By Bryce Welker, CPA and CEO of The CPA Exam Guy.
After more than 30 years of no serious change to the American tax code, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on December 22, 2017. Under President Donald Trump, this sweeping piece of legislation makes drastic amendments to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. According to the White House's official website, this move is a "great start" to the U.S. government's project of American renewal.
It's understandable that many Americans are confused by this tax act and may be unaware of the repercussions; after all, the United States tax code is notoriously dense and opaque. In order to address some of the concerns business owners may have with how this recent tax act will affect them, here are some of the positives and negatives they should expect to experience from this legislative decision.
One of the most immediate benefits business owners will notice with the new tax code is a decrease in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, which came into effect on January 1, 2018. While this tax cut doesn't just affect businesses, as it applies to all corporations functioning in the U.S., the people who will reap the greatest benefits of this decision are businesses. As any busines owner knows, the costs of starting a new business can be astronomical, so it should come as a great relief that this burden will be somewhat mitigated in the next fiscal year.
Other changes that businesses can take advantage of involve expenses that they can write off in order to save even more money on taxes. This includes the full cost of new equipment, interest paid on loans and charitable contributions. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increases the amount of money that can be written off for these expenses and protects these write-offs from being rescinded in the future.
The most pressing piece of bad news that comes with this tax cut is an increase in the government deficit. According to the Tax Foundation, fully implementing these changes to the tax code will result in a loss of approximately $1.5 trillion of federal revenue over the subsequent decade. While optimists believe that this loss of revenue will be offset by increased economic growth, this is based on conjecture and may be subject to change. What won't change is the loss in revenue, and failing to compensate for that can result in further escalation of America's national debt crisis.
For a business owner, it may not be immediately apparent how an ever-expanding debt crisis will affect them. However, this increasingly worrisome issue can have serious tangible consequences for the future of their business. For example, a lack of confidence in a currency or country due to rampant debt can result in banks becoming much more reticent to provide loans to burgeoning enterprises. This exact scenario was observed during the financial crisis in 2008 when the housing bubble burst; over the subsequent three years, bank loans to businesses decreased at a rate disproportionate to all firms by around 10 percent.
A lot of ink has been spilled about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, with some praising the legislation and many others condemning it. Only time will tell whether this decision was good or bad. The best course of action for businesses looking to reap the benefits of this tax reform is to exude confidence. Confidence is the number one driver of economic growth, with a confident government working well with confident businesses to increase confidence in consumers. Hoping and planning for the best seems to be the best way to make the most out of this exciting and polarizing event.
Bryce Welker is a CPA and the CEO of multiple companies in the online education space including Beat The CPA.