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Self-employed head to polls with unanswered questions

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With only three days to go before they head to the polls, self-employed voters are disappointed with the Presidential candidates, each of whom made small business owners a centerpiece of his platform. Katie Vlietstra, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association for the Self-Employed, says the organization submitted 10 questions in September to President Obama and Governor Romney's campaigns on behalf of the nation's 22 million sole proprietors and micro-business owners—a group she says represents more than 70 percent of the small business community.

NASE, which is non-partisan and does not endorse a candidate, promised to use the candidates' answers to educate and inform its membership about the positions of each on small business taxes and economic recovery "so that they may make the best decision for their business in November." But November is here and the answers never came.

To be fair, Vlietstra acknowledges that hundreds of constituent groups submit questionnaires to the candidates and they can't respond to all of them. Furthermore, she says, the candidates might feel that they've addressed all of NASE's questions already on the campaign trail. To that, she says to both, "You've spoken broadly about small business, but you haven't addressed this population specifically."

Ignoring a 22-million-strong segment of the population, she argues, was a strategic mistake. In swing state Ohio, where voters are expected to determine the election for the country, Vlietstra encourages entrepreneurs to make their presence and power known by sharing NASE's "I am a self-employed voter" button on Facebook.

About those 10 unanswered questions? Here are the top issues NASE says its membership will have in mind at the polls on Tuesday:

1. What role do you think the self-employed play in our nation's economy?

2. Currently the self-employed (sole proprietors) do not receive a business deduction for their health insurance costs. All other business entities are allowed this tax benefit. The self-employed received a temporary one-year reprieve from these extra taxes on their 2010 tax return due to the passage of the Small Business Jobs Act. However, they again were required to pay more in taxes than all other business for their 2011 taxes. Would you support providing the self-employed with a permanent, full tax deduction for their health insurance costs?

3. Do you support permanently increasing the federal tax deduction for startup expenses, allowing business owners to deduct $10,000 of start-up costs?

4. Do you support simplifying the current home office deduction, allowing home-based business owners to have the option of choosing a standard $1,500 deduction to simplify their tax preparation?

5. What type of business environment would you seek to create to encourage economic growth within the United States?

6. Currently, the tax rates are set to increase effective January 1, 2013. What proposals would you offer to address the nation's rising tax rate?

7. To President Obama: What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment as president in support of the self-employed community?

7. To Governor Romney: President Obama elevated the Small Business Administration to a cabinet level position, would you maintain the SBA's Administrator's spot in the cabinet?

8. The Affordable Care Act included small business health tax credits that excluded the self employed. How would you make health coverage affordable for the 22 million self employed Americans of which a majority purchases coverage in the individual health insurance market?

9. What types of policy would you propose to encourage the creation of new small businesses?

10. What two or three priorities will you give to the Small Business Administration?

Still have questions, or ready to vote on Tuesday? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter #SmallBizVote.

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