Translating the New Tax Bill for Small Businesses

“Am I going to benefit from the new business deduction?”

“Do I need to incorporate to take advantage of it?”

These are questions I’m hearing a lot since the passage of the massive new tax bill. Much of the worry centers around some misconceptions. So, I’d like to outline what’s in the new provision, who it affects, and why you likely don’t need to change a thing to benefit.

The most important outcome of the new tax law (officially the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA) was to give a large, permanent tax cut to corporations. The corporate tax rate went from 35% to 21%. Those numbers are a little deceptive, because most US corporations don’t pay nearly that rate once you factor in tax credits and loopholes. A 2016 U.S. Government Accountability Office study found that between 67% and 72% of all active US Corporations between 2006 and 2012 had no tax liability after credits. In fact, the effective corporate tax rate (a much more meaningful number) is closer to 15%. But despite the fact that most corporations don’t pay anything close to the corporate tax rate, the point of the TCJA was largely to cut that rate.

But most businesses in the US are small businesses, not large corporations. In fact, 30.2 million businesses (or 99.9% of US businesses) are small businesses, according to a government-sponsored  2018 US Small Business Administration report. About half the private workforce in the US is employed by small businesses, and more than a quarter of the small businesses are minority-owned. However, the big corporate tax cut rate did not help these businesses at all. So rightfully, Congress introduced a provision into the TCJA to create a little more parity, called the deduction for Qualified Business Income (QBI) (also known as Section 199A). This provision, unlike the corporate tax cuts, is strictly for businesses known as “pass-through entities.” (More on that in a moment.)

But first, here’s what it does: …read more…