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Category: Small Business

Employers, Payroll Officials – Avoid the W-2 Email Scam

  • November 30th, 2017

National Tax Security Awareness Week, No. 4

MONTGOMERY, Nov. 30, 2017 – The nation’s business, payroll and human resource communities are being reminded and warned about a growing W-2 email scam that threatens sensitive tax information held by employers.

The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax community – partners in the Security Summit – are marking “National Tax Security Awareness Week” with a series of reminders to taxpayers and tax professionals. In part four, the topic is the W-2 scam.

These emails may start with a simple, “Hey, you in today?” and, by the end of the exchange, all of an organization’s Forms W-2 for their employees may be in the hands of cybercriminals. This puts workers at risk for tax-related identity theft.
The W-2 scam has emerged as one of the most dangerous and successful phishing attacks as hundreds of employers and tens of thousands of employees fell victim to the scheme in the past year.

This scam is such a threat to taxpayers that a special IRS reporting process has been established.
Because the Security Summit partners have successfully made inroads into stopping stolen identity refund fraud, criminals now need more information to file a fraudulent return. That means they need more accurate data about taxpayers, causing them to target tax practitioners, payroll professionals and employers. The Form W-2 contains income and withholding information necessary to file a tax return.

All employers are at risk. In 2017, the W-2 scam made victims of businesses large and small, public schools and universities, as well as tribal governments, charities and hospitals. The scam, which grows larger each year, will likely make the rounds again in 2018. The Security Summit warns employers – in public and private sectors – to beware of this scheme and to educate employees, especially those in human resources and payroll departments who are often the first targets.

This is an example of a business email compromise or business email spoofing in which the thief poses as a company executive, school official or someone of authority within the organization. The crook will send an email to one employee with payroll access, requesting a list of all employees and their Forms W-2. The thief may even specify the format in which he wants the information. The subject line has hundreds of variations along the lines of “review,” “manual review” or “request.”

Because payroll officials believe they are corresponding with an executive, it may take weeks for someone to realize a data theft has occurred. Generally, the criminals are trying to quickly take advantage of their theft, sometimes filing fraudulent tax returns within a day or two.

Because of the W-2 scam’s threat to tax administration for both federal and state governments, a special reporting process has been established to quickly alert the IRS and state tax agencies. Detailed reporting steps may be found at Form W-2/SSN Data Theft: Information for Businesses and Payroll Service Providers.
Here’s an abbreviated list of how to report these schemes:

  • Email dataloss@irs.gov to notify the IRS of a W-2 data loss and provide contact information. In the subject line, type “W2 Data Loss” so that the email can be routed properly. Do not attach any employee personally identifiable information data.
  • Email the Federation of Tax Administrators at StateAlert@taxadmin.org to get information on how to report victim information to the states.
  • Businesses/payroll service providers should file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.gov). Businesses/payroll service providers may be asked to file a report with their local law enforcement agency.
  • Notify employees so they may take steps to protect themselves from identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission’s www.identitytheft.gov provides guidance on general steps employees should take.
  • Forward the scam email to phishing@irs.gov.

Employers are urged to put steps and protocols in place for the sharing of sensitive employee information such as Forms W-2. One example would be to have two people review any distribution of sensitive W-2 data or wire transfers. Another example would be to require a verbal confirmation before emailing W-2 data. Employers also are urged to educate their payroll or human resources departments about these scams.

As part of the Security Summit effort, the IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry are working together to fight against tax-related identity theft and to protect taxpayers. Everyone can help. Be alert and guard against the W-2 scam.

Taxpayers are also encouraged to visit the “Taxes. Security. Together.” awareness campaign or review IRS Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers, to learn more.

Attend Gadsden-area State Tax Seminar on Dec. 14

  • November 30th, 2017

GADSDEN, Nov. 30, 2017 – State tax obligations can sometimes confuse business owners. Licenses, sales tax, property tax, etc. – business owners are responsible for many details. To make that task easier, the Alabama Department of Revenue (ADOR) invites business owners to come learn the “B.E.S.T.” ways to handle state taxes at ADOR’s free Business Essentials for State Taxpayers Seminar on Thursday, Dec. 14, at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. in Gadsden.

The seminar will be held at the Gadsden/Etowah County Chamber of Commerce, 1 Commerce Square.

ADOR specialists conduct B.E.S.T. Seminars, which include a brief but comprehensive overview of Alabama’s business taxes, the business owner’s tax obligations, and the forms that are required, as well as information on electronic filing and other requirements. Presenters cover a variety of state tax information topics, including employer withholding taxes, state and local sales taxes, property taxes, and business licensing requirements. The B.E.S.T. Seminars help new business owners navigate through unfamiliar tax complexities while updating current business owners on tax law changes.

Seminar attendees receive ADOR’s “Starting a New Business” guide and information about Alabama’s ONE SPOT, a free Internet filing and payment portal that allows business taxpayers to file and pay state, county, and city sales, use, and rental taxes all in one place!

While there is no charge to attend the B.E.S.T. Seminars, reservations are required to ensure adequate space is available. To make your reservation for a Gadsden B.E.S.T. Seminar, contact Fabre Lawrence at 256-547-0554, ext. 3081.

For more information on B.E.S.T. Seminars and other B.E.S.T. resources, visit our website at https://revenue.alabama.gov/taxpayer-advocacy/b-e-s-t-seminars/. B.E.S.T. Seminars are two hours long plus additional time for questions and answers. Please plan to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled seminar.

Attend Birmingham-area State Tax Seminar on Dec. 12

  • November 29th, 2017

Business Owners – Be ADOR’s B.E.S.T.

Attend Birmingham-area State Tax Seminar on Dec. 12

BIRMINGHAM, Nov. 28, 2017 – State tax obligations can sometimes confuse business owners.
Licenses, sales tax, property tax, etc. – business owners are responsible for many details. To make that
task easier, the Alabama Department of Revenue (ADOR) invites business owners to come learn the
“B.E.S.T.” ways to handle state taxes at ADOR’s free Business Essentials for State Taxpayers Seminar
on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 10 a.m. in Hoover.

The seminar will be held at the Jefferson-Shelby Taxpayer Service Center, 2020 Valleydale Road, Suite
280.

ADOR specialists conduct B.E.S.T. Seminars, which include a brief but comprehensive overview of
Alabama’s business taxes, the business owner’s tax obligations, and the forms that are required, as well
as information on electronic filing and other requirements. Presenters cover a variety of state tax
information topics, including employer withholding taxes, state and local sales taxes, property taxes, and
business licensing requirements. The B.E.S.T. Seminars help new business owners navigate through
unfamiliar tax complexities while updating current business owners on tax law changes.

Seminar attendees receive ADOR’s “Starting a New Business” guide and information about Alabama’s
ONE SPOT, a free Internet filing and payment portal that allows business taxpayers to file and pay state,
county, and city sales, use, and rental taxes all in one place!

While there is no charge to attend the B.E.S.T. Seminars, reservations are required to ensure adequate
space is available. To make your reservation for the Birmingham B.E.S.T. Seminar, please call 205-733-
2740.

For more information on B.E.S.T. Seminars and other B.E.S.T. resources, visit our website at
https://revenue.alabama.gov/taxpayer-advocacy/b-e-s-t-seminars/. B.E.S.T. Seminars are two hours long
plus additional time for questions and answers. Please plan to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the
scheduled seminar.

I.R.S. Starts to Enforce Health Law’s Rule That Employers Offer Insurance

  • November 20th, 2017

As Republicans and the Trump administration continue trying to chip away at the Affordable Care Act, the Internal Revenue Service has begun, for the first time, to enforce one of the law’s most polarizing provisions: the employer mandate.

Thousands of businesses — many of them small or midsize — will soon receive a letter saying that they owe the government money because they failed to offer their workers qualifying health insurance. The first round of notices, which the I.R.S. began sending late last month, are being mailed to companies that have at least 100 full-time employees and ran afoul of the law in 2015, the year that the mandate took effect.

Large companies, defined in the law as those with 50 or more workers, are required to offer their employees affordable insurance or pay stiff tax penalties. The I.R.S. held off for years on assessing those fines, saying that it needed more time, and money, to build its compliance systems.

Now, the agency says it is finally ready to go after scofflaws.

“As the I.R.S. has publicly stated, the agency is obligated to enforce the Affordable Care Act’s employer shared responsibility provision,” said Bruce Friedland, an agency spokesman.

Ten months ago, in his first executive order, President Trump directed government agencies to waive, defer or delay carrying out as much of the law as possible. This week, the Treasury Department said that it objected to the employer mandate but was legally compelled to enforce it.
“Treasury lawyers see no ground for the secretary to direct the I.R.S. to not collect the tax,” the agency said in a written statement. “The A.C.A.’s employer mandate unfortunately remains the law of the land.”

Senate Republicans plan to include a repeal of the law’s individual mandate in their tax cut bill. Eliminating that mandate, which requires people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, would free up hundreds of billions of dollars that could be redirected to tax cuts. The I.R.S. recently indicated that it would tighten enforcement of that provision as well.

The employer mandate, which would be unaffected by that proposed change, is lucrative for the government. It is expected to bring in penalty payments of $207 billion over the next decade, according to projections by the Congressional Budget Office.

When the health law was passed, lawmakers feared that without an employer mandate, companies would cancel their insurance benefits and send large numbers of employees to the health care law’s insurance exchanges, where many people qualify for government subsidies. Employees who are offered health insurance through their jobs are ineligible for the subsidies.

The law’s exact rules are complex, but businesses will generally incur fines of around $2,000 per employee (excluding the first 30) if they do not offer qualifying coverage to nearly all of those who work an average of 30 or more hours a week. The penalty is activated if at least one employee then buys insurance on the health law’s marketplace and receives a subsidy for it.

The per-employee fine increases each year, and can add up quickly: A company with 100 workers that ignored the law this year would owe a penalty of more than $158,000.

To prove their compliance, businesses are required to send the I.R.S. a report on their employee head count and the health care coverage that they offered. The tax agency began requiring those forms two years ago, but it repeatedly ran into problems processing them.

That delayed efforts to identify, and fine, companies that did not offer their workers adequate insurance. The bottleneck largely came down to money, according to the agency.

“For the past four years, the I.R.S. has received almost no funding for implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” John A. Koskinen, then the agency’s commissioner, told Congress last year. (Mr. Koskinen’s tenure at the agency ended this month, but no change in the enforcement of the mandate is expected.)

A recent audit by the Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration found that the I.R.S. had “delayed, not initiated or canceled” crucial systems needed to enforce the employer mandate. Other systems “did not function as intended,” causing confusion both for the agency and for companies trying to comply with its reporting requirements.

Accountants and others familiar with the process say they are bracing for more problems.

“Our belief is that very few of these are going to be accurate,” Roger Prince, an accountant and lawyer with the consulting firm BerryDunn in Portland, Me., said of the penalty notification letters being sent out.

Those letters are based on the reporting forms companies submitted for 2015 — the first year that they had to complete the new, and complex, disclosures.

“Every single one we looked at for our clients was wrong,” Mr. Prince said. “We always had to send them back corrections.”

Large companies are generally taking the process in stride, trade group representatives said. They are accustomed to back-and-forth discussions with the I.R.S. over their tax bills and have teams of experts to handle complicated compliance issues.

But for smaller companies, the ones most likely to owe penalties, the mandate’s slow and messy enforcement has raised concerns. Nearly all large employers offer their employees insurance, but among companies with 50 to 199 workers, around 8 percent do not, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual employer survey.

“It’s been very obscure and confusing,” Kevin Kuhlman, the director of government relations for the National Federation of Independent Business. “The lag time is worrisome. We’re talking about penalties for 2015, and here we are almost in 2018.”

R. Pepper Crutcher Jr., a lawyer in Jackson, Miss., who works with midsize employers, said he thought many companies would be “blindsided” by the notification letters.

Even companies that fully comply with the mandate have struggled to master its complicated reporting rules, Mr. Crutcher said. And the I.R.S. has also struggled to correctly analyze the returns, the inspector general’s audit found.

The agency said companies that disagreed with its penalty notifications must contact it within 30 days to document their dispute.

But simply pleading confusion or financial hardship will not work, the agency has indicated.

Representative Bill Huizenga, a Michigan Republican, contacted the agency recently on behalf of an employer in his district that expected to owe a penalty payment. It had not complied “for both financial and religious reasons,” the employer said.

The I.R.S. said it would still have to pay.

“The legislative provisions of the A.C.A. are still in force until changed by the Congress,” the agency said in its reply to Mr. Huizenga. “Taxpayers remain required to follow the law and pay what they may owe.”

Original article from The New York Times.

Governor Declares Small Business Saturday in Alabama

  • November 13th, 2017

Attend Shoals-area State Tax Seminar on Nov. 15

  • November 1st, 2017

Business Owners – Be ADOR’s B.E.S.T.

Attend Shoals-area State Tax Seminar on Nov. 15

 

FLORENCE, Nov. 1, 2017 – State tax obligations can sometimes confuse business owners. Licenses, sales tax, property tax, etc. – business owners are responsible for many details. To make that task easier, the Alabama Department of Revenue (ADOR) invites business owners to come learn the “B.E.S.T.” ways to handle state taxes at ADOR’s free Business Essentials for State Taxpayers Seminar on Wednesday, Nov. 15, at 9:30 a.m. in Florence.

 

The seminar will be held at the Shoals Chamber of Commerce, Shoals Center for Business and Economic Development, 20 Hightower Place.

 

ADOR specialists conduct B.E.S.T. Seminars, which include a brief but comprehensive overview of Alabama’s business taxes, the business owner’s tax obligations, and the forms that are required, as well as information on electronic filing and other requirements. Presenters cover a variety of state tax information topics, including employer withholding taxes, state and local sales taxes, property taxes, and business licensing requirements. The B.E.S.T. Seminars help new business owners navigate through unfamiliar tax complexities while updating current business owners on tax law changes.

 

Seminar attendees receive ADOR’s “Starting a New Business” guide and information about Alabama’s ONE SPOT, a free Internet filing and payment portal that allows business taxpayers to file and pay state, county, and city sales, use, and rental taxes all in one place!

 

While there is no charge to attend the B.E.S.T. Seminars, reservations are required to ensure adequate space is available. To make your reservation for the Shoals B.E.S.T. Seminar, contact Jason Jones at 256-383-4631, ext. 1099.

 

For more information on B.E.S.T. Seminars and other B.E.S.T. resources, visit our website at https://revenue.alabama.gov/taxpayer-advocacy/b-e-s-t-seminars/. B.E.S.T. Seminars are two hours long plus additional time for questions and answers. Please plan to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled seminar.

New Form I-9 Required by September 18, 2017

  • August 21st, 2017

Small businesses must comply. There is no exception.

new version of the Form I-9 has been issued and businesses must use it on or before September 18, 2017. Published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on July 17, 2017, the new I-9 form has a revision date (shown on the bottom of the form) of 07/17/17.

The form, used by employers to verify employment eligibility, should be completed for all active employees hired after November 6, 1986, and retained for former employees for the longer of one year from termination or three years from hire.

There is no small-business exception for the Form I-9. Although an independent contractor does not need to complete a Form I-9, all employers must complete and retain Forms I-9 for every person they hire for employment, which includes:

  • The owner of a business if the owner is employed by the business and was hired as employee after November 6, 1986; and
  • An owner hired by a partnership.

Changes on the form

The new I-9 has made very small changes to the form’s instructions and the list of acceptable documents. The revisions slightly modify USCIS’s List of Acceptable Documents and specifically update List C to reflect the most current version of the certification or report of birth issued by the U.S. State Department.

Switch to new form, now

Although the changes might be imperceptible, employers still need to switch to the form with the revision date of 07/17/17. Technically, employers can continue to use the previous Form I-9 through September 17, but immigration experts recommend that employers immediately download and start using the new form and recycle any blank November 2016 or older versions.

Failure to comply by the September 18, 2017, deadline can result in significant fines. The U.S. Department of Justice announced increases in fines for Form I-9 violations last year, which range from $216 to $2,126 per form.

Businesses with questions can contact the NFIB Small Business Legal Center at (800) NFIB-NOW or visit https://www.uscis.gov/i-9.

Governor Ivey Signs Bills to Improve Alabama’s Business Climate

  • June 7th, 2017

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey recently signed into law Senate Bill 316, House Bill 242 and House Bill 390. All three bills, improve Alabama’s business climate by reducing regulation and by making it easier for small businesses to operate in the state.

“From day one, my quest has been to ensure the world knows Alabama is open for business. By removing burdensome regulations on small businesses we are sending that signal loud and clear,” Governor Ivey said. “When businesses spend less on overhead and government regulation, they can invest more in hiring; that’s good for all Alabamians.”

“I am thankful for the work of the legislature in passing these bills, especially the sponsors, Senator Sanford, Representative Garrett, and Representative Carns,” Ivey added.

“NFIB Alabama members appreciate Governor Ivey’s support of the small business legislation that was signed into law. Governor Ivey has always been a great supporter and champion for small business,” said Rosemary Elebash, Alabama State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business.

Senate Bill 316 protects small businesses which are licensed in one municipality or county from being forced to buy a license in a second location just to make deliveries to that area. House Bill 242 clarifies the state’s workers’ compensation law and makes it easier for small businesses to comply with the law. House Bill 390 protects franchise parent companies from law suits initiated against the organization’s franchisees, thereby allowing for the expansion of franchise opportunities in Alabama.

“My goal since entering the legislature in 2009 has always been to limit the size and scope of government, while also making Alabama a business-friendly sate. Senate Bill 316 accomplishes that on both fronts,” SB316 sponsor Senator Paul Sanford commented.

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To view the original press release, visit the newsroom of the Governor.

2017 National Small Business Week

  • April 25th, 2017

The Internal Revenue Service recognizes the fact that small business owners are the heart and soul of the economic community, and often have little time to learn more about taxes. As a result, to make taxes less taxing a new series of online educational tax discussions is being piloted called “IRS Tax Tools in 10…” give us 10-minutes, and we’ll give you the tax tools to help meet your Small Business needs. The dates and times of each roundtable discussion is below:

May 1st – Worker Classification – 10am & 1pm – Central

May 2nd – 3rd Party Payers – 10am & 1pm – Central

May 3rd – Sharing Economy – 10am & 1pm – Central

May 4th – Online Resources – 10am & 1pm – Central

May 5th – Small Business ID Theft – 10am & 1pm – Central

Attendance is limited, so please register by providing your name, e-mail, session date and time by e-mail to SBSE.SL.Web.Conference.Team@irs.gov . Closed Captioning will be available.

Small Business Support for America’s Veterans

  • April 20th, 2017

After supporting the American dream of freedom and prosperity through military service, millions of veterans choose to be their own boss and start a small business. It’s a good match, because soldiers’ skills are similar to those of successful entrepreneurs: their determination, willingness to take risks, and ability to handle stressful situations translate well to life as a business owner.

Like any new small business, most need some help to get started. Fittingly, there are many resources and benefits available specifically to help America’s veterans do that.

Read on for an overview of the veteran-owned business landscape, marketing opportunities, a breakdown of how to bid for government contracts, and other supports like educational programs, loans, and financing options for veteran-owned businesses.

By the Numbers: Veteran-Owned Businesses

Veteran-owned small businesses are an important part of the American economy. According to the latest U.S. Census data, veteran-owned businesses make up 7.5 percent of the country’s 5.4 million businesses with employees. And roughly 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses produce over $1.2 trillion in annual sales, have annual payroll of over $200 billion, and employ nearly six million people.

In 1999, the federal government passed the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act. This legislation acknowledged that the United States had done too little to assist veterans who wanted to start and grow small businesses following their military service.

The legislation also set a goal that 3 percent or more of all federal contract dollars be awarded to service-disabled veteran-owned businesses (SDVOBs). This adds up to big money: In 2015, the federal government spent $13.8 billion, or nearly 4 percent of federal contracting dollars, with SDVOBs.

California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Georgia have the most veteran-owned companies, but state governments vary in their commitments to veteran-owned businesses (though most have some sort of preference, or set-aside legislation).

Most veteran-owned businesses are small businesses employing fewer than 15 people, and veterans are more likely than non-veterans to be business owners (13.2 percent of veterans are self-employed, compared to 12.3 percent of non-veterans).

Related: Military Service Creates Solid Business Owners

Veteran-Owned Business Defined

While a veteran-owned business sounds self-explanatory (and in general terms, it is), when it comes to the government’s formal definitions and guidelines for government contract eligibility through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the rules are very specific.

There are two categories: Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB), and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB). To qualify as a VOSB, you must own at least 51 percent of your company and be responsible for management of day-to-day operations and strategic decisions. You’ll also need a Department of Defense Form 214 to verify veteran status. To qualify as a SDVOSB, you’ll need a disability status letter from the VA Benefits Office confirming your status as service-disabled.

Use the VA’s Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization website to register and verify your business. A quick list of resources is also available for preparing to do business with the VA, including procurement readiness, corporate partnerships, and veteran franchising opportunities. Government contracting advice is also available from the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA).

Aside from being able to bid on government contracts, registration has other benefits, like potential tax relief, improved access to capital (more on this below), counseling, start-up support, and displaying the SDVOSB or VOSB logo, which shows customers that your business is veteran-owned.

While the bidding for government contracts can be attractive, many businesses aren’t big enough to contend, or simply choose not to, because being a veteran and owning a business has several other inherent advantages.

Related: Is Your State Vetrepeneur Friendly?

Veteran-Focused Resources & Financing

All new businesses need help at some point to get started, and there are several resources and financing options available specifically to help those that served.

The SBA’s Boots to Business is a free education and training program for service members seeking to become entrepreneurs. The two-day course is taught at over 165 military installations worldwide, and active duty military members as well as their partners and spouses are eligible.

For veterans looking for help with financing a new business, a Patriot Express loan can mean a much faster path to ownership. They get former military personnel up and running quickly with business loans specifically for veterans.

The emphasis here is the speed at which veterans can find financing at competitive rates to get off the ground, compared to regular business owners. SBA-approved lenders give preference for helping veterans, but like any business loan, it’s important to be prepared with collateral, proper financial records, a solid business plan, and an understanding of what the loan can and can’t be used for.

Patriot Express loans cap at $500,000, and funds can be used for operational expenses, to purchase inventory, or for short-term working capital. For a full list of resources for veteran-owned businesses, including the Patriot Express program, visit the SBA’s VOB site or contact the Veteran’s Business Outreach Center.

Related: Best Small-Business Loans for Veterans 2017

Veteran-Owned Business Advantages

In addition to an edge in winning government contracts, veteran-owned business have an edge winning business from large corporations and the average American consumer.

Veterans defended our nation’s freedoms and prosperity by serving in the armed forces, and then made the choice to start their own business following their service. It should come as no surprise that America wants to buy from veterans, and the numbers back this up.

According to the National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA), almost 15 percent of FORTUNE® 1000 companies aim to include veteran-owned businesses in their supply chains as part of their supplier diversity programs.

Related: Checklist for Corporate Contracting

Studies also show that 70 percent of Americans would rather buy from a veteran-owned business than from one that is not. Veteran-owned business can also be listed in NaVOBA’s VetBiz Directory, a database that highlights new businesses and allows visitors to search by location and a wide array of industries and sectors.

Supporting the entrepreneurial dreams of America’s veterans has also been part of the National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB) mission since its founding in 1943. Wilson Harder, NFIB’s founder, knew that soldiers returning from Europe and the Pacific had the drive and determination that would help them find success in business.

NFIB defends the right of small business owners to own and operate their businesses without undue government interference. Many NFIB state offices work directly with local and state representatives to offer veteran-owned business decals to recognize the men and women who served our country and own businesses in local communities, and offer a wide variety of member-exclusive benefits, business products, and services.

Related: Learn More About NFIB in Your State

For more information on how the NFIB promotes and protects the rights of more than 325,000 members to run their businesses, find your local NFIB or learn more about NFIB membership perks and savings.

For the original article, click here.