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Economist Suggests Business Owners Sell by 2024

Economically speaking, COVID-19 was a “natural disaster.” That’s according to Brian Beaulieu, CEO and chief economist of ITR economics. Beaulieu spoke at the virtual State of M&A conference hosted by Cornerstone Business Services in February, helping business owners and advisors understand the market ahead.

Because the current recession was triggered by COVID-19, and not economic factors, we should bounce out of it quickly. Beaulieu predicts the next recession will occur around 2025 or 2026.  

What that means is the outlook is good right now for businesses looking to grow through acquisition. Interest rates are at an all-time low. That makes this a great time to buy companies and leverage other people’s money. Interest rates likely won’t rise until late 2023, maybe not even until 2025.  

For business owners thinking about selling, Beaulieu advises an exit by 2024. The economy is strong and should stay that way for the next few years. Plus, when interest rates are low, buyers can afford to pay more.  

And yet, business owners need to be thinking about the net they’ll take away after selling their business, not the total purchase price. That’s because the Biden administration has proposed basically doubling the current capital gains tax rate.  

When, and if, those tax increases will go into effect is unclear. Beaulieu says it could happen anytime from 2022 to 2024. But once they do rise, we can expect them to stay for the long-term. That’s because by 2030, the pressure from the national debt, social security, and Baby Boomer retirements mean the government won’t be able to afford any reductions in that revenue source. 

In fact, conditions are such that the U.S. could be up against another Depression-era recession 10 years from now. So Beaulieu advises owners to “think long and hard” before holding on longer than 2029.  

With a downturn looming in 2026, and capital gains slated to increase, business owners who were thinking about selling in the next five years are advised to accelerate that plan.  

Roughly speaking, if you sold for $10 million today, you’d net $8 million after capital gains. If you worked hard to build up your company to $12 million by 2023, and the new taxes, according to the new tax plan, are already in effect, you’ll net out just $7.5 million.  

If you’re not thinking about selling soon, borrow money to invest in yourself or an acquisition. Money is cheap, so if you’re not getting out, now is the time to grow. Just make sure you’re out of debt by 2029. There’s trouble ahead but for now, Beaulieu says, “This economy of ours is poised to go.” 

 

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