In 2004, there were approximately 24.7 million businesses in the United States, according to Office of Advocacy estimates. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates there were 29.3 million nonfarm business tax returns in 2004; however, this number may overestimate the number of firms, as one business can operate more than one taxable entity.
Census data show there were 5.7 million firms with employees and 17.6 million without employees in 2002 (and 18.6 million without employees in 2003). Applying the sole proprietorship growth rates to the nonemployer figures and similar Department of Labor growth rates to the employer figures produces the 24.7 million figure. Small firms with fewer than 500 employees represent 99.9 percent of the 24.7 million businesses, as the most recent data show there are 17,000 large businesses.
Information courtesy of the Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy.