8(a) Certification Basics: Ten Essential Steps to Help You Prepare an Effective 8(a) Application

If your company is interested in applying for Small Business Administration 8(a) certification, there are a number of prerequisites you should fulfill in preparation for submitting your 8(a) application to the Small Business Administration for review. 

The following list is a quick summary of ten simple yet essential steps to take before applying for 8(a) certification: 

1. Register your company. Make sure your company already possesses a federal employer identification number (sometimes called a “FEIN” or an “EIN”), a Data Universal Numbering System (“DUNS”) number from Dun and Bradstreet (a credit reporting agency for businesses), and a complete profile in the federal Central Contractor Registration database, or CCR (which should be updated at least once per year). Here is where to go if you are missing one of these key items:

2. Pay your taxes. Pay all of your federal, state, and local taxes in full or else obtain payment plans and make your first scheduled payment under each payment plan before applying to the 8(a) program. Make sure all company owners, officers, directors, and key staff members are also up-to-date on their tax obligations. 

3. Check your standing with the state. Check with your Secretary of State’s office to ensure that your company is in good standing so you can get a “certificate of good standing” or “certificate of status” marked with the current year to include inside your 8(a) application. Pay any annual fees and property taxes due to the state and file your annual report, if required, to maintain your company’s good standing. 

4. Organize your company formation documents. Make sure you have all of the required company formation documents for your particular state and your particular company structure. For example, if you are a Limited Liability Company (LLC) owner, you will need an Operating Agreement and Articles of Organization to operate legally in most states. If anything is missing, either create the required document using a reputable legal site like http://www.nolo.com or order a complete copy from the state; there is usually a nominal fee for copying expenses. 

5. Find your tax records and don’t forget the W-2 forms. You will need to provide the SBA with three consecutive years’ worth of company taxes and two consecutive years’ worth of personal taxes. The SBA wants all schedules, attachments, and W-2 forms. You don’t need to submit state taxes to the SBA unless the SBA specifically asks you for them. If you have lost your taxes, order full copies from the IRS but expect this process to take several weeks. 

6. Inform all company owners, officers, and key employees about the requirement to provide personal information to the government. For your 8(a) application to be successful, all owners, officers, directors, and key employees must submit personal and financial data to the SBA for review, so you will need their consent. Because of a recent, scathing Government Accountability Office (GAO) report about problems within the 8(a) program, all company officers, owners, and key representatives should expect increased scrutiny from the SBA during the 8(a) application process. Honesty and full disclosure are imperative.

 7. Assemble your licenses and permits. Obtain current, valid copies of all occupational, tax, state, county, and local licenses and permits your business needs to operate legally in its state for inclusion in the 8(a) application. If you are uncertain which licenses and permits you need for your jurisdiction, contact your Secretary of State’s office for help. 

8. Ensure your company is actually small. This tip might sound ridiculous, but some companies fail to determine that they meet the Small Business Administration size standard for their primary industry before filing for 8(a) status. If you are uncertain what constitutes a “small business” for your industry, consult the current SBA size standards to make sure your company truly is considered small (and don’t forget to add in any affiliates or subsidiaries when calculating your size): http://www.sba.gov/contractingopportunities/officials/size/index.html 

9. Ensure your primary North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) code has not changed since last year. Gather your contracts from the most recent calendar year, determine which NAICS code they fall under, and assess whether or not your primary NAICS has shifted into another category since the previous year in operation. Your primary NAICS code affects your size standard (see #8 above.) If you don’t know what your NAICS code, is the Census Bureau can help you with that: http://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/ 

10. Check your personal credit report for errors and fix any mistakes you find. These days the SBA runs credit checks on most 8(a) applicants, so obtain a free copy of your personal credit report at http://www.annualcreditreport.com and check it rigorously to make sure there are no critical errors. This is especially important if you think you might be hovering near the 8(a) program personal net worth cap of $250,000—you don’t want old investments that you sold years ago to remain on your credit report, for example. 

If you follow these ten simple preparatory steps, meet the baseline 8(a) eligibility requirements, locate and compile all of the required materials listed on your SBA 8(a) checklist (check your SBA Form 1010 for the checklist), and approach your 8(a) application with patience, honesty, and diligence, you should be pleasantly rewarded with 8(a) certification within a few months.

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About Get 8a Certified with GCS Inc.

Veteran owned SBA 8(a) consulting firm. Email us at info@get8acertified.com or securely buy kits and examples at 8aapplication.com.

4 responses to “8(a) Certification Basics: Ten Essential Steps to Help You Prepare an Effective 8(a) Application”

  1. Suresh says :

    If company resides in state A, but makes business in many other states,
    Do they need to get Good standing certificate from other states?

    • get8acertified says :

      Hi Suresh, Generally speaking for your 8(a) application you should obtain a Certificate of Good Standing (sometimes also called a “Certificate of Fact” or a “Certificate of Existence”) for each state in which your company possesses a physical presence, meaning an office location/lease in a commercial building or a home office location (if that home office location is listed publicly on your company website, on your company checks, taxes, contracts, etc.)
      Also, if you transact a significant volume of business in another state and thus you possess a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) from that state, you might wish to declare the state a location in which your company has a significant business presence and opt to obtain a Certificate of Good Standing for that state also.
      But generally speaking, the Certificate of Good Standing is for the state or states in which your company has a physical presence.

  2. Connie says :

    Can you tell me what “sufficient documentation” is required for a start up white-owned 8(a) company?

    • get8acertified says :

      Hello Connie,
      Thanks for your inquiry! First, here is what the SBA says about “sufficient documentation” to prove that an individual has been subjected to chronic social disadvantage:
      “Socially disadvantaged individuals are those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias within American society…An individual who is not a member of one of the groups presumed to be socially disadvantaged must establish individual social disadvantage by a preponderance of the evidence…SBA will consider the experiences of the individual, where applicable, in education, employment, and business history to determine whether the totality of the circumstances shows disadvantage in entering into or advancing in the business world. Evidence relating to all three should be addressed.”
      What the SBA means by “evidence” is documentation to prove that the Caucasian applicant has experienced discrimination in education, in employment, and in business, and by “documentation” the SBA means that your narrative of personal experiences must be accompanied by at least one additional set of documents such as notarized witness statements.
      Witnesses should be non-family members who have seen you undergo profound discrimination such as name calling, sexual harrassment, unfair demotions or unfair denials of compensation, and other prejudicial treatment that has held you back from the level of success you deserve. Avoid using employees at witnesses because the SBA does not place as much weight on their accounts as other individuals.
      Witnesses can be: past supervisors, coworkers, colleagues, vendors, suppliers, lenders, teachers, professors, clergy, or any other individuals who witnessed you being harrassed or discriminated against.
      Other documents the SBA honors as evidence of discrimination can include court records, payroll records, meeting minutes, copies complaints filed with the EEOC, credit denial letters, etc.
      The key is to provide:
      1. A lengthy, detailed multi-page narrative outlining all of your examples of discrimination and unfair treatment in education and career that have held you back from success
      2. Another set of documents to show you have experienced discrimination, for example, a set of notarized witness letters (as many as possible, but you will certainly need a minimum of 2–aim for 6 to 10 or more, and please bear in mind the SBA has not published a set number)
      Let us know if we can help you with anything else–info@get8acertified.com

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