Guest Column: Invest in small businesses and family farms
Published 7:36 pm Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Guest Column by Doug Loon, Tamara Nelsen, John Hausladen and Kevin Paap
Business owners invest in Minnesota’s future every day. They invest in their employees and their communities. They invest in their business needs — equipment, workforce — to grow, many times before company profit is a guarantee. These investments lay the foundation for small businesses to grow and create opportunities across the state and for family farms to continue their legacies. All of this helps Minnesota compete on a global stage to grow Minnesota’s economy and retain and create jobs.
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We share their commitment to investing in Minnesota’s future and call on legislators to do the same by aligning Minnesota’s income tax with the federal rules to encourage greater business investment in Minnesota.
Section 179 of the federal tax code dictates when businesses can deduct the cost of purchasing certain equipment. Major federal tax reform was enacted in 2017. This broadened the tax base by eliminating a large number of deductions and allowed more business expensing to encourage investment and boost economic growth.
In 2019, Minnesota conformed to numerous elements of federal law, but did not adopt many of the expensing provisions including Section 179. As a result, Minnesota only allows for a fraction of investments to be immediately expensed, thus putting local small businesses and farmers at a disadvantage. On top of that, Minnesota made some of the business tax changes retroactive, hitting many businesses and farmers with unexpected tax bills. The cumulative impact is extended debt and less money to invest in operations.
These tax increases come as Minnesota is forecasting budget surpluses of more than $1 billion, and many businesses and farmers are hit hard from bad weather, crop losses and tariff issues.
Aligning state and federal tax codes for Section 179 expensing:
Helps farmers save on equipment
Consider the farm in northern Minnesota that traded in a planter in favor of more sophisticated technologies, including temperature and moisture sensors, and GPS. This equipment improves processes, and frees up funds to be invested in the future security of the business.
Improves productivity for small businesses
Consider the 18,000 plus trucking companies all across the state. Trucking is a capital-intensive business with a lot of wear and tear requiring tractors to be turned over every three to five years at a cost of $150,000 each. Or think about the 8,300 manufacturers employing more than 300,000 Minnesotans that need to upgrade their equipment. These investments help improve productivity at a time of a critical workforce shortage, allow them to invest in operating expenses and workers, and gives companies a competitive advantage by improving their customer experience.
Makes Minnesota more competitive by encouraging investment
All of this productivity and efficiency and growth makes Minnesota a better place to do business. It makes us more attractive for businesses to expand operations or to relocate here. It helps strengthen our presence in the global marketplace. Growing our economy is critical to maintaining our great quality of life.
Consider the costs of not conforming to federal law. A manufacturer, trucker or farmer in a border community may pay twice as much in Minnesota income taxes compared with federal taxes, and much higher than a counterpart only a few miles across the border in the year the much-needed equipment was purchased.
Let’s fix this. Let’s invest in Minnesota’s future. Legislators have the opportunity this session to join the majority of other states that align with federal Section 179 provisions — a measure that had bipartisan support at the Legislature last year. As members of the Invest in Minnesota coalition, we stand with family farms and small businesses who want nothing more than to invest in the future of their businesses and employees.
Doug Loon is president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, St. Paul; Tamara Nelsen is executive director of AgriGrowth, St. Paul; John Hausladen is president and CEO of Minnesota Trucking Association, Brooklyn Center; and Kevin Paap is president of Minnesota Farm Bureau, Eagan. They are members of the Invest in Minnesota coalition, a group of more than 70 organizations statewide that support full conformity with federal Section 179 provisions.