A lot of my small-business brothers and sisters voted for Donald Trump, if for no other reason than taxes. If there is one thing small-business people don't like, it's taxes, and if there was one person who seemed poised to ease the small-business tax burden, it was presidential candidate Trump.
Indeed, candidate Trump promised a "major, major tax cut" for the middle class, and the vast majority of small-business owners fall somewhere along that big spectrum.
How does that old saying go? "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."
President Trump is, after all, the guy with the reputation for stiffing the small-business contractors who worked on his buildings, but Paul Ryan and the Republican Congress? We expected more out of their tax bill.
We didn't get it. Not by a long shot. Instead, in the end, it's a bill that does for little small business. Let us count the ways:
The bill actually helps big business.
Yes, the proposed tax bill helps corporations, but not your type of corporation. One of the centerpieces of the tax plan is a corporate tax cut from 35 percent to 20 percent. Who doesn't like a big fat tax cut like that? Sign me up.
Unfortunately, we didn't get that.
Let's get geeky for a sec: Most small businesses are run either as sole proprietorships (boo hiss, but that's a column for another day), partnerships (ditto), S corporations (that's me, and probably you, too), or Limited Liability Companies (LLCs.) Big corporations--the Amazons and Exxons of the world--are legally organized as C corporations.
And who gets this tasty tax cut? Yep, C corps. Big companies with lots of shareholders. That's your business, right? Exactly. I haven't known even one small business that is run as a C corp.
Oh, the bill also cuts taxes for multinational corporations on overseas earnings from 35 percent to 10 percent. I bet that describes your business for sure, right?
Maybe this helps: There is a small middle-class tax break, mostly coming from a doubling of the standard deduction. That assists you, right? Err, probably not. Many small business people itemize deductions instead of using the standard deduction. Drat! We almost had a winner.
Maybe there is a glimmer of hope here: One provision of the bill reduces the pass-through tax rate from 39.6 to 25 percent for some small-business owners. Which ones? Ah, there's the rub. Under the proposal, many small-business owners are assumed to be exempt from the new, lower pass-through rate -- people like lawyers, doctors, financial professionals, etc. Other small businesses can claim only 30 percent of their income under the new, lowers rate.
The tiny upside.
One thing in the bill that truly does help small business is a provision that allows you to immediately write off a big capital purchase and not pro-rate the deduction over several years. If you buy a $100,000 delivery truck, you can deduct the whole expense that year. (But you better act quick because the deduction expires in five years. Oops!)
The other true benefit is the reduction of tax levels from seven to four, and a tax level reduction too: Most middle-class married people will pay 12 percent (if you earn less than $90,000 a year.) If you make $260,000 or less, you will pay 25 percent.
Unfortunately, with this bill, it giveth and it taketh away. That's why we're not done with the bad news yet.
There's more bad news for you.
Changing deductions for state and local taxes: Especially if you live in a high-taxed state, losing that deduction could be significant. The proposed rule says deductions for sales and income taxes would be repealed and the deduction for property taxes would be capped at $10,000 per person.
Caps on mortgage interest deductions: Under the plan, moving forward, your home mortgage deduction would be capped at $500,000, so if you are looking for a nice new house, you better make sure you don't have really great taste and take out a loan for more than half a million, or at least expect your mortgage deduction will tap out at that amount.
Eliminating the deduction for student loans: This is something many small-businesses pay for many years. Hope you really, really liked that Philosophy 101 class.
Eliminating deductions for major medical expenses. Just don't get sick and you'll be fine.
But hey, it's not all bad news. At least your 401(k) is still safe.