While the Fiscal Cliff deal passed by Congress at the turn of the New Year raised taxes on some of the wealthiest people in America, it left many tax breaks in place that benefit small businesses. That is, along as they take advantage of them.
Many of the research and development (R&D) incentives, or programs designed to help small businesses export their products go underutilized, says tax policy analyst Dean Zerbe.
Zerbe is a former tax policy counselor for the Senate Finance Committee and currently a national managing partner at the Alliant Group, a national tax advising company.
"They really need to pause, take a moment and make certain that they’re looking hard at what’s out there because it will really mean real savings for them," he says of small businesses.
Zerbe says many businesses are too busy going about their day-to-day operations to look into the incentive programs, or don't think they qualify for them. Because of that, Zerbe says millions of dollars worth of incentives that could put thousands of dollars into the pockets of small business owners, aren't being used.
"The uptake for small and medium [businesses] is just woeful," he says.
Zerbe estimates only one in 20 small businesses nationally take advantage of R&D incentive programs. He says New York state also has good R&D programs available.
His advice to business owners is to take a second look at the tax breaks out there.
The incentives that survived the Fiscal Cliff deal are extensions of existing programs - not new ones - Zerbe says.
If enough companies take advantage of these tax breaks, Zerbe believes they could see an increase in spending and hiring in the next few months.
"My outlook right now is cautiously optimistic," he says. "They’ll be able to get money in their pocket."
In a few months Congress will again be haggling over the debt ceiling and spending. Zerbe says small businesses should try to ignore all that.