To mark Women’s Small Business Month, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced legislation Wednesday to expand women entrepreneurs’ access to capital.
“Women business owners, particularly women of color, are underestimated, underrepresented and undercapitalized,” Wyden said. “Existing tax incentives do not do nearly enough to help women-owned small businesses. Our bill would diminish these gaps and help women-owned businesses hire and grow.”
Despite significant growth in the number of women-owned businesses, their share of business revenues has not changed in 20 years and remains stuck at 4 percent. Persistent barriers to accessing capital drive this gap. Male entrepreneurs, on average, start their businesses with nearly twice as much capital and are more likely to obtain a bank loan for their business in the first three years.
The gap is even more significant when considering only third-party capital, Wyden said. In 2018, only 2.3 percent of venture capital funding went to companies founded solely by women. Latinx and black women have raised only 0.32 percent and 0.0006 percent of venture capital funding over the past decade.
While existing tax incentives benefit industries where women do not have a high presence, the benefit of certain tax incentives goes toward those with annual incomes far above that of most female entrepreneurs. Data show that less than 12 percent of women-owned firms have annual receipts in excess of $100,000.
To unlock the growth potential of these small businesses, the Providing Real Opportunities for Growth to Rising Entrepreneurs for Sustained Success (PROGRESS) Act would create two new tax incentives, a first employee and investor credit:
First Employee Credit
·A new first employee credit would stimulate business growth and job creation. A credit equal to 25 percent of W-2 wages reported would be claimed annually, up to $10,000 in a single tax year, with a lifetime limit of $40,000.
·Because many businesses do not turn a profit in their early years, the first employee credit is creditable against the business’ payroll tax liability. Certain businesses that have not reported full-time equivalent W-2 wages in a previous year are eligible for the credit.
·Eligible businesses must be majority owned by U.S. individual(s) that each earn $100,000 or less per year ($200,000 in the case of joint filers).
·A new investment credit will encourage third-party capital investment and allow small businesses to grow and thrive. A credit of up to 50 percent of a qualified debt or equity investment can be claimed, up to $10,000 in a single tax year, with a lifetime limit of $50,000.
·Investors that fund certain businesses can use the credit to boost their rate of return.
·Eligible businesses must have at least 1 full-time equivalent employee and be majority owned by U.S. individual(s) that each earn $100,000 or less per year ($200,000 in the case of joint filers).
A detailed summary of the bill is available here.
A one-page summary of the bill is available here.
Statements of support follow:
Skyler Pearson, CEO of Nexgarden, Portland, Ore. based indoor farming company: “As an entrepreneur, making sure I have enough working capital to survive is my number one priority. I’m in that phase where every decision is ‘make or break’, so it’s been daunting to take on new costs like hiring my first employee. But, having extra brain power from a new team member is often what takes a start-up from risky to investable. This bill will help early entrepreneurs make that first-hire leap, and it will support their growth and survival even more by incentivizing angel investment opportunities. It’s bills like this that lead to increased innovation and a thriving economic future.”
Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce: “Women-owned firms represent 36 percent of all U.S. firms, but they only produce 4 percent of U.S. revenues. Firms owned by women of color face even greater challenges. While women of color own 28 percent of women-owned firms, they secure only 14 percent of all women-owned revenues. The obstacles to growth facing women business owners are dramatically impacting their business revenues and profits. Women business owners need access to capital for their businesses to reach their full potential. We commend Senator Wyden’s efforts towards economic equity for women entrepreneurs. This is the kind of tax policy we need for women-owned businesses to grow and thrive.”
John Arensmeyer, founder & CEO of Small Business Majority: “Women entrepreneurs have been breaking the glass ceiling on small business ownership for decades, but unfortunately they continue to lag behind their male counterparts in crucial business indicators like revenue, number of employees and funding. In order to promote a level playing field, we must address inequities in the tax code that are putting women entrepreneurs at a disadvantage. That’s why we strongly support Senator Wyden’s legislation creating two new tax incentives that are designed to boost the potential of all small businesses, but particularly those owned by women. Policies like these are critical to ensuring women have the tools they need to succeed in business ownership.”
John Dearie, Founder and President of the Center for American Entrepreneurship: “American entrepreneurs face many barriers to entry as they launch and grow the new businesses that drive economic growth, job creation, and opportunity in America, and women – particularly women of color – face institutional barriers exacerbating these challenges. The PROGRESS Act will put new wind in the sails of growing businesses, particularly those led by women, in two important ways: the first-employee tax credit will facilitate new business growth by rewarding the creation of that critical first job, and the angel investor tax credit will encourage the early-stage investment that startups need to survive and grow. CAE thanks Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) for focusing on the unique importance and needs of new businesses, and for crafting tax rules intended to enhance their chances of survival and growth.
Caroline Bruckner, Managing Director of the Kogod Tax Policy Center: “This bill is a critical initial step in considering how the U.S. tax code’s business expenditures can be targeted to address long-standing challenges women business owners have accessing capital. The research shows these challenges are not unique to women business owners—just more acute. Consideration by the tax-writing committees on these issues is long overdue. Sen. Wyden and his staff should be lauded for having seized the initiative to lead this conversation.”
Frank Knapp Jr., Co-chair of Businesses for Responsible Tax Reform and President/CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce: “Access to capital continues to be a problem for entrepreneurs and small business owners contributing to both a 40-year low in start-ups and the suppression of job creation in very small businesses. Since almost all net new jobs come from businesses under 5 years old with less than 5 employees, the future of our economy is threatened. This bill to promote investment in very small businesses and the hiring of a first employee will put our tax policy squarely on the side of our small business owners and entrepreneurs.”
Heather McCulloch, Founder & Executive Director of Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap Initiative: “Barriers to capital access are contributing to the women’s wealth gap, especially for women of color. We applaud Senator Wyden’s efforts to advance policy solutions that help women to establish and grow their businesses.”
Liz Sara, Chair of the National Women’s Business Council, a federal advisory committee established to provide independent advice and policy recommendations to the President, Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration: “The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) is encouraged by the introduction of Senator Ron Wyden’s federal angel investment tax credit legislation aimed at broadening the pool of individual investors in diverse U.S. small businesses, including women-owned businesses. According to recent data, although 40 percent of the nation’s small businesses are women-owned, female founders received only 2.2 percent of venture capital dollars in 2018 and only 13 percent of angel investments in 2017. Incentivizing investments is a key step to reducing the barriers that women entrepreneurs continue to face when seeking capital to start and grow their businesses.”
C’pher Gresham, CEO of SEED SPOT: “SEED SPOT is proud to support the movement to create more equitable access to capital and opportunity for all individuals. We were founded upon the belief that all dreamers should be able to start, grow, and scale their ventures. We support the legislation introduced by Sen. Wyden because it encourages investors to invest in ALL entrepreneurs and helps entrepreneurs by eliminating financial barriers.“
Amanda Ballantyne, Executive Director Main Street Alliance: “In order to create a more equitable economy with broadly shared prosperity on Main Streets across the country, it’s imperative that tax policy be centered around supporting small businesses and communities they serve. The PROGRESS Act takes an important step to tackling inequality in the growth and support of small businesses.”