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Small business the focus of statewide tour





With tax changes and job creation initiatives in the works for 2013, Kansas officials hit the road on a Kansas Small Business Empowerment Tour this week.

Meeting with approximately 30 small business owners, local officials and Fort Hays State University staff and administrators, Commerce Secretary Pat George, Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan and Labor Secretary Karin Brownlee highlighted changes for Kansas businesses on the horizon.

Hays was the third of seven stops in two days for the state officials. George said he was seeing good local participation in the events so far.

"We started early in Manhattan this morning," he said. "It's been picking up at every stop ... getting more and more people."

He updated the audience gathered Tuesday afternoon in FHSU's Stouffer Lounge regarding the Rural Opportunity Zone program, a program that just passed 500 participants in approximately 50 Kansas counties.

The initiative, which offers incentives such as Kansas income tax waivers and student loan repayments up to $15,000, began as a means to encourage people to move to Kansas.

"We were just in Norton, and Norton and Phillips counties are No. 1 and 2 in the number of people who have moved in using the ROZ program," George said.

The goal of state officials, George said, is to make Kansas a favorable location for relocating businesses.

Another key to economic growth, Jordan added, is lowering the state's income tax.

"So we went to the Legislature with a proposal," Jordan said. "It didn't exactly come out the way we put it in.

"Yet we got some of the tax policy we wanted."

The goal was to implement Gov. Sam Brownback's policy for a flat tax and to reduce loopholes, credits and deductions.

The state has a three-bracket tax structure at 6.45 percent, 6.23 percent and 3.5 percent. The top two brackets, Jordan said, will be collapsed under the new system, to a 4.9 percent upper rate. The bottom bracket will be 3 percent.

Overall, he said, Kansans' personal income taxes will drop by 14 percent to 24 percent.

"Now we're the second lowest (tax rate) in our region," Jordan said. "Colorado's actually lower than we are on personal income tax, at 4.63 percent."

In addition, standard deductions for single-parent head of households will increase from $4,500 to $9,000, and for married couples filing jointly, the standard deduction will go from $6,000 to $9,000.

Aiding small businesses is another initiative for state officials, he said. With 98 percent of Kansas businesses employing 100 employees or less, it is important to work for growth in that sector.

"We've done very little to help the small business person in the state of Kansas," he said.

To remedy that situation, small businesses now will be defined by corporate structure not by number of employees. For S Corps., limited liability companies and sole proprietors in Kansas starting Jan. 1, there will be no non-wage business income tax.

"We think that's going to give small business a real boost," he said. "We think if we can get some money pumped into those small businesses, it will really be a job creator."