Give home businesses a break

-A A +A

It’s time to take small home run businesses seriously

By Sherry Robinson

All you people who work from home, listen up. Somebody thinks you’re important.
The governor has suggested reducing or eliminating the gross receipts tax on small businesses with a gross receipts tax liability of less than $200 a month – about half of the 80,000 businesses in the state.
One of those businesses is mine. Wow! I was as happy to hear about a tax break as I was  to learn there are 40,000 of us out here.
Who are we? We’re writers, consultants, bookkeepers, caterers, travel agents, website designers – you name it – and we work from home to minimize overhead.
Critics have pointed out that if the governor’s goal is to create jobs, this slice of the private sector is least likely to do it.
They reason that a business paying less than $200 a month in gross receipts tax is grossing $34,000 or less a year, not enough to hire anybody.
That may be true, but it fails to describe the economic web spun by the smallest of the small.
We buy supplies, equipment, office furniture and services.
We maintain vehicles and pay utility bills. Our work sometimes requires travel, and we support the hospitality industry.
When I’m on the road, I seek out locally owned eateries.
Whenever possible, I steer work to other independents or partner with them on a project.
Some of us choose to stay small, but some of the smallest aspire to grow.
Many of the garage entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed over the years became successful.
Also, some of us landed in this under-$200 group because the recession flattened our work. Nobody bailed us out.
Last week, I heard two economists debate tax policy on TV.
One advocated tax breaks for the rich as the most likely to create employment.
The other pointed out that the rich can already afford to start or run businesses, that they have access to financing.
If you want to create jobs, he said, offer breaks at the lower rungs of the ladder; when those people have money, they buy stuff.  Makes sense to me.
In the last year or so, home-based businesses and jobs have become an economic development strategy, and because most are mobile, they hold promise for rural areas.
Economic developer Mark Lautman sees home-based work as the solution to unemployment and under-employment.
In a presentation to the legislative interim Economic and Rural Development Committee, he said many jobs can now be done from home.
About 4.9 percent of employed New Mexicans, or 42,500 people, already work primarily from home.
This includes both workers and the self-employed.
Of those people, 37 percent bring new money into their communities.
They’re likely to spend more of their income at home, and they’re not contributing to traffic congestion and pollution.
He said 18,000 home-based businesses support another 78,000 jobs in the state, which means that if a community recruits or helps create more of them, it creates other jobs as well.
The committee surmised correctly that health insurance is an issue for these people.
But don’t stop there. To grow, the tiny business faces a regulatory maze.
I suspect the biggest obstacle to this little tax break is that people don’t take us seriously.
They assume we dabble, that we’re free as birds, that we have hobby businesses.
The reality is we work a regular day, or longer. A woman I know who runs a staffing agency from home finds herself working at midnight because she can’t get away from it.
My husband jokes that I have the most demanding boss of my career.
So kudos to the governor and to Mark Lautman for recognizing that we’re here, in large numbers.
We matter.

Sherry Robinson                    
© 2012 New Mexico
News Services