Is your Adjusted Gross Income above the $400,000 SBA 8(a) Program limitation? How to find out.

The $400,000 Threshold for Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)

Among the many 8(a) business development program eligibility requirements the applicant for 8(a) Certification must have is an average AGI over the past three taxes years of less than $400,000.

What is the definition of Adjusted Gross Income?

Adjusted gross income (AGI) is a tax term for an amount used in the calculation of an individual’s income tax liability. AGI is calculated by taking the applicants gross income and subtracting their maximum allowable adjustments. AGI is located on line Line 8b for 2019 personal taxes, Line 11 for 2020 Taxes and Line 11 for 2021 personal taxes.

How do I determine my Adjusted Gross Income for 8(a) Certification Purposes?

Step 1: The easiest way to initially determine if you exceed the $400,000 threshold, averaged over the last three years is to add up the AGI number reported on the first page of your last three years of federal tax returns.

Please note: If your portion of the applicant firm’s business income is negative or shown as a loss, you cannot deduct this loss from your AGI since losses from an S corporation, LLC or partnership are losses to the company only and are not losses to the individual and cannot be used to reduce your AGI.

If you add these three numbers, divide them by three and result is a number larger than $400,000 you must do further analysis. Go to Step 2.

If the number is less than $400,000 and your distributions taken out the company do not exceed the profits reported for your business on its tax return, your AGI is less than $400,000 without doing any further analysis.

If your distributions exceed the profits reported for your business, you must do further analysis. Go to Step 2.

Step 2: If your resulting calculation shows more than $400,000 or your distributions exceed the profits reported for your business on its tax return, and you are filing the taxes jointly with your spouse, you will then need to separate out the portion of any income reported on the tax return between the applicant and their spouse.

For example: (1040). Wages, salaries, tips, etc. = $100,000 (Applicant’s portion, $40,000 – Spouse’s portion, $60,000). Do the same for each income line as specified above.

Once you have separated out all income reported on the tax return between the applicant and their spouse take the total for the last three years and divide them by three. If the resulting calculation is still larger than $400,000 you must do further analysis. Go to Step 3.

If the number is less than $400,000 and your distributions taken out the company do not exceed the profits reported for your business on its tax return, your AGI is less than $400,000 without doing any further analysis.

Step 3:  There is one final analysis that can be performed to see if you still exceed the $400,000 AGI threshold. If the applicant business concern is an S corporation, LLC or partnership you may:

(Please note: Single Member LLC’s that file a Schedule C cannot use the below in their calculations, per the SBA):
  1. Deduct any income associated with the business that was reinvested into the business concern, less any distributions taken.

Example 1: Your applicant business income shown on the tax return is $100,000. You took $0 in distributions. The result is that $100,000 was reinvested or not distributed therefore the entire $100,000 can be deducted from your AGI calculation.

Example 2: Your applicant business income shown on the tax return is $100,000. You took $50,000 in distributions. The result is that $50,000 was reinvested or not distributed therefore the $50,000 can be deducted from your AGI calculation.

  1. Deduct any income used to pay the LLC or S-Corporation Federal taxes owed on behalf of the income from your LLC or S-Corporation income reported. Please note the SBA does not currently count or allow any State taxes you may have paid to reduce your AGI. Only Federal taxes paid are allowable to reduce your AGI.

In order to determine what the Federal taxable income tax that you paid on behalf of the business income reported on your tax return you must determine your IRS Income Tax rate.

To determine your IRS Income Tax rate, look at your 1040 form (Taxable Income).

Then, click here to visit a site that will show you your tax bracket percentage. Be sure the indicate the tax year, filing status and then lookup your tax bracket percentage based upon your taxable income.

Example: Your applicant business income shown on the tax return is $100,000. Your determined IRS Income Tax rate is 24% therefore you are responsible for $24,000 that would be paid to the IRS on the income from your business reported and the result would be an additional $24,000 that can be deducted from your AGI calculation.

As you can see from above, determining your AGI can be somewhat complex for 8(a) Certification purposes. Cloveer can help you to determine your AGI should you need further assistance. We offer an AGI Analysis Service for $250.00 where we will perform an analysis for the last three years and provide you a detailed report showing you exactly what your AGI is for each year and averaged over the last three years. If you are interested in this service, please request a service agreement or give us a call at 813-333-5800 for more information.

How to qualify for the 8(a) Program if you have been in business for less than 2 years.

Your business must possess reasonable prospects for success competing in the private sector if admitted to the 8(a) program.

To do so, it must be in business in its primary industry classification (NAICS code) for at least two full years (24 months) immediately prior to the date of its 8(a) application and be able to provide business tax returns for each of the two most previous tax years that show sufficient operating revenues earned within the primary industry (NAICS code) in which the applicant is seeking 8(a) certification for.

The SBA may waive the two years in business requirement if each of the following five conditions can be met:

Condition 1: The individual or individuals upon whom eligibility is based have substantial business management experience.

  • Provide resumes for the 8(a) Applicant(s) showing past employment history that exhibit significant management experience such as:
    • Being previously employed performing management duties (CEO, VP, CFO, President, Director).
    • Showing you successfully operated a similar business concern in the past and/or managing projects and employees to at least the equivalent size of the contracts and number of employees that the applicant business is working on currently.
  • In addition, the applicant and other key individuals of the business concern must also have the required technical capabilities, if required in your business situation. The applicant must hold all requisite licenses (Contractors, Professional Engineer, Accountant, etc.) and professional certifications within firms who have been in business for less than two years.
  • If you only have 1-3 years of business management experience you may not meet the substantial business management experience required by the SBA.

Condition 2: The applicant has demonstrated technical experience to carry out its business plan with a substantial likelihood for success if admitted to the 8(a) program.

  • Provide evidence of a business plan or some semblance of a business plan that:
    • Details your Marketing/Sales, Products/Services, Management/Organizational/Personnel and Finance goals and demonstrated progress towards the goals you specified.
    • Outlines any unique or special technical expertise that you and your team have and how you believe it will sustain your business during its early formative years.
  • Provide copies of independent reference letters from your active and completed clients, directly addressed to the applicant, that establish successful contract performance.

Condition 3: The applicant has adequate capital to sustain the operations and carry out its business plan as a participant.

  • Your business must have sufficient working capital available. Sufficient working capital is generally defined as a minimum of 3 months’ worth of working capital immediately available to your business.
  • Provide your most recent business bank account (s) statements that support that you have 3 times your monthly burn rate.
  • In lieu of cash in your business bank account, a business line of credit may be substituted. In this case, you will need to provide a copy of the business line of credit documents and a current statement showing the availability of enough working capital.
  • You should also describe your general payment terms and what actions your business takes to expedite the timely collection of receivables including how fast you typically receive payments from invoices.

Condition 4: The applicant has a record of successful performance on contracts from governmental or nongovernmental sources in its primary industry category.

  • Provide at least one business tax return showing approximately $100,000 to $150,000 in gross receipts. The business tax return provided must be the most recently filed year with the IRS (2021). If your most recently filed business tax return (2021) shows none or less than $100,000 you will most likely not be able to seek a waiver.
  • Be able to display to the SBA that your business is not economically dependent on one client for more than 70% of your revenues from its inception. This means that your breakdown of contracts must show you are earning revenues from multiple entities, within the primary NAICS code you are seeking 8(a) Certification for and show that not more than 70% of the total revenue earned was with one single entity. This presumption may be rebutted by a showing that despite the contractual relations with another concern, the concern at issue is not solely dependent on that other concern, such as where the concern has been in business for a short amount of time and has only been able to secure a limited number of contracts or where the contractual relations do not restrict the concern in question from selling the same type of products or services to another purchaser.The 70% rule does not apply if your direct billable client is a federal, state or local government agency.
  • Provide copies of all paid invoices and bank statements showing the depositing of all revenue earned that matches the business financial statements provided to the SBA.
  • If you have a potential federal client that may want to procure your products or services, should you become 8(a) certified, you should attempt to obtain and provide noncommittal letters of reference as additional evidence.
  • In addition, the SBA may require proof that the government previously procured and is likely to procure the types of products or services offered by your business. Proof can be provided in the form of SAM.GOV printouts of previous 8(a) procurement’s that have occurred and are similar in nature to your products or services offered by your business.

Condition 5: The applicant has, or can demonstrate its ability to timely obtain, the personnel, facilities, equipment, and any other requirements needed to perform contracts as a Participant.

  • You must have all required personnel needed for your current contract requirements. You should detail the current number of employees you have, any future hiring of personnel required and how you will recruit and attract additional employees including timelines for hiring and any special relationship that exist with recruiters, personnel agencies and temporary agencies. You must also be able to show the SBA that you meet the 8(a) subcontracting requirements. See CFR §125.6 for what are the prime contractor’s limitations on subcontracting for the specific percentages.
  • For facilities requirements you should detail your current office space, any future locations or expansions, how you will lease or purchase new office space including any relationships that exist with local commercial real estate brokers.
  • For equipment requirements you should detail your current equipment owned or leased that is needed to perform on contracts, any future equipment needed along with where you will lease or purchase and how you will finance or lease the equipment needed.
  • If bonding is required, you will need to provide a letter from your surety company stating your single and aggregate amount of bonding available.

Cloveer offers a 8(a) Length of Time (Two Year) Waiver Guide and Sample for sale and immediate download through our site for $150.00. Our two year waiver guide and sample explains and shows you how to properly address all five (5) required areas.

Common misconceptions about getting 8(a) Certified

Myth: It’s easy to get SBA 8(a) Certified.

As of December 2022 there are less than 7,000 active 8(a) Program participants and have never been more than 10,000 active 8(a) Program participants at any one time in the SBA 8(a) Program’s history.

Fact: The SBA returns over 90% of all 8(a) applications submitted and rejects 70% of all 8(a) applications submitted for review.

Myth: All I need to do is fill out the SBA’s 8(a) electronic application through and I will get 8(a) Certified.

The SBA’s 8(a) electronic application is where you formally apply and submit your 8(a) application responses and upload your unique documentation, however in order to even get to the process you must do a lot of leg work.  You must have a Dun and Bradstreet Profile, SAM.GOV profile and gathered and collected all of the required documents to be submitted to the SBA. Just collecting the required information does not guarantee that you will get 8(a) Certified. There are many requirements that the 8(a) applicant and firm must meet, along with the SBA requirements within your unique documents submitted to the SBA. For example. Just submitting your Bylaws or Operating Agreement may not cut it. There are specific provisions within these documents to ensure the unconditional requirements of the 8(a) Program are met.

Fact: The 8(a) application does not allow you to move forward to the next question, most of the time, without having uploaded the required documents, in the appropriate format requested. Also, the SBA application will not automatically inform you if you have an eligibility issue.

Myth: Once I submit my 8(a) application through I am done and will get 8(a) Certified quickly.

Typically, when you answer all of the questions, upload all of the required documents and hit the submit button, the SBA takes anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks to assign a reviewer to your case. At this point, they will most likely come back and ask for additional information or clarifications, regardless of how complete and thorough you thought you were when completed the 8(a) Application. If your SBA reviewer makes a determination that your 8(a) application is not complete, they will return your 8(a) Application and you must go through the 8(a) application submission process again. This results in a minimum of a 15 to 30 day additional delay. Assuming you properly answer, respond to and upload any additional information requested by the SBA reviewer and re-submit your 8(a) Application, your back in the queue again. We call this the endless review cycle at the SBA and this is where most get frustrated and just give up.

Fact: It takes anywhere from 90 to 180 days to get formally 8(a) Certified even if all of your information was 100% correct and perfect. The SBA does not even start this 90-180 clock until the deem your 8(a) application complete for processing.

Myth: Once I get 8(a) Certified, I am guaranteed a federal contract.

Getting 8(a) certified does not guarantee that you will receive an 8(a) contract.

Fact: About 50% of all 8(a) Program participants never receive one contract because they do not know how to market their business to the federal government. Getting 8(a) certified will certainly open opportunities at the federal level but you must still spend the time and effort in marketing your business to potential federal clients.

Myth: My ASBDC, PTAC and local SBA office told me I qualified to become 8(a) Certified.

There are only two processing offices (King of Prussia, PA and San Francisco, CA) that review all 8(a) applications submitted. Final determination on whether you will become 8(a) certified is made within the Washington, DC office. There are approximately 10-15 SBA 8(a) Application reviewers within the two processing offices.

Fact: Anyone who tells you that you qualify for 8(a) certification before reviewing ALL of your 8(a) application paperwork does not know what they are talking about and it will most likely result in your 8(a) Application being returned or denied by the SBA.

Myth: I don’t need any assistance in putting my 8(a) application together.

Unless you understand the SBA 8(a) Program Regulations, you should not attempt to put your 8(a) Application together yourself. The SBA 8(a) Application has many tripwires and potential application “killers” that could cause your 8(a) application to be returned for incompleteness or even rejected. We suggest that you find some assistance to help with some or all areas of your 8(a) application.

At Cloveer, we conduct a detailed free pre-qualification interview with any potential client before we engage or start preparing their 8(a) application.

Our questionnaire asks you the “Killer” questions that will let us, or more importantly you, know if you have an eligibility issue.

Fact: There are ways around a lot of the 8(a) Program eligibility issues but not everyone will be able to qualify.

We advise any potential client on the pros and cons to any eligibility issue and tell them when they have an eligibility issue that has no workarounds. Our feeling is that is it better for you to know now, rather than later.

As you can see from our blog, website and 8(a) frequently asked questions section, we provide more information about the 8(a) Program than all of our competitors.

We want you to know as much information about the SBA 8(a) Program as possible since you will be the one participating and using it as one of the tools to becoming a success.

The more you know, the better decisions you can make before you apply and while you are in the 8(a) Program.

For more information on the 8(a) Program, call us at 813-333-5800 or schedule a call to have your questions answered.