Every presidential election cycle brings hope for change and reform, arguably for the better. The upcoming election has small business owners on watch, keeping a close eye on the presidential race so they fully understand how the political stances of the two candidates will most affect them.

Business owners are divided about which candidate will provide the most beneficial support for the Main Street business owner.

One of the most appealing things to Donald Trump supporters is the perspective he brings as a business owner; a perspective that isn't marred by lobbyists and political favors. Many business owners feel like the country needs the fresh, non-political perspective of Trump, given the state of the current economy.

On the other hand, some small business owners, like Brian Smith of Brooklyn's Ample Hills Creamery, think Hillary Clinton is better suited for the job. Smith's company is trying to secure a bank loan for a factory. He told CNBC that he believes Clinton's proposals will make it easier to allow business owners like himself to secure capital for expansions. This is a critical issue for small businesses in the U.S.--lack of cash flow is the number one reason businesses fail.

Whichever way business owners vote, it's going to be a day of reckoning. The small business rank and file has grown tremendously in recent years and they are in a position to hold tremendous influence. With over 28 million small businesses, they represent54% of all U.S. sales and have providedover 50% of all jobs since the 1970s.

According to a recent Manta survey, more than 60% of small business owners intend to vote in their state's primaries and caucuses. Why the sudden surge in activity among small businesses? It has a lot to do with business taxes (18%), the economy (49%), and healthcare (10%), according to CNBC.

"There are issues squeezing small business owners from every side--the economy, taxes, and healthcare," says John Swanciger, CEO of Manta. "They are looking for a candidate who understands how their sector is being impacted."

"Small business owners are really concerned about the economy, and only 1 in 5feel they have recovered from the Great Recession," says Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. "Many of our 100,000 members tell us they are still in survival mode and they are looking at the candidates' policies to see how each plan will spur economic growth."

We're pushing into the home stretch of the presidential campaign, and despite hitting a point where candidates are dwindling, there still hasn't been a lot of information shared about small business. So how do the candidates stack up in matters of business and economic reform?

Taxes--Clinton vs. Trump

Clinton voted against eliminating capital gains taxes and the alternative minimum tax. She wants to end the carried interest loophole that has been a benefit to Wall Street. She's also calling for doubling short-term capital gains tax rates to end the "tyranny of the short-term investor." Overall, she says she wants tax reform that is friendlier to small businesses.

Trump's personal income tax plan outlines four brackets instead of seven, and is calling for a corporate tax rate of 15%. He actively opposes corporate tax inversions, the practice of U.S. corporations moving their headquarters to lower tax rate countries.

Minimum Wage--Clinton vs. Trump

The elevation of minimum wage is a big issue with small business owners. Clinton believes the federal minimum wage should be increased to $12 and, in some cases, $15, at the state and local level.

During a debate, Trump stated he felt wages were too high and that helps to create America's inability to compete on a global level. He also says, "I never said wages are too high, only that a minimum wage increase would make them too high." Essentially, Trump currently opposes a hike in minimum wage.

Business Regulations--Clinton vs. Trump

Clinton continues to favor small business, and she plans to start a nationwide effort to cut red tape for small businesses at every level of government. Part of that includes the support of wage and financial regulations, along with equal pay mandates for employees and paid family leave.

In his book, The America We Deserve, Trump wrote, "Most of us think the American Dream is a birthright, but without constant care and vigilance, it can and will be whittled down to nothing. The threatening agent is not some foreign power, but people who don't understand the proper relationship between the public and private arenas. In other words, the greatest threat to the American Dream is the idea that dreamers need close government scrutiny and control. Job one for us is to make sure the public sector does a limited job, and no more." His position on that remains unchanged.

Trump believes the REINS Act, requiring an up or down vote on regulations with significant economic impact, is a major step toward getting our government under control.

Healthcare--Clinton vs. Trump

Healthcare and the Affordable Care Act are at the forefront of the minds of business owners who are concerned about the impact of rising healthcare costs for their employees.

Clinton has long defended the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and actively seeks ways to build on it while slowing the current trend of growing out-of-pocket costs. She believes that affordable health care is a basic human right.

Trump aims to repeal the Affordable Care Act and supports health savings accounts along with a national marketplace geared toward driving competition among health insurance providers. As for universal health care, Trump has stated that he is a conservative on most issues but a liberal on this issue. Trump released a health care plan in March 2016 that rejected the concept of a mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance.

Trade--Clinton vs Trump

Trump has loudly proclaimed his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and feels that it only helps other countries, especially China, where he would like to see a 25% tariff on Chinese imports. He's proposing a 15% tax for outsourcing jobs and a 20% tax for importing goods. His aim is to bring businesses and jobs back inside U.S. borders.

Clinton originally served as a driver of the TPP but has since changed her position and now opposes it.

A Conservative Agenda vs. A Liberal Agenda

Overall, the Republican Party is proposing tax cuts that could benefit small businesses while bringing an end to Obamacare. It opposes an increase in minimum wage and wants restrictions on illegal immigration.

Democrats don't want to end Obamacare. They want to modify it to ease the mandates small business owners are currently facing. Democrats are also proposing tax increases, a minimum wage boost, and an easier path for legal immigration. But those tax increases don't specifically target small businesses. In fact, Clinton aims to provide targeted tax relief for small businesses with simplified tax filing.

Part of Clinton's plan for small business regulation and tax reform includes the development of incubators, which provide mentoring and training to 5,000 small business owners in underserved communities. Her plans also include programs to help develop the entrepreneurial skills of Millennials.

Trump also aims to reform tax regulations, including the elimination of estate taxes, so family-owned businesses can easily pass along assets to family members and heirs.

These proposals present business owners with a difficult choice as the presidential race gains momentum. The real test will come when the candidates are forced to get far more specific on their proposals and plans of action as we get closer to the election.

It's an important election, and certainly one that small businesses will be paying close attention to.

Where do you stand on the current election? Which candidate do you feel better represents the interests of small business owners? Share in the comments:

Published on: Jul 12, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.