New ombudsman service
In a move it said was aimed at supporting and advising SME operators, the government launched the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) service, and appointed experienced business operator and former ACT chief minister Kate Carnell as the ombudsman.
With Royal Commission-type powers, it is hoped the ASBFEO would become a strong advocate for SMEs to promote fairer competition and recognition of Australia’s roughly 2.1 million such businesses.
The unprecedented vote for the UK to end its membership of the European Union caused a lot of commotion for exporters, travellers and commentators – sparking fears for anyone that does business with the UK, while global currency markets went into overdrive.
Australian business owners were keen to know how the vote would affect the local market, with several economists speculating about the future implications.
However when the initial shock wore off, it became clear that – at least in the short term – the impacts were minimal beyond the devalued British Pound (pictured) – which as one business owner pointed out, has actually aided her business expansion plans.
Small businesses with less than $10 million in turnover cheered after receiving a tax cut from the government, which was unveiled in the May Budget and made effective from 1 July.
An estimated 870,000 businesses across the country were said to have their tax burden reduced to 27.5 per cent.
While SMEs with larger turnover were disappointed to have missed out on the immediate tax relief, the government also outlined plans to extend the lower tax rate to all companies, and progressively reduce the rate of tax to 25 per cent over the next decade.
In a widely anticipated move, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called a double dissolution election over the failure of workplace relations law changes in Parliament.
While SMEs became a hot topic of the drawn-out election campaign, the returned Coalition government left many business owners scratching their heads when one of its first moves was to dump the small business portfolio from cabinet.
Census and ATO failures
Australian government agencies suffered a number of high-profile technology failures throughout the year, the biggest of which being the crash of the Census website and the ATO website and digital functions being taken offline, affecting reporting functions, lodgements and the processing of returns.
The causes for these and other failures, which ranged from cyber attacks to poor management as well as software and hardware crashes, helped to demonstrate to business owners the effects such outages can have on an organisation’s operations, as well as how to (and how not to) deal with the ensuing PR crisis and customer complaints.
The implementation of SuperStream for SMEs heralded big changes in superannuation reporting for business owners, yet in the lead-up to its mandatory take-up, there was a great deal of confusion.
In a bid to help settle this confusion, the deadline for businesses with less than 20 employees was extended from 30 June to 28 October.
Accountants and bookkeepers are hopeful that the ATO will use SuperStream to deliver greater efficiencies for businesses going forward, particularly to reduce the penalties imposed on businesses for late payment through no fault of their own.
Optus My Business Awards
On a happy note, the SME community’s night of nights - the Optus My Business Awards (pictured below right) - was held in November, with a staggering 214 finalists representing 150 businesses from right across Australia.
In the packed ballroom of Sydney’s Four Points by Sheraton hotel, MC Vince Sorrenti delivered plenty of laughs between the rousing applauses as this year’s finalists were revealed.
The Optus My Business Awards will return in 2017, even bigger and better than ever. In the meantime, enjoy some of the highlights from this year's event.
The tragic loss of four innocent lives on a ride at the Gold Coast theme park sent shock waves across the country and around the world.
As well as the temporary closing of the theme park, tourism businesses across the Gold Coast region and theme parks nationwide were hit with sudden cancellations, leading to a downturn in business at what is traditionally the lead-up to one of their busiest times of year.
The disaster and its flow-on effects served as a reminder for how businesses of any industry can be impacted by events beyond their control, and the need to have detailed and tested crisis and risk management plans in place should the worst happen.
The election of Donald Trump to US presidency in November had news and social media go into meltdown.
In a sign of the divisive nature of his candidacy and policies, many people commenting on the result bemoaned the terrible implications for the American and local economies of a Trump presidency.
Others, however, took a decidedly different view, trumpeting a new beginning under the leadership of a political outsider and experienced businessman. Some, such as mortgage pioneer Mark Bouris, pointed to the lessons business owners can learn from Trump’s victory.