Owners of very small U.S. businesses seem to be less optimistic this year than they were in 2002, according to the National Association for the Self-Employed, Washington.

Researchers hired by the group used the Internet to survey more than 500 NASE members in May. The survey participants were U.S. residents who own businesses with fewer than 10 employees. The NASE notes that the United States is home to at least 16 million businesses in that size range.

Only 31% of the survey participants said they were optimistic or very optimistic about conditions for their businesses, down from 49% in March 2002.

Mixed feelings surfaced when researchers asked NASE members about the Bush administrations moves to cut taxes.

Although one-third of the survey participants agreed that the proposed tax cuts would help get the economy going, 38% disagreed.

Forty-six percent of the participants supported cuts in stock dividend taxes, but 45% opposed the dividend tax cuts.

Thirty-nine percent of the NASE members said the biggest beneficiaries of the Bush administrations tax cuts would be wealthy individuals; 32%, large corporations and their executives; 22%, the general working class; 4.2%, the self-employed; 2%, middle managers; and 0.4%, retirees.

Researchers also asked the micro-business owners about health insurance.

The NASE has been lobbying for years for proposals that would let self-employed individuals exclude health insurance premium costs when computing their income taxes and self-employment taxes.

The survey participants, who may have been influenced by the fact that they are active NASE members, ranked deductibility of health insurance premiums as the most important reform for the self-employed.

Thirty percent ranked access to affordable health care as the most important issue, while only 17% cited “fairer tax breaks for self-employed” and only 13% cited “growth/demand in my industry.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, July 14, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved. Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.