If you have ever read the instructions to your form 1040, you surely must have seen the little section about the Paperwork Reduction Act. You know, the little recap in federal forms telling you how long it will take you to complete the form. Did you ever stop to wonder who figures out how long a form will take to complete? For that matter, have you ever stopped to wonder why the main thing the Paperwork Reduction Act seems to have done is add to the amount of paper required to communicate government regulations to you? This is but one of the myriad of regulations put in place by the United States Government for the benefit of the American people; regulations that cost the U.S. citizen upwards of $7,000 to $8,000 per family per year by some estimates.
At the beginning of this year, we promised to take time to walk through the top ten concerns of small businesses as listed by the National Federation of Independent Businesses in its 2004 survey of small business. The purpose, we said, was to help you address your business concerns and minimize the costs of various issues affecting your business. To be honest, this is one of those areas where you just have to bite the bullet and spend whatís necessary to stay in compliance. So letís talk about what you must do to maintain compliance.
As a business owner, your first concern should be determining what rules govern your business. Those rules will affect where you locate your business, what licenses you may need, how you create your product, how you conduct your business, and numerous other business practices, including how you dispose of trash. Chances are, if you can think of it, some department in the federal, state and/or local government has a say in how you do it.
Okay, so how do you find out what regulations govern your business? There are a number of sources available to help. A good place to start is by asking your local chamber of commerce. Given the mission of your local Chamber of Commerce, itís a good place to go to get information on whatís required to open a business in your town. You can also look on the Internet for any other local, state or national business advocacy groups. Groups like the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the United States Small Business Administration, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and especially trade groups for the industries in which you operate often have valuable information to assist you in following applicable government regulations.
Given the stiff competition for quality jobs these days, many towns have economic development boards actively trying to get businesses to set up shop in their communities. Just by the process of preparing a proposal to get a business to relocate to their community, these boards or authorities will have considerable information to help you determine what rules apply to you.
Other available sources of information include local professionals and their trade groups. Attorneys and their bar associations or Certified Public Accountants and their local societies are often called on by businesses in the formation stage and are likely to have good knowledge of what it takes to do business in their area. Regulatory boards governing your particular industry will also have pertinent information for you. Even local business owners can be a good source of information for your business.
Finally, donít forget commercial sources. Almost every day, we are bombarded with advertisements that will help us navigate at least the federal and sometimes state regulatory waters. In the literal ocean of regulations that apply to every business, there is no shortage of navigational tools; it just takes some effort to locate them.
Once you do locate your sources and know your regulatory requirements, the next step is complying with those requirements. In the regulatory world, there are two types of regulations - those that are enforced and those that are not enforced. We donít advocate violating any validly established regulation, but we also realize there are times when a business chooses to minimize costs by "inadvertently" failing to meet the requirements of a regulation. Before you choose to "forget" to meet a particular requirement, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the reason for the regulation make business sense?
- Will it cost much to comply with the regulation?
- Will it cost much if you are caught violating the regulation?
- If you fail to comply with the regulation, will anyoneís health or life be placed at risk?
- How much risk are you willing to take with your life? More importantly, how much risk are you willing to take with the lives of your workers and their families?
In most circumstances, once you go through a valid thought process, you will find it is far easier on your pocketbook and your stress level to at least attempt compliance with most regulatory requirements. Often, intentional violation of a regulation carries a far higher cost than does truly inadvertent violation. If you are going to err, err on the side of caution.
Government is the one industry that seems to grow regardless of the economic climate. As such, itís a safe bet that our regulatory environment will continue to cause us severe business headaches. If you have any questions regarding compliance with business regulations, give us a call. Itís likely that we, or one of our clients, have encountered a situation like yours and have found a solution. Our mission is to help you, so let us help you stay on top of regulations affecting you.
November is the month for giving thanks. Have a great Turkey Day!