Federal Tax Plan = Meaningful Cuts More Than Comprehensive Reform

The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (H.R. 1) has finally arrived! The long-awaited details – over 400 pages worth – are now out there for all to debate. This is a debate that will play out before the House Republican Ways and Means Committee this week. Much of the public discourse will focus on how it impacts individuals, but for the business community it is the taxation of businesses, large and small, that is of the most significance.

The plan includes a reduction of the corporate rate from 35% to 20%, an important and meaningful step. It also caps the taxation of income derived from pass-throughs (S corporations, LLCs, partnerships and sole proprietorships) at 25%. Key provisions are outlined below. And if you are truly into tax law, the full bill is also available, as is a section-by-section summary.

Now you may note that this legislation is labeled a tax cut, not tax reform. And while many will call it that, it is probably better characterized as a tax cut bill. Cuts are good, and these measures will certainly be the impetus for some level of economic growth. But the trillion dollar questions remain: How much will it spur in gross domestic product (GDP) growth? And, can that realistically be enough to offset the projected reductions in tax collections?

Nobody can really know the answers to these politically-charged questions. But as you read the “scoring” of this legislation (to be published by the Congressional Budget Office after passage out of the House Ways and Means Committee), you may consider these items for context: the GDP growth rate in the United States averaged 3.22% from 1947 until 2017; GDP has pleasantly surprised people by breaking the 3% mark the last couple quarters; and the GDP will probably need to go a good bit higher to prevent the bill from adding substantially to the already staggering federal deficit. So listen for what growth rates are assumed in the projections that will be discussed and debated – and draw your own conclusions.

Key provisions affecting businesses

  • Reduces the corporate tax rate: The rate will drop to 20% from the current 35% and is designed to be permanent.
  • Establishes a repatriation tax rate: The repatriation rate on overseas assets for U.S. companies would be as high as 12%. The bill also may include a mandatory repatriation of all foreign assets. Illiquid assets would be taxed at a lower rate, spread out over a longer period than liquid assets like cash.
  • Creates a 25% rate for pass-through businesses: Instead of getting taxed at an individual rate for business profits, people who own their own business would pay at the so-called pass-through rate. (There will be some guardrails on what kinds of businesses can claim this rate to avoid individuals abusing the lower tax.)

Key provisions affecting individuals

  • Creates new individual income brackets:
    • 12% for income up to $45,000 for individuals and $90,000 for a married couple
    • 25% up to $200,000 individual/$260,000 couples
    • 35% up to $500,000 individual/$1 million couples
    • 6% over $500,000 individual/$1million couples
  • Caps state and local property tax deduction at $10,000, but does NOT cap income or sales tax deductions.
  • Eliminates the estate tax: The threshold for the tax, which applies only to estates with greater than $5.6 million in assets during 2018, would double to over $10 million; the plan then phases out the tax after six years.
  • Does NOT change taxation of 401(k) plans.
  • Increases the child tax credit to $1,600 from $1,000. The bill would also add a credit of $300 for each non-child dependent or parent for five years, after which that provision would expire.
  • Limits home mortgage interest deduction: On new-home purchases, interest on loans up to $500,000 would be deductible. (The current limit is $1 million.)
  • Nearly doubles the standard deduction: To avoid raising taxes on those currently in the 10% tax bracket, the standard deduction for all taxes would increase to $12,000 for individuals (up from $6,350) and $24,000 for married couples (up from $12,700).
  • Eliminates most personal itemized deductions and many credits. The only deductions preserved explicitly in the plan are for charitable gifts and edited home-mortgage interest.
  • Repeals the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The tax, which forces people who qualify because of an outsized number of deductions, would be eliminated under the legislation.

Full policy highlights of the bill can be found here.

Keep in mind this is the House’s plan and it will be subject to a different form of scrutiny in the Senate. So regardless all the prior coordination among those working together on this effort for months, some (perhaps many) things will change – they always do!

As for the timeline, it’s hard to say. But we do know that the House Ways and Means Committee will begin hearing amendments this week, and the process could take several days. A vote on the bill by the full House, as it is passed out of Ways and Means, is anticipated to come as early as November 13. From there it goes to the Senate Finance Committee, then full Senate. Optimists hope for something to pass before the end of the year. However, don’t be surprised if the debate isn’t carried over into the beginning of 2018.

Indiana’s delegation members are also weighing in with their views on the new tax bill. Chief among them is Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02), a member of the pivotal House Ways and Means Committee: “Hoosiers deserve every opportunity to achieve success and live the American Dream, and that’s what tax reform is all about. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will help American businesses expand, invest and hire more workers, and it will let middle-class families keep more of the money they earn. It’s time to fix our broken tax code and level the playing field for hardworking Americans by once again making America the best place in the world to do business.”

Resource: Bill Waltz at (317) 264-6887 or email: bwaltz@indianachamber.com 

New Training Grants for Employers Now Available

The Indiana Chamber has been strongly encouraging our state government leaders to take bold action to address Indiana’s current and future workforce needs – a significant concern for many of our members.

We’re pleased to see Gov. Holcomb’s recent rollout of the Next Level Jobs initiative, which will help to further ensure employees have the skills needed to compete in the 21st century workforce.

What does this mean for your business?

Employer Training Grants are available! Employers in high-demand business sectors can be reimbursed up to $2,500 for each new employee that is trained, hired and retained for six months.

• Your employees can also take advantage of Workforce Ready Grants and access free education opportunities to help sharpen their skill set for the changing workforce.

Let us know if you need assistance in navigating these opportunities.

State Wants to Hear From You on How to Streamline Small Businesses Reporting

Cutting red tape for Indiana’s job creators is key to making our state a better place for small businesses to expand and hire more Hoosier workers. To that end, during the 2017 legislative session, the Indiana Chamber supported House Bill 1157, Small Business Duplicative Reporting, which was authored by Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart). The law is simple, but hopefully effective in generating ideas to make early-stage and small business interactions with state government in Indiana even more business-friendly.

As a result of the successful legislation, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation has set up an online survey to gather feedback from employers and government officials on instances of duplicative reporting.

The Indiana Chamber is encouraging small business owners and local governments to take part in the survey. It only takes about five minutes to complete and asks participants to identify situations where they are required by state law, rule or guideline to submit similar information to at least two state agencies. Duplicative information can include notifications, tax reports, employment information and other statistical data.

By helping to identify these issues, the state can work to streamline reporting processes or even eliminate some – which should save business owners time and money.

Ball State Renames Accounting Department for Beloved Professor

Paul Parkison (left) prepares for the celebration when Ball State honored the former professor. Joining Parkison in the Miller College of Business were Anthony W. Smith, ’68 (center), and Terry King (right), then interim president of the university. (Photo by Don Rogers)

Ball State University has renamed its accounting department as the Paul W. Parkison Department of Accounting within its Miller College of Business. The name change honors the former chair and professor who championed student-centered education and built relationships with accountants around the nation. The naming is part of a $3 million legacy campaign. Ball State Magazine reports:

Alumni, friends, former faculty and professional colleagues have always been loyal and compassionate when it comes to Parkison, said Jennifer Bott, the Bryan Dean of the Miller College of Business.

“One of the goals of this campaign was to create a legacy fund that would honor a professor who has touched the lives of thousands of people,” she said. “Whenever I would talk to someone about honoring Dr. Parkison, they would immediately smile and simply ask what they could do. We had more than 300 people give because of their gratitude and love for this man who transformed the department of accounting and Ball State.”

Mentor to several generations
From 1966 to 2001, Parkison, ’58 MA ’61, taught accounting to students who went on to become business and community leaders, entrepreneurs and certified public accountants.

“They put my name on the wall out there, but I had a lot of help over the years,” Parkison said during the dedication ceremony in Whitinger Business Building. “We have developed an excellent program, and it has been growing for years. I think our efforts will help it continue to grow, providing alumni with a lot of pride.”

Paul and Nancy Parkison were the honored guests in early May when alumni, friends, former faculty and professional colleagues gathered to celebrate the dedication of the Paul W. Parkison Department of Accounting.

During his tenure, the number of accounting faculty tripled, Ball State became the first public university in Indiana to achieve separate AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accreditation for its accounting program and the department was ranked in the top 12 percent in the nation.

Chamber Scores Lawmakers on Voting Records, Honors Five as Legislative Champions

Each year, the Indiana Chamber holds state lawmakers accountable for their voting records on pro-jobs, pro-economy legislation. Today the 2017 results were revealed in the organization’s annual Legislative Vote Analysis, with vote scores ranging from 29% to 100%.

“We want employers and citizens to take note of this report because it makes it very clear which legislators were supportive of bettering Indiana’s economic climate and which were not,” states Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

Bills included for examination in the Legislative Vote Analysis can be traced back to the Indiana Chamber’s economic development plan, Indiana Vision 2025 (www.indianachamber.com/2025). The plan contains 36 goals in the four driver areas of Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure, and Dynamic and Creative Culture.

Separately, the Indiana Chamber acknowledged 11 legislators who made a difference in the 2017 session. Five legislators were named Indiana Chamber Legislative Champions for “taking on tough assignments and working diligently to see much-needed policy cross the finish line or at least meaningful debate started,” Brinegar offers.

These legislators are: Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (Dist. 89 – Beech Grove); Rep. David Ober (Dist. 82 – Albion); Sen. Jeff Raatz (Dist. 27 – Centerville); Rep. Holli Sullivan (Dist. 78 – Evansville); and Rep. Ed Soliday (Dist. 4 – Valparaiso). (Why each received the honor is listed on page 6 of the report.

Additionally, appreciation was noted for six lawmakers in leadership positions: House Speaker Brian Bosma (Dist. 88 – Indianapolis); Senate President Pro Tem David Long (Dist. 16 – Fort Wayne); House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning (Dist. 91 – Indianapolis); House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown (Dist. 41 – Crawfordsville); Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee Chairman Brandt Hershman (Dist. 7 – Buck Creek); and Senate Education and Career Development Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse (Dist. 14 – Auburn).

All scores and the full report are available at the Indiana Chamber’s web site at www.indianachamber.com/lva.

Base scores for each legislator are calculated as a percentage of votes cast in agreement with the Indiana Chamber’s position on the bills included in the Legislative Vote Analysis. Six pro-economy, pro-jobs bills were double-weighted to reflect their importance. These include legislation for long-term road funding, ISTEP replacement, pre-K expansion for children from low-income families, an appointed State Superintendent of Public Instruction, a broad energy policy and prohibiting a “ban the box” practice against employers seeking criminal history information on an employment application.

A modest adjustment factor (positive or negative) was added to the Legislative Vote Analysis scoring model to factor in very important legislative activities outside of floor votes. These include whether a legislator sponsored/authored these important bills and whether committee chairs held hearings or killed these bills.

Legislators who score 70% or greater for the most recent four-year voting period are eligible for endorsement by the Indiana Chamber’s political action committee, Indiana Business for Responsive Government.

Lawmakers are notified of the Indiana Chamber position and reasoning on the bills in this report through various communications during the legislative session – and prior to key votes being taken. Only floor votes for which there is a public record are used in the Legislative Vote Analysis.

Copies of the Legislative Vote Analysis report are sent to all legislators and Indiana Chamber board members, and made available online for all businesspersons, community leaders and citizens.

This marks the 33rd year the Indiana Chamber has measured state legislators’ voting performance on bills that reflect the organization’s public policy positions.

Kelley School of Business Indianapolis Seeks Companies Looking for New Growth Opportunities

IUPUI KelleyThe IU Kelley School of Business Indianapolis is looking for central Indiana companies to partner with undergraduate-student teams for its renowned Integrative Core (I-Core) Program. A release from the school has more:

I-Core is a distinguishing component of Kelley’s bachelor’s degree program. Junior-level students take a set of four integrated classes—marketing, finance, supply chain management and team dynamics and leadership—during a single semester. Kelley students say I-Core is one of the most meaningful experiences of their Kelley careers—a rite of passage to understanding the business world and the value of teamwork.

A team of students will meet with company representatives to establish a project that works to benefit the company. Students conduct research, analyze findings and provide a recommendation at the end of the semester.

Students may consider new goods or services, providing a feasibility study of the new product and market. They will determine if return on investment justifies risk and capital investment.

Company representatives are asked to participate in an on-campus meeting to talk about the company’s current business and provide background information to help student analysis.

 Results: Testimonials from company reps and students

Last academic year, one student team worked with RICS Software in Indianapolis. VP of Products and Technology Chris Kozlowski says the I-Core group looked at additional revenue opportunities for the company.

“If you have the resources to spare, and you are looking for ways to think about your business differently, it’s a no-brainer,” Kozlowski said about his experience with the Kelley I-Core team.

“You have students who will think about the ways you do business, and the exercise—just going through the process—is worth it. It’s always nice to hear a different perspective. The fruit is in the ideation that they produce and present to you. It’s a different take on your business, which allows you to see things differently,” said Kozlowski. “The ideas were original and well-thought through. It’s a great exercise because it casts the lens inward a bit. It’s always good to hear new and different ideas.”

Kelley student and supply chain major Salman Al Muqaimi, BS’17, was one of the students who worked with RICS Software.

“Working with RICS Software was a great opportunity,” Al Muqaimi said. “Interacting and working with business professionals taught me that important skill everyone needs to be successful in business: communication. Taking I-Core gave me a better picture of what business is and how companies use the science of business to help them succeed.”

“I consider the I-Core project to be a preparation course for real life in business. I-Core is the gate, and walking through this gate gives you the chance to apply knowledge you’ve learned in the classroom to the real world,” he added.

Chris Gray is the Founder and CEO of Track Ahead, a career development app that facilitates firsthand and indirect engagement between college students and employers to match them based on mutual fit. He also worked with a Kelley I-Core team, who used Track Ahead data to build their own business model.

“When you’re talking to students about an idea, they’re asking questions. Those are often the same type of questions we thought about when the business was just getting started. It puts you back into that ‘day one mindset,’ thinking about the answers to the kinds of questions that hadn’t been thought about in a while,” said Gray. “In the startup world, you have to keep that sort of ‘day one thinking.’ You can’t lose sight of the thought process and the things you were thinking about in the first place. I think it was a good exercise.”

“I would recommend the I-Core experience to any company,” said Gray. “Being involved with Kelley Indy students helps all of us in the business community—to make sure we’re growing and cultivating the next generation. We have to find the time to reach out to them.”

Accounting and finance major Jalen McCoy, BS’18, says I-Core taught him to work efficiently with a team and the importance of being a leader.

“I enjoyed working with a company that genuinely cared about the ideas we came up with,” said McCoy. “The I-Core experience for a company could be an excellent recruiting tool, and students may come up with ideas that act as a catalyst for growth. I know personally that this I-Core experience was truly one of a kind, and I appreciated the participation of the company that I was involved with.”

How to get involved

Please request and fill out an application if you’d like your business to be involved.

Any for-profit organization can apply. The ideal company will have been in business for at least 10 years (minimum of 5 years) and will have shown an operating profit for at least three years (minimum one year). The company must be incorporated as an S corporation, C corporation or an LLC.

If you would like more information on this program, or to request an application, contact Teresa Bennett at tkbennet(at)iupui.edu or at 317 278-9173.

D.C. Fly-in with Congressional Delegation Sept. 16-17

7324001Don’t sit on the sidelines when you could be influencing laws and regulations under discussion in Washington. Make an impact by attending the Indiana Chamber’s D.C. Fly-in on September 16-17. (Note: Our hotel room block expires Sunday so book your reservations this week!)

The event offers business and community leaders an opportunity to speak with Indiana’s congressional delegation and key staff members during a roundtable discussion/dinner on September 16. The second day features a panel of national and state issue experts, followed by numerous group visits to congressional offices.

By September, the 2016 presidential campaign will be in full swing with a number of members of Congress running for re-election. Dominant issues in Washington and beyond will include transportation, tax reform, repatriation of overseas funds, Obamacare and immigration.

Cost is $149 per person and group discounts are available. Each attendee is responsible for securing travel arrangements. Discounted hotel rooms are available for Chamber Fly-in guests at The Liaison Capitol Hill. Register online.

(The D.C. Fly-in is sponsored by Zimmer. The breakfast program is sponsored by Faegre Baker Daniels. Additional sponsorship is provided by Duke Energy. Thanks to these fine businesses for their support.)

Little Steps Can Lead to Big Energy Savings

Business direction background with two people

This column was also posted on Inside INdiana Business.

Indiana possesses a number of advantages in its business climate. One of those traditional benefits has been energy that is adequate, reliable and affordable.

The inexpensive part of that equation has come into question lately. Industrial energy rates that were once among the five lowest in the country are now around the middle of the pack. Federal regulations – ones that often impact Indiana to a greater degree due to its dependence on coal – lead the way as a major cause for the increase.

All companies, not just heavy energy users, can more closely evaluate their usage and likely lower their costs. That subject is the theme of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Connect and Collaborate series – luncheons around the state this summer for Chamber members.

Here is some of the information being shared in the form of 10 energy-saving tips:

  1. Know your costs: Just as we hopefully do or should be doing at home, examine your electric power bill. You have to realize the source of your largest energy costs to be able to potentially have the opportunity to reduce those charges.
  2. Evaluate your contract: Is your current agreement the best deal you can get? You don’t know what’s possible until you ask.
  3. Lighting can be a hidden cost: Are you aware of what type of lights you use? Are they the most efficient? Are unnecessary lights turned off when not needed? Have you considered motion sensors?
  4. Air recycling: Heat rises, making it important to properly recycle your air. Have a professional examine your system. Efficient ceiling fans (or exhaust fans in warmer weather) could make a major difference.
  5. Avoiding the pressure: Steam and air pressure are common ingredients in many industries. Leaking joints, pipes and systems can be a huge energy drain.
  6. Water equals power: If you use water from a municipal treatment plant (or even your own facility), nearly 20% of that cost is energy. Examine your system to eliminate water leaks. You are paying for your water, as well as the energy it takes to process and move the water.
  7. Check the pumps: Workplace pumps are huge energy users. Assess your pumps – are they needed? Could they be changed out for a more efficient model? Would a variable speed pump make more sense?
  8. Transportation troubles: Another personal priority needs to be carried over to the workplace. Car/truck care in the form of proper tire pressure, tune-ups and other maintenance is essential. Companies with multiple vehicles are often well served by having someone responsible for the fleet.
  9. Proper planning: In addition to the modes of transportation, logistics are critical. Efficiently planning trips and scheduling deliveries will help conserve power and enhance productivity. This applies to organizations of all sizes.
  10. Compressing the fuel: Compressed natural gas continues to gain favor among many companies with heavy delivery schedules. An upfront capital outlay is often rewarded with a very timely return on that investment.

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar, I and a local business leader look forward to sharing this information and talking energy with members at each stop on our Connect and Collaborate tour. Your business could be the beneficiary.

Engineering and Business: Collaboration in Education

Brooks G 3047_head_shotThis post from Earl D. Brooks II, Ph.D., president of Trine University and member of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce board of directors, originally appeared in Inside INdiana Business.

The rapidly changing economic environment illustrates the importance of universities to provide both engineering and business programs with innovative curriculum. Such programs are essential because these students will be responsible for engineering, technology and business initiatives in the 21st century.

With that in mind, Trine University has created the College of Engineering and Business to focus on fast-changing economic needs while harnessing opportunities that exist and providing broader educational options.

It is imperative universities respond to circumstances within the contemporary climate of education. More high school graduates are entering college with college credits already earned, requiring universities to develop nontraditional options. While this can reduce student debt, we think universities should also strive to offer creative and unique curriculum to provide an even broader education. At Trine, students bringing credits can earn a bachelor degree in just three years, or opt to earn a bachelor degree and a master degree in four years in the 3 + 1 program.

Trine created three-year bachelor programs and went a step further to offer a one-year master’s degree program for both engineering and business students who choose to enter the 3 + 1 program. These students may earn a bachelor degree in any engineering major in three years and earn a Master of Science in Engineering Management (MSEM) in one year. Business concepts are the nucleus of the MSEM curriculum.

In comparison, students may earn a bachelor degree in any business major in three years and a Master of Business Administration in one year. The MBA curriculum includes engineering fundamentals. Both programs promote the cross-education model of preparing business and engineering students to collaborate and understand each other’s responsibilities for the success of the companies they serve.

Employers tell us there is a gap in the educations of engineering and business students entering the workforce. By responding to this concern, universities can better prepare their students for successful careers.

Engineers are excellent at developing devices and creating technology to advance their employers’ products and/or services, but often they are not equally adept at understanding business processes. Changes in the economic environment demand engineers possess business skills too. Engineering professionals of tomorrow must be self-sufficient business units, regardless of their position. The blending of engineering and business studies should foster this vision.

Traditionally, universities teach engineering knowledge and skills around manufacturing, technology support and product design. In Trine’s College of Engineering and Business, we teach these methods with the additional curriculum to build entrepreneurial skills crucial to develop economically relevant opportunities for business and technology. For example, engineering students of all disciplines can minor in business, preparing them for roles in engineering management, cost accounting, resource acquisition and leveraging, and financial risk management.

Similarly, business students must understand how engineering operations work and how successful engineering and technology companies operate. The curriculum for business students is enhanced by engineering-based courses on innovation, technology planning, development processes and patents. They must also understand the engineers’ perspective along with their problem-solving process and technical limitations they encounter. Businesses cannot sell goods engineers cannot produce and engineers should not produce goods businesses cannot sell.

Universities with a business school model that embraces the entrepreneurial spirit can promote initiatives and experiences to benefit business and engineering students. In Trine’s case, the Rhoads Center for Entrepreneurship along with Innovation One, an innovative service delivery framework within Trine, give business and engineering students the ability to work and learn together. Students team in a collaborative, hands-on environment to develop ideas and concepts along with business plans and more through private-sector projects secured by Innovation One.

Forging relationships between higher education and business and industry benefits students and employers. Such partnerships pave the way for internships, cooperative education and full-time employment. These opportunities enhance experiential learning, raise awareness of employers’ needs and expectations, and expand employment options for graduates.

Keeping pace with today’s fast-moving technologies and economy is the primary motivator in combining engineering and business studies. It is the educator’s responsibility to use a holistic approach to prepare students to be career-ready so they can make an immediate impact.

Isn’t That Sweet? Valentine’s Day Spending is Soaring

FWho loves you, baby?

Valentine’s Day spending will reach $18.9 billion this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Gifts run the gamut, but candy takes the cake with consumers.

Here’s an excerpt from an NRF press release, which has the breakdown:

While most (53.2%) plan to buy candy for the sweet holiday, spending a total of $1.7 billion, one in five (21.1%) plans to buy jewelry for a total of $4.8 billion, the highest amount seen since NRF began tracking spending on Valentine’s gifts in 2010.

Additionally 37.8% will buy flowers, spending a total of $2.1 billion, and more than one-third (35.1%) will spend on plans for a special night out, including movies and restaurants, totaling $3.6 billion. Celebrants will also spend nearly $2 billion on clothing and $1.5 billion on the gift that keeps on giving: gift cards.

It turns out that Valentine’s Day isn’t just for lovebirds. Although 91% of those surveyed plan to indulge their significant others/spouses with gifts, 58.7% will dish out an average of $26.26 on other family members and $6.30 on children’s classmates/teachers.

Delectable chocolates, sweet gestures and a hearty economic impact – you’ve got to love it.