Published in the Norfolk Daily News on Dec. 17, 2020
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we are often reminded to shop small as a way to support our small businesses.
This year that message takes on a more important meaning as local entrepreneurs continue to face challenges stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Small businesses, especially those in rural areas, are hurting and we need to make sure they are strong enough to make it through the pandemic and beyond.
As consumers, we can shop or use the services offered in our community and spread the word by sharing positive reviews on social media or in conversation with family and friends. But, just as consumers are being asked to step up, state lawmakers also need to ensure key programs and incentives aimed at helping small entrepreneurs remain in place.
When the Nebraska Legislature convenes its session in January, debate is expected to include the future of Nebraska’s Microenterprise Tax Credit Act. Designed to promote the expansion of small businesses across the state and, in doing so, strengthen our communities, the tax credit is available to businesses with five or fewer full-time employees.
If approved, applicants receive a refundable 20% tax credit on business investments for a maximum lifetime credit of $10,000. To date, the program has helped entrepreneurs upgrade their buildings, increase employee wages and purchase equipment, among other improvements. Any new investment will qualify as long as it helps develop new income or create new jobs.
Applications for this program are accepted year round. Business owners hoping to make improvements in 2021 or 2022 can apply anytime through Nov. 1. There is $2 million available on a first-come, first-served basis, so earlier applications are more likely to be approved. To apply, documentation verifying the business’ finances, similar to those required when applying for a loan, will be needed.
About 145,000 Nebraska businesses are eligible for the credit, but with little advertisement from the Nebraska Department of Revenue or Department of Economic Development, most are unaware. We consistently hear from owners, economic developers, chambers of commerce and banks that they don’t know the program exists.
It’s time that changes.
With assistance from our partner organizations, the Center for Rural Affairs is committed to building awareness of the program, working with lawmakers to make it easier to apply and qualify for, and assisting entrepreneurs with the application process.
At the same time, there are some in the Legislature and lobby working feverishly to shut it down. That isn’t right. Such actions take advantage of hard working entrepreneurs in a time of need. We urge state senators to reject these out-of-touch attempts.
We must all do what we can to support our small business community. That includes developing and advancing good public policy. In this era of uncertainty, we believe the Nebraska Microenterprise Tax Credit Act is the right vehicle to assist small businesses through this unprecedented time and ensure the future remains bright for our main streets.