Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Legal Issues for Small Businesses

Small business owners make legal mistakes all of the time, which often results in the downfall of a company. Without the proper knowledge, business owners find themselves repeating the same mistakes. The SBA (Small Business Association) stresses the importance of ending the circle of disastrous legal errors by investing in Continuing Education business courses, or by hiring a business consultant.

In today’s world of technology, several resources offer up-to-date material on business procedures that directly affect the legitimacy of a company. The following are a list of common mistakes and ‘how-to’ avoid repeating them.

Service Agreements – Conducting business involves drafting up a Statement of Work or a Written Agreement. Without a contract, it is difficult to enforce the law. Carefully draw up the business terms, draft it in the company’s favor, and provide flexibility and protection.

In each service agreement you should list in detail what your service encompasses. Be very specific and don’t leave anything out. A signed contract is a very important legal document and can stand up in court. Also be sure to add what is considered an extra service and what the charges would be. Make sure that you don’t leave anything out of your service agreement.

As a small business you may or may not have several employees working for you. The termination of an employee is a touchy subject but may be necessary at some point in time. You should be clear on employee termination laws and regulations.

Disgruntled ex employees may threaten to sue you with a wrongful dismissal suit or similar legal action. It is vital that you know your rights and what you can do in this type of situation.

If you need some additional help many small businesses choose to hire independent contractors. Hiring independent contractors can seem like a simple choice since you’re not responsible for reporting their earnings to the IRS.

Use extreme caution assigning tasks to the company’s IC’s. Some projects can change the status of an IC to an Employee in the IRS’s eyes. If you’re uncertain as to what jobs classify as IC or Non IC status, visit your local state website or www.sba.gov for more information.

If you own a small business with someone else you need to know about the legal definitions of your partnership. If you’re a sole proprietor this means you own the business yourself and can be held legally responsible for anything to do with your business.

Start a business as a L.L.C. (Limited Liability Corporation) instead. This will eliminate the risk of loosing personal funds due to allegations in a lawsuit.

Intellectual property issues should be of great concern to any business no matter what sector you are in. This means you need to understand copyrights, registered trademarks, invention assignment agreements, and confidentiality agreements. Protect your company and its property.

Accounting and record keeping are vital to any company. Failure to do so can get you into serious trouble with the IRS. Keep proper paper and electronic copies of all business transactions.

If you can’t afford to hire an accountant there are many bookkeeping software packages that can make things easier on you. Be sure to keep all of your paper documents as well since they may be necessary should you be audited.

In any of the above situations you may find it necessary to contact an experienced corporate attorney. Almost all businesses at some point in time will need the advice or services of a professional. While most attorneys do charge a high fee, there are times when this is necessary.

Without a doubt, a business should run erring on the side of caution. Choosing to operate without the proper knowledge on business laws and business ethics, will lead to disaster. Check with an attorney before pursuing a business and start on the right foot.

Article Source: http://keywordbeast.com

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