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Is Oprah a Small Business? In the House, She May Be

House Republicans may tweak their proposal for a 20 percent tax cut for “every” small business with fewer than 500 employees after being asked if owners of sports teams such as the New York Giants and billionaires such as Oprah Winfrey would qualify.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who has been championing the proposal, said in a Feb. 1 memo to House Republicans that “every small business that employs fewer than 500 people” would get the 20 percent tax cut. Cantor said the bill will be introduced in March, and he hopes to pass it by April 15.

In response to an inquiry from Roll Call, Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon said the proposal did not have a revenue cap for businesses. But she noted that Republicans are still drafting the legislation, and said it’s not yet clear exactly what restrictions will be in it, including whether billionaires or sports team owners could benefit.

“We still do not have legislative text but are cognizant of how this issue might relate to professional sports teams and the like,” she said. “The goal of the small-business tax cut is to provide relief for small businesses so that they can grow, expand and create new jobs.”

The New York Giants have about 210 employees, spokesman Pat Hanlon said in an email, including about 100 players and coaches and 110 other personnel.

Forbes magazine valued the Giants at $1.3 billion last year.

Winfrey’s Harpo Productions employed about 400 people before laying off workers last year after Winfrey shut down her syndicated talk show and ramped up the Oprah Winfrey Network, according to press reports. Calls and emails to Harpo to determine the number of employees at the company were not returned.

In September, Forbes said Winfrey was worth $2.7 billion.

Providing a tax cut for small businesses is on both parties’ agenda this year. Last week Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the No. 3 Senate Democrat, held out hope that a compromise could be worked out. But the details of the various proposals are starkly different, and Democrats have sought to pay for their tax cuts with tax increases on millionaires — something the GOP has repeatedly rejected.

President Barack Obama has proposed a host of business tax cuts, some of which would have benefited companies large and small.

For example, the payroll tax cut for businesses proposed in last year’s American Jobs Act would have applied to the first $5 million in payroll. A second proposal would have eliminated employer payroll taxes on up to $50 million in higher payroll expenses — either through raises or new hires.

Those proposed tax cuts, like the bulk of the president’s jobs agenda, never received a vote on the House floor and were blocked in the Senate by a Republican filibuster of an accompanying millionaires’ tax to pay for it.

Other small business tax benefits proposed or signed by the president have been more limited. The tax credit for health care plans bought by small businesses, for example, only goes to companies with fewer than 25 employees where the average salary is less than $50,000.

Defining a small business can be tricky; the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy defines a small business as an independent business with 500 or fewer employees — exactly as Cantor did. But the SBA has a more restrictive definition for the purposes of determining eligibility for government aid, with limits varying by industry and some based on the number of employees and others by total revenue.

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