Florida Main Street Coalition uses Tax Day to push for simpler tax code

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In honor of Tax Day, a group of Florida elected officials, small business owners and community leaders met to focus on the need for a simpler tax system through meaningful reforms.

Members of the Main Street Growth & Opportunity Coalition Florida, including State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Julio Fuentes, Republican State Rep. Holly Raschein and several private business owners, joined in a conference call Tuesday morning to discuss issues facing both Florida and the entire country — economic growth and job creation.

“Although our economy has been improving, the U.S. is not the thriving economic engine it used to be,” Fuentes began, “Americans are suffering from lack of leadership in Washington D.C.”

Launched in February 2014 as part of a nationwide movement that now extends to 14 states, MSGOCF members believe that the country’s long-term economic health begins on Main Street — from “shop to shop, store to store, business to business.”

The group used April 15, when millions of Americans rush to file last-minute taxes by midnight, as the backdrop to announce one of its main goals, simplifying the tax code.

“Tax time marks the end of one of the most stressful times for small business owners and individuals alike,” said Indian River County Tax Collector Carole Jean Jordan, owner of Jordan Sprinkler Systems in Vero Beach.

“Corporate tax rates remain one of the highest in the industrialized world at 39.1 percent,” Jordan added. “By lowering taxes, small business owners can put more money in their pockets to reinvest in what they care about … things that grow our economy.”

Facing overall tax rates as high as 44.2 percent, small organizations pay increasingly steeper costs associated with preparing and filing federal tax returns. MSGOCF members view the tax preparation process itself as burdensome.

Chris Risalvato, owner of C&A Landscape in Tallahassee, described how he had been lucky his father,  a CPA for more than 40 years, could help him with his business taxes. However, in recent years, his dad could no longer work with many small businesses, like C&A, with tax preparation simply due to skyrocketing costs.  

“They either cannot afford it,” he said, “or they are paying incredible high fees that cut into their profits.”

Fuentes identified “at least four ways” the federal government can promote responsible growth: eliminating the “overly burdensome” tax code in favor of a flat tax; open foreign trade to develop new export markets; immigration reform that would take the “uncertainty” out of small businesses making hiring plans; and more fiscal responsibility.

Pointing out the current debate in the Florida Legislature over in-state tuition for undocumented students, Fuentes — whose Chamber of Commerce represents more than 3 million Hispanics statewide — said the issue also brings to light the need for federal immigration reform, so small businesses do not have to see what D.C will do before hiring new employees.

With a unified front, Fuentes concluded, the MSGOCF has joined in the fight, asking Congress and the Legislature to take steps for a healthier, more secure economy. 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.