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The Weekly Dispatch: Should You Hike Prices to Offset Higher Gas Costs?

The Dispatch scours the Web every Monday to find must-read news that affects you and your business, and what it really means. Here's what I'm reading this week.

1. High pump prices rattle drivers and businesses

The takeaway: Last week, gas prices hit a national average of $3.29 per gallon, the highest-ever for this time of year. (Gas prices generally fall in the winter, then rise again in summer.) And with continuing unrest in the Middle East, they're likely to jump even higher. The hike is pushing small business owners to choose between raising their own prices, and eating the extra costs to keep their cost-conscious customers in mind.

2. NFL lockout could sack small businesses

The takeaway: If salary negotiations stall into a lockout, the wealthy players and owners of the National Football League won't be the only ones affected. Thousands of small business owners in 32 cities with NFL teams will lose revenue and may be forced to eliminate jobs, at restaurants, bars and retail stores. One Green Bay, Wisc., businessman who owns a bar near the stadium says that work stoppage would knock out at least a third of his business.

3. Don't forget about these 3 tax changes
The takeaway: The federal tax deal passed in the very last days of 2010 means that things are different this year and you need to pay extra attention. Three of the most important: Check to see if you fall under the strict terms of the health care tax credit for small businesses; remember small businesses can deduct investments in real property, including equipment and machinery, up to $500,000; think about the "carrying back" method, which lets firms apply last year's tax credits against income tax paid in the five preceding years, a move that could lead to a refund.

4. Want to expand? Maybe you should sell the business instead
The takeaway: As the economy crawls out of the downturn, sales of small businesses are on the rise, particularly in San Francisco. One expert is predicting a 30 percent increase in sales in the Bay Area between 2010 and 2011. A representative of the Small Business Administration says SBA loans have had a hand in the gains. In the fourth quarter of 2010, the agency lent more than $10.4 billion nationally -- with more than $1 billion of it in the state of California.

5. Women landing only 1 in 20 jobs amid rebound

The takeaway: It's as bad as the headline sounds, but there's some logic behind it. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, men have picked up 438,000 jobs since the official end of the recession back in June of '09. And women? They've lost 366,000 during the same time period. But, some experts say it's to be expected, as men were hit harder during the recession as industries like manufacturing and transportation floundered. Now that sectors that tend to employ more women like education, health care, and local government are being hit with cuts as states struggle to balance their budgets, it makes sense that women aren't picking up more jobs.

6. Is a hedge fund really a small business?
The takeaway: As politicians continue to debate that crazy tax code of ours, some Treasury officials are suggesting that some small businesses should be organized as taxable entities, instead of having their owners pay through their individual returns. The argument is that some of the largest small businesses, which include law firms and hedge funds, have organized as small businesses in order to bypass taxable entity status. Expect to hear more about the debate this week, as committees in both the House and Senate hold hearings on tax reform.

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