The outlook of business owners in the region and state has worsened in three new surveys.

PNC Bank’s survey of small and mid-market business owners in New Jersey has found them a little more pessimistic about sales, profits and hiring than they were in the spring.

In April, the survey found 49 percent of businesses expected an increase in sales in the next six months and 13 percent a decrease.

In this month’s survey, 38 percent expect an increase and 20 percent foresee a sales decline.

The shift in profit expectations was smaller, a 5-percentage-point swing toward a more pessimistic outlook.

On employment, however, nearly twice as many expected to reduce staffing (10 percent) and the share of businesses where new jobs are expected in six months edged down from 18 percent to 16 percent.

Business owners have a much grimmer outlook about the national economy in the current survey, with 54 percent pessimistic (up from 48 percent in April) and just 3 percent optimistic, half of the spring percentage.

New Jersey businesses are a little less glum about the local economy, with 44 percent pessimistic and 7 percent optimistic.

The bank’s survey was conducted by Artemis Strategy Group and included 1,710 phone interviews.

The results are in line with the recent Business Outlook Survey for the Delaware Valley region by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

More of the regional businesses surveyed by the Fed reported decreases in employees (22 percent) than increases (15 percent) in September.

While 11 percent of businesses expected to reduce employment in the next six months, 32 percent said they expected to be hiring during that time.

When asked about their current levels of business activity, the businesses were about split, with 23 percent reporting decreases and 21 percent increases.

A more novel approach to business sentiment was taken by TD Bank in a survey of small businesses in its East Coast service territory.

The bank polled 400 business owners about their levels of stress and the causes of their stress and found that 60 percent said their stress levels are increasing.

Asked the cause of their stress, the business people answered: managing finances (33 percent), managing employees (20 percent), sales/marketing (19 percent), customer/client relations (17 percent) and working long hours (11 percent).

I guess the old joke that having your own business means you can work whichever 18 hours a day you choose is even less funny these days.

Preparation test

There are 8,700 tax preparers in New Jersey and as of Jan. 1, 2014, they’ll need to have passed the Registered Tax Return Preparer Test to keep working if they’re not certified public accountants or enrolled agents.

But even though that deadline is more than a year away, the Internal Revenue Service is warning them to schedule their tests soon or face difficulty finding a time and place convenient to them.

The competency test is being administered by Prometric Inc. at 260 testing sites nationwide. “However, if too many preparers delay, available seats will be scarce,” the IRS said in a statement.

New rules require all professional tax preparers to register with the IRS, obtain a preparer tax identification number, and adhere to ethical standards.

Some will also need to complete 15 hours of continuing education each year.

The preparer test takes 2½ hours and has 120 questions. The fee for taking the test is $116.

Contact Kevin Post:


Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.