As I write this article, Congress is about to vote on major corporate tax reform, namely the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”. Supporters of the bill believe that corporate tax reform will more readily allow US corporations to keep taxable earnings in the US and that those earnings will spur new economic growth. Others protest that reform puts more money in the hands of the rich. Likely, both sides are correct. What the Act will not do, is simplify taxation for small business owners.
Clearly these tax changes will mean an increased bottom line for Corporate America. Wall Street has reacted to the anticipated change with double digit gains in many stock market indexes. And though I do not represent any of the Fortune 500 companies who will benefit most from the reform, my retirement assets are invested in those companies.
The tax cuts will undoubtedly have a significant impact on many of our local businesses as well. The final draft of the legislation gives a 20% deduction to many of those who receive business income. The Act defines trade or business income as it relates to any “qualified” trade or business of the taxpayer. For local C-Corporations, of which there are very few, the tax rate will be a flat 21%. C-Corporations with income in excess $75,000 will likely see a benefit. The more common business enterprises, such as S-Corporations, Sole Proprietors and Partnerships, will pass tax benefits along to the owners in the form of a 20% deduction on qualified business income. There are many conditions and hoops to jump through, but my reading of the bill suggests that the majority of local companies will benefit.
As an example, take the local retailer with $80,000 of income from her S-Corporation. Provided conditions are met, the $80,000 will generate a 20% deduction, or $16,000, from her taxable income. Her anticipated new tax rate will also be reduced to 22%. My estimate is that she will see an additional $3,500 in her pocket next year as a result of the business change alone. What she will do with the anticipated tax savings is anyone’s guess. Hopefully, she will spend it locally on other goods and services. Undoubtedly, she will pay a tax preparer more money to complete her tax return.
After reviewing the proposed changes, I have concluded that the majority of small businesses are likely to see tax savings. From a jobs perspective, the changes will at the very least be a major jobs act for the accounting profession. Unfortunately, Congress must have thought the same and has exempted accountants and lawyers, working in their profession, from benefiting from this deduction. Call it karma I guess.
Jamie Boulette, CPA has 30 years of tax experience and is managing director of Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs with offices in Bath and Oakland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 371-8002.