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Next Gen is Counting on Us to Slow Impact of High Taxes

 

By Pat Soldano

With 85.5% of family businesses having majority or sole ownership by family members the questions of who, when, and how a family business is transitioned to the “Next Gen” is a persistent conversation, and a difficult one.

The real goal of a transition is much more than a good hand-off. It’s as much about continuity and prosperity as about transition management. It’s about keeping the family business legacy strong, growing, and better for descendants. Maybe there’s a little bit of immortality at stake, too, but the idea of a future existence prospering provides us with a strong reason to do the right thing now.  

Do our legislators think like that? Do our legislators today understand they can very easily make life much worse for future generations? 

“Why should we even care about what happens to people after we’re gone?” 

Philosophers and futurists ask this question from Oxford to Harvard. And maybe some of our elected officials quietly ask themselves this question too since their greatest worry is surviving the next election cycle.  

The answer, if you own a family business, or work in a family business, is that there is a reciprocity between the present and future. It’s an unspoken conversation with the future. It’s a conversation that we will do the right thing today so these future people, who we don’t even know, can live better, and do the right thing for the next generation, and so on. 

The future is counting on us, and we are counting on them. In effect, there’s mutual dependence between present and future.

This conversation with the future, to preserve and sustain things we value forever, is based on more than a P&L or business valuation. There is a real love and caring for what has been created in the past and present. There is a real desire to make the enterprise even better in the future. It goes well beyond mere “transitioning.” 

But caring for the future is not easy. If you listen to family business leaders today, they tell us the future killers are taxes, taxes of all types. But personal income taxes are the real killer.

This may sound common, or predictably hyperbolic, but this is what the present leaders are telling us right now about their future.

In our just released Family Business Annual Survey 2024 we surveyed nearly 800 family business leaders, and the number one tax concern, was the income tax and the second economic worry was also “personal income taxes.”

When we asked, “What is your top tax concern,” 41% said “personal income taxes.” It was not “capital gains” or “estate taxes,” but they focused on the very high personal income rates.

Another big economic worry, the survey found, is the “Federal Budget/Deficit.” 

As for a pending “Wealth Tax,” only 5% may be worried about it, up from zero in 2023. And when it comes to the Estate Tax, family business owners, 36% would like to keep the current exemption level at $12.92 million per person through 2025. But 26% want a complete repeal, and 16% want to reduce the rate further.

The real worries are based in the very near future: 2026. These worries carry deep into the soul of the distant future, and into the Next Next Next Gen. Simply, it’s time to prepare for the possibility that taxes will make the future less prosperous.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lowered individual tax rates, doubled the standard deduction, and shielded many estates from federal estate taxes, but they’re scheduled to expire on December 31, 2025. 

The White House supports extending the individual tax cuts for some families but wants to pair the extension with higher taxes, and a new tax on assets, (think “Wealth Tax”), Corporations, and “high income earners” as well as other tax provisions that could impact family businesses and successful individuals.  

If Congress and the White House fail to reach an agreement by the end of 2025, tax rates will automatically revert to 2017 levels. This is where the conversation between the present and future breaks down. This is where the future looks like less.

And to make future matters dicier, Generation Z, those between 12 and 27 years old, believe Congress is clueless about their tomorrow.

In a recent Gen Z focus group session held by researcher and pollster Dr. Frank Luntz the current Congress received a big thumbs down.

When Luntz asked the randomly selected group, “Does Congress understand my needs?” the answer was a resounding, 100% “No!”

The Gen Z retorts ranged from the current capitalistic system “does not support me” to “it’s not a fair system for all” to “democracy is not working.” In addition they do not know who to trust; they do not trust corporations and do not trust legislators.

As Congress tackles tax reforms in 2025, it should balance broader budgetary constraints, additional tax simplification, and what it will take to keep the engines of economic growth going down the road for Gens Z, A, B, and C. 

Many of the tax proposals interact with each other, and reforms proposed will have implications for other parts of the tax code and our national debt that should also be addressed. 

Bad decisions today do affect tomorrow, and we can all agree the survival of future generations is in our own best interest. 

There is a solution: let’s convince our representatives in Washington, DC, that policies that hurt family businesses, and their employees, not only hurt the present, but are killers for future generations, and we need to speak for the future today because no one else will.

Pat Soldano, President of Family Enterprise USA, and the Policy Taxation Group, both are non-partisan organizations advocating for family businesses of all sizes and are the organizers of the Family Enterprise USA Annual Family Business Survey.

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The need for fact-based reporting of issues important to multi generational businesses and protecting a lifetime of savings has never been greater. Now more than ever, multi generational businesses and family businesses are under fire. That's why Family Enterprise USA is passionately working to increase the awareness of issues important to generationally-owned family businesses built on hard work, while continuing to strengthen our presence on Capitol Hill. The issues we fight for or against with Congress in Washington DC include high income tax rates, possible elimination of valuation discounts, increase in capital gains tax, enactment of a wealth tax, and the continued burden of the gift tax, estate tax and generation skipping tax.


Family Enterprise USA promotes generationally owned family business creation, growth, viability, and sustainability by advocating for family businesses and their lifetime of savings with Congress in Washington DC.  Since 2007, Family Enterprise USA has represented and celebrated all sizes, professions and industries of family-owned enterprises and multi-generational employers. It is a bi-partisan 501.c3 organization. Family foundations can donate.


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