SOURCE: Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

February 07, 2012 08:00 ET

Capital Gains Tax Exemption for Investments in Startups Would Help New Companies Cross the 'Valley of Death' Says Kauffman Report

Permanent Exemption Could Spur $750 Million in Additional Annual Seed Investment, Supporting the High-Growth Startups That Create Jobs

KANSAS CITY, MO--(Marketwire - Feb 7, 2012) - New companies with high growth potential -- and with high potential to create jobs -- often struggle to obtain sufficient capital to cross the so-called "Valley of Death" in the process from concept to prototype. With continued economic uncertainty, government funding is no longer a guaranteed solution, and private investors have become increasingly risk averse. According to a new report released today by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, both startup activity and investment would be increased by a permanent tax exemption on capital gains on investments in startups held for at least five years.

This idea is embodied in the Startup Act proposed by the Kauffman Foundation in July 2011, in Startup legislation proposed by the Administration, the Startup Act legislation recently introduced in the Senate by Senators Moran and Warner and in a Small Business Tax Extenders Bill introduced this week by Senators Snowe and Landrieu.

In "A Market-Based Approach for Crossing the Valley of Death: The Benefits of a Capital Gains Exemption for Investments in Startups," authors Robert Litan, Kauffman Foundation vice president of research and policy, and Alicia Robb, Kauffman Foundation senior research fellow, argue that this approach would reduce risk and enhance after-tax rewards for long-term investment in these important startups.

"The administration has proposed making permanent the 100 percent exclusion for investments in C corporations held for at least five years," Litan said. "Making this exemption permanent would generate, conservatively, $7.5 billion in additional investment over a 10-year period in startups, which contribute the vast majority of net new jobs created in the U.S. economy."

Litan and Robb drew on estimates from the National Venture Capital Association, the Center for Venture Research and the Kauffman Foundation to calculate a total baseline investment eligible for the capital gains preference of $10 billion in 2010. Assuming that a permanent capital gains tax exemption would generate a 15 percent increase in the real return of startup investments (relative to the current capital gains tax), this should conservatively lead to a 7.5 percent increase in investment volume: $0.75 billion in additional investments in new companies per year.

While it is difficult to directly estimate the number of incremental new jobs this additional investment could create, the report offers ample indirect evidence that the amount would be significant.

"Young companies -- those five years old or younger -- accounted for virtually all net job growth from the late 1970s until the Great Recession," Robb said. "Measures that would channel substantially more investment in startups should lead to the launch of more high-growth firms and boost the odds that they will reach the growth phase and create jobs that will support economic recovery."

About the Kauffman Foundation

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private nonpartisan foundation that works to harness the power of entrepreneurship and innovation to grow economies and improve human welfare. Through its research and other initiatives, the Kauffman Foundation aims to open young people's eyes to the possibility of entrepreneurship, promote entrepreneurship education, raise awareness of entrepreneurship-friendly policies, and find alternative pathways for the commercialization of new knowledge and technologies. In addition, the Foundation focuses on initiatives in the Kansas City region to advance students' math and science skills, and improve the educational achievement of urban students, including the Ewing Marion Kauffman School, a college preparatory charter school for middle and high school students set to open in 2011. Founded by late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Foundation is based in Kansas City, Mo. and has approximately $2 billion in assets. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org, and follow the Foundation on www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.

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