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Help Wanted: Washington Lift the Burdens on Small Businesses

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I didn't start a business because I wanted to get rich. When I started my garden and home accessories shop 16 years ago, I was following my passion. I wanted to live a life I loved, set my own terms, and help bring the beauty I saw around me to other people. I knew I could do it.

These are the motives that have driven millions of Americans to start businesses. Sure, some dream of making it big. But many others simply want to be their own boss, and believe they have a product or service of value to offer. These are the people who have helped build our economy and create the dynamic, diverse communities that we cherish in this country.

Today, it's getting harder and harder to make it as a small business owner. The sluggish economy is playing a part: with high unemployment and under-employment, there are simply fewer customers out there, and those who are out there are spending less money.

But that's not the worst of small businesses' problems. We've been through economic downturns before. Today, it's Washington policies that are creating new, unprecedented burdens on business – and threatening to drive many of us into extinction.

Take the new health care law. I'm on the hook, along with the rest of the country's small businesses, for $19 billion in new taxes to cover the mandate's costs. Worse, this law created tremendous new paperwork burdens for small business owners like me. In 2012, I'd be required to file a tax form (known as a 1099) for any transaction worth over $600. All businesses already file 1099s for contractors we hire, but now we’d have to file one for all the other entities with which we do businesses. That means I'd have to file one for each place I purchase my store supplies, office equipment, and of course, my resale products – which I buy from more than 250 individual vendors. This involves the tedious process of ensuring I have the correct tax identification information from each and every one of these vendors. Can you imagine the phone calls and emails?

Today, I handle my own payroll and finances. But fulfilling this new tax law would require more ‘extra’ time and resources than I’ve got. Trust me, I would love to be able to hire another employee to help build my business; I just can’t afford to do it. If I had to hire someone just to help me comply with new government paperwork requirements? Honestly, that might just be the last nail in the coffin for my shop.

Both the House, and just this week, the Senate, have had the opportunity to repeal the 1099 rule. The pressure for repeal came at a time when most everyone -- Congress, President Obama and the IRS National Taxpayer Advocate -- agreed that this policy is bad business. However, lawmakers placed politics first before the wellbeing of business owners.

And the question remains of how such an obviously unrealistic burden could have passed Congress in the first place. Sadly, but clearly, these people have no clue how businesses actually work – yet they’re the ones telling us how we have to operate. It makes no sense.

In fact, if the federal government were a business, it would have gone belly up a long time ago. Small business owners know you can't endlessly rack up debt and spend money you don't have. Washington doesn't seem to get this. And with the threat of tax hikes, it’s us – and every American who wants to get, or keep, a job – who will pay the price.

I started my shop on my own. I didn’t need the government to give me a handout. Handouts aren't what small businesses want.

Does Washington want to know what small businesses really need to make it in this economy? We need Washington to get out of our way: stop meddling in our business, piling on burdens, and draining the private sector of capital. Balance your own budget, get control of your own spending, and stop threatening us with tax hikes.

It’s said that the Black Eyed Susan – America’s most common wildflower – thrives in just about any kind of soil as long as enough sunlight is present. That’s how I would describe my shop, which is named after the enduring specimen. It can survive the rough patches, but it cannot thrive under Washington's growing shadow.

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