Private Equity Week’s Dan Primack has a good follow-up on the debate about the new tax for venture capitalists and other investors.

fredwilson2.jpgA public backlash against these investors is encouraging politicians: The extravagant ways of Blackstone, the buyout firm that that just went public and where leaders were feasting on $300 stone crabs, haven’t helped. The tax proposal is gathering momentum.

And while most investors are upset about the tax, New York venture capitalist Fred Wilson (pictured left) says the tax is justified:

I strongly believe that long term capital gains should be taxed differently than short term capital gains. And I also strongly believe that capital gains should be taxed differently than ordinary income. The counter argument is that the economic incentives to take risk with your capital should be enough and you don’t need additional tax incentives. I don’t buy that. Human nature being what it is, most people are going to want to be conservative with their capital. Taking a risk with your capital, particularly on new business initiatives (whether its a new restaurant in the neighborhood or a cure for cancer), is something we need to encourage. And many of the developed countries in the world agree. In some countries, capital gains are not taxed at all. I don’t think we need to take the economic incentives that far.

But, and this is a big but that will annoy most if not all of my colleagues in the VC and private equity businesses, if you are generating those gains with other people’s money (OPM), then that is a fee you are being paid and it should be taxed as ordinary income. I really don’t see how anyone can argue otherwise with a straight face.

If congress is successful in taxing carried interest as ordinary income, it will massively increase the amount of taxes I pay. So be it. Someone has to pay the taxes to keep our troops equipped, our borders secured, our schools modernized, and our children healthy. It might as well be me and my wife.

Meanwhile, here’s the statement by Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), which represents 480 venture capital and private equity firms:

The Bill proposed today by House Democrats to change the taxation of carried interest from a capital gains rate to an ordinary income rate is extremely concerning to the venture capital community. We assert that carried interest in the venture capital business model is a true capital gain and should continue to be taxed at that appropriate level. This proposed legislation could have far reaching, negative implications for the start-up community, venture capital investment, and the US economy. It is critical that legislators identify and fully comprehend the unintended consequences of this proposal as it could impact one of the country’s most important economic engines. We look forward to continuing a dialogue with members of Congress on this issue as the legislative process continues.

Another concern is how these VC and other partnerships will respond to such a tax. Some may try to exploit loopholes that let them move their entities offshore but continue to invest here, for example. Experience has shown that you can’t just levy a tax and expect a corresponding increase in receipts. Congress should keep this in mind, and raise taxes only in a way that doesn’t mean a decline in tax revenues as a result.

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