Yes, I am quoting a Bob Dylan song title on a business blog.

But things have changed with the passage of the 2010 Tax Relief Act two weeks ago, and I thought it would be a good idea to highlight some of the provisions that might hold the greatest interest for small and medium-sized businesses.

So, here we go:

Small Business Investment: Section 760 of the Tax Relief Act amends section 1202 of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code), with the intent of increasing incentives to invest in small businesses. The Code now states that if an investment is made in 2011 in stock of a qualified small business and the stock is held for a minimum of five (5) years the gain is tax free. Prior to passage two weeks ago, the Code section 1202 incentive was a 50% gain. Some details: The investment must be in qualified small business stock. That means the investment must be in new shares of a “C” corporation. The investment must be made as an original issue of stock and can be granted for money, property or services performed, except for service of underwriting. To qualify, a company must be a domestic corporation with a cap of aggregate gross assets of $50,000,000 USD before AND after the issuance of the new shares. And, a minimum of 80% of the total assets must be used in an active trade or business. An active trade or business is defined by the IRS as a trade or business other than a personal service business like law, medicine, engineering, consulting, athletics, financial services, and includes other trades or businesses where the business is dependent on the reputation or skill of 1 or more of its employees.

Small Business Expensing: Businesses will be able to write off 100 percent of their equipment and machinery purchases, up to $500,000, that were placed in service after Sept. 8, 2010 but before Jan. 1, 2012. The cost of the equipment (up to $500,000) reduces the total taxable income of the business.

Estate Tax: The revised estate tax level was set at a $5 million exemption and 35 percent top rate through 2012.

Payroll Tax: Employees will receive a 2 percent reduction in their Social Security (FICA) payroll tax in 2011. The rate for employees will drop from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. It is important to note here that employers (no matter what size) will continue to pay the 6.2 percent rate. Self-employed individuals will pay 10.4 percent instead of 12.4 percent. The FICA tax rates for everyone will return to 2010 levels in 2012.

Research Tax Credit: The research tax credit had originally expired as of December 31, 2009. The Tax Relief Act has now extended this for 2010 and 2011.

That wraps it up on this end, and I hope this provides a quick overview of some of the changes in the recent tax legislation. We are not tax accountants (not even close), so if you have questions, it is in your best interests to contact a certified tax accountant, not us.

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting, a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area, where he advises businesses in marketing, sales, front-end operations, and strategy. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://cedarpointconsulting.com.

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