Washington - The Small Business Committee yesterday approved legislation that would give small businesses a stronger voice in federal regulations yesterday. The bill, introduced by ranking member of the Senate Committee on Small Business Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Chairman "Kit" Bond (R-Mo.), would require the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to address small business concerns before issuing changes in new or existing regulations.

Kerry said, "Small businesses are loudly and clearly telling us that they are overwhelmed with the large burdens that the IRS places on them. This bill holds the IRS accountable for the rules they issue that have a major impact on small businesses, and it opens up the process so small businesses can participate."

The Kerry-Bond "Small Business Advocacy Review Panel Technical Amendments Act" would also streamline and enhance the existing Small Business Enforcement Fairness Act, which has not only reduced regulatory burdens that otherwise would have been placed on small businesses, but also has begun to fundamentally change in the way Federal agencies establish regulations.

The bill would add the IRS to the two other agencies that are required to consult with small business before changing regulations, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The legislation requires the IRS to form a SBREFA panel in conjunction with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget, and with small businesses, or their representatives.

These panels have been highly effective in saving small businesses regulatory compliance costs.

According to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy the EPA SBREFA panels have saved small businesses almost $1 billion, and the OSHA SBREFA Panels have saved small businesses about $2 billion since the law's enactment in 1996.