Talking about business laws in microscopic detail would need a couple of months of your time! There is indeed a plethora of legislation that governs small businesses, ranging from state to county laws. Some are relevant to your business even today whereas others are outdated and have not been enforced since the early part of the last century!
It is not possible for any single entity, including your local law enforcement department to know them all. Yet, it is vital that you are familiar with at least the most important laws that pertain to your business. As usual we’re here to help.
Business laws fall into certain categories as listed below:
o Business formation laws – these laws pertain to the structure of the business. For example a sole proprietorship is regulated very differently from a corporation.
o Tax laws comprise laws pertaining to all taxation issues, whether it is the filing of returns or the payment of sales tax, corporate tax and other similar levies.
o Employment laws – these govern recruitment and retrenchment of employees, wages & workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, workers’ rights and related issues.
o Trademark and patent laws – these laws pertaining to ownership of intellectual property such as inventions, trademarks and patents.
o Environmental laws – Companies engaged in the recycling of material and the discharge of hazardous waste must comply with environmental regulations.
o Consumer protection laws – these protect the consumer from fraud or unfair business or advertising practices.
Headache, already? Here are a few tips to help you deal with it.
One size doesn’t fit all. We just talked about some of the important legal categories under which you will find regulations that affect most businesses. In addition, specific laws may apply depending on the type of activity involved. If, for example, you are selling company stocks you will need to adhere to the Securities Law, but for a medical practice, there’s an entirely different set of rules that come into play. State laws may also dictate how contracts and legal documents are to be written and enforced.
Start at the beginning. Just as you craft a business plan in stages, look at the whole legal puzzle bit by bit. Begin with the laws pertaining to the basics of starting a business. Do you need a business license or a special permit? Are you planning to hire employees or will you go it alone? If your business sells goods, it will need to pay sales tax. Look at each business aspect carefully to understand which category of laws apply to it.
Know only what you need to. If you are in business by yourself, for example, you won’t need to bother with laws governing workers and staff until you are ready to hire additional people. Likewise, if you are in a service business, you typically won’t need to bother yourself with removal of hazardous waste.
See the bigger picture. As your business grows, so will the number of applicable laws. Always examine the legal angle when you plan new projects and initiatives. Also, discuss all potential significant legal matters with your advisor.
Ensure compliance. Be unafraid to ask questions of your legal advisor and do not assume something is legal just because it is a common trade practice. Also talk to the local Chamber of Commerce or other business owners to make sure you are on the right side of the law.
Make amends. Finally, should you find that you’ve contravened a law without intending to, take remedial measures. The law is quite lenient with first time offenders – of course, it also depends on the nature of the violation.