Final Report of the Small Business Paperwork Relief Task Force
The Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002 (SBPRA) was enacted June 28, 2002. The goal of the SBPRA is to reduce the burden of Federal paperwork on small businesses. The SBPRA requires the Federal government to (1) publish an annual list of the compliance assistance resources available to small businesses, (2) establish a single point of contact within agencies to interact with small businesses, and (3) establish an interagency Task Force to study and recommend additional means of reducing the burden on small businesses. This report addresses activities of the Small Business Paperwork Relief Task Force and is due to Congress by June 28, 2003.
When asked “What is the single greatest problem created for your business by government regulation,” the largest percentage of small businesses in three size groups singled out extra paperwork, with the number of votes increasing as the number of employees decreased. The second most frequently selected problems, sharing an equal number of votes, were: (1) difficulty understanding what (a business must do) to comply, and (2) dollars spent to comply. This poll supports the conclusion that the Small Business Paperwork Relief Task Force should focus on reducing federal burden on small businesses.
The Task Force examined the following three issues: 1) feasibility and desirability of consolidating information collection requirements within and across the Federal agencies; 2) feasibility and benefits of publishing an organized list of data collections that could be searched to identify specific forms and requirements by sector; and 3) implementing electronic submissions of information to the Federal government.
The Small Business Paperwork Relief Task Force is recommending several options to reduce paperwork burden on small businesses including the use of information technology. The President’s E-Government Management Reform Initiatives, the Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office, and the CIO Council Architecture and Infrastructure Committee are examples of efforts across the Federal government that help to reduce cost and burden to citizens and businesses.
The Presidential E-Government Initiatives, such as the Business Compliance One Stop Initiative, Expanding Electronic Tax Products for Businesses, and e-Authentication, help to overcome the technology and policy barriers involved with consolidating information collection requirements, publishing an organized searchable list of data collections, and implementing electronic submissions. In addition, the regulatory policy barriers to reducing burden could be addressed using the eRulemaking Initiative, which is centralizing the rulemaking function of Federal agencies.
The Task Force recommends that the Business Compliance One Stop Initiative should focus more specifically on reducing paperwork burden for small businesses. Accordingly, BCOS will reduce paperwork burden on businesses by consolidating and harmonizing federal paperwork requirements with similar data elements across the Federal government. The first milestone will create an integrated e-forms solution (“Business Gateway”) that will allow businesses to find the forms and information collection requirements that apply to them and then submit information electronically to the Federal government one time. Once the information is submitted, the information could be shared securely across Federal agencies. By undertaking this new focus, BCOS would help to meet the goals of the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, Paperwork Reduction Act, Small Business Paperwork Relief Act, and E-Government Act.
In addition to E-Government opportunities for reducing burden, the Task Force recommends that Federal agencies continue to examine such opportunities for small businesses through partnerships within Federal agencies, across the government, and with stakeholders. Further, the task force recommendations encourage Federal agencies to improve outreach to small businesses, and use partnerships to identify streamlining opportunities.
The Task Force found that reducing small busine ss paperwork burden is a challenge fraught with both regulatory drivers and information technology issues. The report examines some of these challenges to reducing burden specifically on small businesses and lays out many issues that will need to be addressed as the Business Compliance One Stop Initiative takes on a paperwork burden reduction focus through an integrated e-forms solution. A critical success factor is a serious commitment from Federal agencies to collaborate with other agencies, stakeholders, state governments, and the business sector. This effort will also require a governance structure, resources, and technology to create an integrated e-forms solution.
In Fiscal Year 2003, the Office of Management and Budget estimated that it took businesses and citizens approximately 8.2 billion hours and $320 billion dollars to collect and submit data to the Federal government. The Federal government alone has over 8,000 separate information collection requests authorized by OMB. Reducing citizen and business burden and automating internal processes to reduce costs and burden are key elements of the Business Compliance One Stop project. The Government Paperwork Elimination Act drives Federal agencies to provide the option for electronic filing and electronic signature capabilities for the full range of government activities by October 21, 2003. This integrated e-forms solution will increase Federal agencies’ Government Paperwork Elimination Act compliance to at least 75% by September 2004. The development of a Business Gatewaywill be beneficial to businesses and citizens by providing the foundation to consolidate information collections and reduce redundant data by at least 10% and reduce the number of Federal forms by at least 10%.