House Republicans plan legislation granting small businesses - and potentially nearly every company in the country - a 20 percent income-tax deduction, a GOP leader said Wednesday as the party stepped up its election-year competition with President Obama over job creation.
The tax cut would apply to every business with fewer than 500 employees, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said in a memo released to reporters.
If the bill makes no exceptions, that means the reduction would apply to 99.9 percent of the nation's 27.3 million firms, according to Census Bureau data for 2008, the most recent year available. Companies of that size employ about half the country's 121 million paid workers, the census data show.
While there is no formal definition of a small business, most industries use 500 employees as the cutoff, as does the Small Business Administration when it conducts research, according to a Treasury Department paper issued last summer.
The bill is to be introduced next month. An aide said the deduction would apply to businesses filing either individual tax returns, as many do, or corporate returns, but added that no decisions have been made about the measure's price tag, how long the tax cut would last or other details.
A deduction is an amount taxpayers can deduct from their income before they determine how much they owe in taxes.
Mr. Cantor announced the proposal a day after Mr. Obama said lawmakers should quickly enact his own menu of tax breaks for small businesses, including some GOP-written measures that already have started moving in Congress.
Illustrating the political stakes involved, Mr. Cantor emphasized that the GOP proposal would help small businesses "retain and create new jobs" and set a symbolic goal of approving the bill by mid-April, when federal income taxes are due.
"I hope every Democrat will join us in passing the small-business tax cut by April 15," he said.
The dueling proposals let each party show it is trying to help an important constituency that also is popular with voters. Any eventual bipartisan agreement would also help the parties demonstrate that they are capable of cooperation at a time when polls show voters have record low opinions of lawmakers.
With the economy still in the doldrums and looming as the top issue in November's elections, Republicans have long embraced a broad tax-cutting agenda. It includes reducing the top income-tax rates paid by individuals and businesses from their current 35 percent to 25 percent.
In the 2013 budget he will unveil this month, Mr. Obama plans to include a series of small-business proposals, including some the GOP has started pushing through Congress. He wants to eliminate capital-gains taxes on investments in small businesses and extend for another year the ability of all businesses to immediately deduct their costs for purchasing equipment and software.