Published by Trusts & Estates
Things are about to change for America’s largest private employer, the family business. The American family business is the most powerful sector of our economy, employing roughly 60% of our workers and contributing $7.7 trillion annually to our gross domestic product, and yet until now, this powerhouse has had no voice in Congress.1 It’s been a long road to recognition, but in early December 2022, the journey paid off with the formation of the first Congressional Family Business Caucus (the Caucus), which will focus on the concerns of family businesses.
Need for Change
Over the years, congressional leaders and staffers in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate listened politely to calls for action from organizations like Family Enterprise USA, which represents family businesses. They nodded. They understood. They agreed that family businesses faced unfair, existential issues. There were some hard-fought estate tax and other policy wins, but not much in the way of serious legislation affecting family businesses.
Many of our legislators have, in fact, made their fortunes from their own multi-generational family businesses, whether in real estate, agriculture or manufacturing. Yet, this traditional, multigenerational part of America was taken for granted. In fact, most policies enacted are and have been designed to help large public corporations, often at the expense of the quiet family business.
In a corporation or public company, when the chief executive officer (CEO) dies, the business carries on as usual. When a family business owner dies, the heirs get a very loud knock on the door from the Internal Revenue Service. And the bill is high. Often the business must be closed or sold off.
This new bi-partisan Caucus is now being led by Representatives Jodey Arrington (R–Texas), Claudia Tenney (R–N.Y.), Henry Cuellar (D–Texas) and Brad Schneider (D–Ill.). They’ve pledged to meet regularly and to connect members of Congress with America’s family businesses in their districts and to meet on Capitol Hill to grapple with the most urgent issues.
When Rep. Arrington joined the Caucus, he was surprised at how much family businesses contributed, saying on its formation in December in the Caucus’ announcement release: “America’s family-owned businesses are responsible for more than half of the country’s employment and accounting for 78 percent of new job creation.”
He, like many others, will soon learn family business owners and entrepreneurs face the same challenges of labor shortages, workforce training, inflation and burdensome tax policies that big corporation do, but don’t get near the breaks or government support, or media coverage.
Some legislators are already familiar with the role of family businesses. For example, Rep. Tenney is a longtime small business owner, with a family printing and manufacturing company in upstate New York. She comes to the table with a full understanding of the power of family business.
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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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