President Obama often speaks about the 18 or so tax breaks for small business that have been passed under his watch. So, when I saw an article about these tax breaks last week, it peeked my curiosity. Businesses aren’t taking them. Why?
Because they are so complex, it isn’t worth the time and effort.
Out of 1.78 million corporate tax returns in the U.S., only about 20,000 claimed any of the main business tax credits in the code, according to the IRS.
There is a tax break for energy efficient buildings. But, it,
…often requires computer modeling costing as much as $50,000. That leaves business owners weighing whether the [tax] credit is worth the expense.
And then there is the Work Opportunity credit which was targeted at businesses that hire disadvantaged groups, such as those on food stamps or welfare.
It requires extensive paperwork for each worker for whom it is claimed and the paperwork can often take a year or more to process.
Recently, the IRS dispensed with the requirement that the forms for this credit be hand-signed!
Then we have the credit for small businesses providing health care coverage for their employees. It,
…was claimed by only about 173,000 employers, out of an eligible pool of between 1.4 million and four million businesses, according to the Government Accountability Office. ‘The calculation was ridiculous’, says Barbara Webber, property manager for Presidential Estates in Quincy, Mass., an owner of apartment complexes…
And, Ms. Webber has an accounting background.
While many companies say it is too complicated to claim tax breaks, the ones who try can find themselves embroiled in complex disputes with the Internal Revenue Service.
I well understand that we need to make sure that only those entitled to the tax breaks receive them. But enacting tax breaks that few small businesses can take unless they hire a fleet of accountants and lawyers is silly, unless Congress simply wants to say they enacted tax breaks for small business.
What good is a tax break if no one can figure it out, or, if they do, afford to spend the money it takes to get it?