From the company boardroom to Capitol Hill, Karen Madonia, CFO, Illco Inc., Aurora, Ill., is no stranger to hard work. She began her career in the commercial banking department of American National Bank in Chicago, but always knew she was destined to join the family business, Illco Inc. Once she joined the company, Madonia made her way into the HVAC industry as she began to participate in Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI). Since then, Madonia has made quite an impact, testifying before a congressional subcommittee and participating in a full press conference organized by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Congressman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, regarding the repeal of the estate tax.

“I attended the Government and Trade Relations Committee meeting at my first HARDI conference and knew right away that I wanted to participate in a more meaningful way,” said Madonia. “I started co-chairing the committee in 2007, and continue to do that today. My focus is on overall business issues like tax reform, health care, and estate tax repeal.”

The estate tax repeal, also known as the death tax, has been a central focus for Madonia, as well as HARDI. According to her, it is fundamentally unfair to make death a taxable event.

“I’m especially passionate about this topic because I have watched my dad work hard to build something that he wants to pass down to the next generation, only to have the tax code tell him that he might not be able to do that,” she said. “As kids, my sisters and I watched our dad work longer and harder than anyone we knew. He took a very small company and built it into an amazing business that now employs 92 people in three states, and I’m proud to work alongside him today. He taught me to work hard, learn from my mistakes, and keep focused on my goals. These are lessons which have served me well in every aspect of my life.”

Madonia noted that as an industry made up of a large number of small businesses, there are reasons to be concerned about how Washington is approaching tax code reform.

“The estate tax continues to place an undue burden on businesses in our industry and small businesses everywhere,” said Talbot Gee, executive vice president and COO of HARDI. “A significant portion of our members are family businesses, and they generate an estimated 80 percent of the dollar value of HVACR products sold through distribution. Repealing the estate tax to help preserve these businesses remains a top priority for our organization, and we are grateful that HARDI has such an able spokesperson on this issue, like Karen Madonia.”

Other issues being monitored are the possible elimination of the last in, first out (LIFO) accounting method, the Affordable Care Act, and tax structuring.

“We are concerned about the effects the rollout of the Affordable Care Act will have on our companies and our employees, and are watchful for other employer mandates that will affect our ability to remain viable businesses in the future. Those of us who are running family businesses are always concerned with the estate tax, which makes it difficult, and often impossible, to pass a company on to future generations without dismantling it,” explained Madonia.

“On the industry side, we’re still fighting to eliminate regional efficiency standards and trying to assist the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in responsibly phasing out refrigerants they have deemed harmful to the environment. There is no shortage of issues that will have both short- and long-term effects on our industry, but I am dedicated, along with HARDI, to making sure that our voices are heard in Washington.”

Publication date: 12/23/2013 

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