FICA, SUI, ACA, IRS, HHS… OMG. The acronyms alone are enough to make even the nerdiest logophile’s head spin. (Look that one up too).

As a small business owner, you’re no stranger to the necessity of staying compliant with the federal government. And that takes up a lot of your precious time. So much of it, that one-in-three small businesses reported spending more than 40 hours a year on just federal taxes.

To help you better understand the government agencies you’re likely to deal with at some point, we’ve broken a few of them down for you here. Of course, there are hundreds of agencies out there and you very well could encounter some of the more niche ones. This list serves as an overview of the big players in the small business world.

1. Department of Labor (DOL)

What it is: The DOL works to promote and develop the well-being of workers, job seekers, and retirees in the United States.

What it enforces: The DOL administers and enforces more than 180 federal laws, which cover workplace activities for around 10 million employers and 125 million workers. Some of the big-hitting laws, regulations, and areas of focus that fall under the DOL include:

  • Construction
  • Employee Benefit Security
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act
  • Employee Protection
  • Garnishment of Wages
  • Government Contracts, Grants, or Financial Aid
  • Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers
  • Mine Safety and Health
  • Plant Closings and Layoffs
  • Employment Law Posters
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Transportation
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
  • Unions (and members)
  • Veterans’ Preference
  • Wage and Hour
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Workplace Safety and Health

Learn more about the DOL here.

2. Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

What it is: EBSA, a subdivision under the DOL, educates and assists approximately 150 million employees, retirees, and families covered by private retirement plans, health plans, and other welfare benefit plans.

What it enforces: EBSA enforces regulations related to: The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA).

Learn more about EBSA here.

3. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)

What it is: OSHA was established under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. This agency ensures safe and healthful working environments by setting and enforcing standards as well as providing the education and training to do so.  OSHA also falls under the DOL umbrella.

What it enforces: OSHA’s enforcement policy and targeted inspection programs are created to respond to hazards, fatalities, catastrophes, and complaints regarding employee work conditions. Industries that fall under OSHA’s enforcement include: agriculture, construction, the federal sector, and maritime. 

Learn more about OSHA here.

4. Wage And Hour Division (WHD)

What it is: A subdivision of the DOL, WHD works to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards for U.S. workers.

What it enforces: WHD enforces federal laws relating to minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). WHD also enforces the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA), the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and wage garnishment provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA).

Learn more about WHD here.

5. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)

What it is: HHS provides health and human services and fosters advances in medicine, public health, and social services, all designed to protect the health and well-being of Americans.

What it enforces: HHS enforces more than 100 programs across all divisions. Some of the bigger agencies/regulations you’ve likely heard of that fall under HHS include:  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Learn more about HHS here.

6. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

What it is: As part of HHS, this federal agency administers the Medicare program and works with state governments to administer Medicaid services.

What it enforces: CMS enforces federal health care programs, including ones that involve health information technology. CMS also administers the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), HIPAA, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), and more.

Learn more about CMS here.

7. The Department of the Treasury

What it is: The mission of the Treasury is to maintain a strong economy and create job opportunities. It works to strengthen national security by protecting the integrity of the financial system and manages the U.S. government’s finances.

What it enforces: The basic functions of this entity include:

  • Managing federal finances, government accounts, and the public debt
  • Collecting taxes, duties, and monies due to the U.S.
  • Currency
  • Supervising national banks
  • Enforcing federal finance and tax laws

Learn more about the Department of the Treasury here.

8. Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

What it is: The IRS is an agency that’s part of the Department of the Treasury. Its mission is to help taxpayers understand and meet their tax responsibilities and to enforce the law.

What it enforces: All things taxes, as well as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Common IRS forms you may come in contact with are:

  • Form 1040 – U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
  • Form W-9 - Request for Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) and Certification
  • Form W-4 - Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate
  • Form 941 - Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return
  • Form W-2 – Wage and Tax Statement
  • Form 4506-T - Request for Transcript of Tax Return
  • Form 1040-X - Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
  • Form 2848 -  Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative
  • Form W-7 - Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

Learn more about the IRS here.

9. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

What it is: The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against job seekers or employees based on several factors, including age, race, religion, and disability.

What it enforces: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) are some of the big ones.

Learn more about the EEOC here.


That’s a lot of information, we understand! If you’re feeling overwhelmed with anything as it relates to payroll, taxes, HR, or benefits administration, let us deal with it.

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Disclaimer: Please note that this is not all inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may be applicable to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Consult your own legal advisor regarding specific application of the information to your own plan.