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Can Small Business Survive the High Costs of Regulations?

Every business in America, no matter how big or small, must adhere to governmental rules and regulations on the state, local and federal level. However, the weight of being in compliance with federal, state and local regulations is heavier on small businesses than on the larger corporations, giving the larger companies an unfair financial edge.Regulations have been put in place over the years to protect not only the worker, but the environment, and community. There are many different types of regulations that companies need to comply with in order to do business that include such things as paying taxes, retirement plans, labor laws, workplace safety issues, environmental impact issues, waste disposal and international commerce.While larger companies have the funding to handle such compliance, a smaller company with less than 20 employees could quickly fold with the burden of having to keep up with these regulations, especially for companies that are just starting out. However, to compete with other businesses and become successful, it is important that all small businesses stay in compliance with federal, state and local regulations.But at what cost? A small business can structure itself in many ways. A sole proprietorship does not have all the same regulations as a Limited Liability Company that has employees. However, not every company can be a sole proprietorship. In fact, most aren’t. Small businesses, which are considered companies that have less than 500 employees, make up 99% of all employer firms in the United States. However, companies with less than 20 employees pay over 25% of all compliance costs. That’s a heavy burden for the smaller companies to carry. Let’s look at the numbers.To be compliant in the area of environmental, workplace safety, tax and economic regulations, the average cost per employee for a small business with less than 20 employees is $7,645. For a larger company that has 500 or more employees, the cost drops to $5,282, with companies between 20-499 coming somewhere in between that number. This is a staggering difference in cost in that statistically the revenues generated by larger companies and the tax benefits afforded them by the government are higher than those for smaller businesses. This leaves the small business owner needing to produce more revenue to keep up with its larger competitors while still fulfilling its obligations regarding federal, state and local regulations.Another disadvantage is that it is more costly for smaller business to handle all the required paperwork to stay in compliance. Laws are changing all the time. Papers need to be filed and approved. Inspections need to be done. Because of this, it is easy for important details to fall the by the wayside during the normal course of business.While a large company will have a dedicated person, team or department to deal with all the compliance regulations, a small business owner usually will either assume the role of contact for all federal, state and local agencies they need to work with or have a dedicated person within the company wearing two hats. One for their regular job and one for incremental activities to keep up with compliance issues. While some of the foundational tasks would be present for normal operation, the cost of hiring a dedicated employee to handle the incremental tasks (tasks that are put in place just to keep up with compliance) is not always possible without considerably eating into profits.Many businesses don’t always know where to go to keep up with the changing laws regarding compliance. However, is a website dedicated to giving up to date information about current laws, regulations and forms needed to help comply with these regulations make compliance a little easier than it was years ago. Still, the process is both costly and time consuming for the small business owner.The Small Business Regulatory Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA) was put in place to recognize the unfair advantage of larger corporations over small businesses and to help small businesses with reaching their goal of compliance. As a result, small businesses name a dedicated person within the company to act as liaison with the SBPRA.Although systems have been put in place to help the small business owner with federal, state and local regulation compliance, the cost burden on small businesses has not changed and continues to be a hurdle that many small businesses must leap over to be successful. The very idea of not complying as a cost savings strategy might be tempting for some businesses, however, this is unwise and can have detrimental financial consequences.Still, because of the high cost of compliance with federal, state and local regulations, many large companies are willing to take a “slap on the wrist” and pay a steep fine, sometimes as high as $200,000 for not being compliant with regulations because financially it is more profitable for the company. Without someone policing their every move on a regular basis, it may be easy to stay under the radar. Unfortunately, that same risk to small businesses could be financially devastating.As long as programs are in place to help small business keep up with federal, state and local regulations and they continue to have a voice with OSHA, the EPA and other federal agencies by way of the SBREFA, small businesses will be able to thrive and remain a vital part of our economy.