A primer about online sales taxes and why they matter to startups.
After more than 600 startups, investors, and innovators from across the country wrote to lawmakers this week, warning about the devastating consequences of a proposed tax change that could hurt small companies competing for talent, Engine applauds the Senate Committee on Finance for recent modifications to the Senate Tax Plan.
"Engine is proud to support the Support Our Startups Act, a bill that would reduce tax burdens on entrepreneurs in their first year of business. The bill from Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) would help startups hit the ground running by increasing they amount they can write off as federal tax deductions in their first year.
On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Helping Angels Lead Our Startups (HALOS) Act by a vote of 344 to 73, an even wider margin of support than when the bill passed the House during the previous Congress. Engine applauds the House passage of the bill, which would clarify regulatory ambiguities around general solicitation to ensure that startups aren't unintentionally running afoul of securities laws when participating in demo days and pitch competitions
2016 brought with it many positive developments for startups in terms of capital access and tax policy. Investment crowdfunding finally went live, a number of bills to facilitate capital formation passed the House, and the startup community galvanized around a tax bill that would make it easier for startup employees to exercise their stock options. While many of these policy changes hang in limbo going into 2017, we believe that next year holds significant promise for improvements to the tax and financing policy landscape for startups.
On Wednesday, Engine’s Executive Director Evan Engstrom and sixteen other technology industry leaders sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump outlining a number of growth and innovation-driving principles that he should consider as he sets his policy agenda.
On Tuesday, Engine joined over 80 startups and entrepreneurial ecosystem leaders in urging Congressional leadership to include the Empowering Employees through Stock Ownership (EESO) Act in any legislative vehicle Congress plans to pass before the end of 2016.
Today, the House of Representatives passed a package of bills that will improve the capital access landscape for innovators across the country, including the Micro Offering Safe Harbor Act (H.R.4850) and the Private Placement Improvement Act of 2016 (H.R.4852). With the approval of these two bills, the House has now passed four of Engine’s 2016 legislative priorities related to capital access.
As the Republican National Convention kicked off this Monday, the GOP also released the final draft of their party’s platform. The platform, which was written with input from the party’s base sourced via www.platform.gop, included generous mentions of issues important to the startup community.
As the dust settles from last week’s stunning Brexit vote, the broader tech community, which staunchly supported remaining a part of the European Union (EU), is taking stock of the potential repercussions of the decision. While the United Kingdom (UK) and the EU still have to negotiate the exact terms of the deal (assuming the British can cobble together a new government committed to the Brexit), uncertainty surrounds several key issues important to the tech community.
On May 16, 2016, regulation crowdfunding will go into effect, meaning for the first time ever,anyone can invest in a startup through an online platform. This is big. Until Congress passed the JOBS Act in 2012, buying an equity stake in a company required being fairly wealthy or having a pre-existing relationship with the entrepreneurs raising capital. But the Internet has dramatically changed the way entrepreneurs share their ideas and connect with potential investors. With the JOBS Act, the law finally caught up as well – or it almost did.
Engine applauds the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of the Helping Angels Lead Our Startups (HALOS) Act. The bill, which was approved by a wide margin of 325-89, would clarify regulatory ambiguities around general solicitation, making it easier for startups to publicly showcase their ideas without unintentionally running afoul of securities laws.
The pitch competition has practically become a standard rite of passage for startups, especially early-stage firms seeking investment. Yet, many pitch events may violate decades-old securities law. Congress is now considering legislation to fix this: The HALOS Act. Sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), this legislation clarifies the rules around pitch competitions, making it easier for startups to pitch their business plans and find potential investors.
April 5, 2016 marked the four year anniversary of the enactment of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. While the statute is still relatively young, we have already begun to see the positive impacts that its provisions have had on startups’ ability to raise capital. It has made going public easier and created new pathways for startups to raise money through Regulation A+ and general solicitation under Regulation D. And with regulation crowdfunding set to finally go live in May, we are hopeful that a vibrant non-accredited investor crowdfunding market will emerge in the near future.
As strange as it may seem, only a small percentage of Americans can legally invest in most startups today. Under long-standing rules governing who qualifies as a so-called “accredited investor,” only quite wealthy individuals (those make at least $200,000 in annual income or have $1 million in assets, excluding their home) can buy shares in a fast-growing, privately held company.
On Tuesday, President Obama sent his final budget request to Congress and it amounted to a whopping $4.1 trillion. In reality, the President’s budget request is typically little more than legally mandated political theater. It’s an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to rally their bases and duke it out over fiscal strategy and funding priorities. This year’s budget request will likely go largely unfulfilled by the Republican-led Congress. In fact, it was declared “dead on arrival” by Republican lawmakers, and, in an unprecedented move, House and Senate Budget Committee leadership have elected to forgo hearings on the request entirely.
Still, if nothing more than a wish list, the President’s budget lays the groundwork for future policies and, this year in particular, represents a roadmap for the next Administration to espouse or eschew. There are a number of proposals in the President’s request worth highlighting—policies and programs that, if championed by Congress, would support innovation and entrepreneurship.
Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce
One of the startup community’s most persistent challenges is accessing a pipeline of skilled talent in order to both help startups grow and create news ones. While the Obama Administration has been an unwavering champion of immigration reform to bolster the country’s pool of high-skilled workers, immigration represents only part of the solution (and unfortunately, neither high-skilled immigration reform nor comprehensive reform appears to be going anywhere for the time being). The other piece is ensuring that we are training tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and tech workers here in America.
The President’s budget request includes $4 billion for improved computer science education through its recently announced Computer Science for All initiative. The funding would support states’ efforts to expand CS programming and focuses largely on training teachers and expanding access to quality instructional materials. The Administration has also called on local leaders, educators, and the tech industry to get involved in expanding CS education.
The budget also proposes creating two new funds: a $75 million American Technical Training Fund, which would provide competitive grants to support evidence-based, tuition-free job training programs in high-demand fields, and a $2 billion Apprenticeship Fund, which would build on the Administration’s successful American Apprenticeship Initiative strategy and aim to spur new innovations in apprenticeship.
Finally, the budget proposes creating more than 50 new “Talent Hot Spots” that would “prioritize a sector and make a commitment to recruit and train the workforce to help local businesses grow and thrive, attract more jobs from overseas, and fuel the talent needs of entrepreneurs.” The Administration estimates that this program could create a pipeline of more than half a million skilled workers in just five years, talent that could feed entrepreneurial growth.
Expanding Broadband Access
Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission reported that there are still 34 million Americans (or about 10 percent of the country) who lack access to broadband at sufficient speeds. Startups depend on a healthy and competitive broadband market, and it is essential that federal policies encourage connectivity. The President’s budget request includes continued investments in existing federal programs that support the expansion of high-speed broadband to all Americans. Additionally, the budget request calls for future spectrum auctioning, which will allow for more internet service providers to participate in the mobile broadband market.
Federal investments in research and development can help spur innovation in the private sector and the creation of new companies. The President’s budget includes $152 billion in funding for research and development, an increase over last year’s request. Much of this investment is targeted for innovative technologies such as Big Data services, supercomputing, robotics, and nanotechnology. The budget also includes $4 billion for autonomous vehicle R&D, representing an unprecedented level of investment by the federal government in this new market and a huge win for proponents of this growing technology.
Making the Tax Code Work for Startups
Finally, the budget request includes a number of proposals that would streamline and improve tax benefits for startups and entrepreneurs. The President proposes simplifying the existing Research and Experimentation (R&E) tax credit. Last year, the R&E credit was modified to allow small companies to claim it against payroll taxes, instead of income taxes. This made it available to startups, many of which could not claim the credit previously due to a lack of taxable revenue. Still, the process of applying for the credit remains complex and difficult to navigate for startups. The President’s budget proposes simplifying the credit’s formula, making it easier for startups to take advantage of.
The Administration also proposes quadrupling the amount of startup expenses (things like legal fees, office supplies, or recruiting costs) that entrepreneurs can deduct from their federal income taxes, increasing the deduction from $5,000 to $20,000. This will make it less costly to start a business and allow innovators to put more money back into their startup more quickly.
The frustrating truth is that most of the President’s budget proposal won’t receive Congressional consideration. However, we hope that future policymakers can coalesce around some of the proposals outlined above, which represent reasonable policies that would encourage the growth of startups that drive our economic success and are responsible for all net new job growth in the United States. Finding common ground in today’s political climate is difficult, but it is essential to ensuring that America remains a place where the ideas of the future can grow and thrive.