My Most and Least Favorite Business Activity

In the span of one hour this morning, I got to "enjoy" both my most and least favorite business activity.

My least favorite activity is always paying taxes, but within that broad category (remember that being in 10 states and 25 counties means that I file over 50 different tax returns or one sort or another every year) my least least favorite are business property tax returns.  If you have not run a small business, you may not be aware of what a pain these are (individuals don't have to file them, and large companies have poor schleps in accounting to do it). 

First, business property tax statements usually have to be filed by county, so I have to do a zillion of them.  Second, governments require that you report every year and in great detail on essentially every asset your business owns in a state or county.  A business must report these assets, usually with a description, date purchased, original purchase price and estimate current market value.  Imagine as an individual if you had to report this information on everything in your house - furniture, computers, appliances, tools, etc.  Now imagine doing it for a business, which owns a lot more miscellaneous stuff than you have in your house.

What really irritates me is that filing some of these statements requires the person filling out the statement to take a chance.  Clearly, no one is going to list every asset, down to the last pencil and paper clip -- you are going to establish some reasonable cutoff, and group similar assets into catch-alls like "miscellaneous tools" or "office supplies".  Note however, that this is taking a chance:  In counties that require detailed asset listings, there is never any statutory language like "you can ignore items under $100 as de minimis" or "you can group similar items".  Technically, you are supposed to list them all.  Take my word for it, this is very, very tedious.

But wait, as the Ginsu knife guy would say, for our business there is more aggravation.  We do business as a concession holder on federal lands.  For example, we might run a US Forest Service campground.  By US law, states and counties may not charge the US government property taxes on these facilities.  BUT, certain of the most acquisitive states, including California and Washington, have devised taxes that get around this requirement.  These two states make me pay the federal government's property taxes for them at the facilities I operate.  This is kind of like being forced by law to pay your landlord's taxes for him.  I always find this terribly irritating, all the more so since now that I know the game, when time comes to bid on concessions in these states, I just subtract the estimated taxes from what I am willing to pay the government in rent, in effect ensuring that the US government ends up paying the tax. 

This whole enterprise left me feeling depressed, when a couple who I had called about a manager position at a new store concession of ours at Clear Lake State Park in California called me back.  It turned out this couple is incredibly entrepreneurial, has great business experience, and are very well-suited to running my operation with minimal supervision.  I was thrilled to find them, and they were in turn thrilled to find an outdoor summer job opportunity in a nice location which could be flexible enough to accommodate a person with a disability (one of the couple has Parkinsons).  There is NOTHING I enjoy more than finding great people to work for me, and finding such people is all the sweeter if I can offer them an opportunity that uniquely fits their own needs. 

  • Speaking of hating to pay taxes, check out the post below and let me know what you think. I'm curious as to your feelings on the subject of unemployment tax.

    Thanks!
    Mark

    http://entreblog.blogspot.com/2005/04/cost-of-unemployment_01.html

  • I agree with you 100% on the most favorite business activity. Finding great people to work with and establishing win-win relationships is very rewarding.

    On the least favorite side I agree that taxes rank very high. What I hate doing most, though, is laying people off. Paying taxes is fun in comparison.