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Extending tax cuts to small businesses, families, and individuals will cost almost $920 billion through 2029, according to Congress’s non-partisan scorekeeper.According to a report issued on Monday by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the cuts would increase the deficit by $1 trillion over the next ten years. Admittedly, the Committee projected economic growth of only 0.7% per year.On the other hand, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s report suggests the tax cuts and the overall budget would stimulate economic growth to 2.9% per year in the same period. The projected prosperity and tax revenue would be enough to offset the tax cuts. A Politico report estimated that, following the tax cuts, all additional revenue from increased economic growth would go toward paying for them. The cost might be too high for the tax cuts to pay for themselves, further increasing debt and deficit. All the projected figures would add to the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul from back in 2017 when the Congress passed a law featuring a wide array of temporary tax cuts such as generous child tax credits, a 20% deduction on pass-through businesses profits, and lower individual rates. In spite of the seemingly for-the-people attitude behind the 2017 law, Democrats have criticized it for having made tax cuts for individuals and small business temporary, while making the tax cuts for corporations permanent.The 2017 temporary tax breaks for individuals and small businesses will all expire in 2025, but Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget request is likely to request that they be made permanent. The permanent corporate tax changes cut the rate to 21%.Nevertheless, this decision is unlikely to sit well with the Senate. Still under Republican rule, the House attempted to make individual tax cuts permanent last year, likely in search of political support on the eve of the midterm elections. The Senate refused to advance the bill. The next conflicting decision lawmakers will be forced to make will hit them in 2025, the expiration year for individual tax cuts. They will be forced to choose between extending the expensive cuts or raising taxes on families and small businesses right before the 2026 midterm elections.Still, this issue is not unheard of, since lawmakers of both parties are prone to extending tax breaks into infinity rather than making them permanent. The two-party system results in members being reluctant to erase the changes they had initially inserted into the code. Tax cuts passed in 2001, which were later enhanced by George W. Bush were set to expire in 2010. They ended up being extended for two additional years. One must also keep in mind that the 2017 decision to enable the individual tax cuts was driven by necessity rather than a particular political opinion. Lawmakers were supposed to fit the cuts within the $1.5 trillion loss the Congress had previously allotted. The lawmakers then claimed they would vote to extend the cuts at a later time.

By Andrea July 09,2019

The Wharton Small Business Development Center, a division of the Snider Research Center of Wharton Entrepreneurship, is closing at the end of July.The decision was made after two years of careful assessment. The number of existing small-business support services in the area and their impact were prime factors. Wharton decided it’s no longer as useful and rewarding in the role of a small business supporter due to the abundant availability of similar resources. Instead, Wharton is expected to focus on “evidence-based entrepreneurship,” according to Karl Ulrich, vice dean of entrepreneurship and innovation at Wharton, who oversees the Wharton SBDC. This term stands for translating the useful and practical but still somewhat scholarly literature on what makes a business successful into actionable tools.For almost 40 years, thousands of small businesses and entrepreneurs have benefited from Wharton’s free and low-cost services. Highly esteemed Ivy League business professors and students contributed to the once indispensable resource for U.S. startups. Sabre Systems, Urban Outfitters, and Destination Maternity all sought advice from this once prominent institution. Della Clark is the president of another such business - the Enterprise Center. This West Philadelphia nonprofit has been preparing minorities for entrepreneurship since 1989, when it was founded by Wharton SBDC. “We wouldn’t exist today if they didn’t have the vision to open up the Enterprise Center,” she said.As a part of the Wharton program, participating students and professors would assist entrepreneurs in putting together business and marketing plans, applying for bank loans, and overcoming strategic issues. Every year, the program provided one-on-one training to between 350 and 550 clients, along with workshops for another 500 of them. Wharton Small Business Development Center is a division of the Snider Research Center of Wharton Entrepreneurship. The state Department of Community and Economic Development, as well as the U.S. Small Business Association, have been contributing to the program with a total of $500,000 per year.  “Because Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship priorities are not fully aligned with the PA SBDC mission, we would prefer to release our public funding back to the network so that those resources can be deployed at other SBDCs around the commonwealth,” Ulrich commented.Ulrich added that there is another contributing factor to the closing of Wharton other than the proliferation of privately owned incubators for startups in Philadelphia. Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, chose to put special emphasis on technology and life sciences as future entrepreneurial ventures. The result was the Pennovation Center—a tech-focused incubator opened in 2016, back when Wharton’s future was first called into question. On Monday, Ernie Post, state director of Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers, stated that about 75% of the funding initially meant for Wharton SBDC will be allocated to Widener SBDC, in an effort to expand its influence beyond Delaware County into Philadelphia.Lenin Agudo, director of Widener SBDC, said his mission is to form partnerships with entrepreneurial groups in the Philadelphia area. “It’s a big challenge, but at the same time it’s an opportunity to deliver innovative programming to Philadelphia-area entrepreneurs,” Agudo said.

By Andrea July 09,2019

If the Small Business Cybersecurity Assistance Act makes it through the Congress, U.S. small businesses will gain access to top-notch cybersecurity training, consulting, tools, and resources developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently introduced the Act. If the bipartisan bill goes through, it will enable the DHS and Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) to work together towards developing rock-solid cybersecurity strategies that help small businesses ward off cyber attacks.Small businesses are frequent targets of cybercriminals since they lack the financial resources to implement robust cybersecurity defenses. DHS’s expertise, together with a managed security service provider’s experience, could make small businesses less susceptible to attacks.The bill authorizes U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to become a cybersecurity clearinghouse with access to cybersecurity materials, resources and protocols belonging to the federal government.Once the collaboration is approved, and plans and strategies are developed, small businesses would be able to find all the information they need to stay safe in one place. SDBC counselors would also receive training from DHS specialists for cybersecurity outreach to small businesses.The Act allows SBDCs to use their SBA grant funding to deliver technical cybersecurity training and resources to small businesses. The DHS must first develop online cybersecurity materials tailored for small businesses.When particularly successful cyber attacks hit small businesses, their networks and the ability to operate are compromised. It takes businesses days and even weeks at a time to resume their work, all the while adding costs in money, clients, and hurting the company image. The financial ramifications can be detrimental to the victims’ future, and some small businesses might never recover.The bipartisan bill reduces cybersecurity risks small businesses face on a daily basis, by providing greater access to key resources and training. Once the employees and owners are able to recognize cyber threats and react promptly, businesses can better protect themselves before a cyber attack even occurs.Some of the bill’s mechanics originate from the Small Business Development Cyber Strategy report by DHS and the SBA. Peters and Rubio referenced the report a great deal when they debuted the bill, as it details the usual setbacks and challenges small businesses face when implementing a cybersecurity strategy.In March 2018, Rubio introduced two other similar bills concerning small business cybersecurity. The Small Business Cyber Training Act would authorize SBDC counselors to provide cyber planning assistance to small businesses. On the other hand, the Small Business Administration (SBA) Cyber Awareness Act would require the SBA to come up with a cybersecurity strategy. The Senate has yet to vote on both bills.Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) introduced the companion legislation in the House two months ago. The bipartisan measure is not part of the House version of the yearly National Defense Authorization Act.

By Andrea July 11,2019

Signpost is a Chelsea-based tech company helping businesses stack up positive online reviews, and build a strong online following by engaging preexisting customers and acquiring new ones. According to Crunchbase data, the company has raised a total of $88.6 million over seven rounds of funding, counting the new $52 million boost.According to a 2018 survey by Review Trackers, 63.6% of consumers check reviews on Google before committing to a purchase. And yet, only 28% of customers are willing to leave a positive review.This means that, even if you have numerous satisfied customers, two negative reviews might be all your potential users see when they visit your profile. Online reviews can make or break a business, and Signpost has identified a vital market need to address.Signpost has been helping companies leave the best possible impression on potential customers since 2010. Its methodology of encouraging and collecting internal feedback from previous customers involves sending reminders to users, prompting them to share positive and negative reviews on Yelp, Facebook, and Google. With access to behavioral data from more than 70 million U.S. customers, Signpost also helps companies acquire and engage new customers.All of this is achieved using Mia, a subscription-based digital personal assistant. Mia’s many features automate customer feedback and follow-ups. The price varies depending on the package: a basic plan costs $199, and a $399 pro subscription is paid monthly and provides some additional tools and services."We consistently find that businesses have really happy customers, yet they may have a bad rating online," said CEO Stuart Wall. "Their only review might be that one person who had a bad experience."The firm has expanded its workforce to about 200 employees, 70 of them based in New York. The rest work in Denver and Austin. This week, the company moved to a 12,000 square foot office space on 275 Seventh Ave. in Chelsea. The new work environment will likely accommodate even more people as Signpost expands its workforce to increase sales and research staff.As an example of exactly what Signpost does for its customers, picture a gym, a place which primarily makes money on people paying for a service and never using it. Mia might help runaway clients renew their subscription by sending automatic offers for a 10% discount on new sessions."We're not just giving insights, we are taking action," Wall added.

By Andrea July 12,2019

Recently, Mastercard, an American multinational financial services corporation, announced its partnership with Zoho, an Indian software development company.Zoho’s platform can offer Mastercard’s small business customers accounting, marketing, and CRM tools and resources, and help them increase efficiency and accelerate growth. Running small businesses could become easier, more efficient, and ultimately, more profitable for business owners on a global scale.Every business aims to increase its productivity and efficiency, and small businesses are especially vulnerable due to limited budgets, which leave them heavily reliant on seeds and organic growth. It is vitally important for them to save time and money, and Zoho’s newly available products, tools, and services can help automate and digitize time-sensitive and paper-based processes.Expanding its partnership in India to the whole world, Mastercard and Zoho are enabling simpler business operations for a number of new SMBs. Pairing Mastercard’s and Zoho’s smart solutions is meant to help address minuscule but costly, demanding, and seemingly insurmountable issues to help businesses survive and generate profit.Zahir Khoja, the executive vice president at Mastercard, said that entrepreneurs will benefit from the partnership and that it will subsequently drive job creation, productivity, and growth worldwide. It is therefore critical that Mastercard finds adequate partners and assists business owners on their journey to success.Small businesses account for almost 50% of the world’s GDP and employ over two-thirds of the global workforce. With the help of Mastercard’s partnerships, small businesses can leverage various solutions such as resource planning, customer relationship management, marketing solutions, and finance software.Sridhar Vembu, the CEO of Zoho Corporation, stated that he was excited to partner with Mastercard, a company committed to empowering small businesses. The partnership, according to Mr. Vembu, connects SMBs with innovative applications that enable them to access, analyze, and manage real-time data, critical to their success. Cooperation facilitates business owners’ daily responsibilities and helps them thrive. Mastercard and Zoho’s joint mission is to fuel the worldwide small business economy and benefit a wide array of communities.Zoho is a cloud-based platform with flexible technology that makes integrating solutions and bringing them to the market easier for business owners. Currently, its user base consists of more than 45 million businesses. Its technology stack is flexible and accessible via website and app and can be delivered via API, with over 40+ apps across a range of categories.Zoho and Mastercard expect to make their joint solutions available later this year.

By Andrea July 15,2019

A recent report discovered that small businesses are leading the way in workforce investment and economic growth, despite resource constraints. Small businesses across the United States displayed a growing commitment to wage growth, workforce training, and healthcare - one of the biggest issues small business owners have to tackle.  Goldman Sachs surveyed 2,285 small business owners that graduated from their 10,000 Small Businesses program. The results have been published in a "Voice of Small Business in America: 2019 Insights Report," released on Sept. 5, 2019. The report was developed in partnership with Babson College. The now apparent success of small businesses might reinforce economic support for these types of business ventures, and prompt a constructive dialogue between small business owners, and capital providers. The survey was administered by Morning Consult, an independent, third-party market research firm. Asahi Pompey, the president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, and the Global Head of Corporate Engagement, stated that small businesses are vital to the health of the economy, adding that supporting their growth is of critical value. Small businesses are more likely to provide their workers with the appropriate training, healthcare, and wage growth, even if it means reducing their bottom line. According to Richard Bliss, National Academic Director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Babson College, the report only confirms what we’ve known for years. Hiring the right people is the biggest challenge for growing small businesses, and the growing skills gap should be narrowed down ASAP. Small businesses need a “strong talent pipeline,” an idea that requires more work.  Here are some of the key findings the Voice of Small Businesses in America report came up with:  Biggest Challenges:  As many as 76% of surveyees reported that the main challenge they face is attracting, hiring, and retaining employees. Also, most business owners claim that they appreciate a positive attitude, integrity, and willingness to learn new things more than education and experience.  Minimum wage increase:   Small businesses are in favor of a higher minimum wage, in spite of its potential impact on their bottom line. Even though 65% of respondents believe the increase would have impacted their earnings negatively, 80% of business owners believe the minimum wage should increase.  Healthcare: Even though only 8% of respondents are required to provide healthcare, most business owners provide at least some health benefits for a number of their employees. ACA does not obligate them to do so, but they invest in this issue anyway, as they believe it’s “the right thing to do.” Taxes and the Government Shutdown:  The study found that 46% of surveyees do not know how the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affects their business. Almost 40% of business owners reported a negative impact following the government shutdown in late 2018 and early 2019.  The effects of automation:  As many as 71% of business owners employ some form of automation. Still, this process only resulted in 5% of respondents laying off employees. In fact, 35% simply changed the employees’ positions, and 32% even hired new people.   Gender issues:  While 77% of male respondents are optimistic about the current economy, only 65% of women concur. The results are likely linked to almost ⅕ of women reporting difficulties with securing financial support due to their sex. Only 2% of men claimed the same.

By Andrea September 11,2019

According to recent research, rising healthcare costs are not sustainable for small business owners. They are open to a variety of options to alleviate the costs, including joining forces to advocate for their interests. The Commonwealth Fund has conducted a national survey of 500 small business employers. Industry experts and small business owners answered several questions via phone or through focus groups. The survey was carried out among businesses with 500 or fewer employees. As many as 37% of small business employers cited healthcare costs as their top concern, more challenging than the rising federal taxes, or attracting new quality employees. Most respondents (69%), claimed they only expected the issue to get worse. The smaller the business, the more burdensome the issue: the survey found that 45% of business owners with 2-25 employees claim the strain of healthcare costs is a major problem. On the other hand, 30% of these respondents estimated this was only a minor issue.  Despite their struggles with covering healthcare expenses, small business owners are reluctant to delegate the rising costs to employees. Less than half (48%) said they had raised employees’ deductibles and copays, and 25% demanded the workers should pay higher premiums. Additionally, 16% of employers have done away with dependent coverage in its entirety.  Researchers have found that small business owners are working towards alleviating the problem. In order to accomplish this goal, however, small businesses need policymakers to assist them in order to stay competitive and continue to employ millions of Americans in the future.  When it comes to alleviating healthcare costs, business owners are largely results-oriented, and support policies from across the political spectrum. Both regulatory and market-based solutions are acceptable for small business owners, as long as they curb healthcare costs.  Covering the rising cost of healthcare is a huge issue for small business owners, and many would resort to “Medicare for All” as one of the top solutions, according to the study.  About a third of respondents support some form of medicare: 34% actively support “Medicare for all,” and 35% are sturdily in favor of a Medicare or Medicaid buy-in plan. Finally, 38% of respondents strongly support the creation of a national, government-administered plan.  The study also indicated that half of the respondents strongly support price-cap regulations for patient’s out-of-pocket costs, while 56% are firmly in favor of policies forcing drug companies to post their list prices. On the other hand, as many as 48% of interviewees are in favor of reduced health insurance bureaucracy and regulations.  The one solution of particular interest is working together towards lowering the burden of healthcare costs. As many as 90% of respondents stated that they are willing to join forces in order to advocate for lower costs. A whopping 76% of interviewees are willing to join a business owners association to tackle this issue, and 59% would consider forming an organization to provide group coverage.  Finally, the survey confirmed that small business owners want the current state of affairs to change and are willing to work together and take pragmatic steps to make this happen. 

By Andrea September 12,2019

The state of Illinois has decided to touch up their human rights laws, going several steps further than the existing federal regulations. Small businesses will have to abide, and as a result, the future of many companies is at stake.Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill that will take effect next July. According to the new bill businesses with fewer than 15 workers are no longer exempt from the Illinois Human Rights Act. Jim Bennett, the director of the Illinois Department of Human Rights, takes pride in this “fundamental piece of legislation,” providing protection for sexual harassment, disability, pregnancy, and other types of discrimination. Currently, the Illinois Human Rights Act only covers employers who employ 15 or more people for a minimum of 20 calendar weeks out of the year. The new proceedings will provide different requirements for the way claims are processed, decided, litigated, and ultimately, published. Also, discrimination prevention and training will become mandatory for many institutions. The new bill is only one of several human rights-related bills Pritzker has signed. Some other examples include the Workplace Transparency Act, requiring workers to use the Illinois Department of Human Rights sexual harassment prevention training program, or provide a similar alternative. Every year, employers will be required to report the number of judgments or rulings involving unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment to the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Furthermore, every bar and restaurant is required to implement sexual harassment prevention and training policies. The mandatory training, transparency, and prevention of this type of unlawful behavior is not the primary concern of small businesses, however. Even now, some discrimination protections bypass the 15-employee threshold and can be applied to small businesses. The bills, which are set to take effect in July of 2020 have raised some concerns because legal fees and settlements associated with the lawsuits could put some employers out of business. Mark Grant, the executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Illinois chapter, expressed concern over business owners having to close down due to potential lawsuits. Even a frivolous lawsuit, he claims, could cost businesses enough in legal fees to cause bankruptcy. Some businesses, however, will remain exempt from the law, including religious institutions, and companies which employ 15 workers or less for over 20 calendar weeks - affecting owners who hire seasonal help. 

By Andrea September 12,2019