The Top Legal Concerns That Impact Small Businesses and Where to Find Answers

Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 18:59
Created: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 08:26

Navigating business law and regulations can be a minefield for small business owners, soaking up their time, money and valuable resources. In fact, according to the SBA Office of Advocacy, small firms (fewer than 20 employees) spend substantially more per employee to comply with federal regulations than larger firms do.

Many of these costs are tied to tax compliance, environmental regulations, and occupational safety laws. But rarely a day goes by when a small business owner doesn’t need to think about the legal aspects of running a business. It’s complicated, from following the right steps for starting up (permits, incorporation, etc.) to abiding by laws and regulations that govern employees, intellectual property, and even how you use the Internet to connect with your customers.

The good news is that there are many online government resources that can help.

Here is just a sampling of some of the top legal concerns faced by small business owners, and suggestions on where to get answers so you can stay compliant.

SBA Direct – “The Answers You Need Start Here”

If you really want to zoom in on business law and regulations that apply to your business in your town, SBA Direct should be your first port of call. Hosted on, this handy tool delivers personalized information about business resources, SBA programs and other information; including everything you need to know about business law (permits, licenses, registration, employment law forms, etc.) based on your zip code and profile. Give it a go!

The Basic Legal Paperwork You Need to Start and Register a Business

It doesn’t matter whether you are a freelancer, run a home-based business, or operate an e-commerce site or a store on Main Street.  There are several essential steps that all business owners have to follow before they can operate legally. These include getting the right licenses and permits, registering with the appropriate state, local and federal authorities, and organizing your business as a legal entity.

This handy checklist from the SBA – 5 Steps to Registering your Business – has all the answers you need including a useful permit search tool that lists any licenses or permits you might need based on your zip code and business type.

All You Need to Know about Hiring and Managing Employees

Another biggie for small businesses is staying compliant with employment and labor laws. This selection of guides can help you stay on top of everything Uncle Sam requires from you:

Using the Law to Protect Your Business Brand

Trademarks, copyright, and patents are valuable assets that must be protected. Learn about how the law can help and what steps you need to take in this Small Business Guide to Intellectual Property and How to Protect Your Intellectual Property on Social Media.

Legal Oversights That Can Threaten Your Online Business

Many breaches of the law occur because businesses fail to publish and adhere to online privacy policies about how they collect, use, and secure personal information collected from customers. Take a look at SBA’s Guide to Online Privacy Law for tips on implementing a fail-safe policy.

If you sell anything online, you’ll also need to be aware of the tax laws that govern how you collect sales tax on online purchases. You also need to be attentive to Online advertising law and CAN SPAM compliance (for email marketing).

Government Regulations that Shouldn’t Be Ignored

As mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this blog, compliance with government regulations can be a huge burden for small business owners. These guides can help you familiarize yourself with the key areas of environmental regulation, workplace health and safety, foreign workers and employment eligibility, and tax compliance.

How to Handle Legal Concerns

From how to negotiate legal fees to finding legal help on the Internet, this guide explains how to find the best legal advice for your business. See also: Need a Lawyer? How to Find Legal Representation for Your Small Business.

Still Have Questions?

Post them in the SBA Community Discussion Boards and be sure to subscribe to Business Law Advisor blog to stay on top of the hottest legal and regulatory topics that impact small business owners.

Type: Community Blog