Calls mount for budget to boost SME support

The approach of the 2016-17 federal budget is creating an increasingly uncertain climate for SMEs as debate grows on what, if any, measures will be announced to stimulate the sector.

The latest Voice of Australian Business Survey, which is conducted biannually by independent accounting firm network Bentleys and surveys SMEs across all regions and industries, suggested that 39 per cent of Australian SMEs believe the budget will not include measures that will be beneficial to their business, while 23 per cent believe it will.

Larger and more metropolitan-based SMEs are more likely to look positively on the upcoming budget than their smaller counterparts, with 44 per cent of medium-sized firms expecting beneficial measures, compared with just 13 per cent of micro-businesses.

“With the lack of clarity currently around the budget, it's understandable that people feel uncertain of what will transpire. The fact that the majority of SMEs don’t believe the budget will contain beneficial measures for their business, however, is worrying as it raises questions about the SME community’s confidence in the support they will get from government,” said Dean Steer, partner of tax at Bentleys.

According to the survey, those areas most commonly found on SME operators' wish lists are simplification of compliance and reporting processes (64 per cent), an extension to the immediate asset write-off scheme (58 per cent) and cuts to the corporate tax rate (also 58 per cent).

The latter comes despite research presented recently at the Melbourne Economic Forum suggesting that a corporate tax cut would not be in the national interest.

“There’s so much speculation on tax reform it’s hard to see the forest for the trees in this area. Cuts to the corporate tax rate may very well be included in the budget if the current political debate is anything to go by. However, we’ll have to wait and see what happens on that front,” Mr Steer said.

“The 2016-17 federal budget will set the tone for the next fiscal year; we hope it inspires optimism among SME owners and positions them well for the next 12 months.”

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