Indiana Climbs in Small Business Policy Index

Indiana ranks seventh in the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council’s 2017 Small Business Policy Index (up from 10th in last year’s ranking).

This is the SBE Council’s 21st annual look at how public policies in the 50 states affect entrepreneurship, small businesses and the economy. The report ranks the 50 states according to 55 different policy measures, including a tax, regulatory and government spending measurements.

According to the report, the most entrepreneur-friendly states under the “Small Business Policy Index 2017” are Nevada, Texas, South Dakota, Wyoming, Florida, Washington, Indiana, Arizona, Alabama, and Ohio. In contrast, the policy environments that rank at the bottom include Rhode Island, Oregon, Iowa, Connecticut, Maine, Hawaii, Vermont, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, and California.

Ellis, Lawrance Bring Chamber Advocacy Team to Full Strength

lawrence ellisThe many programs and benefits of Indiana Chamber membership include the state’s deepest and most effective group of issue experts. That team welcomes two talented additions.

Mark Lawrance returns to the Chamber in the new position of vice president of engagement and innovation policy. That includes advocacy work in the areas of technology, economic development and infrastructure.

Greg Ellis begins his work May 31 as vice president of energy and environmental policy. His variety of public and private sector experiences, including serving as an administrative law judge for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission since 2010, will prove valuable in his work on behalf of Chamber members.

Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar leads an experienced lobbying team that also includes: Caryl Auslander, education, workforce development and federal relations; Mike Ripley, health care policy and employment law; and Bill Waltz, taxation, public finance and local government reform.

“The hard work that takes place in the summer and fall – Chamber policy meetings, interim legislative panels, individual meetings with lawmakers and more – leads to effective General Assembly sessions,” Brinegar says. “Chamber members will be well represented by these issue experts and the support team we have around them.”

Most Small Businesses Really Are Small

Indiana Department of Workforce Development statistics for the first quarter of 2013 revealed that of nearly 160,000 businesses in the state, more than 87,000 had four or fewer employees. Building Indiana magazine published this breakdown:

  • 0 to 4 employees: 87,211 businesses; 54.5% of total
  • 5 to 9 employees: 28,258; 17.7%
  • 10 to 19 employees: 20,160; 12.6%
  • 20 to 49 employees: 14,328; 9.0%
  • 50 to 99 employees: 5,451; 3.4%
  • 100-plus employees: 4,529; 2.8%
  • Total: 159,947 businesses

Gigerich: Indiana Business Climate is Good News, Bad News Scenario

Larry Gigerich of site selector Ginovus penned an informative column for Inside INdiana Business about Indiana's business climate. While we have come a long way and are currently envied by many states, there is still work to be done. He writes:

A few weeks ago, the Kauffman Foundation and Thumbtack.com released an annual ranking of states for their friendliness to small businesses. Indiana ranked 15th for 2013. The study analyzed several factors including items related to tax climate, work force development and regulatory issues. Eight-thousand small businesses were contacted for feedback regarding the study's criteria. Here is how Indiana ranked in each category.

1. Overall Friendliness: B+
2. Ease of Starting a Business: B+
3. Ease of Hiring: F
4. Regulations: C
5. Health and Safety: D
6. Employment, Labor and Hiring: C-
7. Tax Code: D
8. Licensing: A-
9. Environmental: D
10. Zoning: B-
11. Training and Networking Programs: C-

The grades given to Indiana are not surprising. Work force development and job training have been a focus of Governor Mike Pence and the legislature since the beginning of the year. Indiana's educational achievement, continuing learning for adults in the work force and availability of certification/credential programs have not been where they need to be. While progress has been made, there is still much to be done by government, educational providers, not-for-profits and the private sectors.

Indiana has been recognized as a relatively easy place to start and grow a business. This report points to that in terms of licensing, zoning and other factors affecting the launch of a new business.

The tax code ranking is a bit surprising, but the survey asked small businesses if they were paying too much in taxes for their locations. The elimination of the state inheritance tax, which impacts small and family-owned businesses, could help improve this ranking.

Indiana continues to struggle with rankings where health and environmental issues are considered. In particular, the state's obesity and smoking rates are unacceptably high. These items impact healthcare costs, number of missed days of work and quality of life. In terms of the environment, Indiana's long-term large manufacturing presence has impacted water, air and soil quality. While important steps have been taken in the areas, there is much left to be done.

The top five states for small businesses are (in order): Utah, Alabama, New Hampshire, Idaho and Texas. The bottom five are (in order): Illinois, California, Hawaii, Maine and Rhode Island.

In summary, Indiana's ranking relative to the rest of the country is good. Policymakers in the state should focus on ways to improve our weaknesses in order to move Indiana into the top 10. Due to the fact that Indiana has never been a location for large headquarters for companies, small businesses are and will continue to be the lifeblood of the state's economic growth.

IUPUI Symposium Focus: Government and Economic Development

State Governments’ Role in the Economic Development of Advanced Manufacturing and Small Business. It’s an interesting proposition and the title of a September 28 event hosted by the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law on the IUPUI campus.

The Program on Law and State Government Symposium includes addresses from two program fellows and a series of panel discussions. The focus is on how law and policy intersect with economic development strategies and identifying potential solutions for growing the employment base of the industrial Midwest.

Additional details and registration information are available.

Small Business Owners Send Clear Message in Poll

Small business owners are confident, but economic growth is not following due to too many regulations and concerns about energy prices. Those are among the results in the latest U.S. Chamber small business survey. More than eight in 10 respondents want Washington to "get out of the way."

Concerns about regulations and energy prices continue to impede growth for small businesses, according to a recent poll commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive between March 27 and April 2, 2012, found that while small business confidence grew in the first quarter of 2012, small businesses continue to lose employees. 30% of small businesses reported laying off employees in the last year.

“This survey confirms that slow gains in economic growth are being undermined by uncertainty over rising gas prices, an onslaught of pending regulations, and stalled pro-growth bills in Congress,”  said Dr. Martin Regalia, the Chamber’s chief economist. “To deliver long-term confidence to small businesses, Washington should act to provide certainty and enact regulatory reform that will boost their ability to grow.”

The poll of 1,339 small business executives found that eight out of ten of small business owners cite higher energy prices as an immediate threat to the success of their business. Concern about gas prices has more than doubled in the last three months, increasing from 10% to 24%. The majority of small businesses (78%) do not think the administration is doing enough to keep prices low, increase domestic sources of energy, or support American job creation. Additionally, three out of four (73%) say the new health care law is an obstacle to hiring new employees.

Overall small businesses see Washington as the problem instead of the solution, with 81% asking Washington to get out of the way and 92% believing the business community is the best entity to lead the economic recovery.

Almost all small business owners (97%) say it is important to vote for a candidate who is a strong supporter of free enterprise; 84% say it is very important. Only 9% of small business owners approve of the job the Democratic Senate Majority is doing on the economy; 87% disapprove. The House Republican majority’s approval rating on handling the economy has increased from 40% approval in January to 46% in April.

“Small business owners are increasingly demanding accountability from members of Congress on how they vote on the issues that impact their operations,” said the Chamber’s Senior Vice President and National Political Director Rob Engstrom. “We’re seeing small businesses unable to hire, or worse, forced to let employees go because of the Senate’s refusal to take up job-creating measures like domestic energy exploration and regulatory reform.”

The survey defined a small business as a company with fewer than 500 employees and annual revenues of less than $25 million.  To read a complete copy of the Q1 Small Business Outlook Survey, please visit: http://www.uschambersmallbusinessnation.com/community/small-business-outlook-survey—march-2012

Small Businesses: Avoid These Mistakes When Buying Health Benefits

It’s a tough world out there for small businesses. That’s one of the big reasons Chambers like ours exist, I suppose. But in recent years, the burdens of health insurance have grown remarkably, often being a key reason some have had to close their doors. So here’s a valuable blog from Forbes about the top 10 mistakes small businesses make when buying health benefits. Here’s the list, but read the full article for more detail:

  1. They fail to hire a qualified agent, broker or consultant to help.
  2. When selecting an agent, broker or consultant, they rush through the interviews.
  3. They fail to decide in advance what they can afford.
  4. They do not research the market.
  5. They release their employees’ personal information while shopping.
  6. They’re afraid of high-deductible medical plans.
  7. They offer their employees “free” benefits.
  8. They forget to make parts of the plan optional.
  9. They are careless when discussing healthcare options with employees.
  10. They enjoy shopping for health care plans too much.

 

IRS Decision Good News for Small Businesses

You don’t hear this often: Kudos to the IRS. They’ve stopped plans that would have been a nightmare for small business recordkeeping. The Phoenix Business Journal reports:

The Internal Revenue Service has dropped plans to require businesses to reconcile their receipts from credit card transactions with reports filed with the IRS by third-party payment entities.

Legislation enacted in 2008 requires these third parties to report how much every merchant is paid each year through credit cards, debit cards or services like PayPal. For the 2012 tax year, the IRS planned to require businesses to reconcile their records with these third-party reports when they file their tax returns.

The IRS decided to drop this requirement after complaints from small-business owners, who said it would pose a significant burden on them. They noted that the amount recorded on credit or debit card purchases often does not equal the revenue a business receives from the transaction. For example, customers often get cash back on debit card purchases or receive cash when they return merchandise purchased with credit cards.

Legislation to overturn the requirement recently was introduced in the House. On Feb. 9, however, the IRS told small-business groups it would not impose the reconciliation requirement for 2012 tax returns, “nor do we intend to require reconciliation going forward.”

“We appreciate your work with us in this and other areas as we continually seek to improve our processes and to minimize compliance burden on taxpayers,” wrote Steven Miller, the IRS’ deputy commissioner for services and enforcement.

Business groups praised the agency’s decision.

“The IRS did the right thing, and they should be applauded for listening to the concerns of the small-business community,” said Giovanni Coratolo, vice president of small-business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“We were very pleased that the IRS took time to listen and work with us to resolve this matter in a satisfactory manner,” said Bill Hughes, senior vice president for government affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association. “This will relieve retailers of an unnecessary burden while still providing the IRS with the tools it needs to ensure tax compliance.”

Dan Danner, CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, called the IRS reversal on the reconciliation requirement “a small, but important victory for small business."

Inheritance Tax Bills Aim to Lessen Burden on Small Businesses

Both the House and the Senate have now passed legislation addressing the inheritance tax. However, the bills take very different approaches in how they choose to deal with the egregious tax. The House bill (HB 1199) is simple and straightforward, slowly phasing the tax out over 10 years. The Senate bill (SB 293) is a little more complicated but makes a combination of meaningful improvements that offers more immediate relief for many.

These bills and their approaches are different but they are by no means incompatible. They could easily be combined to produce a ‘best of both’ bill – immediate relief, in the form of raised exemption thresholds and expanding the beneficiaries that are most favorably treated (as in the Senate bill) coupled with the permanence of a phase-out (as in the House bill). The easiest way to make this blend happen would be to replace the 50% rate reduction in SB 293 with a 50% credit, then proceed to phase the tax out over the following five years by increasing the credit an additional 10% each year thereafter. The hope is that would be a final product everyone can live with.

Bill # and Title: SB 293 – Inheritance Tax
Author: Sen. Jim Smith (R–Charlestown)
Summary: Reclassifies a spouse, widow or widower of a child of the transferor as a Class A transferee instead of a Class B transferee. Reclassifies a spouse, widow or widower of a stepchild of the transferor as a Class A transferee instead of a Class C transferee. Annually increases the inheritance tax exemption amounts through 2015. Reduces the inheritance tax rates by 50% beginning June 30, 2016.
Chamber Position: Support
Status: Passed the full Senate on Tuesday 50-0.

Update/Chamber Action: This bill addresses several negative aspects of Indiana’s inheritance tax. It updates who is included in the more favorably-treated category of inheritors (Class A beneficiaries) by redefining the group to encompass not just the children, but also the spouses of a child or stepchild. It also phases in significant increases in the ridiculously low threshold for the amounts that are excluded/exempted from the tax. And finally, starting in 2016, it cuts the rates in half. So the bill takes very meaningful steps to improve the tax, but it doesn’t go all the way and put Indiana on a course to completely rid our citizens of the onerous tax.

The Indiana Chamber, in its testimony at the hearing, acknowledged the very substantial steps that this bill provides in terms of lessening the detrimental impact of this tax and that it smartly addresses the standout problems. However, we took the opportunity to point out that while this bill provides more immediate relief than the House approach (see below), it falls short by not eliminating the tax altogether like the House version does via a scheduled (albeit slow) 10-year phase-out. We suggested that blending this bill’s more immediate improvements with the House bill’s ultimate elimination would represent the best amalgamation of policy choices. Our efforts during the second half of the session will be to promote the wisdom of combining the best provisions of the House and Senate bills as each is considered by the opposite chamber.

Bill # and Title:  HB 1199 – Inheritance Tax
Author: Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero)
Summary: Provides for a gradual, 10-year phase out of the inheritance tax, beginning July 1, 2013.
Chamber Position: Support
Status: Passed the full House 78-17.

Update/Chamber Action: The merits of doing away with this offensive tax are becoming more widely accepted as legislators consider its impact on small family businesses in their communities. This was evidenced by the bipartisan support it received as it easily passed out of the Ways and Means Committee. The Indiana Chamber is working hard to make sure everyone truly appreciates just how counter-productive the tax is, who is impacted, how they are impacted and why the state would be better off without it.

Occupation – Freedom and Capitalism

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself sitting at the corner of Freedom Street and Capitalism Boulevard, right in the middle of what seemed to be the Occupy Commerce movement. During the roughly 10 minutes of my sit-in, though, it was apparent that this movement was more than simply some people occupying a place, it was a way of life that involved the true spectrum of occupation as only occurs regularly in America.

Indeed, the setting was quintessentially Americana in the modern era – a large, new, sleek, upscale hotel and conference center, squarely at the hub of a city that has been reinvented in recent decades – Indianapolis. The scene was bustling with people of all colors and ethnicities. There were the young, the old, and the middle-aged, like me. Business people in big boy and big girl clothes heading to an annual awards dinner shared the grand hallways with couples vacationing, enjoying the fruits of their labor, and with high school students visiting the Midwestern metropolis for a religious-oriented convention.

Some of the participants in this movement moved quickly by our small (two-person) temporary sit-in. A few, however, slowed down to converse with my newly found friend, Jerry, and me. We spoke of the weather, the evening ahead, our families and, of course, business.

A handful of the passers-by, some Catholic student conventioneers, actually took photos of my new friend, our host Vivian, and me. The kids were full of energy, taking in their surroundings, awkwardly moving through the setting of adults on their own journey to adulthood. What the students were capturing in their own photography was not celebrity or even one of the numerous and beautiful sites of downtown Indy. What the students were capturing with the latest of the digital medium, their cell phones/cameras/internet devices, was something as simple as two men, one woman and two chairs.

At first I found this youthful paparazzi to be odd, then humorous and then hopeful. Whether these polite young adults intended to eventually use the photos to mark and remember their days in the city or simply post their visual art and add funny, snarky comments to share with their friends, this movement caught their attention. Perhaps in a really small, but significant way, these youngsters were digitizing for posterity an element of their own aspirations that captured their attention.

Let me explain: What caught the attention of the teens was something pretty simple – a small business, its proprietor and two guys in suits, enjoying a brief respite and the luxury of a shoeshine. Watching these kids who were capturing and even participating in this scene was inspiring as I thought of the background stories around me.

As we sat comfortably at the shoeshine stand, Jerry, a well-known and well-respected leader of business and philanthropy engaged our fellow capitalist, Vivian, with conversation. While polite and friendly, Jerry’s assiduous enquiry was deeper than the usually forgettable small talk. He asked Vivian, or “V” as she prefers, about her business. How did she get started? How long had she been in business? At what times of day or week was business best? Did she have plans for expansion?

Listening to the banter of these two business people, the sole-proprietor entrepreneur and the CEO whose business claims the name of a skyscraper, was inspirational — he with gracious, yet penetrating business questions, she with fast, detailed, proud answers. His questions and exchanges reflected the respect he inspires in those who know him well and those who know only of him. Her answers were inspirational because they reflected countless stories that have preceded hers – stories founded on the principles of hard work, risk taking, and the desire to improve one’s own lot in life.

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