Small Business Bears a Heavier Burden of Federal Regulation

The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy has just released a new study, “The Impact of Regulatory Costs on Small Firms,”  again confirming what employers already know: The marginal costs of federal regulation fall more heavily on small business.

The main point:

The annual cost of federal regulations in the United States increased to more than $1.75 trillion in 2008. Had every U.S. household paid an equal share of the federal regulatory burden, each would have owed $15,586 in 2008. By comparison, the federal regulatory burden exceeds by 50 percent private spending on health care, which equaled $10,500 per household in 2008. While all citizens and businesses pay some portion of these costs, the distribution of the burden of regulations is quite uneven. The portion of regulatory costs that falls initially on businesses was $8,086 per employee in 2008. Small businesses, defined as firms employing fewer than 20 employees, bear the largest burden of federal regulations. As of 2008, small businesses face an annual regulatory cost of $10,585 per employee, which is 36 percent higher than the regulatory cost facing large firms (defined as firms with 500 or more employees).

In bullet form, the key findings:

  • The annual cost of U.S. federal regulations in 2008: $1.75 trillion
  • Regulatory costs on small business per employee in 2008: $10,585
  • Regulatory costs on large business per employee in 2008: $7,755
  • Percentage of U.S. national income expended on federal regulations: 21 percent
  • Federal regulations plus tax receipts as percentage of national income: 35 percent

This is the SBA Office of Advocacy’s fourth edition of the study, and it reflects the burdens after eight years of the Bush Administration, under which federal regulations soared. (See James Gattuso, Heritage Foundation, “Red Tape Rising: Regulatory Trends in the Bush Years,” published in March 2008.) The Obama Administration has only stepped up the pace of federal regulations, with the most obvious examples being the expanded economic control imposed by the Imperial EPA.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), ranking member of the House Small Business Committee, noted other examples of burdensome pending regulations in his news release reacting to the SBA report, “Graves: New SBA Report Confirms Government Regulations Unfairly Burden Small Firms“:

This report clearly illustrates the heavy burden that federal mandates place on small businesses.  As I have said before, piling unfair costs on the entrepreneurs who have lead our economy in the past is counterproductive and will only serve to drown job creation.  Adding insult to injury, this data does not take into account the new wave of regulations that are about to hit entrepreneurs, such as the 1099 reporting rule and other health care mandates, regulations in the financial reform law, and potential new EPA rules.

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