Our Scottish Pacific SME Growth Index is a twice-yearly snapshot of Australia’s small to medium sized business sectors showing cashflow issues that many businesses face today, below is the one of six key insights found in our March 2019 report:

Over the past six years, the SME Growth Index has repeatedly highlighted that company tax cuts and a reduced regulatory burden are the most pressing reforms SMEs are crying out for. 

Nothing has changed this round.

With a Federal Election set to be held around May 2019, SMEs were clear about their expectations of what the next government should prioritise for the small and medium business sector.

Company tax cuts was the top response, with 27% of business owners saying this should be the new parliament’s top SME priority.

More than 23% said their main request was for the instant asset write-off to be further expanded.

These respondents should be pleased that this initiative has already been announced, in early 2019 – this provision will be extended for the 2019/20 financial year, with an expanded scope to include accelerated depreciation on assets valued up to A$25,000 (the previous limit was A$20,000).

One in five SMEs want the  newly elected government to prioritise cutting red tape by reducing their administrative and regulatory burden.

SMEs were far more concerned about seeing government action on things they see affecting their business on a day-to-day basis, rather than big picture projects.

Company tax cuts was the top response, with 27% of business owners saying this should be the new parliament’s top SME priority.

Only 7% thought reducing SME energy costs should be the main focus for the new parliament.

Despite significant publicity around the announcement of a $2 billion SME lending fund, not even 3% of respondents felt that implementing this fund should be the top priority.

Similarly, few SMEs thought the first order of business should be extending legislation to ease late payment times and mandate participation in the Australian Supplier Payment Code, with just over 2% naming it as their preferred top post-election priority.

Working on SME infrastructure and education was off business owners’ agenda.

Dedicated SME infrastructure such as fast tracking the NBN (less than 2%) and educating on cybersecurity (1%) are seen by SMES as unimportant for the new government relative to tax cuts  and cutting red tape.

This is despite a recent Chubb and YouGov survey, Too Small to Fail? Australia SME Cyber Preparedness Report, that found 71% of SMEs  have experienced a cyber-attack  or error in the past 12 months and 45% of SME owners are not confident that their employees  who have access to sensitive  data are fully aware of their data privacy responsibilities.

Finally, only one in 10 SMEs named further BAS simplification as their top priority. Government efforts to simplify business activity statements must be starting to hit the mark, because in 2017 streamlining  BAS was named as the top government priority by one in  four business owners.

SMEs make it quite clear to all levels of government that they want to see changes that have an everyday positive impact on how they do business. This is the key to energising the sector, encouraging investment and driving growth
and innovation.

Such measures could include simplifying the complex tax system and cutting red tape, and on a state basis getting rid of the “growth inhibitor” payroll tax – these initiatives would have the biggest daily positive impact for Australia’s small to medium businesses.