Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ third Federal Budget, handed down last month, included some welcome initiatives for small and medium businesses.

The most recent data from ScotPac’s SME Growth Index Report found that 51% of businesses want company tax cuts and relief from ATO collection activities, with 62% confirming they have been impacted by ATO debt in the past 18 months.

As a result, possibly the most welcome announcement was the extension of the $20,000 instant asset write-off for another 12 months until 30 June 2025.

Available to businesses with an annual turnover of less than $10 million, this write-off enables small business owners to deduct the cost of new assets immediately.

Supporting business payments

Good news, too, for small businesses that struggle to collect payments from customers, the government will provide $25.3 million over four years to the Payment Times Reporting Regulator. This will help the regulator to deliver its expanded functions, including naming slow-paying businesses and funding a fit-for-purpose IT infrastructure.

To boost the efficiency of invoicing and payments, the government is also spending $23.3 million to boost the adoption of eInvoicing.

Energy bill relief

According to ScotPac’s SME Growth Index Report, 35% of businesses called for new regulatory measures to address inflation and cost of living pressures to cushion the flow-on impacts for their businesses.

To help with these pressures, the Federal Government has allocated $3.5 billion in new energy bill relief for around one million businesses. It includes a rebate that helps reduce operational costs associated with energy prices for offices, warehouses and other business premises. Eligible businesses will get $325 back on their electricity bills from 1 July 2024.

A future made in Australia

Chalmers also announced $500 million in funding for skills development in priority industries such as clean energy and manufacturing to help create “A future made in Australia”.

Chalmers expects this program to attract investment in key industries, make Australia a renewable energy superpower and help businesses grasp the opportunities of Australia’s transforming economy.

Cyber safety training

The government is investing $23.4 million in the Cyber Wardens program which provides free online training for business owners and their staff on becoming cyber-smart.

It is also forking out $11.1 million for the Small Business Cyber Resilience Service to help businesses build their cyber resilience and receive support when affected by a cyber-attack.

A further $7.2 million will go to the Cyber Health Check online interactive tool that helps businesses self-assess their cyber security maturity.

Mental health and financial wellbeing

In addition, $10.8 million will be invested in supporting the well-being of business owners. This will help expand the NewAccess for Small Business Owners program, which provides free mental health support, and the Small Business Debt Helpline, which offers financial counselling.

Government grants

To help businesses win more government contracts, the government has updated the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and is improving AusTender so that it can better identify small and medium businesses on government panels. Plus, the Buy Australian Plan will simplify procurement processes to help businesses win more government work.

In addition, the government will invest $183.8 million in defence industry grants to support small and medium enterprises. This will include the new Defence Industry Development Grant Program, which will reduce the administrative burden on these businesses.

Supporting employees

Some $20.5 million will go to the Fair Work Ombudsman to assist small business employers in complying with workplace laws. A further $60 million will go to the Productivity, Education and Training Fund over four years to support activities by employer and worker representatives to boost workplace productivity.

In addition, $10 million will go to Services Australia to help it provide additional support for business employers in administering the Paid Parental Leave scheme.

Access to justice

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman will receive $2.6 million over four years, and $0.7 million a year after that, to expand the range of unrepresented small and medium businesses, including franchisees, that can access low-cost legal advice and assistance to navigate business disputes.