Which Government Agencies Have Fingers In Your Pie?

Remember the Eighth Commandment for Running Your Construction Business --
"You shall never mess with the Government.  It is bigger than you and it doesn't play fair."

If you think I am kidding about Government Agencies and the Eighth Commandment of Running a Construction Business, consider the following:

Here are some of the government agencies

  • to which you must apply;
  • to which you must pay fees (a.k.a. taxes);
  • whose rules you must follow; and
  • to which you must report ---

When You Start a Business -

  • Register with the Secretary of State;
  • Get business license from local, city or county;
  • Check zoning on your business location with local zoning control board;
  • Check Environmental Protection Act (EPA) liabilities for ground and water contamination if you are buying land to build an office and/or warehouse because EPA may hold you liable for contamination problems even if you had nothing to do with the cause of the problem.

When You Build Anything -

  • Meet the code requirements of the city, county, regional, state and national building authorities;
  • Check with the trade licensing and inspection boards;
  • Submit documents for building permit to building authority and wait for their permission to build on your own land which will then be re-assessed, and on which you will pay property taxes as long as you own it.

When You Hire Anyone -

  • Get Employer's Identification Number (EIN) from state and federal governments;
  • Conform to Occupational Health and Safety (OSHA) regulations
  • Make FICA contributions according to timelines and in appropriate amounts;
  • Meet Employee Disability Act (EDA) guidelines;
  • Satisfy state and local Labor Board regarding hiring and firing procedures (discriminatory hiring practices and/or wrongful dismissal law suits);
  • Pay for mandated Worker's Compensation Insurance (WCI);
  • Post the appropriate government bulletins regarding non-discrimination and minimum wage laws;

When You Drive Anything -

  • Apply for and receive a Driver's License allowing you to drive on roads your taxes are paying for;
  • Pay vehicle registration and license annually;
  • Pay road use taxes at gas pump;
  • Pay for mandated liability insurance coverage on your vehicle;
  • Meet Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations for commercial vehicles, including knowing whether any of your drivers have ever been arrested for using illegal drugs or for DUI, even though you can't ask them those questions in the job interview without running afoul of hiring practice regulations;
  • Document every load your business vehicles haul every day;
  • Check that your driver's log books are accurate;
  • Submit to DOT roadside checks (forget about constitutional protections).

When You Own Anything -

  • Pay personal property taxes for the privilege of owning machinery and equipment on which you already paid sales tax when you bought them;
  • Pay real estate property taxes.

When You Earn Anything -

  • Apply to Social Security Administration for Identification Number;
  • File Federal and State Income Tax Return for personal and business incomes with the Internal Revenue Service.

Each of these government agencies, and I know I have left many others out, is fully staffed, and is ready, willing and able to enforce its will on you, the small businessman. Noncompliance with the pertinent rules and regulations will cost you money and/or days in court.

You must realize that the enforcement of "THE RULES" is the prime directive of government agencies. Whether those rules are logical or actually accomplish what they were put in place to accomplish does not matter. You must comply or face the consequences.

As small business owners, we use profits or cash flow to tell us if we are successful. That is not how it works in a government agency. A bureaucrat's job performance is judged by his or her ability to force compliance of their department's interpretation of "THE RULES". There is no financial compensation yardstick available with which to measure success, because all compensation in their arena is fixed. This means that government employees have a vested career interest in discovering real or imagined infractions and in prosecuting them.

And now, the worst news. Because of the power and reach of the government, and the many ways it exercises control over your business operations, you must think of the Government as a powerful partner in your business, a partner that is constantly looking over your shoulder.

  • Keep your accounting up to date.
  • Document important business decisions.  
  • Complete and file required reports when due.  
  • Always know how you will defend your actions in a court of law.  
  • In events involving employee actions, customer encounters or investor relationships, always think "If I have to explain this in front of a judge, what would I say".  

In a world of strange bedfellows, the relationship with the Government is one of the strangest, because often it seems that many government agencies are acting to inhibit your business rather than enhance it.

The only way to protect yourself is to stay up to date on regulations that affect your business, comply to the best of your ability, and hope the bulldog stays in someone else's yard.

Here are some external links of which you should at least be aware:

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