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What the Jobs Act Would Hold For Small Businesses

What the Jobs Act Would Hold for Small BusinessIf job creation starts with the smallest businesses, here are a few measures that may get the ball rolling more quickly

In his address to a joint session of Congress last night, President Barack Obama laid out a wide-ranging -- if not gutsy -- plan for trimming U.S. unemployment rolls and putting U.S. workers back in paying jobs. In addition to assisting the long-term unemployed and veterans, the bill, called the American Jobs Act, proposes to provide federal aid to many of the nation's small-business owners.

"Everyone here knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin," President Obama said in his speech. "For everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for 'job creators,' this plan is for you."

In addition to tax credits for companies that hire new workers and veterans, small business owners would see their own payroll taxes cut in half. According to the President, for those with 50 employees making an average yearly salary of more than $40,000, that’s an $80,000 tax cut. Further, he noted that businesses would see an extension of the provision that allows them to write off 100 percent the cost of new equipment purchases in 2012.

A number of analysts suggest that the expense of the plan -- at $447 billion -- makes passage unlikely. And small-business advocates -- among them, the National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- condemned the plan for not going far enough. But some prominent Democrats and Republicans alike have suggested that at least some of the President's proposals could win their approval.

While it's not clear whether any or all of the elements within the President's plan will become law, the bill he announced yesterday could certainly have an impact on businesses -- both large and small.

Here's a breakdown of 10 proposals that the President suggests will help small businesses hire:

  1. Trimming the payroll tax for small businesses. 
    Rather than pay 6.2 percent of their employees' Social Security payroll tax, all employers would see their obligation cut that in half to 3.1 percent on the first $5 million in wages.

    Related: What a Payroll Tax Holiday Could Mean for Employers 
     
  2. Temporarily eliminating employer payroll taxes.
    For small businesses that create jobs or give raises above the prior year, the President is proposing a full holiday on the 6.2 percent payroll tax firms pay through 2012 for any growth in their payroll up to $50 million above the prior year.
     
  3. Extend and cut in half the existing payroll tax that employees pay. 
    Currently, workers are paying two percentage points less than their 6.2 percent share of their Social Security payroll tax obligation. That amounts to a savings of $1,000 for an average household. Instead, the President proposes to reduce their tax obligation to 3.1 percent through 2012 -- thereby shoring up another $500 a year for the average working family and giving them more money to spend on everyday purchases.
     
  4. Provide incentives to hire unemployed workers and veterans. 
    Employers who hire long-term unemployed workers in 2012 could access an up to $4,000 tax credit. For companies that hire unemployed veterans and service-disabled veterans the credit rises to up to $5,600 and $9,600, respectively. 
     
  5. Extend the 100 percent expensing provision.
    Firms large and small would continue to be able to immediately write off 100 percent of their purchase of new plants and equipment in 2012.
     
  6. Cut red tape to help startup companies raise capital and go public. 
    As part of the Startup America initiative, the administration will work with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to review securities regulations from the perspective of small companies. The aim is to reduce the regulatory burdens on how small businesses access capital. For instance, the administration might expand on "crowdfunding" opportunities and increasing mini public offerings.

    Related: Cutting Out the Red Tape for Small Businesses 
     
  7. Expand free trade agreements. 
    To make it easier for U.S. companies to sell their products in Panama, Colombia and South Korea, the President would sign free trade agreements with those countries. 
     
  8. Eliminate loopholes and lower the corporate tax rate. 
    The President also proposed eliminating tax loopholes and deductions that are typically available only to the biggest U.S. businesses. By doing so, he says lowering the country's corporate tax rates may also be possible. 
     
  9. Speed up payments for federal contracts. 
    For small-business owners with federal government contracts, the President intends to speed up payments. Though, it's unclear by how much. In addition, the President proposed the creation of an online portal for small businesses to access government services.
     
  10. Invest in infrastructure.
    The President would devote about $140 billion toward modernizing schools and repairing roadways and help small-business contractors compete for those infrastructure contracts.
Diana Ransom is deputy editor of Entrepreneur.com.
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