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Small Business & Retail–Small Biz Panel Urges ‘Death’ of ‘Tax Nightmare’



Mercedes Dealership Drives Home Point

With New Name

The Small Business Survival Committee is urging President Bill Clinton to sign important legislation winding its way through Congress, calling an end to what they call the “death tax nightmare.”

At issue are the federal estate, gift and generation-skipping taxes. The SBSC urges individuals, families and small-business owners across the nation to make their opposition to the tax known.

Raymond J. Keating, chief economist for the Washington, D.C.-based small-business advocacy group, noted that small-business owners labor to create and build a business over a lifetime, and pay a multitude of taxes along the way. Then at death, the federal government steps in again to claim up to 60 percent of total assets, he said.

“This is not only grossly unfair and morbid, but economically destructive,” Keating said. “Resources funneled away from businesses and individuals in order to support estate tax planning and overall government waste translate into less investment, lost jobs and slower economic growth.”

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What’s more, although the death tax is a formidable burden and cost to people who are socked by it, death taxes account for only a tiny portion of overall federal revenues ,between 0.8 percent and 1.5 percent of total federal revenues. After accounting for the cost of compliance and lost economic output, death taxes provide little or no net revenue to the federal government, Keating said.

Keating noted that both bills under consideration , the Estate Tax Elimination Act (S-1128) in the Senate and the Death Tax Elimination Act (HR-8) in the House of Representatives , are pro-growth and pro-entrepreneur and worthy of strong support.

“The more immediate the relief from federal death taxes, the better. Long phase-in periods, such as over 10 years in the House bill, are counterproductive.”

Keating noted the White House might veto the legislation, but urged the president not to.

“One can only hope the legacy-obsessed President Clinton will somehow see the historic opportunity he has to push for the elimination of anti-growth, unfair death taxes. After all, few U.S. presidents can claim that they got rid of a destructive tax.”

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Times Change, So Does Name: Escondido Motors Ltd. is now Mercedes-Benz of Escondido.

That name change is no small source of satisfaction for dealership owner Angelo Damante, who had waited for 14 years to use the words “Mercedes-Benz” in his company name.

Damante opened his doors in 1986 as an exclusive Mercedes-Benz dealership. But the company’s corporate rules said that he could not use the Mercedes-Benz name in connection with a city , unless he’d been a dealer for 30 years.

Damante had to settle for the name “Escondido Motors Ltd.” , not much help for people flipping through the phone book or calling information.

The problem was solved after Damante became a member of the National Retail Council, a 12-member board that represents 315 Mercedes dealers nationwide. The members came up with the idea that dealers could be rewarded permission to use the name Mercedes-Benz if they met certain stringent requirements, he said.

Criteria included a high rating on a customer satisfaction index and an excellent performance history in employee training, Damante said.

The Mercedes corporate board approved the recommendation and conducted an evaluation of which stores should be permitted to change their names. Damante’s dealership was one of the first accepted, he said.

“Becoming Mercedes-Benz of Escondido is a natural,” Damante said. “It is much easier to be known as Mercedes-Benz of Escondido than to have to explain what Escondido Motors Ltd. is.”

Dudek Expands: Encinitas-based Dudek & Associates, Inc., one of San Diego County’s largest engineering consulting firms, celebrated the opening of its newest branch office June 19 in Temecula. The branch office will be the first in the Temecula-Murrieta area.

“We’re extremely excited to have the opportunity to better serve the Temecula Valley community,” said R. Dale Harvey, Jr., manager of the Principal and Land Development Division. “Our mission is to provide our customers with superior service from our engineers and scientists through their vast experience and knowledge of the area, as well as using complex interdisciplinary teams for faster and superior results.”

With clients throughout Southern California, including Palm Desert and Orange, the Temecula office will help Dudek provide quicker response and better service for a developing region, he said.

Dudek & Associates supports Temecula Valley’s “smart growth” philosophy. A large focus of the land development work is in infrastructure needs, design, surveying and public works improvements, Harvey said.

Send small business and retail news to Lee Zion at lzion@sdbj.com.

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