8 issues to track in 2018

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Phil Roeder/Creative Commons

Supreme Court rulings on how American elections function, implementation of the largest tax overhaul in three decades, widespread changes to Internet access … there’s a lot at stake in 2018.

In Wisconsin, the $3 billion Foxconn deal proceeds, homebakers await another ruling, and business owners who want to benefit the public good have a new way to do that.

Here’s what you need to know to track the key issues of 2018:

What Does The New Tax Law Mean For You?: It’s a good time to be an accountant — assuming “busy” equates to “good.”

On Dec. 22, President Donald Trump signed into law the largest tax overhaul in 30 years. The corporate tax rate was slashed. Property tax exemptions capped. You can get various primers and explanations here and here and here.

What does it mean for you and your business, though? For your 2017 taxes — the ones due in April — not much. Most of the changes take effect for the taxes you’ll file next year. What happens then? You and/or your accountant are going to spend a lot of time this year figuring that out.

To B Corp Or Not To B Corp: A new type of company — benefit corporations — will be allowed in Wisconsin, effective in February.

B corps are essentially for-profit businesses with a non-profit mindset. They aim to create a “general public benefit,” rather than simply focusing on the corporation’s bottom-line finances. B corps are relatively new — Maryland became the first state to authorize them, in 2010. But the idea has spread quickly: In November, Wisconsin became the 34th state to allow B corps.

Interested in creating a B corp? Here are some things to consider. 

Growth of Entrepreneurial Movement: The Badger State isn’t known as a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity. By one measure at least, Wisconsin ranks last among all states for startup activity. 

This may be the year that changes.

Big things are happening in Madison, notably the development of the StartingBlock entrepreneurial hub (scheduled to open in May), and the renovation of an East Side warehouse to serve as as permanent home for Sector67’s community workspace.

But it’s not just the capitol city.

Last April, two Wisconsin natives launched the Rock River Capital Partners Fund I, specifically aimed at investing in young companies throughout the state.  

In October, the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft announced their TitleTown Tech partnership, a $10 million proposal that includes an accelerator and venture capital programs.

It takes years to build a reputation as an entrepreneurial hub. But as 2018 dawns, Wisconsin appears to be on the right track.

Foxconn Development In Racine County: If all goes as promised, the state and local governments will give Taiwan-based Foxconn $3 billion in incentives in exchange for the creation of a $10 billion liquid crystal display flat screen factory in Mount Pleasant.

But.

A court case over a TIF District in Eau Claire may affect the FoxConn project, other highway projects could be delayed in favor of Foxconn-related road projects, and Democrats are pledging to make the FoxConn deal an issue in the 2018 legislative races.

So while the deal is done, there’s still a lot to be determined.

Home bakers In Limbo: For Wisconsin’s home bakers, 2017 began with a famine, became a feast and ended with a question mark.

Bianca Moraes/Creative Commons
Find a home baker near you — or get your home bakery added to our list!

In short — Until this year, Wisconsinites who wanted to sell their home-baked goods needed a special permit and commercial kitchen. Judge Duane Jorgenson, however, ruled in favor of three bakers who questioned the constitutionality of the home-baking ban. That gave home bakers the right to sell their goods without any sales cap.

But the state has filed a challenge to Jorgenson’s ruling. He has yet to rule on that motion. His decision could maintain the status quo, make minimal tweaks or significantly alter the system. A ruling is expected soon.

Bitcoin For Business — If Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies seem highly futuristic and well-removed from your everyday life, well, I hear you. But consider this: Bitcoin’s value at the end of last year was FIFTEEN TIMES its value at the start of 2017.

If Bitcoin’s 2018 trajectory is similar, it may be integrated into our lives (and businesses) much quicker than we might think. In that case, it’s best to know what Bitcoin is, its pros and cons, and how it might work for you and your small business. 

Your Business After Net Neutrality: Utter the term “net neutrality” and see how fast people’s eyes glaze over.

Alas, it’s an inscrutable term for an issue of incredible importance: Internet access.

The Federal Communications Commission in December repealed net neutrality regulations, potentially giving broadband providers the ability to control who can see what websites, at what speed and at what cost. It’s part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to deregulate businesses.

Critics worry, among other concerns, that the deregulation will make it harder for startups, which may have to pay more money just to reach consumers.

There are already attempts to bypass the issue.

For Americans, there’s not much to be done on this issue but sit and wait to see what Internet providers do. Call your political representatives, sure. But the FCC has voted and the current rules are likely to be the ruling system for the time being.

Unless …

Politics, Politics And, Yes, More Politics: 2018 is an election year. (I know. Every DAY seems like a full election year.)

But 2018 actually is. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 34 of the 50 U.S. Senate seats; and thousands of local and state seats are up for grabs.

While 10 months of political ads may drive us crazy, the result of those elections will significantly impact our businesses, our taxes, our schools, our roads, our security, our families, our lives. So it’s worth paying attention, and then voting.

Of particular note in 2018, however, is this: The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up two cases regarding partisan gerrymandering, the process by which lawmakers draw legislative and congressional district boundaries in order to maintain their own party’s political power.

The Court has already heard a case regarding Wisconsin’s maps, which were drawn by Republicans and challenged by Democrats. In December, the Court agreed to hear a second case — this one over Maryland maps drawn by Democrats and challenged by Republicans.

The Supreme Court has never said whether it’s unconstitutional to draw political boundaries for partisan reasons. How they rule in these cases could literally reshape American elections.

 

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