As President Obama calls for a "balanced approach" and shared burden to end the current federal fiscal crisis, the Indiana business community is showing willingness to make such a sacrifice, provided there is real reduction in federal spending and substantive reform to simplify the tax code. That's the overriding message from a recent survey conducted by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Congressman Todd Young (R-9th District), who is a new appointee to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.
The electronic survey of Indiana Chamber members and the business community at-large focused on the fiscal cliff, federal tax code, tax reductions, corporate tax system and the U.S. tax structure in general. A total of 188 respondents took part, representing both larger companies (27%) and small businesses (73%).
"Raising tax rates isn't the right way to go to raise revenue. It may be good politics, but it is lousy economics. Reforming and simplifying the tax code, which will stimulate job creation and economic growth, is the preferred and needed path for Indiana businesses and their employees," explains Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar.
"We also need to reject Washington's usual accounting gimmicks and cut actual spending, not just cut the rate of spending growth. We must reform federal entitlement programs -- Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- to address fiscal and demographic realities."
Survey respondents clearly determined the fiscal crisis was more a spending problem (67%) than a revenue one (less than 1%). Additionally, 33% felt both spending and revenue were the culprits.
When asked to rate the most important principles which should guide tax reform, the top four answers respondents selected were: 1) emphasize shared sacrifice; 2) emphasize global competitiveness; 3) refrain from picking winners and losers; and 4) simplify the tax code.
Many businesses and individuals find the complexity of the tax code too much of a burden, resulting in 60% of individual taxpayers and 71% of unincorporated businesses hiring out their tax compliance. In the survey, nearly 30% said tax code simplification was even more important than rate reduction; 62% labeled simplification important, but not as important as rate reduction. To that end, some 71% of businesses surveyed indicated a willingness to give up some of their favorable tax credits and/or deductions for lower individual and corporate tax rates.
Brinegar and Young both acknowledge that, despite what needs to happen, a short-term measure -- extension of credits, etc. for six months, for example -- to buy more time for substantive and comprehensive reform is likely the most positive outcome that can be expected this month.
In addition to the survey of businesses, Young's office also electronically surveyed constituents in his district with similar questions. The results from the more than 2,700 individual respondents largely echoed the findings on the business survey.
"It's clear to me there is a real appetite right now for comprehensive tax reform," said Young. "As negotiations continue on the so-called "fiscal cliff', tax reform paired with spending cuts isn't just my desired approach, it's also the approach favored by individual Hoosiers and Indiana businesses. As a new member of the Ways and Means Committee, I look forward to representing those wishes as we move forward on this front."
A plurality of individuals said the fiscal crisis was more of a spending problem (46%) than a revenue problem (11%), while 40% said both are to blame.
Additionally, 54% (compared to 26% opposed) of individuals support a model of tax reform similar to the House Republican proposal of eliminating deductions in order to simplify the tax code. But regardless of what approach is taken, 85.5% of individuals said they support extending most or all of the current tax rates while Congress works through the issue.
Congressman Young is using the information gathered in the survey and via constituent research to help inform his approach to these fiscal issues. Likewise, the Indiana Chamber's lobbying efforts on federal tax reform are relying heavily on the survey findings.
Charts detailing the results of the tax surveys of business owners and Congressman Young's individual constituents can be found online at www.indianachamber.com/federal.