Beyond the stimulus: Lobbying for biz issues
When it comes to lobbying Congress, industry groups let small business owners roll with the big boys.
(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: I work for a wholesale distribution business that is considering building a new distribution center this year. The U.S. Congress is currently debating an economic stimulus package that would include bonus depreciation that would certainly have an impact on our decision to make an investment now. How can we best express our need for tax relief for small business?
- George Donker, Tulsa, Okla.
Dear George: The good news is that the stimulus package you're talking about has broad, bipartisan support and is making its way to President Bush's desk. As we write, the final bill, which is estimated to cost $168 billion, has been approved by both the House and Senate and is on its way to the President, who is expected to sign it into law on Wednesday.
The bill provides tax rebates to individuals and families, as well as special tax breaks targeted at senior citizens and veterans. It also includes adjustments to business taxes that will allow small businesses to expense, rather than depreciate, up to $250,000 in qualified asset purchases in 2008, compared to $125,000 in a typical year.
Even though things worked out favorably for business owners this time around, it's always good to keep a close eye on what's going on in Washington and how it affects your business, said Dr. Martin A. Regalia, vice president for economic and tax policy and chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber lobbied both House and Senate members extensively in support of the stimulus package, in addition to meeting with members of the Bush administration about elements of the stimulus plan.
When it comes to lobbying your elected representatives, there's safety in numbers, Regalia said.
"I think belonging to a trade association for your industry, or a group like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or your local Chamber of Commerce, are good ways to get your voice heard," he said. "Most small business owners can't afford their own lobbyists the way big businesses can. [Industry groups] are a way to make sure your voice gets heard."
Of course, there's nothing like a personal touch. Regalia said it's always worthwhile for business owners to call on their elected representatives when they're in Washington, D.C., and to see them when they're back home for a visit, too. Knowing where your elected representatives stand on issues that are important to you just makes good business sense, he said.
"It's a lot easier to elect someone who thinks the way you do than to try to change the mind of someone who doesn't," he said.
Regalia added that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is tracking a host of issues that impact small businesses, including talk of a possible second stimulus package. Other issues include the future of the Bush administration's tax cuts, which are set to expire, and the Alternative Minimum Tax, which is aimed at high-net-worth individuals, but ends up hitting a number of small-business owners who file under the individual tax code.