Making tax credits more visible

The City is testing a new strategy to help small-business owners weather the stormy economic climate: reaching out to their accountants.

Officials are making an aggressive push to educate certified public accountants and tax preparers about the tens of millions of dollars in local, state and federal tax breaks that go unclaimed each year, hoping they will pass them on to their small-business clients in San Francisco.

The City is planning workshops in the coming months targeting accountants who serve clients in neighborhoods where small businesses are not taking full advantage of incentives, said Regina Dick-Endrizzi, director of San Francisco’s Office of Small Business.

A workshop Dec. 10 will be geared toward CPAs with Spanish-speaking clients in the Mission district, Dick-Endrizzi said. Others are being planned for the coming months in southeastern districts, along with the Fillmore, Divisadero and Japantown areas.

Many business owners simply are not aware of the long list of tax benefits that potentially save them thousands of dollars. Owners may not know they can gain up to $5,000 in federal tax credits when embarking on accessibility improvements at their companies, said Janet Clyde, a commissioner with the Office of Small Business.

Also, city businesses can reduce their taxes by up to $1,200 for each youth they hire for summer employment, and up to $9,000 for eligible low-income employees hired for a two-year span, officials said.

Even as they struggle during the recession, less than 50 percent of business owners in The City’s low-income eastern neighborhoods have capitalized on a state program that offers significant tax credits and payroll exemptions specifically for them, said Scott Hauge, president of the state’s Small Business Commission.

The program, called Enterprise Zone, has been trying to stimulate businesses in “depressed areas” since 1984.

“We’re not talking nickels and dimes here,” Hauge said of its benefits, which include more than $36,000 in hiring tax credits per qualified employee.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has been aggressively pushing on local employers Jobs Now!, a federal stimulus program that reimburses 100 percent of an eligible new hire’s wages through Sept. 30.

“What good are these programs if no one knows about them?” he said.

Dick-Endrizzi said that and other programs are particularly vital for San Francisco’s economy, where around 98 percent of companies fall in the category of small businesses, meaning they have fewer than 100 employees.

 

Identifying tax incentives

As part of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s campaign to inform local businesses of the many tax breaks and incentives they could be missing out on, he has ordered a series of workshops to reach out to accountants who can inform their clients of the benefits.

Next workshop
When: 5:30 p.m. Dec. 10
Where: City Hall, Room 305
Who: Specifically geared toward small businesses and CPAs with Spanish-speaking clients who own small businesses in the Mission district
Purpose: Capitalize on a community’s resources
Source: Mayor’s Office

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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