Small Businesses Swim in a Sea of Uncertainty
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A new survey of small businesses offers more evidence that policy uncertainty is playing a critical role in holding back economic growth and job creation. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released the 2012 edition of the “Small Business Problems & Priorities” report that digs into what issues small businesses worried about the most. Uncertainty in many forms ranks high. Here are 2012’s top small business problems:
- Cost of Health Insurance [2008 rank = #1]
- Uncertainty over Economic Conditions [new]
- Cost of Natural Gas, Propane, Gasoline, Diesel, Fuel Oil [#2]
- Uncertainty over Government Actions [new]
- Unreasonable Government Regulations [#6]
- Federal Taxes on Business Income [#3]
- Tax Complexity [#5]
- Frequent Changes in Federal Tax Laws and Rules [#15]
- Property Taxes (real, inventory or personal property) [#4]
- State Taxes on Business Income [#7]
Let’s unpack this. “Uncertainty over Economic Conditions” and “Uncertainty over Government Actions” were both added as choices this year and immediately became the second- and fourth-most-important problems. The report fleshes out small businesses’ concerns:
In the last four years, the federal government approved legislation to overhaul the financial industry, the healthcare system and promote economic stimulus. The upheaval in policy changes is immense and will continue as the regulatory system works to implement the laws’ directives. In addition to the headline reform efforts, regulators of other government agencies are also broadening rulemaking efforts in areas of employment and the environment.
Going further down the list we have worries about taxes (#6, #7, and #8). This shouldn’t be a surprise. The 2001/2003 tax cuts are set to expire as part of the impending fiscal cliff, and the federal tax code is universally slammed for being too complex.
My take from this survey is small businesses are swimming in a sea of uncertainty. After enduring the hardest recession since the Great Depression, small business owners now cope with a lackluster recovery and a host of new laws and policy uncertainties.
Earlier this week, Katie Denis wrote about a Gallup poll that found that 56% of small business owners wanted a more certain business environment before they made new investments. It’s tough enough running a small business, but Washington isn’t making it any easier.