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The Small Business Case for Ending Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

Small business owners, often used as a prop by anti-tax lobbyists, say letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire is a good business decision.

Photo courtesy of the Other 98 Percent

Photo courtesy of The Other 98%, a nonpartisan organization of "citizens tired of [...] mortgaging our children's futures in order to give handouts to the wealthiest 2%."

“Expecting high-end tax cuts to trickle down as job creation is about as reasonable as pouring gasoline on your hood and expecting it to fuel your car."
–Lew Prince
Owner, Vintage Vinyl, an independent music store


Congress left town in early October without addressing the future of the Bush-era tax cuts that are scheduled to expire at the end of 2010. This sets up a “lame duck” session debate over their future in November and December.

After the mid-term election, anti-tax legislators will press to extend tax cuts for households with incomes over $250,000. Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist argues that allowing these tax cuts for higher incomes to expire would be a “body blow to the small business community.”

This isn’t the first time small businesses have been used as a prop by anti-tax lobbyists. Whenever policies that would require wealthy individuals to pay higher taxes is debated, supporters routinely claim that it will hurt small business.

Enter several refreshing new voices in this debate: the American Sustainable Business Council and Business for Shared Prosperity, networks of enterprises rooted in their localities. In their recent report, “Restoring Top Tax Rates Makes Sense for Small Business,” they make a business case for allowing the top tax rates to expire.

Income tax, photo by Alan CleaverRaise My Taxes, Please
Why one wealthy American wants the Bush tax cuts to expire and the estate tax to be reinstated.

These business organizations point out that very few small businesses are affected. Less than 3 percent of tax filers with any business income earn enough ($200,000 as individuals or $250,000 as couples in a year) to be affected—and many of those that do are Wall Street investment partners, big business CEOs paid to sit on boards of other big companies, and wealthy folks renting out investment properties and vacation homes.

If Congress wants to help small business, the small business owners argue, it shouldn’t spend $700 billion over the next decade in poorly targeted tax cuts.

“Letting high end tax cuts expire is a good business decision,” said Frank Knapp, CEO and President of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “Boosting our local economy by helping real small businesses create jobs should be our goal. We can either cut taxes for CEOs and Wall Street traders, or we can invest the money to generate more customers for small business by keeping teachers, police officers, and other Americans on the job rebuilding the crumbling transportation, water, and energy infrastructure small business depends on.”

This longer view is echoed by other small business leaders who lament the decline in public infrastructure and investment that strengthens local economies. They challenge the tired orthodoxy that cutting taxes for high-income households always has a positive impact on economic growth and job creation.

“Give me more customers and I’ll be forced to buy equipment and hire people to meet demand. Give me a tax break without more customers and I’ll just go to Aruba.”
      -business owner
        Rick Poore

These small business owners insist that their hiring decisions are driven by consumer demand, not tax cuts. “As a fellow businessman once told me,” said Rick Poore, owner of Design Wear, an apparel manufacturer based in Lincoln, Nebraska, “Give me more customers and I’ll be forced to buy equipment and hire people to meet demand. Give me a tax break without more customers and I’ll just go to Aruba.”

Restoring tax rates for high-income households won’t fix our economy. But it is a step in the right direction to fiscal sanity and being able to make investments that move us toward a sustainable economy. That’s good for businesses that are committed to their communities.


Chuck Collins auth pic

Chuck Collins wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Chuck is co-founder of Wealth for the Common Good, a network of business and civic leaders, wealthy individuals, and partners promoting fair and adequate taxation to support public investment in a healthy economy.

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