Today marks the 50th birthday of the S corporation! As you can imagine, here at the S Corporation Association we’ve got the cake and candles ready.

Perhaps more importantly, at a time of economic and political uncertainty, the story of the S corporation and its role in making the American economy more diverse and flexible is worth reviewing.

The S corporation was born at a time when the economy was slowing, Americans were losing their jobs, and an unpopular Republican President was being accused of practicing “trickle-down economics” by a Democratic Congress.

President Eisenhower embraced the S corporation — originally an idea proposed by the Truman Treasury Department — as a means of burnishing his Main Street credentials while addressing concerns of Republicans and Democrats alike that too much economic control was being consolidated into the hands of too few wealthy Americans.

Congress passed the provision as a small part of a much larger miscellaneous tax bill and the President signed on September 2, 1958 while on vacation up on Cape Cod.

Over the past fifty years, the S corporation has helped diversify the American economy while becoming an increasingly important player in the lives of millions of Americans.

While the S corporation has always been a successful vehicle for facilitating private enterprise and innovation, its growth accelerated dramatically in the last thirty years as marketing, communication, transportation and other transaction costs for small firms shrank along with the marginal tax rates they paid.

Lower transaction costs means smaller, more diversified firms and a stronger Middle America. Today, there are over four million S corporations, employing millions of workers and contributing significantly to our national income.

As Congress reconvenes next year and considers what to do with the tax code and how to address concerns of economic concentration, it should keep in mind that the S corporation was created by a Democratic Congress intent on countering economic concentration. It worked, as four million businesses spread throughout communities around the country can attest.

Happy 50th, S Corps and many returns!

The Game of LIFO

More movement on the LIFO front. Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved for comment a roadmap to convert US accounting rules for public corporations over to EU rules.

The transition would take place over the next eight years and include numerous steps, including a decision by the SEC in 2011 on whether to proceed, but the bottom line is the accounting community and the people who regulate them are continuing to move away from rules that allow for LIFO accounting.

As S-Corp readers know, a move to eliminate LIFO for book accounting has implications for tax accounting as well, since the tax code requires companies to use the same broad inventory method for both.

While LIFO accounting debates may appear too technical to matter, this issue has the potential to impose a massive tax increase on manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers around the country. A recent revenue estimate for eliminating LIFO suggested it would raise taxes on these businesses by more than $100 billion over the next ten years.

A tax increase that size is bound to be noticed. It threatens a double hit on businesses that would be forced to pay back taxes on accumulated LIFO reserves while also being hit with higher tax levies in future years.

Tax issues were not a major part of the SEC discussion, although the Commissioners are aware of the tie between book and tax accounting on LIFO and suggested maybe the IRS could do something to fix it. Maybe. But, Congress still needs to find revenues over the next couple of years to offset a very expensive agenda of tax relief and spending increases. Whether the IRS comes to the rescue or not, we expect this issue to be debated in Congress beginning next year.

Extender Picture Muddy as Ever

With energy issues on the front lines, a group of 16 Senators has joined together to support a package of energy provisions that includes, well, just about everything — nuclear, drilling, renewables, and an extension of the production tax credit and other energy tax items.

Looking at the past votes on extenders, if you add the Republican members of the Group of Sixteen to the 55 or so Senators who supported the most recent extender package — the one with revenue offsets — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now has a roadmap to getting the necessary 60 votes and help take energy issues off the table before the elections.

What does this mean for the broader tax package, including the AMT relief, R&E tax credit and S corporation charitable deduction expansion? It is not entirely clear, but adoption of the very popular production tax credit and other energy tax provisions separately may ease pressure on Reid to move the larger extender bill.