A story in yesterday's Business & Finance section should have said that paperwork is costing small businesses $12.7 billion a year. Due to a typographical error, an inaccurate figure was printed.
More than 850 million pages of often time-consuming, costly, duplicative, useless and confusing government forms required of the nation's 10 million small businesses are costing those firms $12.7 million a year, a government study released yesterday said.
"Much of the sense of being overwhelmed by paperwork that small business feels comes from the seeming unpredictability, aimlessness and lack of apparent control of the paperwork flood," Milton D. Stewart, chief counsel for advocacy for the Small Business Administration, said during a senate hearing yesterday.
"This is where the psychlogical crunch on the entrepreneurial manager is greatest -- the sense that he does not know what will hit him from the government in the next mail."
The industry groups most burdened by government paperworks according to the government study, are banking, transportation and communication.
Ten regulatory agencies account for 60 percent of all forms required of small businesses. Those agencies requiring the most forms are the Federal Communications Commission, which requests 83 forms, the Interstate Commerce Commission, 74 forms, the Civil Aeronautics Board, 44 and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which requires 37 forms.
Ten agencies account for 52 percent of all recordkeeping requirements. The top offenders are the Internal Revenue Service, with 145 recordkeeping requirements, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobaccoa and Firearms, 87, Agricultural Marketing Service, 59, the Public Health Service, 54, and the Food and Drug Administration, 46.
The average paperwork cost to small business, according to the study, is $1,270. Paperwork costs range from $400 to $72,000, the report said.
Some of the complaints registered by small businesses concerning government paperwork are that the reports:
Are overly time-consuming, costly, unnecessary, duplicative, useless, confusing, complex, not standardized, and unclear;
Sometimes require professional help from lawyers, accountants and consultants;
Sometimes violate the company's privacy;
Have deadlines that often conflict with peak business activities;
Are constantly revised;
Don't fit standard typewriters;
Request information small businesses don't keep or is illegal to obtain such as race, age or nationally of employes;
Fail to list filing dates and requirements and
Require small businesses to fill out the same forms that large multimillion dollar businesses do.
"Significant increases in the size of the federal bureaucracy and the passage of landmark social legislation and major regulatory laws in the 1960s and 1970s have greatly increased the burdens of federal reporting and record retention requirements on small business," the report continued. "Paperwork burdens are probably one of the most disturbing aspects of federal regulation for small business."