Currituck biz people bullish on tax plan

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Courtney Gallop

Paul O'Neal official picture.jpg
Bobby Hanig.jpg

By William F. West
Staff Writer

Friday, November 17, 2017

POWELLS POINT — Small-business owners and professionals attending last week’s annual Currituck Chamber of Commerce banquet expressed confidence that Congress will pass a tax reform bill they believe will be good for business and the overall economy. 

The House in fact approved its version of tax reform Thursday in a mostly party-line 227-205 vote. The measure slashes the corporate tax rate, reduces the number of tax brackets and eliminates a number of popular tax deductions. The Senate is expected to vote on its version of tax reform after Thanksgiving next week. The two bodies will then hammer out an agreement that President Donald Trump would like to sign before Christmas.

Courtney Gallop, owner of Nags Head-based Gallop Funeral Services, said she’s keeping her fingers crossed about passage of a tax reform package she believes will provide individual Americans more money to spend.

“At this point, coming out of the Obama Administration, we are looking for any life raft we can find to increase hiring, grow our businesses, contribute to the economy,” Gallop said during the event at the Kilmarlic Golf Club in Lower Currituck on Thursday. 

Trump and congressional Republicans claim their mammoth tax reform proposal will be a boost to the economy, even as it adds $1.5 trillion to the national debt over 10 years. Besides slashing the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent, it also doubles the standard deduction for individuals and couples and raises the child tax credit. The House’s and Senate’s tax reform bills differ on the reduction or elimination of several tax deductions, including the mortgage interest deduction, and the deduction for property and state and local income taxes.   

Gallop, who is a registered Republican, said she and other small-business owners are pleased that the GOP-led Congress and President Trump are “concerned with the needs and the hindrances and obstacles facing small-business people.”

“We are the job creators. We are the tax builders. And we need to have the cards stacked for us,” she said.

Gallop said small-business owners sometimes feel over-regulated and over-taxed. In fact, she said, much of Gallop Funeral Services’ staffing is handled now through contractors and with part-time help. She said that’s mainly because of federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules and as a result of the Affordable Health Care Act, better known as “Obamacare.”

Earlier this week, the Senate announced that it’s tax reform plan will also include an end to the ACA’s requirement that Americans get health insurance coverage. Eliminating the mandate will provide the Senate tax reform plan with $318 billion in savings over 10 years.  

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has projected that ending the requirement would mean 4 million additional uninsured people by 2019 and 13 million more uninsured by 2027. Another study of the GOP tax proposal has concluded that it will cause 13 percent of taxpayers to pay more in taxes. 

Paul O’Neal, a commercial agent with Towne Insurance, an affiliate of TowneBank, said he believes, however, that the average American taxpayer is going to receive a tax cut from the plan.

Asked about criticisms of the GOP tax plans as too geared toward the wealthy, O’Neal, a former GOP county commissioner in Currituck, suggested reaching consensus on any tax plan would be difficult.

“You’re never going to satisfy every single special interest and constituency,” he said. “You have to do the best you can and move on — and let it take effect and let people see that it’s going to move the country.”

O’Neal said he believes most Americans are overtaxed and that the federal government spends too much money. The federal debt is currently about $20.5 trillion.

“I find it odd that nobody worries about the debt until they think there might be less revenue,” he said.

He believes every federal department could cut a few cents from every dollar allocated just by addressing issues of abuse, fraud and waste.

Bobby Hanig, who runs pool maintenance and beach chair-umbrella service businesses in Currituck, also believes Americans pay too many taxes. 

“We’ve always been overtaxed compared to the rest of the world,” he said. “I mean, we have a 35 percent tax rate. ... That’s unheard of anywhere else in the world.”

Hanig, the current chairman of the Currituck Board of Commissioners and a Republican, believes the GOP will ultimately be successful pushing through tax reform. However, he doesn’t think it will happen before Christmas.

“I don’t think they will get it through this year,” he said.

Hanig was confident House Speaker Paul Ryan would shepherd the legislation through the House. He was less optimistic of tax reform’s chances in the Senate.

So is O’Neal.

“The Senate is the biggest part of the swamp in Washington, D.C.’,” he said. “They’re elitist — they need to come live among the peasants to see what an average family has to go through.”

O’Neal believes tax reform will happen, unless two or three senators torpedo the measure.

The GOP holds a 52-48 majority over the Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats. However, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has already announced his opposition to the Senate’s current tax reform proposal. There are at least four other senators who have expressed concerns with various parts of the plan.