businesses to create jobs. Access to Capital: CStatus Report: Congress approved and President Obama signed into law the American 2010 WINTER ISSUE
Feature Article Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which temporarily eliminated the SBA’s upfront borrower fees and increased the SBA guarantee to 90 percent, making the programs more attractive to lenders. The Grade: NSBA gives Congress a Cbecause, although they seem to understand small businesses’ critical need for financing, they haven’t quite figured out how to improve the situation. The ARC loan program was not popular with lenders and the Term Asset-backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) plan to ease the secondary market for loans stalled. Further, a mechanism to use Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds for small-business lending has not materialized—despite repeated calls for such a program; and legislation to reauthorize, enhance and extend various SBA programs has been introduced but not enacted. Given this and the state of the overall economy, it is not surprising that the SBA 7(a) and 504 lending programs experienced dramatic drops in 2009. Also, the federal government once again failed to meet its government-wide goal of awarding 23 percent of federal contracts to small businesses. Head of the Class: Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) as the proactive chairs for the Senate Small Business Committee and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) have all pushed to utilize TARP funds to help improve small-business lending.
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Extra Credit: Extend the small-business provisions of ARRA through all of 2010, increase the maximum SBA loan sizes and
and $46,700, respectively, in 2009. The Grade: NSBA gives Congress a C- due to the fact that, absent permanent reform or yet another temporary fix, more than 27 million taxpayers will be subject to the AMT in 2010, and nearly 38 million in 2020, according to the Congressional Budget Office. For the millions of small businesses who are pass-through entities—thereby realizing all business income as personal income regardless of investments made back into the business—the AMT is an extremely punitive tax. Head of the Class: Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced legislation, the Taxpayer Certainty and Relief Act of 2009, which would freeze the 2009 AMT income threshold and in subsequent years index that threshold for inflation.
commensurately increase the statutory maximum guaranteed portion. Alternative Minimum Tax: CStatus Report: Throughout 2009, the dreaded Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) has been absent from discussions about tax policy. Although Congress enacted another AMT patch along with the ARRA back in January 2009, it was only a temporary fix. The AMT threshold is set to drop drastically in 2010 to the pre-2001 amounts of $45,000 for married filers and $33,750 for individuals—down from $70,950 ADVOCATE
Extra Credit: Address permanently the explosive growth of the AMT from an obscure tax affecting only 20,000 filers in 1970 to one that could affect nearly a third of all taxpayers in 2010. Credit-Card Reform: B Status Report: Congress approved, and the President signed into law the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act in May 2009. The law—which largely will go into effect in February—makes a number of reforms to the credit-card industry that were supported by NSBA, including: a prohibition against retroactive interest rate hikes; requiring payments to be 13
Feature Article applied first to the balance with the highest interest rate; an end doublecycle billing; and requiring penalty fees to be reasonable and proportional. The Grade: NSBA gives Congress a B for passing sound and reasonable credit-card legislation, but withholds an A for its failure to explicitly protect the cards used by small-business owners. Head of the Class: Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Landrieu and Snowe for their efforts to introduce legislation that would extend the protections contained in the CARD Act to the cards used by small-business owners.
The Grade: NSBA gives Congress an Incomplete due to the insufficient consideration given to small business during energy discussions. The long-term smallbusiness effects of the stimulus funds aimed at improving energy efficiency and creating green jobs is not yet clear, although the legislation contained a disheartening lack of focus on small business—the source of America’s job creation. Head of the Class: Sens. Landrieu and Snowe for securing the budgetary increase for the ENERGY STAR for Small Business program.
Extra Credit: Immediately approve the Small Business Credit Card Act (H.R. 3457)— and the similar legislation expected from Sens. Landrieu and Snowe— which would guarantee protection for small-business credit cards.
Extra Credit: Adopt legislation that incorporates the recommendations included in NSBA’s report, “On-Bill Financing: Helping Small Business Reduce Emissions and Energy Use While Improving Profitability,” on how the federal government can help facilitate on-bill financing programs.
Energy Policy: Incomplete Status Report: Preoccupied with broad health care reform, Congress has not yet turned its attention to energy policy. However, Sens. Landrieu and Snowe secured the passage of an amendment requiring that at least two percent of any funds made available for the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program be allocated to the ENERGY STAR for Small Business program.
Estate Tax Reform : D Status Report: Unfortunately, Congress completely punted on estate tax reform in 2009, failing to even enact a meager extension of the 2009 estate tax rates. Their failure to act has resulted in the expiration of the estate tax for 2010—for now. It is expected Congress will attempt to pass some kind of temporary fix, likely extending the 2009 rates retroactively effective for the entirety of 2010—a disaster for many small firms.
Unless Congress enacts some kind of compromise reform, the estate tax is slotted to return in full in 2011 with a mere $1 million exemption and a 55 percent top rate. The Grade: NSBA gives Congress a D for their failure to address the estate tax in 2009, creating a windfall of costly problems and untold new layers of complexity. Not only did they not fix it, they made it worse. Head of the Class: Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev), Kevin Brady (D-Texas), Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and Artur Davis (D-Ala.) for introducing the Estate Tax Relief Act of 2009, which takes a critical first step in reforming the estate tax. Also, Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) for their bipartisan efforts to raise the estate tax exemption. Extra Credit: Act now on estate tax reform, and don’t allow the pre-2001 levels to resurface in 2011. Consider NSBA’s compromise proposal that would permanently repeal the estate tax on small and family-owned businesses through a $7.5 million exemption with a tax rate of 15 percent (tied to capital gains), that would be fully indexed for inflation and include a step-up in basis. Ensure any estate tax bill is indexed for inflation. Self-Employment Tax on Health Care : C Status Report: Throughout the seemingly endless 2010 WINTER ISSUE
health care debate in 2009, NSBA urged Congress to close the loophole which prohibits self-employed individuals from fully deducting the cost of their health insurance premiums, resulting in an additional 15.3 percent tax that no other individual must pay. Although stand-alone bills were introduced in the House and Senate, neither chamber included such language in their larger health care reform bills, unfortunately. The Grade: NSBA gives Congress a C due to their failure to pass stand-alone legislation or even include it in the more broad health care reform bills. This very simple correction will bring immediate relief to millions of selfemployed individuals and, as far as NSBA sees, there is no reason for its exclusion in broad reform. Head of the Class: Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Wally Herger (R-Calif.), Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fl.) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) for their introduction of legislation to end the penalty on self-employed health insurance. Sen. Landrieu for offering an amendment to include this language in the Senate health care reform bill. Extra Credit: Include in any health care reform bill a provision to close the loophole that taxes the self-employed on the cost of their health insurance. To learn more about NSBAâ€™s priority issues, please visit www.nsba.biz/issues.
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2010 Washington Presentation Save the Date: May 26 - 27 Capital Hilton, Washington D.C.
As Congress tackles critical issues such as health care reform, estate tax and small-business financing, your voice is more important than ever. NSBA is pleased to announce that the 2010 NSBA Washington Presentation will take place on May 26 and 27 in Washington, D.C. at the Capital Hilton, just blocks from the White House. Donâ€™t miss your opportunity to hear from policy experts and lawmakers in Washington, D.C. on key issues for small business. You will get the inside scoop on the mid-term elections, share breakfast with influential members of Congress, and make important hill-visits to lobby on the issues that matter to you. Please visit the NSBA Web site for updates
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re you considering acquiring a new piece of equipment of a significant dollar amount? You should know that the way you finance it can cost or save you money. There are two main financing options: Purchase loans or leases. Each has its own unique characteristics and using the best structure for your situation can have a significant impact on your practice finances. These are some of the basic differences between the two credit facilities you should consider before making a final determination.
Commercial credit is available, but how should you capitalize on it? By Benjamin Pimentel, Torrey Pines Bank
Get a breakdown of estimated costs from your lender to compare the two options, there is no cookie cutter best option. Consider also the opportunity cost of a larger down payment and your potential need of that cash.
Capitalization vs. Expense
Something to consider is the financing structure impact on taxes. Generally, when purchasing through Down payment loans, the principal portion of a Purchase loans will typically require a down payment while purchase is capitalized and offset leases can be more flexible to finance up to 100 percent of the by gradual equipment depreciation cost of the equipment, installation, and taxes. Of course the higher over estimated life span or Section balance will increase the size of the monthly payments but the 179 (potentially 100%depreciation low down payment will allow you to hold more of your cash. in one year) and interest is expensed. Section 179 could be used to offset Payment Structure an estimated large tax bill due to high There are exceptions but typically purchase loans are income in one given year. Tax Leases designed to gradually reduce the loan principal with every can allow you to expense the whole payment. Amortization will be less than the estimated life span lease payments (essentially both of the equipment. Leases however can be more flexible with principal and interest portion) thus payment plans. For example, by allowing lower payments reducing your taxable income over the during the first few months payments can also be tailored to fit life of the payments. Consult your CPA estimated cash flows (smaller payments at first, higher payments for your specific tax implication. towards the end). Actual payment size will also vary depending on your down payment and residual. Residual Residuals are applicable to leases Cost only, equipment loans are generally Measuring the cost of the two options can be tricky and one fully amortized with no balloon option is not always a better choice than the other given that the payments at the end. Example of lease and loan differ. residual: A machine costs $50,000 and What to Look for: is financed through a $40,000 lease for • Loans five years. At maturity the residual (the • Interest rate, down payment required, prepayment portion of cost that has not been paid) penalty, and loan fees (origination, processing, etc). would be $10,000. • Leases Although having a payment of • Down payment, 1st payment up front, interest rate, a residual at the end of a lease might fee to purchase at maturity, lease fees (origination, be discouraging it may have its processing, etc). advantages. First, you have benefited 2010 WINTER ISSUE
from using the equipment for only a portion of the cost to purchase. If you decide to purchase, the purchase price will be based on the estimated market value of the equipment at the end the lease. Secondly, you benefit from not having an initial down payment, so your cash position was not impacted when the equipment was acquired. Lastly, after use of the equipment you may or may not want to purchase it if there is a better model available. The lease gives you the option of purchasing it at the market value of a “used” piece of equipment or walking away altogether.
Have a plan
Consider the overall plan, not all purchases qualify for either loan or lease financing. Typically, large equipment can be financed while smaller easy to carry items or supplies are excluded. However, you may be able to finance some of the smaller items if you purchase them as a bundle with the larger equipment. So plan your purchase. These are some of the basic differences between equipment loans and leases. Opting for one over the other will have implications to your monthly cash flow, cash position, and taxes, so consult your CPA and banker. Benjamin Pimentel is a Relationship Manager at Torrey Pines Bank in San Diego, CA. He has a long history of providing financing and cash management business solutions to business owners and executives.
IN The News
NSBA data is quoted regularly in local, regional and national media outlets. Our members and on various radio shows. Below are just a few of the many recent media mentions of NSBA. For more, CONgRESS DAILy INSURERS ASkED FOR DETAILS ON ‘PURgINg’ FIRMS A National Small Business Association spokeswoman lauded the committee request. “Our hope is that they, and others, continue focusing their attention on small-business costs and abuse as the healthcare reform debate continues,” she said. According to the NSBA, the number of small businesses able to offer their employees health insurance has dropped from 67 percent in 1995 to 38 percent today. CNBC SqUAwk ON THE STREET “I think they (Congress) do need to focus more attention on small business, and most of the focus should be on lending. While there probably was too much laxity in the credit markets two or three years ago, the fact is, we’ve seen a serious overcorrection in the other direction—we’re not back to normal,” NSBA President Todd McCracken.
wALL STREET JOURNAL BANk’S LOAN LOSSES SLOwINg, BUT LOAN gROwTH REMAINS ELUSIvE The National Small Business Association said in its year-end report in Dec., “Today, only 61% of small businesses are able to obtain adequate financing for their business, down from 67% a year earlier.” wASHINgTON POST FEDERAL ESTATE TAx IN FLUx “This is not a new issue that requires a great deal of deliberation, rather it is an issue that requires leadership and the will to enact what many traditionally opposing parties view as a reasonable compromise,” said Todd McCracken, president and chief executive of the National Small Business Association.
ENTREPRENEUR MAgAzINE wHAT TO DO wHEN THE BANk PULLS yOUR LINE OF CREDIT “A few years ago, losing a line of credit was a crisis--today, it’s the new normal,” says Marilyn Landis, a board member of the NSBA in Washington, D.C.
FOx BUSINESS NEwS IS BROwN’S wIN A vICTORy FOR SMALL BUSINESS, TOO? “Contrary to all the pro small-business rhetoric we’ve heard from Congress and the White House, this backroom deal with unions sends a loud and clear message to America’s small businesses: we have other priorities,” said National Small Business Association president Todd McCracken. ADVOCATE
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IN The News
leadership have been featured in prominent publications and television news programs, and appear regularly please visit www.nsba.biz/news.html AMERICAN CITy BUSINESS JOURNALS FEwER FIRMS wOULD gET R&D FUNDS UNDER HOUSE BILL NSBA supports Senate legislation that would make more modest changes to the program. Jere Glover, executive director of the NSBA-affiliated Small Business Technology Council, said there is no reason for radical changes. “There’s no other government program that is anywhere near as good at commercializing or getting technology into the marketplace,” said Glover.
U.S. NEwS & wORLD REPORT THREE MyTHS ABOUT CREDIT CARD FEES FOR BUSINESSES The National Small Business Association (NSBA), for example, argues that concern over interchange fees for its members could be addressed if payment agreements between credit card issuers and merchants could become more transparent. NSBA’s Keith Ashmus argues that small-business owners have no choice but to accept these agreements. “As a small business, you’re taking credit cards because you have to,” he says. USA TODAy AS LENDERS CLAMP DOwN, CREDIT SCORES TAkE A HIT “Credit line reductions are particularly problematic for small businesses, says Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association. A 2009 NSBA survey shows that 59% of small businesses use cards to finance their business. This survey also shows that 41% of businesses had their card limits cut from April 2008 to April 2009.
REUTERS SMALL FIRMS FACE CREDIT SqUEEzE AS CRISIS DRAgS Small business representatives like Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association (NSBA), warn that unless more credit becomes available, America’s entrepreneurs cannot expand, hire people and grow the economy. CNNMONEy SMALL BUSINESS INSURANCE Rx “Congress hasn’t approached health care reform from a small business owner’s standpoint,” says Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association. BUSINESSwEEk MANDATORy IRAS MAy BURDEN SMALL EMPLOyERS, BUSINESS gROUP SAyS When small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, we oppose mandates such as this that stand to create a new administrative burden,” said Molly Brogan, vice president of public affairs for the National Small Business Association, in an e-mailed statement.
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FORBES NSBA 2009 MID-yEAR ECONOMIC REPORT SHOwS SMALL BUSINESSES STRUggLINg “We’re struggling. Despite several economic stimulus packages and lots of talk, only three percent of small businesses reported a positive impact of the stimulus bills on their business,” stated Keith Ashmus, NSBA Chair and co-founding partner at Frantz Ward LLP, Cleveland, Ohio. “America’s small businesses need and deserve better.”
MSNBC yOUR BUSINESS “If Congress and the Administration can get together and come up with a way that the TARP money makes sense from the standpoint of the community banks, then maybe it will (help small business),” stated Keith Ashmus, chair of NSBA. ADVOCATE
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A Victory for Small Business
Small business makes big strides in the U.S. Trade Office mbassador Ron Kirk, head of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) office, recently announced that he will be designating a highlevel position in his office to focus on promoting the trade-related interests of America’s 29 million small businesses. Long a key issue for the Small Business Exporters Association (SBEA)— NSBA’s exporting council—this announcement is a welcome change that will improve small-businesses access to exporting. “Exporting is an opportunity for significant growth for many U.S. small businesses, but international market
policies can hamper access to a level playing field,” said SBEA Board Chair Susan Corrales-Diaz, president of California-based Systems Integrated. “Creating this new position is a significant step forward in aiding smallbusiness exporters.” The economic difficulties over the past two years, coupled with ongoing outsourcing, have put small businesses
at a distinct disadvantage in the global economy. SBEA and NSBA has been urging for years—decades, even—that more must be done to emphasize the needs of small business within the scope of U.S. trade. The Assistant U.S. Trade Representative (AUSTR) for Market Access and Industrial Competitiveness will now become the AUSTR for Small Business, Market Access and Industrial Competitiveness, thereby broadening the position’s purview. Currently, fewer than one percent of all small businesses engage in exporting, and small-business exports accounted for only 30 percent of total U.S. exports in 2007—just slightly higher than a decade earlier, according to a report from the International Trade Commission. SBEA is hopeful that this new elevated priority of assisting small businesses dealing with international policies will work toward enhancing the ability of small businesses to engage in the global market.
Looking Back and Advancing Forward Reflecting on the victories that have passed and the battles that lay ahead of SBTC was a very busy year for SBTC in 2009 and 2010 is shaping up to be just as busy. The reauthorization of the highly-successful SBIR program continues to be stymied by politics as the Senate and House have been unable to reach a compromise on some of the key sticking points—namely the participation of large venture capital (VC) firms in the program. Most recently, the House and Senate approved a continuing resolution (CR) extending the SBIR program for another 90 days. The program is now set to expire on April 30. This is the sixth CR passed since the SBIR program was originally up for expiration in 2008. Unfortunately, the entire process has been bogged down in politics with the House Small Business Committee pushing for significant changes to the SBIR program that would open it up to unlimited participation by large VC firms. The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship has crafted compromise legislation supported by SBTC and NSBA, and we hope that the House will finally come to the table and work to reauthorize this critical small business program in the coming months. In addition to our work on the Hill to reauthorize SBIR, SBTC was
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recently contacted by the Department of Defense (DOD) who asked SBTC to come up with a list of possible improvements to make the DOD’s SBIR program more efficient. SBTC formed a committee of about 16 small businesses that have had experience working with the DOD SBIR program, and developed several key recommendations. In short, we called for: the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) to direct DOD to prioritize the use of SBIR technology in acquisition programs; the simplification and streamlining of the SBIR contracting process; incentives and rewards to government organizations and prime contractors for successful transitioning and commercialization of SBIR technology; education of DOD contracting, management, and technical personnel; increasing SBIR allocation in the DOD from 2.5 percent to 5 percent; and implementing the scheduled 1 percent increase in SBIR transitioning funding immediately, rather than over 10 years. As the recognized leader on SBIR, SBTC has positioned itself as an expert in the field with the ability to respond quickly to Hill and Agency requests. Our members—you—make that possible. If you haven’t joined us for one of our conference calls lately, please take some time in the coming months to join us. You can visit our SBTC Conference Call page to register for any of our calls at www.sbtc.org.
Where Will the Jobs Come From? by Dane Stanger
he most recent employment updates from the Department of Labor paint a dismal picture for American workers. The official unemployment rate has topped 10 percent while the broadest measure of unemployment— which includes the “underemployed”—is nearly twice that high. Policymakers at all levels of government are casting around for strategies to promote job creation. According to a study just released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation titled Where Will the Jobs Come From?, they would do well to look to entrepreneurs. New and young companies are the primary drivers of job creation in the United States, accounting for nearly two-thirds of net new jobs in recent years. Since 1980, in fact, companies less than five years old have accounted for the lion’s share of net job creation—in any given year, without entrepreneurs, the economy would actually shed jobs. The distinction of firm age, not necessarily size, as the driver of job creation has many implications. Policymakers typically focus on small businesses when speaking about job creation, or seek ways to restart hiring at large companies. This report shows that most net job creation is generated by firms that are one to five years old. These firms create more net new jobs than their older counterparts, as well as a higher average number of jobs per firm. In some cases, these young firms grow into large companies employing thousands of people. Importantly, these companies could still fail at some point or be acquired by older and larger companies; or they could stop growing and remain the same size indefinitely. Some of these firms, meanwhile, continue to generate positive rates of net job creation at older ages.
The study of Census data continually finds that new and young firms drive economic growth and job creation. Within this group of companies, moreover, there is a substantial set of rapidly growing businesses that account for a disproportionate share of net job creation. Net job growth is marked by churn, the process by which jobs are created and destroyed by shifts in the economy. Each year new companies emerge to create lots of jobs and are succeeded in “This study sends an important subsequent years by message to policymakers that a new pool of firms. The net effect of this young firms need extra support is to consistently add in the early years of formation two million new jobs so they can grow into viable job to the economy each creators. Sometimes a single year.
barrier, such as limited access to credit for business growth, can mean the difference between survival and failure.”
This study sends an important message to policymakers that young firms need extra support in the early years of formation so they can grow into viable job creators. Sometimes a single barrier, such as limited access to credit for business growth, can mean the difference between survival and failure. We must create an environment that aids firm formation and growth if we are going to turn employment around. Dane Stangler is a senior analyst at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
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Advocacy & events
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Nov. 3, 2009
NSBA Board Member Dave Stetler and NSBA Staff attended President Obama’s briefing on health care reform and small businesses
Oct. 30, 2009
Keith Ashmus and NSBA staff met with NancyAnn DeParle, Director of the White House Office of Health Reform, as well as staff with the Council of Economic Advisors and HHS Office of Health Reform.
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