Why Does the 8(a) Program Penalize Older Business Owners?

The 8(a) Program can offer incredible opportunities: sole source contracts, set-aside competitions, mentor-protege relationships, SBA business training and much more.

But for business owners older than 59 1/2, getting admitted to the 8(a) Program can be very difficult: unlike their younger counterparts, funds these owners have saved in traditional retirement accounts will likely count against the 8(a) Program’s $250,000 adjusted net worth cap.

How is this fair? (Spoiler alert: in my opinion, it ain’t).

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5 Things You Should Know: 8(a) Program Eligibility

In a recent post, I discussed the basics about SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program. This follow-up posts discusses 8(a) eligibility requirements in greater detail.

To qualify for the 8(a) Program, a firm must be a small business that is unconditionally owned and controlled by one or more socially- and economically-disadvantaged individuals who are of good character and citizens of the United States and that demonstrates a potential for success.

What does this really mean? Here are five things you should know about 8(a) Program eligibility.

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8(a) Program: Loan Must Be “Bona Fide” To Reduce Net Worth

To qualify for the 8(a) program, a disadvantaged individual must fall below certain personal net worth thresholds. Loans can reduce net worth–but not all loans are treated the same.

According to the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals, if a disadvantaged individual intends to rely on a loan to reduce net worth, the loan better be bona fide.

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