The Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA) requires virtually all businesses to make their
facilities accessible to disabled customers and employees and requires businesses with 15 or
more employees to accommodate disabled job candidates in hiring, firing and benefits.
ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business
Anyone serving the public must actively remove any physical barriers so that all people,
regardless of disability, have equal access to the business' goods, services, facilities,
privileges, advantages, and accommodations.
A disabled candidate is considered qualified to be hired or promoted if (s)he can carry
out the "essential functions" of the job with or without "reasonable accommodation". Employers
may have to offer training or aids such as readers or interpreters if they enhance employment
opportunities and don't cause "undue hardship" to the company. There are tax credits and tax
deductions available to offset the costs of complying with this Act (see below).
Things to watch
Employers may not
Advertise jobs in ways that discourage disabled applicants;
Reject applications from disabled candidates;
Ask about handicaps unless the questions relate directly to the job.
This Act does not require employers to hire disabled workers if the worker cannot perform the
essential functions of a job or if another applicant is more qualified for the job.
If a candidate would qualify, but the accommodation costs would cause "undue hardship", we
suggest that you contact the California Department of Rehabilitation, the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, or other private or public agencies to determine if you can obtain
financial assistance before disqualifying the candidate.
Tax credit available
If your business' gross receipts are less than $1 million or you have fewer than 30 full-time
employees, you are eligible for a tax credit to help pay the costs to comply with the ADA.
You must pay the first $250 of any accommodation cost. You can get a 50% tax credit for costs
between $250 and $5,000. If you spend over $5,000, you can declare up to $15,000 as a
business tax deductions. Credits are deducted directly from your tax bill, whereas tax deductions
are lumped in with your other business expenses and only lower your tax bill by your business'
tax rate (typically 15% to 31% times the tax deduction).
If your business' gross receipts are more than $1 million, you will still be eligible for a
maximum $15,000 tax deduction.
Expenditures that qualify for these tax breaks include:
Removal of architectural, communication, transportation or other physical barriers
The purchase or modification of needed equipment, and
Costs of technical assistance for employers and employees to comply with the Act.
In this Internet age, privacy issues are at the forefront of people's minds. Laws are being developed to respond to
abuses such as identity theft, selling financial information to outsiders, sharing information with subsidiaries and partners,
and using information for mass marketing.
According to the publication Compilation of State and Federal Privacy Laws
there are 700 state and federal privacy laws, in the following areas:
Arrest and Conviction Records
Bank and Financial Records
Credit Reporting and Investigations (including ‘Credit Repair,'‘Credit Clinics,' Check-Cashing, and Credit Cards)
Criminal Justice Information Systems
Electronic Surveillance (including Wiretapping, Telephone Monitoring,
and Video Cameras)
Government Information on Individuals
Insurance Records (including use of Genetic Information)
Mailing Lists (including Video Rentals and 'Spam')
Medical Records (including HIV Testing)
Miscellaneous (including Non-Electronic Visual Surveillance
Polygraphing in Employment (including Honesty Tests)
Privacy Statutes/State Constitutions
(including the Right to Publicity)
Social Security Numbers
Telephone Services (including Telephone Solicitation and Caller ID)
Testing in Employment (including Urinalysis, Genetic, and Blood Tests)
If your business involves any of these areas, we suggest that you consult with an attorney or purchase this guide. For information, visit
http://www.privacyjournal.net/works.htm. This guide may also be available at your county law library.
Protect customer and employee privacy
Businesses are beginning to be held responsible for identity theft of customer and employee information. It is critical that you take three steps:
Make sure that your customers' and employees' private information is stored and secure. Do not leave credit card, social security numbers, addresses, or other IDs available for anyone to view (employee, customer or bystander).
When you are done with the information, shred it.
When you discard or donate your computer, delete all information first (reformat the computer so everything is wiped clean)
Many small businesses use non-disclosure statements to protect their ideas and products. We have included a sample non-disclosure statement in
Federal and state governments have set up do-not-call registries, which allow consumers to remove their telephone number from a telemarketer's list. This applies to phone solicitation only. There are exceptions to the laws, but if a company violates the law, the fine per call can be $11,000.
Who is exempt?
Charities, political groups and companies which have an established relationship with a consumer. Businesses are allowed to call:
Anyone who is not on the do-not-call registry
Any customer for 18 months after the date of their last purchase, payment or delivery
Any person who has made an inquiry or submitted an application during the past three months
If you are a business owner calling and you are calling within 50 miles of your home (i.e. no paid solicitors)
Business to business solicitations, except if you are selling non-durable cleaning or office supplies (anything that can be used and requires replacing)
Calling across state lines?
If you are calling across state lines and the person asks you not to call, you must honor that request, even if you have an established business relationship.
How consumers register their number to prevent solicitation
If you are going to telemarket to individuals, you must register for access to the Do-Not-Call list. Registration and access is free for 1 to 5 area codes. After that, there is an annual $45 per area code fee, with a maximum $15,400 for the entire U.S. To register, go to https://www.donotcall.gov/. You will be asked to set up a profile that includes the area codes that you want to solicit. You will be issued a "SAN" number which will allow you access to the phone numbers registered for those area codes. Remember, the numbers you receive are the phone numbers that you cannot call unless you meet the exemptions above.
At least once every 30 days, you need to go back to that website to download an updated version.
This information is an overview. Please visit the sites below for complete information because you may be subject to recordkeeping requirements. You must comply with federal requirements if you call across state lines and state requirements if the calls are within a state. Information for businesses is available at Click here to go to the FTC's website.
Many companies require their vendors to provide D&B, SIC or NAICS numbers before they will conduct business. These numbers are available at no cost.
Dun & Bradstreet is a private company which monitors business credit. They provide a free number to any business that is willing to wait 30 days. They also provide expedited Duns numbers and credit services on a fee basis.
To obtain a free D&B number, click here and enter your
business ownership information.
Business credit is established through trade references, which are reported on a voluntary basis to a company such as Dun & Bradstreet. Usually, new businesses must wait a few months to start establishing credit. If you want to establish business credit with Dun & Bradstreet, you can provide references to Dun & Bradstreet, which they will verify to give you a credit rating. This is a fee-based service, and you must have 4 to 6 references which Dun & Bradstreet can verify.
You can also improve your credit rating by providing D&B with information about contracts that you have received. For more information, visit
http://www.dnb.com or call (800)234-3867.
Other resources available through the bookstore:
All about Credit
ABCs of Getting Out of Debt
Credit Repair Kit
SIC stands for Standard Industrial Code, which is a system that categorizes all products and services.
The SIC system is being replaced by the NAICS system (below), but some companies still request an SIC number. To obtain an
SIC number, go to http://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/sicsearch.html and enter your product
or service. If you sell multiple products or services, you may have multiple SIC codes.
NAICS stands for North American Industry Classification System, which has replaced the SIC system to categorizes all products and services.
To obtain your
NAICS number (no charge), go to http://www.naics.com/search.htm and enter your product
or service. If you sell multiple products or services, you may have multiple NAICS codes.
Although not required by the government, most resellers require products to have universal product codes (UPC) or ISBNs for
published items. These are displayed on packages in number and barcode form.
Universal product codes (UPC) are issued by the Uniform Code Council (UCC). Manufacturers receive a company code and a series of numbers (Item Reference Numbers) that are placed at the end of their company code.
Each distinct product is assigned a number and it is registered on the UCC system. The company code and product number are placed on the product in number and bar code format.
This allows resellers to order products using these codes and scan the products when they are purchased for price accuracy and inventory control.
Becoming a member of the Council is expensive ($750 initial with annual renewals). Fortunately, there are companies online that will sell a few numbers to you (10,100,1000) for lower cost. YOu will need a code for each product that you make, plus any combinations of products (i.e. one code for 1 wigit; another code for a package of 6 wigits).
If you want, you can also joint the Council directly by visiting http://barcode.gs1us.org/
Publishing books, audio or videos? ISBN and ISSN
ISBN numbers were developed to create "Books in Print," a tool for book resellers to use to order
publications. ISBN numbers are placed on books, audio tapes, videos, and bibles. ISSNs are similar numbers, but are for recurring publications (serials)
that have years, months, or a sequence on their cover or title. Each publisher applies for their own ISBN prefix and a series of ending numbers. The fee is based on the number of
ISBN ending numbers that you want. The minimum is 10, for $225.
Before you obtain an ISBN number, talk to your publisher (if any) to determine whether they will get the ISBN number or you will. To obtain an ISBN
http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/index.asp or call (877) 310-7333. Please note that
ISBN numbers are maintained by the Bowker agencies, so you may see that name on the website or emails. They are the
official, and only issuer of ISBN numbers.
If you are acting as your own publisher (who will accept orders and ship to resellers), you will also need an SAN number so that resellers know your
address and contact information. The SAN number can be obtained at the same website or phone number.
Finally, if you expect your book to be purchased by libraries, you or your publisher need to obtain a Library of Congress Number (LCCN).
Not all published books can obtain an LCCN number; the application must be approved. This can be done before a book is printed through the
Library's Pre-Assigned Control Number Program. For information, visit http://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/ or call
Bar codes are just a specialized font that converts numbers into lines. Once you get a UPC or ISBN number, you can
get a bar code made for a small price ($10-25 is common). There are many bar code providers available through a web search. Some contact numbers are:
California requires that retailers charge a $1 recycling fee for every new tire sold. Retailers who sell tires must register with the
Board of Equalization Excise Taxes and Fees Division and submit quarterly reports with the recycling fee. For information, visit
http://www.boe.ca.gov/pdf/pub91.pdf or call (800) 400-7115 and ask for the Excise Taxes and Fees Division.
California's beverage container recycling law charges beverage distributors a CRV (California Refund Value) fee for every beverage container.
The beverage distributor passes that cost to the reseller, who passes the cost to the final purchaser. When the final purchaser recycles the container, (s)he
receives the CRV fee as payment. This law affects ALL beverages, except milk, wine, infant formula, nutritional supplements, medical food, vegetable juice over 16 oz. and 100% fruit juice over 46 oz.
The current CRV fee is 4 cents (8 cents for 24 ounces or greater).
Any full-line grocery stores with gross annual sales of at least $2 million must either:
Be within 1/2 mile of an authorized recycling center (i.e. in a designated "convenience zone") OR
Refund the CRV fee to people who return beverage containers and recycle them.
Please note that the Board of Equalization has ruled that the CRV should be included in any sales tax calculations.
Any tangible product (something that can be touched) is subject to either sales tax or use tax.
California is now enforcing the use tax for items purchased from the internet if no sales tax is charged. The purchaser
is responsible for paying the use tax.
How much is the use tax?
The use tax is the same as your local sales tax. See Collecting Sales Tax for the
current sales tax rates.
How is the use tax paid?
The California Franchise Tax Board and the Dept. of Tax and Fee Administration jointly collect the use tax. If you are already
selling tangible items to customers and have a sellers permit, there is a line on your quarterly
BT-401 sales tax return where you
declare any purchases that you made without sales tax, and pay your local sales tax on that amount.
Businesses without a seller's permit must report the use tax
on their annual income tax returns.
(form 100 or 100S).
What's the bottom line?
If you are audited, you will be liable for use tax on any internet purchases of tangible property that you make personally or for your business.
It is not due on services. So, if you download software that cannot be touched, there is no use tax. However, if the company provides you a physical CD with the software,
there is a use tax.
Imports are classified using the U.S. Customs Office's 10-digit Harmonized Tariff System. You can do an online database search to determine the proper code at
http://dataweb.usitc.gov/scripts/tariff.asp. Once you determine the classification, the following documents are required to import non-regulated items into the U.S. for commercial purposes (called a formal consumption entry):
An airway bill or carrier's certificate (naming the person or company who will receive the items for customs purposes).
A commercial invoice from the seller, which shows the value and description of the merchandise.
Packing lists, if appropriate, and other documents necessary to determine whether the merchandise may be admitted.
Your Tariff Classification determines the required duty taxes. In addition, there is a processing fee. Both must be paid prior to receiving the merchandise, or you can post a bond and pay the actual tax after receiving the goods.
Shipment under $2000 in value? Consider the U.S. Mail
Shipments by mail which do not exceed $2000 in value (except for commercial shipments of textiles and suits from Hong Kong), can be made through the U.S. mail with a simplified customs declaration form available at the post office. The parcel will be delivered to you and released upon the payment of the duty tax, shown on the package. There is also a small postal handling fee.
The following items require permits or licenses to import into the U.S.
Animal and animal products
Firearms and ammunition
Meat and meat products
Milk, dairy, and cheese products
Plants and plant products
Poultry and poultry products
Petroleum and petroleum products
The following items must comply with applicable regulations of a federal agency:
Some electronics products
Toys and children's articles
All imported items must be properly marked with their country of origin. For more information, click here
Please note that the destination country may have import requirements and tariffs. You may have to hire a freight forwarder to receive the shipment in the destination country and handle any paperwork. If you have any outsider handle your items, you will probably need to provide a power of attorney authorizing them to act on your behalf.
Regulates food labeling, cosmetics, medical devices, and drugs. If you manufacture drugs, medical devices, are starting a bloodbank or are canning low acid foods like vegetables, you must get a permit from the FDA.
Food: You must obtain a permit if you hold, pack, manufacture or process food, and are NOT a farm, retail food establishment, restaurant, non-profit establishment that prepares or serves food, or a fishing vessel not engaged in processing.
Visit http://www.fda.gov or call (888)INFO-FDA.
For food labeling requirements, the FDA recommends that you purchase Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations, part 100-169 available from the
Food and Drug Administration or by purchasing it through the U.S Government Bookstore at (866)512-1800.
Securities dealers: Investment advisors, brokers, dealers and investment companies must register with the SEC. Visit
http://www.sec.gov/divisions/marketreg/bdguide.htm or call the Branch of Registrations and Examinations (Office of Filings and Information Services) at (202) 942-8980.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Interstate truckers must obtain operating authority (U.S. DOT number). Visit
www.fmcsa.dot.gov or call (800)832-5660 for further information. Also, intrastate (within the state) truckers should contact the state transportation agency and ask if there are any permit requirements.
Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental hazards: The EPA works with county and state agencies, so usually businesses contact their county and state agency instead of the EPA directly. For air pollution and noise pollution regulations, call your county. For water or hazardous waste, call the state.