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Opinion: We’re Counting on Chairman Smith To Protect Small Businesses

Since becoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Jason Smith has done an excellent job representing Missourians in Washington. Congressman Smith has brought sensible, practical leadership back to Washington that’s let Missouri businesses thrive, despite the ineffectiveness of the White House. Despite inflation woes and supply chain issues, the Show Me State had almost 543,00 small businesses with 1.2 million employees as of 2022.

It’s important that, ahead of this year’s November election, Chairman Smith keeps this momentum going and does not threaten his progress by changing laws like de minimis that small businesses rely on.

You may not have heard of de minimis, but it’s a vital component of how entrepreneurial Americans do business. Because of the de minimis threshold, any items valued under $800 are excluded from the usual import taxes and red tape applied to goods at the border. This is critical for small businesses that lack the staff and resources to spend time navigating complex customs compliance issues.

The Ways and Means Committee recently approved legislation that would modify this de minimis exemption for a large portion of our products, setting up a potential vote on the House floor. The Committee’s discussions conspicuously lacked one important topic – how modifying the de minimis system will affect small businesses like mine, forcing me to raise prices.

Changing de minimis would mean packages valued under $800 that are typically shipped quickly and efficiently would be suddenly staggered and add unnecessary strain to a supply chain system that’s still recovering from COVID. Products that are crucial to how small businesses operate, could be stuck in transit for double or triple the time and ultimately slow down how fast a small business can deliver for their customers.

Moreover, altering de minimis will have a huge financial impact on a small business’s bottom line. According to a National Foreign Trade Council study, without de minimis a normal $50 package would require roughly $27 in processing fees on top of a $20 brokerage fee, which totals to about $97. Those added costs will have to be passed on to consumers, who will be forced to pay higher prices to cover the additional overhead. At a time when we are still dealing with nagging inflationary pressures, raising prices on hard-working Missourians is a losing proposition.

Do we really want to put our small businesses – and customers – through something like this after years of government mismanagement during the pandemic and Joe Biden’s self-inflicted inflation crisis? Missouri has always been pro-business; we need to make sure we are leading by example in Washington, D.C. The only entity changing de minimis protects is the interest of big businesses who have enough resources and infrastructure to handle such a drastic change to how America does business.

I know foreign trade is a hot topic and protecting our national security interests should always be a priority, but I’m optimistic that American ingenuity will be able to balance both priorities. Chairman Smith is a smart, pro-business conservative, so I urge him to reconsider his position as the de minimis debate moves forward.  We’re counting on him to keep Main Street Missouri at the forefront of every decision he makes.