Charged with advocating on behalf of small firms, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy has come under fire for allegedly allegedly promoting the policy interests of large corporations. During a congressional hearing last week, one advocacy group executive urged federal investigators to probe the department, which she said has “systematically consorted with big business to pursue an agenda of undercutting health, safety and environmental agencies.”

Rep. Dave Camp has some new ideas about how to structure small businesses for tax purposes. (Andrew Harrer/BLOOMBERG)

New ideas on small business tax reform

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) has released a draft of legislation intended to make the tax system more transparent and less expensive for small business owners. The legislation would create one set of rules for various types of businesses, simplify the code for start-ups, and make permanent a popular-yet-temporary provision for expensing investments in property and equipment.

Kickstarter starting to sputter

New analysis of public data from the leading crowdfunding site shows that the company’s monthly growth rate since last July was “flat to down,” despite slight uptick to start 2013. The trends suggest the new financing portals may not be taking off as quickly as anticipated by many investors and entrepreneurs.

Consumer confidence tumbles

Driven down by concerns over recent decisions in Washington, The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index in March sank to its lowest level since December 2011. More than a third of respondants blamed government economic policies, a new record high for the survey. Meanwhile, soaring gas prices drove consumer prices up 0.7 percent last month, the largest gain since June 2009.

Nevertheless, employer optimism rises

The National Federation of Independent Business’ month small business confidence index ticked up 1.9 points in February, though the reading of 90.8 remains historically low. Poor sales remain the greatest concern for employers, nearly a third of whom said their sales declined in the past three months while 43 percent said profits dropped.

Small firms turning to self-insurance

Hoping to avoid some of new requirements under the health care law, some small employers are shifting to self-coverage (paying health costs directly) rather than purchasing medical insurance. Some experts warn that could drive up the costs of small business insurance marketplaces intended to help cover millions of Americans.

D.C. council to consider health exchange requirement

The District’s Health Benefit Exchange Authority last week approved plans to require small business owners to begin purchasing health insurance through a government exchange starting in January. The mandate now heads to the D.C. council, which is expected to consider the policy as soon as next month.

OSB business of the week: Neurotrack: The founders of the new tech firm, which won the top health care prize at South by Southwest, say they can identify people at risk for Alzheimer’s up to six years early.

What are you keeping an eye on this week? Please let us know below.

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