By: Katie Vlietstra
April 21, 2014
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is our nation's direct link between the administration and America's small business community. The agency provides benefits such as advocacy and support, loans and access to capital and entrepreneurial development to ensure the small business community continues to move our economy forward.
Our nation's smallest businesses -- the self-employed and micro-businesses -- represent the heart and soul of America's middle class. We are your neighborhood accountants, dentists, popcorn trucks and bookstores. We also embody the true entrepreneurial spirit of America where starting and operating your own business offers a sense of pride and accomplishment. Yet, America's small businesses face critical challenges that prevent them from opening, growing and expanding. These range from unfair tax regulations and an unequal playing field to a lopsided tax structure.
As Maria Contreras-Sweet moves into her role as SBA Administrator, I challenge her to engage and proactively work towards encouraging more Americans to seek the path of self-employment. By doing so I hope she works to remove some of the challenging barriers that prevent many Americans from realizing the dream of self-employment!
•Affordable Care Act Implementation: After the launch of America's new health care system, a few initial snags have caused uncertainty and concern with small business owners. From unexpected cancellations to hardship exemptions and delays in both the SHOP and Employer Mandates, America's smallest businesses remain concerned about how this expansive new law will affect their bottom lines in 2014. But now is the time to fix the program rather than repeal and replace it. Despite these setbacks, moving forward Congress and the administration must focus on how to ensure the new health care program is fair and benefits all those who want health care coverage. To better serve America's small businesses, Congress and the Administration should not only eliminate the individual mandate penalty for this year and extend open enrollment through the end of 2014, but also calculate the individual or family subsidy based on the previous years adjusted gross income (AGI) rather than an anticipated calculation. This will provide a more accurate and fair subsidy estimate where participants won't be required to reimburse the government if their earnings change throughout the year.
•Tax Reform: America's small business community continues to play fairly on an unequal playing field. Currently, small business owners pay more taxes -- from self-employment to health care taxes -- than our corporate counterparts. In fact, within the small business community itself, entrepreneurial inequality exists between America's smallest businesses and larger businesses with almost 500 employees. Obstacles like the individual health care exchange penalty and self-employment tax prevents the creation of new small businesses, as well as growth and expansion of existing ones. Lowering the individual tax rate and offering a permanent self-employment health care deduction will help small businesses compete and stabilize our bottom lines.
•Access to Capital: Whether it's opening doors or trying to expand, small business owners scramble to identify the cash needed to do so. The SBA has an important role in helping our community secure loans and win federal contracts. However, those of us in the small business community believe that the SBA has the opportunity to identify and develop programs that would benefit America's self-employed and micro-business community, who often need access to smaller levels of capital and short-term loan agreements. Ms. Contreras-Sweet's business and banking background makes her the right advocate to identify these new and innovative ways to securing revenue and capital lines for America's smallest businesses. All of these help the country's overall economy by fueling job creation in America.
Each and every day I have the privilege to work for and support 23 million Americans that are operating their own business; it is a magical thing to see someone succeed in achieving their goals of self-employment. At the end of the day, these amazing people are creating an economic path for not just them, but their families and their communities -- creating something that will last generations and have positive impact on those around them. I know firsthand that the path to self-employment is not easy nor is absent of significant financial peril for some, yet, more people than ever are choosing self-employment. It is that hard work and success that we all strive for in our daily lives.
I look forward to working with Administrator Contreras-Sweet and her team on throwing open the doors of self-employment, eliminating the financial and bureaucratic barriers and above all helping people achieve the American dream, because it is something that I take personal pride in each day.