Dealing with Interest Rates, Small-Business Grants, and Corporate Transparency Forms
[Gene Marks, host]
Hey, everybody, this is Gene Marks, and welcome to this week's episode of the Paycheck THRIVE Week in Review, where we pull a few items out of the news. Talk about them a little bit because they impact your small business and mine. So, let's get to it.
The first this week is the Federal Reserve. This is from The New York Times: The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged this past week while keeping alive the possibility of a future increase, striking a cautious stance as rapid inflation retreats but is not yet vanquished.
Interest rates have been on hold in a range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent since July, up from near zero as recently as March 2022.
Policymakers think their borrowing costs are high enough to achieve their goal of curbing economic growth if they are kept at this level over time. By cooling demand, the Fed is hoping to prod companies to raise prices less quickly. While the economy has held up so far, growth was unusually strong over the summer. Inflation has come down since 2022.
Fed policymakers are now trying to wrestle inflation the rest of the way down to about 2%. The combination of economic resilience and moderating inflation has given officials hope that they might be able to slow growth gradually and relatively painlessly in a rare soft landing, but there are still concerns.
Now, I mentioned that it's a 5.25 to 5.5% rate, guys, but you're not paying that interest rate, right? That's the rate that the Fed charges banks for borrowing money from it. The prime rate is actually 8.5%, and like most of my clients, if you're looking for refinancings, working capital, new equipment loans, new property loans for your business, you're probably paying a point or two or three above the prime rate. I have clients that are paying 9.5, 10.5, 11% for new loans. So, that's an issue.
It is holding back on some people from making capital investments because of this higher rate of interest. And, also, it's constricting the availability of credit for banks because they don't want to lend money out to small or startup, you know, or growth companies. If there is a concern about, you know, those growth companies managing those higher financing costs.
So, all of this is having a constriction on capital among businesses of all sizes, and the takeaway is this: It's going to be this way for the foreseeable future. I cannot even imagine the Fed starting to reduce interest rates until at least mid-2024 and probably later. So, you have to make your plans and your budgets to operate your business around an environment with a prime rate that is 8.5%, and the interest rates that you're going to be charged will be somewhere around 9.5 to 10%.
The next news item comes from the Business Journals – bizjournals.com – and this is about grants that small businesses are getting. According to this report from Andy Medici at the Playbook, small-business grants are under fire and one proponent of the funding options, and a subsequent chilling effect could harm big and small companies alike.
This concern over the future of small business grant programs comes from Elizabeth Gore, who is the co-founder and president of Hello Alice, an online small-business resource and training platform that offers partners with companies to offer grant programs.
At a time when interest rates are high and many small businesses are seeking funding, grants can help companies survive and thrive, growing them into suppliers and contractors for larger companies, says Gore.
So, why is Gore concerned? Well, Hello Alice is the target of a lawsuits by America First Legal, which is over a small-business grant it helped offer alongside Progressive Insurance to give 10 black-owned small businesses $25,000 to purchase new vehicles. The lawsuit alleges racial discrimination.
I'm seeing a lot more of that starting to pop up. I'm saying people are starting to target companies that are offering grants or loans or financing to minority businesses and mainly because they're concerned that it is potentially discriminatory because you're excluding non-minority business owners. And this was bolstered by the Supreme Court's decision about racial discrimination by colleges when they're when they're putting out, you know, for college applicants.
It's an issue and it is going to continue to be an issue, and I think it's going to impact the ability of minority businesses to get loans and grants in the future, something that if you are a minority-business owner or a small-business owner that's maybe woman-owned, black-owned or Hispanic-owned. You’re going to have to be really careful because some of these grant programs themselves might be going away. So, keep that in mind.
Finally, there is a new bit of regulation that's going to be impacting all of us in January of 2024. This is a report from verifythis.com. Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, most small businesses will be required to report new information to the federal government. Existing companies will have one year to report this information.
Congress passed the Corporate Transparency Act in 2021. It requires companies to submit what are called Beneficial Ownership Information reports to the U.S. Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. These reports must disclose details about the company, such as its name, address, and taxpayer ID number, as well as personal information about its beneficial owners, and in some cases, its applicants.
The new reporting requirements are part of the government's efforts to make it harder for bad actors to hide or benefit from their ill-gotten gains through shell companies or other opaque ownership structures, the government says. But some groups, like the National Federation of Independent Businesses, says the new requirements are an added burden for small business owners. It's verified, according to verifythis.com, that this is going to happen, so we need to be prepared for it.
You are going to be receiving these forms and instructions by the government, if you haven't received them already, and you need to report by the end of 2024; basically, who the owners are, the beneficial owners, but the owners of your company so that the government can have that information.
Hopefully, the form is not too complicated to fill out, but the government – the Treasury Department – recently announced that it was going to be publishing guidelines and instructions for helping fill out these forms, which is not a good sign for any government agency to do that, mainly because I'm assuming that these forms could be more complicated than we think. Who knows? But it's more reporting and more disclosure that we have to make to the federal government. You know, talk to city hall: It's going to be a requirement and we're going to just have to deal with it.
My name is Gene Marks, and you have been listening to the Paychex THRIVE Week in Review, where we review some of the big issues and news this week and how they impact your business. So, I hope you found this information helpful.
If you need any advice or help, if you'd like to suggest a guest for our for our podcast, please visit us at payx.me/thrivetopics. Again, my name is Gene Marks. Thanks for listening. We'll see you again next week. Take care.
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