Here’s a recap of the key small business news stories for this week.
Online retailers in particular were focused late this week on an anticipated U.S. Senate vote on an Internet sales tax bill. If passed, the law would give states the power to require out-of-state sellers to collect sales tax for online sales. The vote has been delayed for at least a week, and opinions are mixed on what it would mean for online businesses.
Meanwhile, CISPA — another bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives — is supposed to protect data in the event of a cyber attack. But privacy advocates including small business leaders worry the cure could be as bad as or worse than the disease.
Below, the Small Business Trends Editorial Team puts your small business news for the week into perspective:
Tax and Policy
- The U.S. Senate is considering an Internet sales tax. It now looks like lawmakers won’t vote on the issue until after returning from a week-long vacation, in early May. Affiliate marketers support the proposed law, online sellers not so much. Geno Prussakov shared more from the affiliate marketer’s perspective recently with a post to the BizSugar community.
- The U.S. Senate is also considering a new “Startup Visa” program. The legislation would create a pool of 75,000 immigrant visas for entrepreneurs. But the effort has stalled, and Scott Shane has a different way to “sell” a startup Visa program. Visas, he says, are cheaper than tax breaks for attracting new companies.
- Small businesses offer a mixed reaction to President Obama’s budget. The budget unveiled recently by the President touches on issues like taxes, minimum wage, entitlements and pensions, all important issues for small businesses. Rohit Arora, CEO of Bi2Credit, gives another perspective on what the budget proposal might really mean to small businesses.
- The IRS is looking at taxing free lunches at tech firms. Businesses of all sizes offer benefits to employees that go beyond monetary payment. Rules are complex about which of these compensations constitute taxable perks. So it’s unclear how an IRS decision on free lunches at tech firms might affect other perks.
- Texas tops the list of business-friendly tax environments. That’s according to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council’s annual Business Tax Index. California languishes at the bottom of the list. Twenty-one factors are taken into account in determining the rankings.
- A report says small businesses are being targeted for cyber attacks. The Internet Security Threat Report 2013 issued by Symantec says small businesses have a problem. The report suggests firms of fewer than 250 employees were the focus of 31 percent of cyber attacks last year. That’s up 18 percent from 2011. Your business must take the proper security steps.
- CISPA Passes House Over Objections. Supporters of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act say it is needed to protect U.S. citizens and companies from computer attacks. However, opponents including small business owners, worry it lacks any protections on the government’s use of our private data.
- Dell introduced a huge 18-inch tablet/laptop hybrid. Dubbed the XS 18, the device weighs less than 5 pounds and features an 18.4-inch touchscreen display. Despite its portability, it can be used as a desktop or laptop with keyboard and mouse. For a tablet, it’s got a huge screen, although it is thin and small compared to other desktop computers.
- Google Drive, Gmail went down for a bit. Users noticed disruption in the service after 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 17. Some users may have experienced the outage as early as 8 a.m. Service was returned by 11 a.m., but the company has still offered no definitive explanation.
- New BlackBerry Q10 has Skype and a physical keyboard. The Skype feature is something new for BlackBerry’s latest device. But the physical keyboard is a link to the mobile device’s past — it’s what dedicated BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY) users enjoyed about the devices traditionally. The question is whether it will win or retain enough fans in an age of touchscreen technology.
- Facebook Home hits half a million downloads. The app is currently exclusively available through Google Play, and only on select phones. Still, observers consider this a slow start. So far, reviews of the phone are mixed. But we’ve reported at least one expert would list it as a potential Facebook marketing resource.
- Latino Small business owners lack financing. There are an estimated 3 million Latino owned businesses in the U.S. producing $500 billion in revenue annually. It is projected that number could grow to 12 million businesses by the end of the decade, a great engine of economic recovery. But first they will need sufficient financing, say advocates.
- 39% of small businesses get ROI from social media. A survey by Manta released recently also found that small businesses are investing more time and dedicating additional employees to social media. This was a survey widely reported in some lazy coverage as proving social media had no value — but to our analysis that is not what it found at all.