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Part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s stated mission is to “aid, counsel, assist, and protect the interests of small business concerns.” But to live up to that mission, the SBA needs to ensure that the concerns they’re supporting—either through their SBA loan program or the many other initiatives they spearhead—are definitively small. That’s the job of SBA Form 355.
If you’re applying for an SBA loan, but you’re not sure whether your business is small enough to officially be considered a small business—and, therefore, whether you’re eligible for SBA financing—then you can complete and submit SBA Form 355. Based off the information you provide, the agency will make that size-based determination for you.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain why you might consider submitting SBA Form 355—and, if you do, exactly what to expect when you fill out this form.
SBA Form 355 is the Application for Small Business Size Determination, and that’s fairly self-explanatory of what this document does: Small business owners can submit this form to the SBA to determine the size of their businesses. If their company doesn’t fall under the SBA’s definition of a small business, then they won’t be eligible for SBA financing.
SBA Form 355 can be used as a size determination for any type of SBA loan you’re applying for, other than the SBIC program, which requires SBA Form 480.
That said, you can consult the SBA’s size standards table even before filling out this form to gauge whether your business is qualified for federal financing based on its size. (The table represents the largest a business can be while still being considered SBA-eligible.)
Every industry has their own size standards, but across the board the SBA bases size determinations on the business’s number of employees, and/or the industry’s average annual receipts, which is the business’s total income plus the cost of goods sold.
And beyond these numbers, for the purposes of loan eligibility the SBA defines a small business as a company that:
In certain cases, the SBA will consider the business’s primary activity in its size determination, too.
But some things are better left to the professionals—especially things of such importance as small business financing. For a second (and definitive) opinion on your business’s size-based eligibility, submit SBA Form 355.
SBA Form 355 is made up of five sections. We’ll take a closer look at each of those sections here, and show you how to answer each question asked.
Questions 1a-1b: Provide your business’s basic contact information.
Questions 1c-1d: Indicate the county in which your business is based, the type of SBA loan you’re applying for, and whether you’ll be using your loan funds in a labor surplus area if you’re not applying for a surety bond guarantee.
Question 1e: Indicate the date that your business was established or incorporated. Also, if you’re an S-corp or C-corp, you’ll need to attach your latest annual report to stockholders, by-laws, and articles of incorporation. Partnerships need to attach a copy of their Partnership Agreement.
Question 1f: Write your primary business activity and your Standard Industrial Classification code.
Question 1g: Indicate whether your company has received a formal SBA size determination in the past and, if so, which SBA office conducted the size determination and when.
Question 2: List your major products or services, each of their Standard Industrial Classification codes, and each of their share or sales for the most recent fiscal year. The form gives you space for five products or services, but you can attach additional sheets if you need more room.
Question 3: Do you operate under a franchise, license or other contractual agreement with another business? If so, mark “yes” and attach a copy of your agreement to the form.
Questions 4-6: Provide information about any owners, partners, principal stockholders (that’s anyone who owns 10% or more of the voting stock), general partners, officers, or directors involved in your business.
Questions 7-8: Answer yes/no questions concerning your company’s stock. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you’ll need to include additional information.
Question 9: Is anyone you listed in questions 4-6 an owner, director, officer, partner, employee, or principal stockholder in another business? If so, you’ll list the name of the other business, the position the person in question holds there, and the percentage of their voting stock or ownership.
Question 10: List the number of employees at your business. (That’s it for this section!)
Questions 11-12: List the ending date of your fiscal year, then the total sales or receipts for your three most recent fiscal years. If you’re seeking an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, provide your sales for the three fiscal years prior to the disaster.
In this section, you’ll provide information about any affiliate businesses, both domestic and foreign, if relevant.
Among other standards, the SBA considers businesses as affiliates “when one controls or has the power to control the other, or a third party or parties controls or has the power to control both.” If you’re not sure whether a business counts as an “affiliate” of yours, consult the SBA’s complete definition of affiliate businesses to make sure you’re reporting accurate information on SBA Form 355 (and any other SBA form that requires information about affiliates).
If the affiliated business is a corporation, you’ll need to attach a copy of its articles of incorporation and by-laws. If you have it on hand, attach a copy of their latest annual report to stockholders, too. If the affiliated business is a partnership, you’ll need to include a copy of its partnership agreement.
Question 13a: For each affiliated business, provide the following information:
Question 13b: For each affiliated business listed in 13a, list the names and addresses of the owners, partners, officers, directors, and principal stockholders. Also list the position they hold, and their percentage of voting stock or ownership in the business.
Question 13c: List the number of employees in each affiliated business listed in 13a.
Question 13d:List the affiliated business’s total sales or receipts for its three most recent fiscal years.
Question 14: If any of the owners, partners, directors, officers or principal stockholders of the affiliated business are owners, partners, directors, officers or principal stockholders of another business, you’ll need to provide that third business’s name and address, the position that person holds, and the percentage of their voting stock or ownership.
The last section of SBA Form 355, questions 15-29, consists of yes-or-no questions.
However, not all businesses need to fill out all of these questions:
Questions 15-22: Your answers to these questions will provide the SBA with further clarification about the relationship between your business and the (alleged, acknowledged, or possible) affiliate business. That way, the SBA can make a definitive evaluation about whether the business in question is, in fact, an affiliate.
Questions 23-29: These questions investigate whether any affiliate businesses have provided an indemnity or a guaranty to facilitate a contract award to your business.
As is the case with the rest of this form, if you answer “yes” to any question in Part V you’ll need to provide a detailed explanation on an attached sheet, as well as copies of certain documentation (as requested).
Once you’ve filled out your answers for SBA Form 355, read over the certification and sign and date the form. You’ll submit this form, plus any relevant additional documentation, to the SBA Office of Government Contracting or Office of Disaster Assistance (if you’re applying for an SBA disaster loan) nearest your business. If you’ve hired an attorney, accountant, or other non-employee to complete and submit this form for you, you’ll need to send along a letter authorizing them to complete this task.
However, keep in mind that SBA Form 355 isn’t a requirement of your SBA loan application—it’s only necessary if you’re seeking an SBA loan, but you’re not sure whether you suit the SBA’s size requirements. So if you’re a solopreneur, you can count the number of your employees on one hand, or if you’re otherwise certain that your business is definitively small, don’t worry about Form 355 in particular; you’ll have plenty of other SBA forms to submit!