Regulatory Guidance

Your small business has to comply with numerous local, state and federal laws and regulations. It is worth your time to research the laws and regulations carefully - or talk to a business advisor - to avoid penalties and other serious consequences.  US SBA Office of Advocacy statistics show that it costs the smallest of businesses almost $7,000 per employee every year to comply with federal regulations. That cost places a burden on small business that is 60 percent greater than costs incurred by large corporations.

Need Help with a Regulatory Issue?

If you are a small business owner in New York, and you need help dealing with a federal regulatory agency, there is a person you can call. The SBA Advocate for small business owners in New York State is Teri Coaxum, whose office is at 26 Federal Plaza in New York City.  If you need help with a regulatory issue, you can reach her by phone at 212-264-7752.

The SBA also has someone in Washington, DC who is looking out for small business owners. The National Ombudsman receives complaints and comments from small businesses, and acts as a "trouble shooter" between them and federal agencies. The National As an impartial liaison, the Office of the National Ombudsman directs reported regulatory fairness matters to the appropriate agency for high-level fairness review, and works across government to address those concerns, reduce regulatory burdens, and help small businesses succeed..

The SBA Office of Advocacy, which gives small businesses and their representatives the opportunity to make their voices heard, also lends small business owners a hand. The Regulatory Alerts page at the SBA website lists proposed rules that may affect small business owners, and allows visitors to comment on proposed rules important to their business.

The resources below provide information on regulations for the following topics:

Permits & Licenses
Taxes
Insurance
Environmental Issues
Workplace Safety
Workers' Compensation
Wages, Hours & Benefits
Going Public

Permits and Licenses

If you are thinking about starting a business, you should be aware of local laws. It is important to contact the village, town, or city and county clerk where the business plans to locate. Examples of local considerations are zoning, parking, sign regulations, and certain occupational licenses such as auctioneers, electricians, and plumbers.

The NYS License Center Business Wizard is an interactive website that guides individuals and businesses through the permit and licensing requirements to start or expand a business in New York.

Taxes

Small business owners have to pay taxes, and to eliminate unwelcome surprises, it is wise to learn about them before you have to pay a penalty. The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a section on its website for small business owners and self-employed individuals. There is a lot of information, including an online classroom, at the site.

To help small business and self-employed customers better understand record keeping and other tax related issues, the IRS has developed a number of educational products to help small businesses start and keep their businesses on the right path. Fact sheets at the Tax Gap Page address common areas of difficulty for small business owners.

Additionally, the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance has a special section with information on starting or buying businesses.

Insurance

Business Insurance:  You are not required by law to have liability, property damage or other types of business insurance, but very few businesses can realistically operate without some form of optional coverage. Chief among these is general liability insurance and property insurance. In some situations, life insurance may also be important.  The New York State Department of Insurance supervises all insurance business in New York State. For more information, contact the New York State Department of Financial Services.

Health Insurance: New York State of Health: The Official Health Plan Marketplace

The Exchange is an organized marketplace designed to help people shop for and enroll in health insurance coverage.   Individuals, families and small businesses will be able to use the Exchange to help them compare commercial insurance options, calculate costs and select coverage online, in person, over the phone or by mail. 

Unemployment Insurance: The NYS Department of Labor website information for employers

Environmental Issues

Your small business probably does not have an environmental manager, consultant or attorney on staff to interpret complex air quality requirements or to keep up with regulatory changes and developments in environmental rules.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has an ombudsman to assist small business owners with federal environmental rules.

The EPA Small Business Compliance page leads you to a wide range of resources that are available to help small businesses learn about environmental rules.

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has a page at its website containing environmental information for small businesses.

Workplace Safety

The US Department of Labor (DOL) encourages all businesses to establish safety and health programs, and to find and fix hazards to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses. The DOL website includes a “Small Business Resource Center” with a lot of information about federal rules for small business, including workplace poster requirements.

The NYS Department of Labor also has a list of required workplace posters at its website:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at the US DOL has a small business Compliance Assistance page that you might find helpful.

The NYS Department of Health has a page at its website – “Health and Safety in the Home, Workplace and Outdoors.” Scroll down through the information to find the section on health and safety in the workplace.

Workers’ Compensation

If you or an employee is injured on the job, you should contact their state workers' compensation board. The website of the  New York State Workers' Compensation Board to give businesses quick and direct access to workers' compensation information.

The Americans with Disabilities Act gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications. You will want to read the “ADA Guide for Small Business” (PDF) to learn about the basic requirements for small businesses that provide products or services to the public.

Wages, Hours and Benefits

Small business owners need clear and easy-to-access information on how to comply with federal employment laws that relate to wages, health benefits, retirement security, employment rights. The US Department of Labor provides a shortcut to the information and services the DOL provides on various labor and employment topics. Visit the website before you hire employees, and whenever you have a question.

Did you know that in cases where an employee is subject to both the state and federal minimum wage laws, the employee is entitled to the higher of the two minimum wages? Learn more about minimum wage rules.

The US DOL Wages and Hours Division has variety of materials available for both employers on the subject of work hours.

Providing an employee pension plan can be a powerful recruitment and retention tool for small-business owners. A pension plan is an employee benefit plan established or maintained by an employer or by an employee organization (such as a union), or both, that provides retirement income or defers income until termination of covered employment or beyond. There are a number of types of retirement plans, including the 401(k) plan and the traditional pension plan, known as a defined benefit plan.

You may want to learn more about ERISA - The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 - a federal law that sets minimum standards for most voluntarily established pension and health plans in private industry to provide protection for individuals in these plans.

Going Public

When your company needs additional capital, "going public" may be the right choice, but you should weigh your options carefully. If your company is in the very early stages of development, it may be better to seek loans from financial institutions or the Small Business Administration. The Securities Act requires companies to give investors "full disclosure" of all "material facts," the facts investors would find important in making an investment decision. The Act also requires companies to file a registration statement with the SEC that includes information for investors. Go to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) page containing information for small businesses to learn more about the rules. 

Other Links

The SBA Office of Advocacy is responsible for examining the contributions and challenges of small businesses in the United States economy. A variety of research reports, small business statistics, and other documents are available at here. Recent reports discussed growth and decline trends for small business and the importance of small startups to state economic growth.