Understanding The Criteria For Small Businesses According To The Irs

  • John A. Osborne
  • Jan 16, 2023
Small Business Insurance Indiana

Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, accounting for a significant portion of the country’s employment opportunities and overall economic activity. However, depending on the size and structure of the business, it may be subject to different tax obligations and requirements under the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In this article, we will explore what the IRS considers a small business and the implications of this definition for entrepreneurs and business owners.

The IRS defines a small business based on several factors, including the number of employees, annual revenue, and industry classification. Specifically, the agency uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures to determine whether a business is eligible for certain tax benefits or subject to specific regulations.

Employee Count

One of the primary criteria that the IRS uses to classify small businesses is the number of employees. Generally, businesses with fewer than 500 employees are considered small under the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) guidelines. However, the IRS may use different thresholds depending on the industry or type of business. For example, a construction company with more than 500 employees may still be considered small if it has a lower revenue threshold than other industries.

It is worth noting that the IRS counts both full-time and part-time employees when determining the size of a business. Additionally, the agency may look at the average number of employees over the course of a year rather than the current headcount.

Annual Revenue

In addition to employee count, the IRS also uses annual revenue as a criterion for defining small businesses. Again, the specific threshold may vary depending on the industry, but generally, businesses with less than $7.5 million in annual revenue are considered small. However, businesses with higher revenue may still be eligible for certain tax benefits or exemptions if they meet other criteria, such as being a startup or having a specific legal structure.

It is important to note that the IRS looks at the revenue of the entire business, not just the profits. This means that businesses with high expenses may still be considered small if their revenue falls below the threshold.

Industry Classification

Finally, the IRS considers the industry classification when defining small businesses. The agency uses the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to categorize businesses and determine which regulations and tax benefits apply. Generally, businesses in industries with lower revenue or higher expenses may have lower thresholds for employee count or annual revenue.

Additionally, the IRS may have specific rules or requirements for businesses in certain industries, such as healthcare or transportation. Therefore, it is essential for business owners to understand how their industry classification may impact their tax obligations and benefits.


In summary, the IRS uses a combination of employee count, annual revenue, and industry classification to define small businesses. Depending on these factors, businesses may be eligible for different tax benefits, such as deductions or credits, or subject to specific regulations, such as filing requirements or reporting obligations. Therefore, it is crucial for entrepreneurs and business owners to understand how their business’s size and structure may impact their tax obligations and benefits.

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