Voices

Top regulatory issues for small businesses in 2017

Even as someone who lives and breathes compliance and regulatory issues, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many changes that happen each year.

I understand why small business owners say they can’t keep up with the constant regulatory back and forth and how it impacts their business. Paychex recently surveyed more than 300 small business owners nationwide and found that 55 percent felt that government regulation and complexity are hurting their businesses’ profitability and/or ability to grow. Which issues are most on the minds of small business owners? In another recent survey, also by Paychex, 20 percent of small business owners chose the Affordable Care Act as the top priority the Trump administration should address, followed by immigration reform and tax reform at 17 and 16 percent, respectively.

Paychex small business regulatory complexity poll

In order to sort out what the latest regulations and legislation mean for their organizations, small business owners may turn to their CPAs for guidance. So it’s important for CPAs, as their clients’ trusted business advisors, to know about potential regulatory changes and how to best guide their small business clients. Here’s a look at what may happen in 2017 with each of the top three regulatory and legislative issues identified in our research.

Throughout his campaign, President-elect Trump spoke at length about the “repeal and replacement” of the Affordable Care Act. This is expected to be among his administration’s first priorities, but a replacement plan will present complexity both in building policies to support the healthcare markets and in getting the plan through Congress. In the interim, it’s important for small business owners to remember the current ACA requirements, including Employer Shared Responsibility filing. The good news: the IRS has extended the date for furnishing Forms 1095-B and C to employees and indicated the continued application of the “good faith effort” standard to avoid related penalties for both furnishing statements to employees and filing statements and returns with the IRS.

Immigration reform also appears to be a priority during the President-elect’s first 100 days in office. Many employers are waiting to see if this will result in changes to the H-1B visa program, the typical route by which highly skilled talent enters the country. Trump also indicated he would implement additional enforcement steps, such as mandating the use of the federal E-Verify system for all new hires, increased worksite audits and a biometric entry-exit visa system. These measures could suppress the availability of less-skilled workers in industries such as farming, hospitality and construction. Additionally, a new Form I-9 has already been released and must be used by all employers by January 22.

While the usual roadblocks could stall changes in other areas, tax reform might prove an achievable task for the new administration with a GOP-controlled Congress. Upcoming tax reforms could blend the measures outlined by President-elect Trump during his campaign with existing GOP reform proposals. With that in mind, cuts to business and individual tax rates, a cap of the capital gains rate at 20 percent, elimination of the estate tax and the permanent ability to write off capital expenses immediately instead of depreciating them over time could all be under consideration. Many of these changes could fuel the creation or expansion of small businesses, but it’s possible some current popular tax breaks and deductions may be eliminated or scaled back to fund these tax decreases.

These are just some of the top of mind regulatory issues for small business owners. Guidelines and incentives for retirement planning, changes to federal and state employment regulations, restrictions on payment and payroll methods and heightened cybersecurity measures are some of the other topics that you may be asked about in the next year.

Be sure to remind your small business clients they’re not alone in their search for clear answers. Encourage them to ask for information and assistance to ensure they’re in compliance with regulatory issues so they can focus on other factors impacting the success of their business.