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What a Payroll Tax Holiday Could Mean for Employers

President Obama is expected to propose offering to trim the amount of payroll taxes employers pay. Here are five things business owners can expect if it passes.
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To boost jobs, President Barack Obama wants to give employers a holiday -- a tax holiday, that is.

In his prime-time address to Congress this evening, President Obama plans to detail a number of job-building initiatives. Among his plans for sponsoring infrastructure projects and providing added federal aid to the states, Obama is expected to propose extending the existing payroll tax for employees to employers as well.

President Obama is also expected to propose extending by one year the existing payroll tax holiday now available to employees. The existing measure, which is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, reduces the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax that employees pay by two percentage points.

The current employee payroll tax holiday saves an average U.S. household about $1,000 each year. With a similarly structured payroll tax holiday, employers with 20 or 50 workers could see an extra $20,000 or $50,000 in their pockets each year.

Whether Congress will agree to the President's proposals, which could cost several hundred billion dollars, isn't clear. Also, the particulars of what a payroll tax holiday might look like for employers are unknown. But if the measure is anything like the employee version, here are five results business owners can expect:

  1. The tax holiday may not create new jobs.
    An extra $1,000 per worker, may not be enough to hire a new employee, cautions Barbara Weltman, an attorney and small-business tax specialist in Millwood, N.Y. "To me, any tax cut is a good tax cut. But I'm not convinced it will accomplish the intended results," she says. 
  2. The tax holiday could save jobs. 
    But even if it didn't create jobs, the tax holiday could stave off more job cuts, according to Bill Rys, the tax counsel for the National Federation for Independent Business in Washington, D.C. "We’ve long supported a payroll tax holiday as a more effective means for stemming unemployment," he says. "It makes it less expensive to keep someone on the payroll."
  3. Owners may get a little extra in their pockets.
    The added money could help business owners invest more money in their businesses to keep them growing. Or, what's more likely to happen these days, it would take pressure off of businesses facing other higher costs, says Weltman. "What people pay at the gas pump really does impact small businesses," she says. 
  4. With the tax holiday, the savings are immediate.
    Unlike with other tax credits, business owners wouldn't have to wait to see a benefit, Weltman says. "With this measure, you don't have to wait to file your return to take a tax credit -- you're [saving] money throughout the year," she says. 
  5. A payroll tax holiday is simple to implement.
    Where some credits or incentives require filling out long forms and digging up old financial documents, a payroll tax holiday simply requires businesses to pay less toward their employees' Social Security obligations. "It is really simple," says Weltman. "You're just paying less."

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