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The federal government has no shortage of business regulations. Ranging from consumer protections and labor laws to fair practice and more, some can be quite a headache to full grasp and follow. But that shouldn’t prevent you from understanding everything you need to know to make sure your business is in compliance with the law.
It’s easier when you know where to look. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has a full, searchable database of the Code of Federal Regulations. You can also find much of what you need on their Laws & Regulations Resources page, but we’ve broken down some of the most essential regulations right here.
According to BizJournals, there’s more to taxes than simply paying them. Navigating the complexities of the federal tax code can often be more of a burden than the money you pay to the government over time!
The form of business you run determines what taxes you pay—see the list of business structures to determine what your business needs to file—but all businesses should be generally aware of the following tax codes:
If you hire employees or independent contractors, you need to have a solid understanding of the vast array of federal and state labor laws.
Fortunately, if you’re just starting out, the Department of Labor provides the FirstStep Employment Law Advisor. This resource helps employers determine which major federal employment laws apply to their business or organization, what recordkeeping and reporting requirements they must comply with, and which posters they need to post.
See our breakdown of the most common employment laws below.
It’s natural to want to gain an edge on competition for your business, but according the SBA, “it is important to understand fair practice and antitrust laws so that you do not risk your business’s integrity while gaining customers.”
You can easily familiarize yourself with the SBA’s handy list of issues that antitrust laws strive to address, such as the following:
Good advertising can do wonders for your business, but you need to make sure the claims in your ads and marketing are not untruthful or purposely deceptive—in order to protect consumers, many regulations have been put in place to penalize businesses that violate consumers’ trust.
Here’s how you can avoid misleading customers:
Of course, environmental regulation goes well beyond advertising. According to the SBA, “there are dozens of environmental regulations that apply to small businesses.” The Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies enforce these regulations for the federal government, but many state environmental agencies have their own requirements as well.
“Sensitive information is usually collected from employees and customers during hiring and business transactions,” says the Small Business Chronicle, “and privacy laws prevent businesses from disclosing this information freely.”
If your business discloses an employee’s private information, including Social Security number, address, name, health conditions, credit card, bank numbers, or personal history, not only do various laws exist to keep businesses from spreading this information, but employees can sue for disclosing sensitive information.
Though employees have clear and specific rights to privacy in the workplace, the rights are balanced agains the employers’ privileges to monitor their business operations. It’s important to understand what rights you have as a business to monitor employees, and to be clear and transparent about that monitoring to your employees.
Of course, the federal government isn’t the only arbiter of business regulations. Many state and local governments have their own requirements for businesses, and it’s just as important to understand those. See our own State-by-State Guide to Business Licenses and Permits to ensure you’re in compliance with the laws and regulations of your state.