After reading about small business tax law changes this weekend, I have an even deeper respect for tax accountants than I had before. 

The complicated provisions of Section 199A of the new tax law are purported to be highly advantageous to small business.  Odd, as I have heard not one local business owner reference this forthcoming “windfall.”

Step back a minute.  Who spends a beautiful summer weekend reading tax law and why??

I harbor a growing concern that progressive communities like ours increasingly label “business” as the bad guy.  Social media especially is replete with references to people and policies that must be bad for residents if they are good for business.  This simplistic trope pits humanity against business, in a Dickensian battle of good versus evil.

The narrative gains steam when policies and programs, especially on the national level but locally as well, are advertised as good for small business.  Politicians like to cite “Main Street USA” and “mom-and-pop shops” in their sound bites.  In reality, their definition of “small” is much larger than what we think of when we reference “small” in our community.  We are smaller than small. 

Our community boasts micro independent solo-preneurships, usually built around an owner’s dream and need to make a living.  There is little scale and less profit.  In contrast, the federal government defines “small business” as any company with up to $7 million in revenue and 500 employees.  That’s not us.

So I cringe with every headline that boasts another boon for “small” business.  Each one is more fodder for the anti-business sentiment that our local businesses don’t deserve.  Following this week’s announcements regarding the new so-called pro-small business tax law, I decided to learn more.

Not surprisingly, the new tax law won’t meaningfully benefit most micro-small businesses here.  It might help manufacturers or makers, which are rare here, but it is unlikely to impact service industry businesses.  And of course, tax breaks only help if you have substantial profit – something also quite rare here.

Independent local “small” business is hard.  Success depends more on our relentless support than policies coming out of government.

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Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...