Our entire discussion of taxes is plagued by these zombie lies and crazy-ass ideas about how tax brackets work.
Small Business tax myths: Most firms are not affected by Obama tax proposals. - Slate Magazine
Steve Piechota of Netronix Integration in San Jose, Calif., leads the list of complainers. He explains that his business has grown from 3 employees to 50 over the past five years and that the “growth has kept our income low, as we’ve invested back into the company in the form of additional jobs and equipment.” But thanks to tax hikes, he fears that the growth has come to an end. “Bottom line,” he warns, “raising our taxes means we’ll quit growing, lay off people and stay under the $250k level for income.” His concern is reminiscent of a (since-corrected) September 2011 USA Today piece warning people that the extra money that comes with a raise “is nice, but it could very well bump you into the next tax bracket, possibly leaving you with less money than you had before the raise.”
The good news for Piechota, in case he’s listening, is that this isn’t how tax brackets work. In the event that Obama wins the election, one can only hope Piechota will consult with an accountant or other professional before laying off workers and deliberately reducing his income. The way U.S. income tax brackets work is that taxes are levied on marginal income. In other words, the rate applied to income earned over the $250,000 threshold is irrelevant to the first $250,000 worth of taxable income. If you have $250,010 of taxable earnings then only that last $10 is taxed at the higher rate. In all cases, higher pre-tax earnings lead to higher after-tax income.
Similarly, a curiously large number of the small business owners surveyed by House Republicans don’t seem to understand the difference between profits and revenues. The issue here is that some (but not all) small firms are organized as what are called “pass-through entities” for tax purposes. The exception is what’s known as a C Corporation, typically a larger firm. A C corporation files a tax return as a freestanding entity and pays corporate income tax on its profits. If after-tax profits are distributed to shareholders as dividends or share buybacks, then the individuals who profit are taxed on their earnings according to the tax schedule for dividends or capital gains. A pass-through entity, by contrast, pays no taxes. Instead its profits are distributed to its owners (typically a small group of people) and they pay income—but not payroll—taxes on the proceeds.
So when Steve Woodall of Reliant Business Products says his “guess is that we would have to start looking for ways to outsource some of our jobs in order to keep the company solvent,” he’s missing the point. If his company isn’t profitable, he’ll have no income to pay taxes on at all. Dave Parry of MPS Techline of Pennsylvania says his company’s revenues go to “paying the 23 employees, buying the necessary raw materials, paying all of the overhead bills, and investing in new equipment.” Here, again, he’s missing the point that there’s no federal income tax levied on income that’s used to pay business expenses. Money that Parry spends on employee salaries, for example, isn’t his income—it’s his employees’ income—and they’ll pay taxes on it. Absolutely nothing about a tax increase would turn a previously profitable investment, new hire, or expansion into an unprofitable one.
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