It’s hard enough to attract customers and make sales, hire and manage employees, and pay your bills.
Small businesses also have to comply with government regulations of which there are thousands and thousands, with more to come. According to last year’s annual report on federal regulations, of the 3,852 federal regulations in the pipeline, 635 would affect small businesses.
You likely lack the staff to stay up on all new regulatory matters or have the funds to pay for outside assistance to help you stay compliant. Still, you must do what the law requires or you face fines, penalties, interest, and risk going out of business.
What are you to do?
Monitor developments through trade associations and other venues. But if you get into trouble, learn which federal agencies can provide you with free help when you need it.
SBA’s Office of the National Ombudsman
The Office of the National Ombudsman, which is part of the SBA, is authorized to assist small businesses with their complaints about federal regulatory practices and actions. If you’ve been subjected to federal action against your business for violations of regulations, the office can help you reduce excessive fines.
For example, a few years ago one small business was issued a fine of $515,968 by the Environmental Protection Agency for allegedly violating the Clear Air Act. The Office of the National Ombudsman was able to help the parties reach a reasonable settlement without litigation. If you’re a federal contractor or subcontractor, the office can assist in resolving contract disputes and help you receive payments owed from the federal government that have been delayed.
Under law, the federal agency involved in your issue is required to respond to the Ombudsman within 30 days of receiving a communication.
- How to contact the National Ombudsman: Call toll-free at 888-REG-FAIR (734-3247) or email to email@example.com.
Learn more about the Office of the National Ombudsman. Don’t confuse this office with the SBA’s Office of Advocacy, which works to ensure that proposed regulations are fair to small businesses.
Taxpayer Advocate Service
The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent office within the IRS chartered to ensure that taxpayers are treated fairly. If you have a tax problem with the IRS that you’ve been unable to resolve, the TAS may be able to help…no guarantees.
For example, the TAS can assist a small business in receiving a return of levy proceeds or resolving tax problems when a third-party payroll provider illegally keeps employment taxes instead of remitting them to the IRS.
A number of years ago, I reached out to them on behalf of a client and had a favorable outcome (attorney-client privilege prevents me from disclosing any details).
There are TAS offices in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. There’s a TAS qualifier tool that you can use to see if your situation is one that’s suitable for TAS assistance. There are 3 avenues through which you can determine this: financial hardship, an IRS system issue, or fair & equitable treatment.
- Note: Due to IRS processing issues for 2020 returns, it’s unlikely TAS can assist with tax refunds or other matters on an unprocessed return.
- How to contact the TAS: Select your state and then call the toll-free number of the office near you.
Stay in business long enough and you’re bound to run into a regulatory problem. Don’t become discouraged if you can’t easily resolve the matter. Be persistent. But if efforts fail, reach out to a government office that may help you get a resolution and save you money along the way.