The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has published new, detailed sole proprietorship return data for 2009 that hint at how tough 2009 was for small and midsize insurance agencies and brokerage firms.

The number of sole proprietorship agencies that filed returns in 2009 increased to 446,229, up 1% from the total filed in 2008, but business receipts fell 4.2%, to $31 billion.

The sole proprietorships increased total net income 0.3%, to about $12 billion by slashing expenses.

Business deductions for salaries and wages fell 2.5%, to $2.7 billion

Advertising expenditures fell 4%, to $783 million.

Deductions for employee benefits dropped 23%, to $123 million, and deductions for pension and profit-sharing plans dropped 23%, to $62 million.

- Allison Bell

Other IRS data coverage from National Underwriter Life & Health: