Other Government Requirements
Health Insurance Requirements for Self-Employed and Small Businesses

Businesses with 50 or fewer employees are NOT required to provide health insurance. However, there are incentives available if you choose to provide insurance to your employees or obtain insurance for yourself.

Businesses with 50 or more employees ARE required to provide health insurance.

HealthCare.gov is a government website that provides pricing information for different health insurance options as well as tax credit information. There is a tool to help you quickly identify the information that you need.

Link to the Finder Tool at HealthCare.gov

Individuals (including self-employed) who are not exempt must have health insurance or pay a shared responsibility payment when filing their federal income tax return. A summary of the exemptions is found here:

Information from the SBA on health insurance requirements for business, including exemption information.

Open enrollment for health insurance begins October 2013 (although you can get regular health insurance before then). There are credits for individuals purchasing health insurance through the Affordable Care Act if your income is less than 400% of the national poverty level (about $43,000 for an individual or $88,000 for a family of four). The credits are paid directly to the health insurance company, with lower monthly cost to the individual.

If your business provides provides health insurance to employees who earn less than $50,000, your business can receive a tax credit (at year-end) - currently 35%, but raising to 50% in 2014. The tax credit is less for non-profit employers.

ADA Americans with Disabilities Act Go to topics

The Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA) requires virtually all businesses to make their facilities accessible to disabled customers and employees and requires businesses with 15 or more employees to accommodate disabled job candidates in hiring, firing and benefits.

ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business

The two parts are:

  1. Accessible Accommodations
  2. Anyone serving the public must actively remove any physical barriers so that all people, regardless of disability, have equal access to the business' goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations.

    For a complete description of these requirements and specifications, contact the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.

  3. Access to Employment
  4. A disabled candidate is considered qualified to be hired or promoted if (s)he can carry out the "essential functions" of the job with or without "reasonable accommodation". Employers may have to offer training or aids such as readers or interpreters if they enhance employment opportunities and don't cause "undue hardship" to the company. There are tax credits and tax deductions available to offset the costs of complying with this Act (see below).

Things to watch

Employers may not

  1. Advertise jobs in ways that discourage disabled applicants;
  2. Reject applications from disabled candidates;
  3. Ask about handicaps unless the questions relate directly to the job.

This Act does not require employers to hire disabled workers if the worker cannot perform the essential functions of a job or if another applicant is more qualified for the job.

If a candidate would qualify, but the accommodation costs would cause "undue hardship", we suggest that you contact the California Department of Rehabilitation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or other private or public agencies to determine if you can obtain financial assistance before disqualifying the candidate.

Tax credit available

If your business' gross receipts are less than $1 million or you have fewer than 30 full-time employees, you are eligible for a tax credit to help pay the costs to comply with the ADA. You must pay the first $250 of any accommodation cost. You can get a 50% tax credit for costs between $250 and $5,000. If you spend over $5,000, you can declare up to $15,000 as a business tax deductions. Credits are deducted directly from your tax bill, whereas tax deductions are lumped in with your other business expenses and only lower your tax bill by your business' tax rate (typically 15% to 31% times the tax deduction).

If your business' gross receipts are more than $1 million, you will still be eligible for a maximum $15,000 tax deduction.

Expenditures that qualify for these tax breaks include:

  • Removal of architectural, communication, transportation or other physical barriers
  • The purchase or modification of needed equipment, and
  • Costs of technical assistance for employers and employees to comply with the Act.

For more information, click here.

Other sources of information include:

Smoking Regulations

U.S. Customs Office Imports

Imports are classified using the U.S. Customs Office's 10-digit Harmonized Tariff System. You can do an online database search to determine the proper code at http://dataweb.usitc.gov/scripts/tariff.asp. Once you determine the classification, the following documents are required to import non-regulated items into the U.S. for commercial purposes (called a formal consumption entry):

  1. An airway bill or carrier's certificate (naming the person or company who will receive the items for customs purposes).
  2. A commercial invoice from the seller, which shows the value and description of the merchandise.
  3. Entry manifest (Customs Form 7533) or Entry/Immediate Delivery (Customs Form 3461).
  4. Packing lists, if appropriate, and other documents necessary to determine whether the merchandise may be admitted.

Your Tariff Classification determines the required duty taxes. In addition, there is a processing fee. Both must be paid prior to receiving the merchandise, or you can post a bond and pay the actual tax after receiving the goods.

Shipment under $2000 in value? Consider the U.S. Mail

Shipments by mail which do not exceed $2000 in value (except for commercial shipments of textiles and suits from Hong Kong), can be made through the U.S. mail with a simplified customs declaration form available at the post office. The parcel will be delivered to you and released upon the payment of the duty tax, shown on the package. There is also a small postal handling fee.

Restricted Merchandise

The following items require permits or licenses to import into the U.S.

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Animal and animal products
  • Certain drugs
  • Firearms and ammunition
  • Fruits, nuts
  • Meat and meat products
  • Milk, dairy, and cheese products
  • Plants and plant products
  • Poultry and poultry products
  • Petroleum and petroleum products
  • Vegetables

The following items must comply with applicable regulations of a federal agency:

  • Art materials
  • Cultural property
  • Hazardous/toxic/flammable materials
  • Household appliances
  • Some electronics products
  • Toys and children's articles

All imported items must be properly marked with their country of origin. For more information, click here

U.S. Customs Office Exports

Exports use the U.S. Census Bureau's Schedule B codes for classification. You can do an online search at http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/schedules/b/. Exporters are required to complete a Shippers Export Declaration, available at http://www.aesdirect.gov/. Exports must also have a certificate of origin, available through many chambers of commerce.

Please note that the destination country may have import requirements and tariffs. You may have to hire a freight forwarder to receive the shipment in the destination country and handle any paperwork. If you have any outsider handle your items, you will probably need to provide a power of attorney authorizing them to act on your behalf.

Federal Trade Commission

Protects consumers,enforces antitrust laws and prohibits price fixing. The FTC has regulations and publications regarding

  • Mail order
  • Granting credit
  • Offering layaways
  • Offering warranties
  • Handling customer complaints
  • Labeling textiles
  • Telemarketing
  • Antitrust price fixing
  • Offers to work at home

US Department of Agriculture Marketing and Regulatory Division

Animal health (including aquaculture, cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, poultry, wildlife): visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/permits/index.shtml.

Biotechnology: visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/index.shtml.

Organic certification: visit Click here.

Agricultural Marketing Service: visit http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/.

Grain inspectors, packers and stockyard administration: visit http://www.gipsa.usda.gov

Tobacco, alcohol and firearms

Regulates tobacco, alcohol and firearms. For licensing information involving firearms, visit http://www.atf.gov/firearms/industry/ or call 1-866-662-2750.

For information about tobacco requirements and permits, visit http://www.ttb.gov/ or call (877)882-3277.

For tax information and due dates for tobacco, firearms and alcohol, visit http://www.ttb.gov/tax_audit/taxes_permits.shtml or call 1-877-882-3277.

Food and Drug Administration

Regulates food labeling, cosmetics, medical devices, and drugs. If you manufacture drugs, medical devices, are starting a bloodbank or are canning low acid foods like vegetables, you must get a permit from the FDA.

Food: You must obtain a permit if you hold, pack, manufacture or process food, and are NOT a farm, retail food establishment, restaurant, non-profit establishment that prepares or serves food, or a fishing vessel not engaged in processing. Visit http://www.fda.gov or call (888)INFO-FDA.

For food labeling requirements, the FDA recommends that you purchase Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations, part 100-169 available from the Food and Drug Administration or by purchasing it through the U.S Government Bookstore at (866)512-1800.

For drugs, medical devices, bloodbanks, etc. visit http://www.fda.gov/default.htm or call 1-888-INFO-FDA.

Securities Exchange Commission

Securities dealers: Investment advisors, brokers, dealers and investment companies must register with the SEC. Visit http://www.sec.gov/divisions/marketreg/bdguide.htm or call the Branch of Registrations and Examinations (Office of Filings and Information Services) at (202) 942-8980.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Interstate truckers must obtain operating authority (U.S. DOT number). Visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov or call (800)832-5660 for further information. Also, intrastate (within the state) truckers should contact the state transportation agency and ask if there are any permit requirements.

Environmental Protection Agency

Environmental hazards: The EPA works with county and state agencies, so usually businesses contact their county and state agency instead of the EPA directly. For air pollution and noise pollution regulations, call your county. For water or hazardous waste, call the state.

National Compliance Assistance Centers

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sponsored partnerships with various agencies and industries to establish online Compliance Assistance Centers for these industries:

  • Agriculture
  • Auto recycling
  • Auto repair
  • Border compliance
  • Health care
  • Paints
  • Printing
  • Transportation
  • Chemical manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Food processing
  • Metal finishing
  • Printed wiring boards

To find these centers go to www.assistancecenters.net

Is Your Commercial Truck or Van Regulated by the DOT?

If your commercial vehicle carries hazardous materials OR if it weighs over 10,000 lbs. OR if you carry people or products owned by others across state lines, it is regulated by the state or federal government.

The weight of your vehicle is the maximum allowable total weight established by the manufacturer and INCLUDES any trailer. Examples of vehicles meeting the 10,000 weight limit include a Ford F-350 dual rear-wheel pickup with a maximum weight of 11,300 lbs., or a combination unit such as a Ford F-150 pickup (with a weight of 7,200 lbs.) towing a trailer with a maximum allowable weight of 2,801 lbs. or more.

Federal government rules apply if you (or the products you are carrying) go across state lines (even if you were not the person taking the product across state lines). Otherwise, your commercial vehicle is regulated by the state department of transportation.

If you are regulated by the federal government (US Department of Transportation) and your commercial vehicle is over 26,000 pounds OR your vehicle is designed to carry 15+ passengers plus a driver OR if you are carrying hazardous materials, the driver MUST have a commercial driver's license. There are some exceptions for farmers. If you have a vehicle between 10,000 and 26,000 pounds, you do not have to have a commercial driver's license, but you do have to register with the USDOT and comply with safety and paperwork requirements. These include:

  • Application for employment (driver must be 21 years old).
  • Safety performance history verifications.
  • Original and annual motor vehicle records.
  • Current copy of certificate of medical exam-health card.
  • Annual certificate of violations.
  • Annual review.
  • Road test certificate.

The US DOT has a poster with a phone number to find out if your vehicle is subject to these requirements. Click here for the poster and phone number.

W-9 Request for Taxpayer ID Number

W-9 forms are used so that you can confirm the taxpayer ID number of your vendors - so that, if required, you can file 1099-MISC forms. These forms are not required - but are one of the ways businesses show that they have requested a tax ID number. Your suppliers may also ask you to complete a W-9 form.

Here is the W-9 form

About 1099-MISC forms: 1099-MISC forms are required for any non-corporation who provides services and are paid $600 or more during one year - or any company that sells you $5000 or more in products in one year. For more information about 1099M requirements, click here.

IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center

The IRS collects federal income tax, social security, medicare, and federal unemployment taxes. You can find information at the IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center.

Their phone number for business tax issues is: (800) 829-4933. The phone number for personal tax issues is: (800)829-1040.

Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop for Small Business and the Self-Employed.

The IRS has a series of 9 short videos. Click here to go to the workshop.

In-person tax workshops

Click here for information about in-person workshops in your area.

IRS Video Portal

If you prefer choosing individual videos by topic, visit the IRS Video Portal

Additional IRS resources:


Do you have a serious IRS problem that is not being handled properly? The IRS Taxpayer Advocate may be able to help you.

The "Send me Your Annual Report Fee Money because I'm Pretending to be the Secretary of State" Scam

Corporations and LLCs: Some companies mail "official-looking" letters advising businesses that they need to pay their corporate or LLC annual report fee. These letters offer to pay it at a price that is significantly higher than if you pay it directly to the Secretary of State. Usually the return address has "corporate compliance" in it.

If you receive any letter that you think is from the Secretary of State's office, review it, its return address, and any mailing addresses very carefully.