The 6 Most Important SBA Forms for an SBA Loan Application
Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a U.S. Government agency that partners with lenders to provide small businesses with loans of up to $5.5 million, helping entrepreneurs all over the country get their businesses off the ground. SBA loans can fund all sorts of business needs and purposes, including long-term fixed assets and operating capital.
The SBA sets guidelines for various types of small business loans that private lenders such as banks and community organizations administer. With the SBA backing the loans, the lenders’ risk is reduced so they can take a chance on borrowers who may not be able to get a traditional business loan.
Eligibility for an SBA loan requires having tried and failed at all other options for getting a traditional loan. In addition to that, borrowers must be a for-profit small business of a particular size that does business within the United States, and the owner must have invested some money and/or time of their own into the business before seeking funding.
The three main SBA loan programs are the 7(a) Loan Program, the CDC/504 Loan Program and the microloan program.
- The 7(a) Program is the most popular, providing loans up to $5 million for a wide range of business purposes, including startup costs, buying equipment, supplies, or land; refinancing existing debt, and purchasing or expanding an existing business. This program incorporates some specialized loan options – funding geared towards exporters, underserved borrowers, the military community and businesses seeking cyclical working capital.
- For the 504 Program, the SBA partners with Certified Development Companies (CDCs) to help small businesses secure fixed assets for expansion or modernization via loans of up to $5.5 million. The loans require borrowers to create and/or retain jobs, or to meet specific community development or public policy goals such as diversifying or stabilizing the local economy, expanding minority ownership of small business and aiding rural development.
- The microloan program offers small loans up to $50,000 for up to six years to help businesses launch and grow. The average microloan is about $13,000, and the program is designed to support women, low-income, veteran and minority entrepreneurs. However, any qualifying small business owner can apply for a microloan. These loans are usually used for working capital and to purchase equipment, inventory and supplies.
Required SBA forms to apply
The documents you need to provide for an SBA loan application are usually the same documents you’d expect to submit to secure any commercial loan. SBA loans require you to certify that you’re a small business by the SBA’s definition. You must also be invested in your own business and have exhausted all other funding options. The SBA loan process may require documentation to certify those things.
Each lender will have its own specific requirements about what SBA forms you’ll need for your application, but most SBA loans will require three types of documentation: a statement of purpose, a business plan or excerpts of a business plan and financial statements. The required financial statements are likely to include a cash flow statement, an income statement, a balance sheet and a personal financial statement.
Certain official SBA forms may be required as well, but this varies by loan type and lender. For example, a 7(a) loan requires SBA Form 1919. While you can find SBA forms online via the SBA’s Document Lookup tool, it’s recommended you ask your lender for the most up-to-date version of anything they request.
A lender will likely want the following documents at the minimum as part of your application, along with any SBA-specific forms they require:
Statement of purpose
The statement of purpose is an overview of the borrower’s intention in seeking a loan. This document should describe the business and how new funding will help its growth or improvement. Make sure to detail how the owners have invested in the business, either financially or through sweat equity. This usually takes the form of a letter or an executive summary attached to the business plan.
Your business plan lays out the goals and management structure and methods of your business. A lack of a robust, well-thought-out business plan is a red flag for lenders. At the very least, the plan you submit should include a description of your business, the business’s vision statement, a market definition and analysis, a rundown of your products and services, and details of the company’s management structure.
The following financial documents are most likely to be on the list for an SBA loan application.
- Cash flow statement: A cash flow statement logs money coming in and going out of your business, typically on a monthly basis. All applications should include a 12-month statement that projects cash flow for fewer than 12 months into the future. Lenders will look to see a positive cash flow so they feel confident you can repay your debts. Templates are widely available, but we suggest one from the SBA website or SCORE.
- Income statement: An income statement, otherwise known as a profit and loss statement (P&L), details your business’s income and expenses over six months or one year. The totals indicate your company’s profit or loss generated for the given period. Lenders like to see income statements dating back three years, but if you haven’t been in business that long, provide an income statement that predicts income a year into the future. There are many income statement templates available online, such as this one-year statement from Microsoft.
- Balance sheet: A balance sheet gives a snapshot of a company’s financial health by showing assets minus liabilities, which gives you your net worth. Lenders like to see balance sheets for the last three years, but if your business is new, at the minimum, include the assets and liabilities you currently have and project numbers out for 12 months. Look online to find balance sheet templates.
- Personal financial statement: Most SBA-approved lenders will ask for a personal guarantee as collateral for your loan. A personal financial statement will allow them to assess what might be used as that collateral in your case. This can be a spreadsheet detailing your net worth, including personal assets and debts.
How to apply for SBA business loan
Securing an SBA loan can be more work than getting a non-SBA-backed loan since the loan type comes with more restrictions and the application process requires extra vetting. Here is a rundown of how to go about applying for SBA-backed financing for your business.
Do your homework: First, turn to the many resources available to help you understand the process and figure out your options. Visit one of the SBA district offices or Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) around the country. You can also turn to SCORE, a nonprofit SBA resource partner that offers free business advising, and the Small Business Learning Center, which provides online training courses on small business topics.
Find and contact a lender. Go to SBA.gov or a local field office to find a list of the agency’s preferred lenders. Participating lenders know the SBA requirements and provide application and eligibility information on a case-by-case basis to applicants. No two applications are the same, therefore the lenders determine the eligibility and what is appropriate based on the circumstances of the small business applicant. SBA provides specific underwriting guidance in the SOP 50-10(5) for both the 7(a) and 504 loans programs.
When you approach your prospective lender, know the purpose of the loan, the amount of money you’re requesting, when you will need the funding, how long you’ll need it for, how it will be repaid, if you can put up collateral, and whether or not you can provide a personal guarantee.
Submit your application. The lender will review your application requirements with you — they vary by institution so there is no master list that each applicant can follow. The requested documents will provide background about your business, information about your funding needs and repayment plans, and answers to common questions about your situation.
The process of applying for an SBA loan is about the same as any other loan application, but with the potential for extra documentation to certify that you fit SBA eligibility requirements. Working closely with your SBA-approved lender is the best way to make sure that the process goes smoothly and that you can secure the funding you need.