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LETTERS

Tax proposal raises questions on just who the millionaires are

People gathered at a Cambridge home in August to discuss canvassing for Question 1, which would raise the tax on income above $1 million.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Can’t help but be sympathetic to small-business owners

Re “For what it’s worth: ‘Millionaire’ isn’t so simple” (Page A1, Sept. 23). In her front-page commentary about “one-time millionaires” — largely small-business owners who sell their businesses at retirement — Shirley Leung expresses little sympathy for the notion that such people might run afoul of the proposed new “millionaires tax.” She writes, “Let’s be real here. It’s hard to have sympathy for people who stand to make a lot of money from selling their businesses or second homes.”

But consider that a typical small-business owner probably built up that value over 20 to 30 years of slow growth. They probably made quite a few sacrifices along the way: working long hours; taking on financial risks, such as loans to fund expansion or commitments to new leases on larger buildings or new employees. They probably deferred personal gratification in a variety of ways, such as plowing a given year’s profits back into the business or working on less salary during economic downturns. Indeed, they probably endured quite a bit of stress keeping employees and vendors paid when conditions (as they inevitably do) suffered on the downside of the business cycle.

From their perspective, the large reward they get from selling the business is not a sudden windfall. It is the accumulated profit of all those years of sacrifice and prudent planning. They might well have preferred to take their million-dollar profit incrementally rather than waiting a lifetime, and assuming the risk, for the big payoff. But many don’t have that option.

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Unlike Leung, I find myself capable of great sympathy for the plight of small-business owners.

Augustus P. Lowell

Durham, N.H.


Advisers could help guide beneficiaries of one-time windfalls

I was disappointed in Shirley Leung’s front-page commentary. There are many ways beneficiaries of one-time windfalls can spend the wealth over several years. A qualified financial adviser can help review options appropriate for each individual.

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No one could argue that our schools, roads, and public transportation system are in good shape. Many world-class cities have modern free public transit, see much higher teacher salaries, and deal with fewer potholes, and they have higher tax rates on the wealthy.

Let’s not let the red herring of the “one-time millionaire” issue distract us from a modest proposal.

Harriet Dann

Needham