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The big problem with taxes on small business

It's here. A day that nobody looks forward to. A day when we have to reach into our pockets and cut a check for Uncle Sam: Tax Day. While it has never been the most popular day of the year, somehow, Tax Day – and all of the stress, labor, and money that go into preparing for it —has gotten worse, particularly for family businesses and entrepreneurs.

Small town USA
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Every year Americans spend 6.1 billion hours preparing their taxes—time I'm sure each of us wishes we could get back. The cost of all those hours adds up very quickly. It is estimated that complying with the tax code cost our economy $234 billion in productivity last year alone. By the time this Tax Day is over, half of America's small businesses will have spent at least five thousand dollars coming to terms with their tax bills.

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This time and money is wasted in large part by the tax code's daunting complexity. In fact, a recent survey found that complexity of the tax code is actually a more significant problem for America's small businesses than their overall tax liability. Imagine that—businesses are so fed up with not knowing what to do and how to do it that they can't even focus on what they're losing to the IRS.

It is not just businesses that find the tax code intimidating; experts do, too. Douglas Shulman, the former IRS Commissioner, pays someone else to prepare his taxes because he also finds the process too "complex." If the former executive in charge of our tax system can't find time to decipher his own taxes, how can we expect a family business to successfully clear this hurdle year after year?

No matter what they might be starting with, an entrepreneur trying to get a new business off the ground operates on a shoestring budget. Time and resources they're devoting to tax preparation don't benefit their business or employees.

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Take Scott Lipps, a constituent of mine, as an example. His family has been in the mattress business in Franklin, Ohio for 24 years. The family business started with four people and now proudly employs 15. Scott's business provides employees with health insurance, a 401(k) program, paid sick leave, paid vacation, and more, but he says that "aggressive tax rates" and "intrusive regulations" impact his ability to offer even more to his employees.

Millions of other small businesses just like Scott's are faced with the same choice.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Over the past few years, there has been a renewed call on Congress to reform our tax code. When I talk with constituents back home, their message for me to take to Washington is always the same: make the tax code simpler, fairer, and easier to plan for the future. This would help working Americans keep more of what they earn and help small businesses spend less time and money figuring out how to file their taxes, and more time doing what they do best.

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Because we have the highest corporate income tax rate in the world, it's easy to see the need for corporate tax reform. What we can't forget is that 85 percent of small businesses file and pay taxes as individuals. Any conversation about tax reform must not leave Main Street behind by losing sight of that fact, and those of us on the Small Business Committee are making sure that never happens.

Washington has to get serious about helping American families and small businesses. It's not just about helping them keep more of their hard earned money, but about unleashing the true potential of our economy. Even though tax reform is an issue that's been debated and discussed for years, it's one of the most forward-thinking things Congress can do for the future today.

Commentary by Congressman Steve Chabot, who represents Ohio's First Congressional District and is chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Small Business. He is also a senior member of the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Follow the committee on Twitter @HouseSmallBiz.