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 in 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 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) BD 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 (2018). If your most recently filed business tax return (2018) 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. 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 FBO.GOV or FPDS.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.

Is your 8(a) Program AGI above the $250,000 limitation? Here is how to find out.

The $250,000 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 $250,000.

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 37 on your Form 1040 for 2017 personal taxes and before and on Line 7 for 2018 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 $250,000 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 $250,000 you must do further analysis. Go to Step 2.

If the number is less than $250,000 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 $250,000 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 $250,000 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. See (Line 7 through 21 for 2017 tax returns and before and for 2018 tax returns (Line 1 through 5B + Schedule 1, line 22)

For example: (Line 7 (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 $250,000 you must do further analysis. Go to Step 3.

If the number is less than $250,000 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 $250,000 without doing any further analysis.

Step 3:  There is one final analysis that can be performed to see if you still exceed the $250,000 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 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 page 2 of your 1040 form (Line 43 – Taxable Income) for 2017 and before. For 2018, look at page 1 of your 1040 form (Line 10 – 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.

What information will need to be provided with your 8(a) Application.

Keep in mind that each 8(a) Application is unique and document requirements vary for each 8(a) Application.

Below is a general list of items that will need to be included within your 8(a) application. Your unique application may require additional items not specified below.

  • Signed 1040 personal tax returns (last three filing years) including all schedules, attachments, W-2’s, 1099’s and proof of payment for any tax owed for each 8(a) Applicant and their spouse.
  • Signed business federal tax returns including all schedules and attachments for the last three filing years, or as many as you have been in business, if less than 3 years. Proof of payment for any tax owed may be required, if applicable.
  • Balance Sheet, Income Statement, A/P and A/R aging statements no older than 30 days old for the current year to date. Please note, your financial statements must be prepared either on an income tax basis or be GAAP compliant.
  • Balance Sheet, Income Statement, A/P and A/R aging statements for the last three completed fiscal years.
  • resume for each 8(a) Applicant and any other key officer, employee, director or 10% or more owner.
  • A detailed listing of all clients broken down by revenue earned for the last 12 months and possibly for the last three years.
  • A current certificate of good standing (required for Corporations and LLC’s only).
  • Stock certificates/Stock ledger (Corp), Membership Certificates/ledger(LLC).
  • Articles of Incorporation/Organization/Partnership filing/DBA Filing.
  • Foreign Organization Filings and associated Certificates of Good Standing (If applicable).
  • Articles of Conversion/Buy-Sell Agreements, Voting Agreements (if applicable).
  • Bylaws, Operating Agreement or Partnership Agreement.
  • Stockholder/Board or Member Meeting minutes (Most Recent).
  • Proof of US Citizenship (if required).
  • Business bank signature cards.
  • Copies of all business and special licenses.
  • Copies of any business loan agreements.
  • A copy of the current lease agreement for business.
  • A current personal financial statement and supporting statements for  the following: (Checking/Savings, IRAs with terms and conditions, Life Insurance (Cash Surrender only), Stocks/Bonds, Mortgage, Deeds, Fair Market Value for Real Estate, Home Owners Insurance Policy, Any Other Assets (Boats, RV’s, Motorcycle, Other Business Ownership, etc.), Automobile Title/Registration and associated loans, Credit Cards, Home equity or any other Loan Agreements (Student, etc.).

Common misconceptions about getting 8(a) Certified

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

As of November 2019 there are only 5,900 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.

Want to know if you qualify for the SBA 8(a) Program?

Exploring the possibility of applying for the SBA 8(a) Program?

Don’t know where to start? The first step is to find out if you meet the SBA’s 8(a) Program eligibility requirements before you decide to take the leap into the complex 8(a) Application.

Cloveer offers a free online 8(a) eligibility questionnaire that will help determine your current state for 8(a) Program eligibility.

8(a) Eligbility Questionnaire

The questionnaire will take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete online and is free.

As you answer the majority of the questions, our tool will automatically inform you if you have a potential 8(a) Program eligibility issue.

The questionnaire covers 100% of all current 8(a) eligibility criteria.

Upon your submission of eligibility questionnaire we will review your responses and follow up to discuss your current state of 8(a) Program eligibility and answer any additional questions you might have.

8a Eligibility Tool Screenshot

Sample Screenshot of 8(a) Eligibility Questionnaire

8(a) Certification: Are you earning revenue from a past employer?

When you apply for the 8(a) Program the SBA will look at your current year to date and the past two to three years of revenue and whom it earned its revenue from. If you have earned revenue from a client who happens to be your past employer the SBA may take issue with this.

The relationship your firm has with your former employer can have a negative impact on your ability to get successfully 8(a) Certified if it results in the ability for them to impact the ability for you to control your firm. Earning a large percentage of your revenue from a past employer may result in the SBA denying your application.


As stated above, the SBA will look at your mix of clients and if a large percentage of your revenue comes from a past employer they could possibly try to affiliate you with your past employer since you had a employer/employee relationship. There is no magical number for the percentage since they look at the totality of the relationship such as contracts, subcontracts, sharing of employees, facilities, etc.

If you do have a relationship with your former employer you should try to keep any possible affiliation to a minimum.

To determine your overall state of 8(a) eligibility including possible issues such as above, please visit and complete/submit your responses to us for a free eligibility analysis.

Need assistance with your 8(a) Application? With 15 years and over 2,000 successful applications under our belt, we can assure you that no matter which option you choose, Cloveer will work harder and faster to get your business SBA 8a certified.  Contact us today at 813-333-5800 or visiting our website at to discover what Cloveer can do for you.


8(a) Certification – Contract Listing Report, Copies of Contracts and Letters of Reference

When you apply for the SBA 8(a) Program the SBA will require that you provide a detailed listing of your contracts* for the current year, through the most recently completed month, and at least the last two years along with 2 -3 letters of reference from current or past clients. You may also have to provide the SBA a copy of your client contracts for the last 12 calendar months.

*The term contract means contract, agreement, PO, etc.

The contract listing breakdown. You must detail the following to the SBA:
1. Contract Name. List the name of the contract, if applicable. (e.g., DISA Contract)
2. NAICS Code. List the six digit NAICS code which you are performing the work under. (e.g., 541511)
3. Award Date. List the date the contract was awarded (e.g., 01/01/2015)
4. Customer Name (Billable Client). List the name of the customer/client you are billing for the work being performed. (e.g. Lockheed Martin)
5. Description. Provide a brief description of the work being performed for the client. (e.g., Web based software application for DISA)
6. Total Dollar Value of Contract. List the total value of the contract. (e.g. $100,000 or TBD, ongoing if no total value)
7. Revenue earned from Client. List the amount of revenue your company has earned from this client in the current year to date and the last two fiscal years. (e.g., $53,275)

See below for a example.

sample contract listing

Sample Contract Listing

You must also prepare another breakdown for the last 12 calendar months of your revenue too. See Below for an example.

Last 12 Months of Contracts

Last 12 Months of Contracts

The SBA will also use the above breakdown’s to look at your economic dependency over these periods of measurement to see if you are or have been earning more than than 70% of your revenue from one billable client. See our blog posting on economic dependency for more information on this topic.

Reference Letters:
As stated above the SBA will also require 2-3 letters of reference from current or past clients that speak to your performance on the work performed. The letters should be on the letter writers letterhead, provide a brief description of the work performed and whether it was performed successfully, and also contain the letter writers contact information and signature.

Copies of Contracts:
Although not specified by the SBA in their 8(a) Application checklist you should gather and store electronic copies of all contracts, agreements, PO’s, etc between your firm and the client for the last 12 months as you have reported within the last 12 months of contracts/revenue breakdown. Be sure that all documents are duly signed by all parties, if the SBA requests this information from you.

Need assistance with your 8(a) Application? With 15 years and over 2,000 successful applications under our belt, we can assure you that no matter which option you choose, Cloveer will work harder and faster to get your business SBA 8a certified.  Contact us today at 813-333-5800 or visiting our website at to discover what Cloveer can do for you.