Congress Insists on Easy-to-Understand Guides for Small Biz


Small firms won’t have to hire lawyers as often to translate federal regulations that govern what businesses can and can’t do. A new law adds teeth to Clinton-era legislation requiring federal regulatory agencies to publish compliance guides for all new rules having a significant economic impact on small firms. Lawmakers acted because they believe too many agencies were ignoring their obligations to small businesses.

One aspect of the new law designed to help business owners say agencies must explain their rules “using sufficiently plain language likely to be understood by affected small entities.” In plain English that means they must use plain English so firms won’t have to decipher the gibberish, gobbledygook and bureaucratic legalese that many agencies routinely rely on.

Regulators will get called before Congress each year to defend their guides. It means, for example, that representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or the Internal Revenue Service will have to prove to lawmakers that they’re producing these guides and writing them so businesses can understand them. The 1996 had no such enforcement provision.

The new law makes clear that the guides must be available to the public at the time the new rules take effect. It also requires that each agency make their guides available on their Websites.

Photo by MSDesigns.

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