Top 10 8(a) Program Continued Eligibility Problems

1) Late or non-submission of 8(a) Annual Review documents. 

The most common eligibility problem 8(a) firms encounter is either the late or non-submission of required Annual Review documents. SBA is required to review each 8(a) firm’s program eligibility every year on the firm’s certification anniversary date. Your local SBA office will send a request for the required Annual Review documents and information shortly before the end of your program year which contains the date that your submission is due back to your Business Development Specialist (BDS). If it is not received by the due date, you will be sent a reminder and a second due date. If the information is not submitted by this second date, SBA’s rules & regulations require the SBA to start program termination proceedings against your firm. The termination process may result in the loss of your 8(a) certification. Once it is lost you cannot be certified in the program again. Since annual reviews are done every year on your anniversary date, you should be prepared for it and comply on time.

2) Late or non-submission of annual financial statements or failure to submit required type of statement based on sales level.  

Your year-end financial statements must be signed, dated and their accuracy verified by an authorized officer, partner, or sole proprietor of the concern. Firms with annual receipts of less than $2 million may submit statements prepared in-house, in accordance with “generally accepted accounting procedures” or have a compilation statement prepared by a qualified CPA or independent public accountant. Those firms with sales of more than $2 million and less than $10 million must provide reviewed statements, prepared by a qualified CPA or independent public accountant. Statements are due within ninety (90) days after the close of the company fiscal year. Those firms with total sales of $10 million and over are required to submit audited financial statements prepared by a CPA or independent public accountant. Those firms who will be submitting audited statements are allowed an additional 30 days due to the added complexity. The company’s sales figures on the Profit and Loss Statement must show the break-down of 8(a) and non-8(a) sales, if applicable. The submission of proper, year-end financial statements, (Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss Statements) is mandatory as a condition of 8(a) program participation, as noted in your signed 8(a) Participation Agreement. Firms who are delinquent in submitting annual financial statements are ineligible to receive 8(a) contract awards. In addition program termination proceedings may be initiated if financial statements are not received in this office by the required due date. Most 8(a) firms have calendar fiscal year end date (December 31). While the financial statement due date might correspond with the time that your accountant is doing your business & personal tax returns, there is no provision for any extensions to the financial statement submission date. Make sure that your CPA is aware of this mandatory 8(a) compliance requirement.

3) Failure to keep your BDS up to date on contact information changes, e.g. address, telephone number, e-mail address, etc.

8(a) firms must notify their BDS immediately upon making any changes to their contact information. Since they may be contacting you either via email, telephone, regular mail or certified mail, they must have accurate contact information for you. They are required by some of SBA’s regulations to use “certified mail, return receipt requested” to contact you regarding certain issues, such as Annual Reviews. Several firms have actually lost their 8(a) certification because they either didn’t notify SBA of their address change or they didn’t bother to pick up their certified mail at the post office.

Since the SBA may contact you  via email regarding the your Annual Review process, it is imperative that they have your proper email address and the SBA is not blocked by any SPAM filters.

4) Excessive compensation or withdrawals from the 8(a) concern.

Regarding the compensation of the owners of 8(a) firms, 13CFR 124.112 states the following: (d) Excessive withdrawals. (1) The term withdrawal includes, but is not limited to, the following: Cash dividends; distributions in excess of amounts needed to pay S Corporation, LLC or partnership taxes; cash and property withdrawals; payments to immediate family members not employed by the Participant; bonuses to officers; and investments on behalf of an owner. Although officers’ salaries are generally not considered withdrawals for purposes of this paragraph, SBA will count those salaries as withdrawals where SBA believes that a firm is attempting to circumvent the excessive withdrawal limitations though the payment of officers’ salaries. SBA will look at the totality of the circumstances in determining whether to include any specific amount as a withdrawal under this paragraph.

Withdrawals are excessive if during any fiscal year, they exceed (i) $250,000 for firms with sales up to $1,000,000; (ii) $300,000 for firms with sales between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000; and (iii) $400,000 for firms with sales over $2,000,000. The fact that a concern’s net worth has increased despite withdrawals that are deemed excessive will not preclude SBA from determining that such withdrawals were detrimental to the attainment of the concern’s business objectives or to its overall business development.

5) Failure to meet Competitive Business Mix targets.

To ensure that Participants do not develop an unreasonable reliance on 8(a) awards, and to ease their transition into the competitive marketplace after graduating from the 8(a) BD program, Participants must make maximum efforts to obtain business outside the 8(a) BD program. During both the developmental and transitional stages of the 8(a) BD program, a Participant must make substantial and sustained efforts, including following a reasonable marketing strategy, to attain the targeted dollar levels of non-8(a) revenue established in its business plan. You should use the 8(a) BD program as a resource to strengthen the firm for economic viability when 8(a) program benefits are no longer available. During the transitional stage of the 8(a) BD program, a Participant must achieve certain targets of non-8(a)contract revenue (i.e., revenue from other than sole source or competitive 8(a) contracts). These targets are called non-8(a) business activity targets and are expressed as a percentage of total revenue. The targets call for an increase in non-8(a)revenue over time. During their transitional stage of program participation, Participants must meet the following non-8(a) business activity targets each year:

Participant’s year in the   transitional stage

Non-8(a) business activity   targets (required minimum non-8(a) revenue as a percentage of total revenue)

1

15

2

25

3

35

4

45

5

55

The SBA will measure the Participant’s compliance with the applicable non-8(a) business activity target at the end of each program year in the transitional stage based on the Participant’s latest fiscal year-end total revenue. At the end of each year of participation in the transitional stage, the SBA will review the Participant’s total revenues to determine whether the non-8(a) revenues have met the applicable target. In determining compliance  the SBA will compare all 8(a) revenues received during the year, including those from options and modifications, to all non-8(a) revenues received during the year.

Consequences of not meeting competitive business mix targets. Any firm that does not meet its applicable competitive business mix target for the just completed program year will be ineligible for sole source 8(a) contracts in the current program year, unless and until the Participant corrects the situation. The SBA may initiate proceedings to terminate a Participant from the 8(a) BD program where the firm does not make good faith efforts to obtain non-8(a) revenues.

6) Failure of the person upon whom 8(a) eligibility is based to be the highest compensated individual in the firm.

13CFR 124.106 (3) allows non-disadvantaged individuals to participate in the management of an 8(a) concern but they MAY NOT receive compensation from the applicant or Participant in any form as directors, officers or employees, including dividends, that exceeds the compensation to be received by the highest officer (usually CEO or President). The highest ranking officer may elect to take a lower salary than a non-disadvantaged individual only upon demonstrating that it helps the applicant or Participant. You must obtain the prior written consent of the Director, Office of Business Development or designee before changing the compensation paid to the highest ranking

officer to be below that paid to a non-disadvantaged individual. See your BDS for further information or if you have questions on this matter.

7) Failure of the person upon whom 8(a) eligibility is based to devote full-time management to the 8(a) concern.

13CFR124.106 requires the following to maintain 8(a) eligibility:

(a)(1) An applicant or Participant must be managed on a full-time basis by one or more disadvantaged individuals who possess requisite management capabilities.

(2) A disadvantaged full-time manager must hold the highest officer position (usually President or Chief Executive Officer) in the applicant or Participant and be physically located in the United States.

(3) One or more disadvantaged individuals who manage the applicant or Participant must devote full-time to the business during the normal working hours of firms in the same or similar line of business.

(4) Any disadvantaged manager who wishes to engage in outside employment must notify the SBA of the nature and anticipated duration of the outside employment and obtain the prior written approval of the SBA. The SBA will deny a request for outside employment which could conflict with the management of the firm or could hinder it in achieving the objectives of its business development plan.

8) Failure to obtain prior SBA approval of ownership changes.

A Participant may change its ownership or business structure so long as one or more disadvantaged individuals own and control it after the change and the SBA approves the transaction in writing prior to the change. The decision to approve or deny a Participant’s request for a change in ownership or business structure will be made and communicated to the firm by the Director, Office of Business Development. The decision of the AA/8(a) BD is the final decision of the Agency. A decision to deny a request for change of ownership or business structure may be grounds for program termination where the change is made nevertheless. A change in ownership does not provide the new owner(s) with a new 8(a) BD program term.

9) Failure to Perform the Required Percentage of Work on an 8(a) Contract.

To assist the business development of Participants in the 8(a) BD program, an 8(a) contractor must perform certain percentages of work with its own employees. These percentages and the requirements relating to them are the same as those established for small business set-aside prime contractors, and are set forth in 13CFR125.6. A Participant must certify in its offer that it will meet the applicable percentage of work requirement both sealed bid and negotiated procurements. (a) In order to be awarded an 8(a) contract, the 8(a) concern must agree that:

(1) In the case of a contract for services (except construction), the concern will perform at least 50 percent of the cost of the contract incurred for personnel with its own employees.

(2) In the case of a contract for supplies or products (other than procurement from a non-manufacturer in such supplies or products), the concern will perform at least 50 percent of the cost of manufacturing the supplies or products (not including the costs of materials).

(3) In the case of a contract for general construction, the concern will perform at least 15 percent of the cost of the contract with its own employees (not including the costs of materials).

(4) In the case of a contract for construction by special trade contractors, the concern will perform at least 25 percent of the cost of the contract with its own employees (not including the cost of materials).

10) Failure to submit SBA form 1790 Representative Report.

13CFR124.601 requires each Participant to submit a semi-annually a written report to its assigned BOS that includes a listing of any agents, representatives, attorneys, accountants, consultants and other parties (other than employees) receiving fees, commissions, or compensation of any kind to assist such Participant in obtaining or seeking to obtain a Federal contract. The listing must indicate the amount of compensation paid and a description of the activities performed for such compensation.

For more information on the 8(a)BD Program, including the 8(a) Annual Review or 8(a) Compliance Service, please visit www.cloveer.com or call 813-333-5800.

8a Certification: How to determine if your AGI is below the $250,000 threshold.

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 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 the last number on the first page of the Form 1040.

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

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. If you add these three numbers, divide them by three and result in a number larger than $250,000 you must do further analysis. If the number is less than $250,000 you do not exceed the threshold regardless of what is discussed below.

If your resulting calculation shows more than $250,000, and you are a married, filing the taxes jointly, you should then separate the portion of any income reported on the tax return between the applicant and their spouse (e.g Line 7 (1040). Wages, salaries, tips, etc = $100,000 (Applicant’s portion, $40,000 –  Spouse’s portion, $60,000). Once you have separated out all of the income reported on the tax return between the applicant and their spouse again take the total for the last three years and divide them by three. If the resulting number is still larger than $2500,000 you must do further analysis. If the number is less than $250,000 you do not exceed the threshold regardless of what is discussed below.

One final analysis can be performed to see if you still exceed the $250,000 threshold. If the applicant business concern is an LLC or S-Corporation you may:

1. Deduct any income associated with the business concern that was reinvested into the business concern, less any distributions.

2. Deduct any income used to pay the LLC or S-Corporation Federal taxes within 12 months of the distribution of income.

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. Please visit our website at www.cloveer.com for more information on 8(a), HUBZone and 8(m) Certification.

2 options to get your 8a application certified in the least amount of time possible

Option 28a Application Review  – $1,750.00

  • For those who wish to complete the application on their own we offer an 8a Application Review service.  Here, one of our 8a program experts will review your entire application, checking it for missing documents and potential eligibility issues.  We will then advise you as to how best to modify your application to ensure it will be approved an SBA reviewer.

Option 38a Application Completion Service – $3,800.00

  • The majority of our clients however, prefer a little more of a hands-on approach.  They recognize the expertise we have accumulated in the over 12 years we’ve been assisting clients obtain 8a certification, and want us to put it to use for them.  If you opt for our 8a Application Completion Service, we will work one-on-one with you to ensure that your 8a Application is 100% complete and compliant so the SBA can review and accept it the first time.

With 14 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 to discover what Cloveer can do for you.

15 8(a) Application Killers

Spending the time upfront to ensure that your firm meets all of the eligibility requirements for 8(a) Certification can save you countless hours of frustration, the expense of putting the application together incorrectly and the difference between obtaining formal 8(a) Certification or not.

Below are just 15 of the 8(a) Application “Killers”. These will immediately tell you whether you have an issue that may prevent you from qualifying for 8(a) Certification.

1. The applicant (51% of more owner) must be a US Citizen when they apply.

2. The applicant must devote full time to the business concern that is applying for 8(a) Certification when they apply. This means the applicant must work at least 40 hours per week in the business concern without any outside employment.

3. The applicant must hold the highest management position within the business concern. Generally this is the CEO, President or Managing Member.

4. The applicant must be able to demonstrate that they are the highest compensated. Generally the SBA will deny your 8a application if you cannot demonstrate the applicant currently is the highest compensated or there is a very good reason why they have elected not to be.

5 The applicant must have an adjusted net worth of less than $250,000 at the time they apply. Adjusted net worth = Personal Assets – Personal liabilities – (Equity in primary residence + value of ownership interest in business concern + IRA/401(k) or Other Retirement Accounts subject to a penalty for early withdrawal). To determine if your adjusted net worth is lower than $250,000 use our adjusted net worth calculator.

6. The applicant’s AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) cannot be more than $250,000 averaged over the last three tax years.

7. The applicant must generally hold all licenses or professional certifications required to operate the business concern. If they do not, another equity owner cannot be the holder of the required licenses.

8. If the applicant has ownership in another business concern, other than the business concern that is applying for 8(a) Certification, the SBA may very well likely determine that you do not devote full time and therefore deny your 8(a) application. The only exception would be for ownership in an LLC for holding, managing and protecting real estate. There are ways to solve this issue and they vary depending on your unique condition.

9. The applicant cannot be on probation or parole. If the applicant has been arrested in the past it does not automatically deny them unless they were convicted of a specific crime. Having an arrest, regardless of how long ago, will severely delay the review of your 8a Application by at least 90 days.

10. The business concern must have been in business for 2 full years with evidence of reasonable revenues on its last two tax returns in the industry it is seeking 8(a) Certification for.  If it has not, you must seek a waiver and meet the 5 conditions set by the SBA to overcome this condition. Click here for detailed information on each of the 5 conditions.

11. The business concern and the applicant cannot have any delinquent tax filings or have any unpaid Federal, State or local obligations at the time of application. This condition can be overcome by filing the proper extension for delinquent taxes or by providing evidence of a current re-payment arrangement for unpaid Federal, State or local obligations.

12. The business concern must be at least 51% directly owned by the applicant and must be defined as a “Small Business” by the Federal Government. Your primary NAICS code, gross sales and sometimes the number of employees define your size standard that the SBA will base its determination on.. The business concern must also be a for-profit business and cannot be classified as a broker or be a subsidiary of another business concern.

13. The business concern’s current financial statements must exhibit positive net income, positive net equity and sufficient working capital at the time of 8(a) application submission.

14. The business concern must not earn more than 70% of its total revenue with one single client, within the last 12 months. This does not apply to a business concern if its direct billing client is a Federal or State Government.

15. The applicant or business concern cannot have previously participated as an 8(a) participant. The applicant cannot have any immediate family members who are current or previous participants in the 8(a) Program that are or were affiliated.

These are just 15 of the “Killers” that can potentially prevent your 8(a) Certification application from being successful. There are additional “Killers” and other areas that you should be concerned with prior to making the decision on whether you fully qualify for 8(a) Certification. If you have additional questions or would like to discuss your specific business situation, please call us at 813-333-5800 or visit www.cloveer.com.

Cloveer, Inc. pre-qualifies all of its full service clients prior to preparing their 8(a Certification Application. With over 2,000 successful clients to date. Read some of our testimonials.

Where to find information on 8(a), HUBZone and Women-Owned Small Business Contracts

The most comprehensive source for information on awarded 8(a), HUBZone and Women-Owned Small Business Contracts is the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS).

The FPDS contains historical information on contracts whose estimated value is $3,000 or more.

To gain access to this system you must register. Registration is free.

The FPDS allows you to drill down deep within the data inputted into the system and can provide you valuable information to help in your Federal Marketing efforts.

For example, you can perform the following searches within the system.

1. How much did a specific federal agency spend in the most recently government fiscal year or past years using 8(a), HUBZone or Women-Owned Small Business as the set-aside method.
2. How many 8(a) actions or contracts were awarded within a specific agency. You can also drill down to a specific department, office or region within the agency.
3. Detailed information on the awarded contract such as:

  • The solicitation number
  • Date signed or completed
  • Type of contract
  • NAICS code
  • Product or Service Description
  • Place of Performance (City, State or Zip Code)
  • Competition Information (8(a), HUBZone, Women-Owned, etc.)
  • Name of Contractor

These are just a few of the parameters that you can search on within the FPDS. All of this information can give you a leg up on your competition by allowing you to narrow your marketing efforts to ferderal clients who have purchased your products and services.

Download a report (PDF) that shows the amount spent and the number of contracts awarded with each federal agency in FY 2011.

Here is a summary:
8(a):
Number of Contracts: 117,343
Total Dollars Spent: $16,633,899,024.15

Women-Owned:
Number of Contracts: 318,937
Total Dollars Spent: $16,839,376,300.17

HUBZone:
Number of Contracts: 91,717
Total Dollars Spent: $10,001,960,445.11

For more information on 8(a) Certification, HUBzone Certification or Women-Owned Small Business Certification please call us at 813-333-5800 or visit www.cloveer.com.

 

What you won’t hear from Cloveer. Anyone can get 8(a) certified.

The truth is that NOT everyone can get 8(a) Certified.

As the President of Cloveer, Inc. I talk to a lot of people who are interested in becoming 8(a) Certified. I would estimate that 7 out of every 10 people I talk to do not and cannot qualify for the 8(a) Program due to the strict 8(a) Program requirements.

Some these problems range from the applicant having an adjusted net worth that exceeds the SBA regulatory limit that cannot be lowered without violating the SBA transfer requirements to not being able to come up the required level of information and evidence required to prove social disadvantage to having an affiliation that may cause the SBA to find an unconditional control issue.

At Cloveer, we conduct a detailed pre-qualification interview with all of our clients before we charge any fees or start preparing their 8(a) Application. This is done so neither of us waste any time or money. We ask our clients the “Killer” questions that will let us and more importantly them know if they have an eligibility issue, unknown to them. The fact is that there are ways around a lot of the eligibility issues but making changes may impact them beyond their comfort zone.  We advise our clients on the pros and cons to any potential eligibility issue and tell them when there is one that has no workarounds. Our feeling is that is it better for them to know now rather than later.

As you can see from our blog and website, www.cloveer.com, we provide more information about the 8(a) Program that 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, please visit us at www.cloveer.com or call us at 813-333-5800.

SBA 8(a) Certification Requirements

Though there is much more to 8a certification than meeting a few simple criteria, there are in fact some basic requirements that must be met to consider applying. If you are ready to begin the 8a application process, you will need to organize a lot of information. We at Cloveer know this can be daunting, so we’ve compiled an 8a certification checklist to help you make sure you’re on the right track. Take a look at this 8a checklist to see if you meet the basic eligibility requirements to qualify to apply for the 8a certification.

  • Are you a U.S. citizen?
  • Do you work full-time in the business without any outside employment?
  • Do you hold the top management position of the business?
  • Are you the highest compensated individual within the business?
  • Do you have an adjusted net worth of less than $250,000?
  • Did you as the applicant make less than $250,000 averaged over the last three tax years?
  • If licenses are required to operate your business, do you hold them?
  • Are you not currently on probation or parole, if you have ever been arrested?
  • Has the business been operating with revenues for 2 full years as shown on its last two tax returns?
  • Have you or your business satisfied any unpaid, federal, state or local obligations?
  • Do you own at least 51% of the business which is applying?
  • Does the business that is applying exhibit potential for success?
  • Does the business earn 70% of its revenue from more than one client?
  • Would you be a first time participant in the SBA 8a program?
  • Do you own a small business?

If you answered “Yes” to each of the questions on the above 8a certification checklist, congratulations; you meet the basic requirements for 8a qualification. The next step in your 8a application is compiling your actual application documentation. As there is quite a bit of paperwork involved in this part of the application.

For our clients who are too busy running their businesses to complete the application themselves, we understand you don’t have time to look over the 8a checklist and that you would rather have a group of trusted 8a program experts more involved in your application. Cloveer offers other services including an 8a Application Review, and for those who would like their entire 8a application completed and approved in record time, a full 8a Application Completion Service.

No matter which option you choose, Cloveer guarantees that no other company will work harder or faster to assist you in getting your business SBA 8a certified. We have been assisting clients to obtain their 8a certification and maintain their 8a program eligibility for over 10 years. As such, we know the SBA 8a program regulatory requirements, 8a standard operating procedures and Office of Hearings and Appeal cases that affect the 8a program better than 99.9% of anyone else out there.

At Cloveer, we believe in treating you the way we want to be treated. We go the extra mile to make sure your experience with our company is outstanding. Contact us today to discover what Cloveer can do for you.

Do you meet the SBA 8(a) Program Economic Disadvantage Qualifications?

Do you meet the SBA 8(a) Program Economic Disadvantage Qualifications?

One of the many requirements to become SBA 8a Certified is to be deemed to be economically disadvantaged at the time of your 8a Application submission. In order to meet this requirement you must:

1. The applicant(s) for 8a Certification  must have an adjusted net worth of less than $250,000 at the time of their application submission.

Adjusted Net Worth = Personal Assets – Liabilities – [Equity in primary residence + ownership interest in business + IRA/Other Retirement Accounts subject to a penalty for early withdrawal]. All assets jointly held are split 50/50. If you are unsure what you Adjusted Net Worth is, use the Cloveer Adjusted Net Worth Calculator  to determine if you are below the $250K limit. The online calculator offers specific advice and tips on determining some of the required amounts that must be  reported to the SBA.

Tip: You will be required to submit supporting statements for all assets and liabilities so make sure that you provide amounts that can be corroborated by the SBA.

There  may be ways to reduce your adjusted net worth below the regulatory limit.  Please contact us for specific advice on your situation.

2. The applicant(s) for 8a Certification cannot have more than $4,000,000 in total assets at the time of their application submission.

Total Assets = All Personal assets – IRA/Other Retirement Accounts subject to a penalty for early withdrawal.

3. The applicant(s) for 8a Certification cannot have an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of more than $250,000, averaged over the last three tax years.

AGI = Your total income – any federal taxes you paid on behalf of the corporation or LLC (from distributions taken) – any income attributed to your corporation or LLC  that is not distributed to you and essentially re-invested in the corporation or LLC.

If you are unsure if you meet this eligibility requirement, please contact us for a detailed review.

4. The applicant(s) for 8a Certification must be able to produce a narrative statement of economic disadvantage that details at least one specific instance of actual or perceived prejudice or bias that can be directly attributed back to their distinguishing feature (Race, Ethnicity, Culture, Handicap, Gender, etc).

Updated (August 29, 2016). As of August 24, 2016 you are no longer required to prepare and provide a Narrative Statement of Economic Disadvantage to the SBA as part of your 8(a) Application. If you are not a member of one of the SBA designated groups, you still must submit a Social Disadvantage Narrative though

Here is the link to the Federal Register Rule that goes into effect on August 24, 2016 regarding the Narrative Statement of Economic Disadvantage.

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/07/25/2016-16399/small-business-mentor-protg-programs

Specifically, within it under item: 8(a) BD Application Processing (13 CFR 124.202, 124.203, 124.104(b), and 124.108(a))

In addition, SBA’s regulations provide that each individual claiming economic disadvantage must describe such economic disadvantage in a narrative statement, and must submit personal financial information to SBA. SBA believes that the written narrative on economic disadvantage is an unnecessary burden imposed on applicants to the 8(a) BD program. SBA’s determination as to whether an individual qualifies as economically disadvantaged is based solely on an analysis of objective financial data relating to the individual’s net worth, income and total assets. As such, this final rule eliminates the requirement that each individual claiming economic disadvantage must submit a narrative statement in support of his or her claim of economic disadvantage.

View our sample economic and social narratives of disadvantage. They are actual narratives that have been approved by the SBA. The names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals but will give you a good idea of the level of specificity that must be provided with your narrative.

How difficult is it to get SBA 8a Certified? Should I do it myself or use a consultant?

You may have heard that the SBA rejects approximately 70% and questions almost 90% of all 8(a) Applications submitted. In my professional opinion, as the President/CEO of Cloveer, Inc., who has assisted in over 2,000 successful 8a applications, it can be very difficult without some kind of professional assistance. As a small business owner who wants to apply, SBA 8(a) Certification expertise will most likely be out of your skill set. You should consider hiring a consultant or attorney for some or all of the application completion process. Many small business owners who apply for the 8(a) Program on their own, actually do more harm than good by not knowing the 8(a) Program rules and regulations and therefore cause themselves to be ineligible.

The fact is that not everyone can get 8(a) Certified.  As of August 2017, there are only 6,849 active SBA 8a Program participants. Submitting an 8(a) Application that had major problems that have been “fixed to meet SBA 8a Regulations ” may possibly end up costing your business concern the ability to ever get 8(a) certified. Once you submit an 8(a) Application and it is either returned with a letter or outright rejected, you have essentially made the process of getting 8(a) Certified 100 times more difficult. The bottom line is that it is very important to get your 8(a) Application done right the first time it is submitted.

Can any consultant guarantee that your 8(a) Application will be approved by the SBA?

The answer is NO. The Small Business Administration (SBA) makes final determination on all 8(a) Applications and therefore no one other than the SBA can guarantee that your 8(a) Application will be approved. If any consultant guarantees that they can get your business concern 8(a) Certified, they are (1) Violating the SBA regulations, since the SBA regulations strictly prohibit any type of guarantee and (2) Flat out lying to you and will most likely just take your money, waste your time and cause you problems with your 8(a) Application. I have seen some desperate consultants that provide a money back guarantee and if you don’t get approved for the 8(a) Program, they will give you your money back. I couldn’t tell you how many times I get calls from people who have been burned on a money back guarantee. I hear the consultant always finds a way to say the client violated the contract so they don’t have to give the money back. I believe in the old adage “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is”. When you consider hiring an consultant you should speak to the actual individual who will be preparing your 8(a) Application, not just the sales person. If you hire a consultant to assist in the completion of your 8(a) Application, make sure you have a written agreement and nothing is left to a verbal  agreement.

Here is an excerpt taken from the SBA.gov website:

Please be advised that no one can guarantee that an application for 8(a) program participation will be approved. The application process is intended to assure that each applicant receives a fair review. Any irregularities in the application review process should be immediately referred to the SBA Office of Inspector General.”

My advice is to follow your gut feeling. I have more tips below to assist you in considering which consultant to hire for assistance with your SBA 8(a) Application.

If I follow the SBA’s  instructions for getting 8(a) Certified, can I get successfully 8(a) Certified on my own?

Possibly, but it will most likely take you more than a year, multiple submissions, and leave you completely frustrated.  The SBA 8(a) application instructions provide a checklist of documents to submit with your 8a Application, but provide no advice whatsoever on the specific requirements of these documents. Additionally, the SBA’s checklist is not a catch-all list. There are other items that will be requested and any good consultant will know what these missing items are.

What should I look for if I decide to hire a consultant to assist in the completion of my SBA 8a Application?

Some people immediately look at price as a defining factor in choosing a consultant. While price should certainly be part of your selection strategy for a consultant, you should also consider the following:

1. Can you determine who the company actually is? Does the company list their physical address on their website? Does their website list information about who their principals and any affiliates they may have?

2. Ask for references of their certified clients and actually place calls to these people. Ask their clients if they were charged more than the price originally quoted. Did the person who sold the service to them or pre-qualified them actually do the work or did they get passed to a junior analyst. Ask them how long it took to get the 8(a) application completed and the processes they used to collect and manage the data that you submitted. Finally, ask them how long it took to get 8(a) Certified.

3. When you initially call a consultant, did they answer all of your questions or just try to get you to sign up? If you have a potential problem that you think will prevent you or your business concern from getting 8(a) Certified, did they give you their honest and candid opinion, based upon the their experience,  if this problem is fixable or not?

4. Finally, is the consultant someone who you feel you can work with and who you can trust since you will be providing tax returns, Social Security Numbers, etc.  Does the agreement show that they protect your information?.

If you would like assistance with your 8(a) Application, Cloveer can help.  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 www.cloveer.com to discover what Cloveer can do for you. We also offer these options for further assistance in completing your 8(a) Application.

Option 18(a) Application Review
  • For those who wish to complete the application on their own we offer an 8(a) Application Review service.  Here, one of our 8a program experts will review your entire application, checking it for missing documents and potential eligibility issues.  We will then advise you as to how best to modify your application to ensure it will be approved an SBA reviewer.

Option 28a Application Completion Service

  • The majority of our clients however, prefer a little more of a hands-on approach.  They recognize the expertise we have accumulated in the over 15 years we’ve been assisting clients obtain 8(a) certification, and want us to put it to use for them.  If you opt for our 8(a) Application Completion Service, we will work one-on-one with you to ensure that your 8(a) Application is 100% complete and compliant so the SBA can review and accept it the first time.

5 common misconceptions about getting 8a Certified

1. It’s easy to get SBA 8a Certified.

There are less than 10,000 active 8a program participants currently. There has never been more than 10,000 active 8a Program Participants at any one time in the 8a program’s history. The SBA returns over 90% of all 8a applications submitted and rejects 70% of all applications.

2. All I need to do is fill out the SBA’s 8a electronic application.

The SBA’s 8a electronic application is a very small portion of the overall 8a application. Most 8a applications are several hundred pages in length once you include all of the supporting documents required to be submitted along with it. The SBA does not accept any of these supporting documents electronically and they only provide a list of the supporting documents and do not tell you what requirements each of these supporting documents must meet.

3. Once I get 8a certified, I am guaranteed a federal contract.

Getting 8a certified does not guarantee that you will receive an 8a contract. In fact, about 50% of all 8a program participants never receive one contract because they do not know how to market their business to the federal government. Getting 8a 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.

4. My ASBDC, PTAC  and local SBA office told me I qualified to become 8a Certified.

There are two processing offices (King of Prussia, PA and San Francisco, CA) that review all 8a applications submitted. Final determination is made within the Washington, DC office. There are roughly 11 reviewers within the two processing offices and they are the individuals who review your 8a Application paperwork. Anyone who tells you that you qualify for 8a certification before reviewing all of your application paperwork does not know what they are talking about.

5. I don’t need any assistance in putting my 8a Application together.

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