It’s nice to have options. Before knowing the fiscal cliff outcome and before taking a trip to North Korea, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt sold 153,000 shares of company stock for $108 million, according to a Wall Street Journal review of securities filings. Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz exercised two million stock options for $107 million. Robert Kauffman, co-founder of hedge fund Fortress Investment Group, sold $180 million in stock back to the firm partly because of concerns about higher tax rates, saying, “It was more that the current certainty, with rates relatively attractive, was a factor. It’s a material amount of money.” No kidding.
Let’s not forget that Google has kept tons of money offshore to reduce the amount it pays in corporate taxes. Not to mention the special tax treatment hedge funds get on their so-called investment gains, which should be taxed as income.
Most businesses in America are small businesses—they’re not huge like Starbucks. Small business owners don’t have the flexibility to exercise options on stock in their company when tax rates are relatively attractive. They don’t have stock options. Most get taxed at their personal income tax rate. For example, a successful mom-and-pop business pays taxes as individuals or joint filers, not as a corporation. Let’s say after 30 years in business they’re finally making some big money. Thanks to the Obama regime, they’ll be taxed at much higher rates as a reward for their success.
The playing field is stacked against the little guy. He doesn’t have the options these bigger players like the Schmidts, Schultzs, and Kauffmans have. The bigger guys get the options and the carve-outs while the little guy gets ripped apart. Meaningful tax reform that broadens the base and lowers rates would make small businesses more competitive and reward innovation and entrepreneurship in America.