You have to be a small business to get a loan backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA). But the SBA has a very specific definition of what counts as small. To prove that your business meets those standards, you might have to fill out SBA Form 355 when you apply for government-guaranteed funding.
What is SBA Form 355?
SBA Form 355, also known as the Information for Small Business Size Determination Form, is a document that helps the SBA determine whether or not your business counts as a small business. If it doesn’t meet SBA size standards, you aren’t eligible for an SBA loan. It applies to all SBA programs except the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, which uses Form 480 instead.
Why is this necessary? The SBA’s definition of a small business varies depending on your industry. But in general, your business needs to be independently owned and operated and not be considered a leader in the industry to qualify as small. Other factors that contribute to SBA size standards include your industry’s average business size, distribution of different-sized businesses, level of competition and startup costs.
You generally only have to fill out Form 355 if the SBA requests it or you’re contesting your affiliation with a business. You don’t have to submit it along with your other SBA forms — you’ll complete it after the SBA receives your application, if at all.
Your business’s lawyer, accountant or other nonemployee representative can complete the form as long as you also provide a letter authorizing them to represent your company. Otherwise, it should be filled out by you or another owner or employee of your business.
What do I need to fill out SBA Form 355?
The hardest part about filling out SBA Form 355 might be compiling all of the information and documents you need to get started.
Information you need
Make sure you have the following information on-hand before you get started:
Your business’s DUNS number. This is the number that credit rating agency Dun & Bradstreet assigns to all businesses. You can find yours on the Dun & Bradstreet website.
If your business is in a Labor Surplus Area. This is a civil jurisdiction with an unemployment rate that’s at least 20% higher than the national average during the last two years. The Department of Labor has a list of Labor Surplus Areas on its website.
NAICS codes for the main industries your business is involved in. North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes are six-digit numbers the SBA uses to identify your business’s industries. You can find your NAICS codes on the SBA website.
A list of everyone with a stake in your company. Know the names, addresses and percentages of ownership of all owners, partners, principal stockholders and other members of your organization.
A list of officers of your business. You also need to know the names, addresses and titles of all high-level employees at your company.
A list of your board of directors. Have a corporation? The SBA asks for the names and addresses of your board members as well.
Information on affiliates. You need the same information about all affiliated businesses as you provide for your own business — including your relationship with the affiliate, its annual sales for the past three years and the number of employees it has.
Information on associates affiliated with other companies. If owners, primary shareholders, board members or anyone else who has a say in your company has ownership or ties to another company, you need details on that company, as well as their position and ownership stake.
Number of employees at your business. You’ll need to know the number of people currently working at your business and the average number of people on payroll over the past year.
Your business’s sales or receipts. The SBA asks for your business’s sales or receipts before taxes for the past three years.
What’s an affiliate?
Like small businesses, the SBA has a specific definition of what an affiliate is. Generally, it’s any business that has control over another business. This can include the following types of relationships:
Stock ownership. When your company owns the largest share of stock in another company.
Stock options or convertible securities. When your company has the option to buy controlling stocks or securities in another company.
Merger agreements. When your company has a written merger agreement with another business.
Common management. When your business’s officers, directors, partners or other employees have management positions in another company — this includes the people listed in section 9a.
Connections to new businesses. When your business’s former employees or managers start a new company in your same industry and maintain a relationship with you.
Subcontractors. When your company regularly relies on another business to fill contracts.
Economic dependence. When your company wouldn’t be able to survive without the existence of another company.
However, the definition of an affiliate can get tricky. You might want to hire an expert or consult with your lender to make sure you’re including all required businesses.
Documents you need
Your business and its affiliates must provide founding documents, depending on the legal structure:
Required founding documents
Annual report to stockholders
Articles of incorporation
Limited liability company (LLC)
Articles of organization
You might also need the following documents, if applicable:
Stock option agreements
Collateral agreements on a business loan backed by stock
Proof of arrangements if any trusts or voting trusts own stock in your business
Agreements for any pending mergers or sales of your business’s stock or assets
Financial records and tax returns for all affiliates
Past SBA documents that already determined your business’s affiliates
How to fill out SBA Form 355
Got all of your information and documents ready? Follow these instructions to complete SBA Form 355:
Part I: Information relating to businesses only
This section is where you provide information about your business and what you’re applying for.
1a: Enter your business’s name and mailing address, including the state and ZIP code.
1b: Enter your contact information, including your name, phone number, fax number, email address and the company’s DUNS number.
1c: Enter the county where your business is located, and check whether or not your business is located in a Labor Surplus Area.
1d: Check the the box next to the type of funding you’re applying for. If you’re applying for a standard SBA 7(a) loan, check Business Loan.
1e: Enter the date your business was established.
1f: Enter the NAICS code of the primary industry your business operates in.
1g: If the SBA hasn’t already taken a formal look at your business’s size, check No and move on to question 2. Otherwise, check Yes and provide the name of the SBA Government Contracting Area Office, date your application was reviewed, name of the federal contracting agency and name and phone number of the officer who handled your application.
List all of your business’s major products and services, including the following information for each:
NAICS code for the industry it falls under
Percentage of sales or receipts it counted for during the last fiscal year
How much you made in sales from it during the last fiscal year
Don’t have enough room? You can attach an additional sheet to continue your list.
If your business is a franchise, check Yes and attach a copy of the agreement. Otherwise, check No.
List the names, addresses and percentages of ownership in the company for all business owners, primary stockholders, partners and other members of your organization.
List the names, addresses and titles for all officers in your company, including the CEO, COO, CFO and secretary.
If you don’t own a corporation, skip this question. Otherwise, list the names and addresses of the members of your business’s board of directors.
7a: Check Yes if your business has any stock options available and the person or concern holding the options on an attached piece of paper. Otherwise, check No.
7b: Check Yes if your business has ever put up stock as collateral and attach documents detailing that agreement. Otherwise, check No.
7c: Check Yes if any trusts or voting trusts hold stock in your business and attach documents detailing the arrangements. Otherwise, check No.
Check Yes if your business has agreed to a merger or is about to sell any of its stocks or assets. Attach any relevant documents about the sale or merger. If not, check No.
9a: Check Yes if anyone listed in questions 4 through 6 is also involved in another business as a:
Otherwise, check No and move on to question 10.
9b: Complete the table with the person’s name, affiliated business’s name and address, position held with the affiliate and percentage of ownership they have in that business.
Part II: Information relating to employee-based size standards
10a: Enter the number of employees currently working at your company.
10b: Enter the average number of employees your company had on its payroll over the past year — including individuals who only showed up for one pay period.
Part III: Information relating to revenue-based size standards
Enter the date your business considers the end of the fiscal year for US tax purposes — this is generally not December 31. Consult your business’s tax returns from last year if you aren’t sure.
List your business’s sales or receipts before taxes for the past three years. Add them up and enter them under Total.
If you’re applying for an SBA disaster loan, use the three years before the disaster occurred.
Part IV. Information about affiliates
If you don’t have enough room in the form to complete the following sections, attach another sheet with a continued list.
13a: Enter the following information about your affiliates:
Percentage of ownership interest your business has in the affiliate
Percentage of ownership interest the affiliate has in itself
NAICS code for the main product or service it provides
13b: Provide the following information about partners, owners, directors, members and principal stockholders of each affiliate:
Name and address
Percentage of voting stock they own in the company
13c: List the number of employees in each company, attaching a separate sheet continuing your answer if needed.
13d: For each affiliate, list its annual revenue before taxes for the past three years. If you’re applying for a disaster loan, count the three years before the disaster took place. Then add up the annual sales for each business and enter the totals.
14a: If none of the people you listed for 13b are also owners, partners, members, directors or principal stockholders in another company, check No and move on to Part V. Otherwise, check Yes and continue on to 14b.
14b: Provide the following information about those that 14a applies to:
Name and address of the third company
Position held in the third company
Percentage of shares they own in the third company
Part V: Information about alleged, acknowledged or possible affiliates of business
This part consists of a series of yes or no questions that you generally don’t need to answer if you’re simply applying for an SBA loan.
You only need to answer questions 15 to 22 if you’re requested to by the SBA or are contesting your business’s affiliation with another company. And you only need to complete questions 23 to 28 if you’re applying for an SBA contract assistance program — not an SBA loan.
If you’re required to complete this section, attach a separate sheet of paper explaining any questions you answer Yes to.
After completing and reviewing your answers, certify your application on the second page by signing it and entering your name, title, the name of your company and the date. Typically, the SBA prefers it when you write dates as mm-dd-yyyy, though it doesn’t specify on this form.
Double-check your form before you submit it
Making a mistake on this form could come with serious consequences. You could face a fine of up to $500,000, 10 years of jail time or both if you purposely or mistakenly misrepresent your business on Form 355. It might be worth having a partner, lawyer or your lender read over your application after you complete it to make sure there are no mistakes.
Where do I submit SBA Form 355?
Send your completed Form 355 to the SBA Government Contracting Area Office closest to your business’s headquarters:
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands
Office of Government Contracting Boston Area Office US Small Business Administration 10 Causeway Street Room 265 Boston, MA 02222
Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, DC
Office of Government Contracting Philadelphia Area Office US Small Business Administration Parkview Tower 1150 First Avenue, Suite 1001 King of Prussia, PA 19406
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee
Office of Government Contracting Atlanta Area Office US Small Business Administration 233 Peachtree Street, NE Suite 1805 Atlanta, GA 30309
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin
Office of Government Contracting Chicago Area Office US Small Business Administration 500 West Madison Street Suite 1250 Chicago, IL 60661
Arkansas, Colorado, Lousiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas
Office Government Contracting Dallas Area Office US Small Business Administration 4300 Amon Carter Boulevard Suite 116 Fort Worth, TX 76155
Not all small businesses need to fill out Form 355 when applying for an SBA loan. But if yours does, be prepared to spend some serious time on it. The SBA estimates that it might take up to four hours per question — as much as 112 hours. To avoid making mistakes, consult an expert before you submit it to your local office.
Anna Serio is a trusted lending expert and certified Commercial Loan Officer who's published more than 1,000 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. A former editor of a newspaper in Beirut, Anna writes about personal, student, business and car loans. Today, digital publications like Business Insider, CNBC and the Simple Dollar feature her professional commentary, and she earned an Expert Contributor in Finance badge from review site Best Company in 2020.
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