Survey finds high gas prices still hurting small business owners

(June 20, 2012) WASHINGTON — With gas and energy prices hitting highs in the past few months, the self-employed are cutting back their business activity, according to the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE). Results from a survey of more than 500 NASE members reveal that 53 percent said the rise in prices has moderately or significantly hurt their business.

"High gas prices are still hurting the self-employed, many of whom depend on their vehicles to conduct the day-to-day work of their businesses," said NASE President Kristie L. Arslan.

"What the self-employed and micro-businesses (10 or fewer employees) truly need is a retroactive update to the Internal Revenue Service's 2012 mileage deduction. This action would better reflect the high cost of gasoline in the beginning of 2012."

Three-quarters of the self-employed use their vehicle both for business and personal use. In fact, almost half of respondents said they spent over $250 on gasoline for their vehicles in a month, the largest answer possible to choose in the survey. Nearly 70 percent said that the cost of gas changes their driving behavior.

"When business and personal finances are so closely tied, as they often are for the self-employed and micro-businesses, any rise in cost can be significantly damaging to the health of a company," Arslan said. "Almost three-quarters of our business owners have seen energy costs for their homes rise, as well, which impacts their home offices."

The following responses are from open-ended questions in the member survey that allowed respondents to voice their concerns:

    "The prices mean I have less to spend on other items for business."
    "I opened another office in a town 40 minutes north to serve my patients in that area who were restricted in their travel by high gas costs."
    "I increased prices, reduced my workforce, and implemented new policies on energy use."
    "I reduced events attended for business training, professional associations, and contact meetings."
    "I try to consolidate business travel to save gas. Unfortunately, I can't pass on the price of gas to my clients."

The survey was available for NASE members to take in May. 559 small business owners opted-in to the online survey and respondents were prohibited from taking it more than once.