Portland, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley announced that the Senate Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill includes key provisions to help Oregon small businesses compete in the global economy. The bill also includes language to address the growing problem of tax identity theft.
“We should be doing everything we can to promote our small businesses and to protect our citizens from tax refund theft,” said Merkley. “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and this bill will help get them the resources and services they need to be successful in our global economy. And too many Oregonians are being cheated out of their tax refunds by criminals who steal their identities and their refund checks. The IRS has been woefully slow in responding to this threat, even as thousands of Oregonians have been hit by this growing problem. This bill sends a strong message to the IRS to take action on protecting Americans’ tax refunds from theft.”
Key elements of the legislation that passed the Senate today that will impact Oregonians include:
Helping Small Brewers and Wine Makers: The legislation includes $5 million to help reduce delays in the labeling process for beer and wine. The surge in small brewers and wine makers in the last few years has caused long delays for small businesses who must apply for labeling through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Small Business Development Centers: $120 million for Small Business Development Centers that provide technical assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. Oregon’s Small Business Development Center Network has 19 centers throughout the state to provide advising, training, online courses and resources in every aspect of business development and management. In 2014, Oregon’s SBDC counseled 5,821, clients, helped with 217 new business starts, and attributes 1,115 new jobs created due to their assistance.
Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership: $3 million for the FAST program that is designed to stimulate economic development among small, high technology businesses through federally-funded innovation and research and development programs like the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR).
State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP): $20 million for the STEP program that provides matching federal funds to states and territories to carry out export promotion efforts for small businesses. Grant recipients have used their funds for trade missions, international marketing efforts, business counseling, export trade show exhibits, and other promotional activities.
Protecting Oregon Taxpayers: Senator Merkley was able to get language included into the legislation today that expresses the Senate Committee’s deep concern for the scale of tax fraud connected to identity theft and directs the IRS to establish stronger security measures to protect all tax filers before identity theft occurs, as well as to establish reliable measures to protect tax filers who experience identity theft.
The bill was voted out of the Appropriations Committee today on a bipartisan vote. The next steps would be for the bill to be sent to the Senate floor for a full Senate vote, and eventually to be merged with a counterpart bill from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to be passed by both houses and signed into law.