Inflation and economic uncertainty continue to bear down on small business America. On top of record high prices, small firms have endured supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and higher labor costs, and an economy teetering on a painful downturn. That is why Congress must identify practical solutions to help entrepreneurs through this challenging economic period, and beyond. One solution is to restore immediate expensing for research and development (R&D) during the Lame Duck session of Congress.
Small business owners and their employees across industries have had to continuously innovate in order to survive and thrive over the last several years. While the COVID economy imposed significant burdens and restrictions on small businesses, digital tools and changing consumer needs provided opportunities for innovation and new risk-taking. Many entrepreneurs and new startups tapped into the R&D tax credit to support innovative investments and business growth.
For several decades, American businesses of all sizes have expensed R&D investments in the same year they occurred. This tax measure has helped to fuel hundreds of billions of dollars in R&D investments each year, and by extension has powered U.S. innovative leadership in the global marketplace. The tax credit’s value to U.S. economic and technological leadership alone should move Congress to not only restore the credit but improve it so that more startups and new firms can effectively utilize it.
Thankfully, restoring this tax incentive has strong, bipartisan support. Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) are working together to ensure R&D expensing is restored. Again, the immediate expensing of R&D investments has remained a long-term policy priority – through Democratic and Republican administrations alike – and right now is an ideal time to restore this effective policy.
The stakes are high for this expensing measure. One report estimates tens of thousands of high-skilled American jobs will be lost each year if immediate expensing of R&D investments is not restored. Failing to restore the tax credits before the end of the year would put all American businesses–but especially small businesses–at a competitive disadvantage. If not restored, the change in R&D tax credits would require companies to amortize their R&D expenses over five years. That extended timeline significantly limits businesses’ ability to develop new products, from medical devices to everyday consumer products. For smaller firms operating on thin margins and in a competitive and challenging environment, the inability to expense R&D costs for a given year means they cannot recover those costs in the same year. This makes it even more difficult for small businesses to effectively compete and take on bigger risks.
Grim economic forecasts on top of enduring challenges that have kept small businesses reeling for several years demand a policy response that will promote investment, certainty, and relief. The Lame Duck session is an opportunity to help small businesses look toward 2023 with hope and optimism. Measures that stand behind and support the innovative practices and investments of American businesses are especially important for boosting the economy and reaffirming America’s role as an innovation powerhouse.
There are many policies Congress disagreed on over the last session, but now is the time for every member to step up and support bipartisan policies that will help our small businesses navigate through more potentially rough economic times. Now that the midterm elections are behind us, it’s time for Congress to fix R&D expensing without delay. Small businesses need our leaders to come together this lame duck Congress.