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The small business carbon tax preparation guide – seven methods for saving money you should try immediately

Patrick Stafford /

It’s been two days since the carbon tax was introduced, and already the Federal Government is in defensive mode, arguing why its latest tax is a good investment and why small businesses don’t have to worry.

But SMEs certainly do have a reason to be alarmed. According to an AIG survey, 44% of construction businesses, 40% of services businesses and 40% of manufacturing businesses said they intend on raising prices.

It’s enough to make any small business worried, not to mention the rising energy costs. So we’ve put together a handy guide with seven tips on how to save money in preparation for the tax:

1. Renegotiate your energy contract

Energy prices are going to rise, there’s no doubt about it. That’s not just because of the carbon tax, but you definitely can use it to leverage a new contract with your energy suppliers. Even if you can swing a 5% discount, that will buffer you against some of the change and give you some breathing room.

2. Don’t accept price increases from suppliers without their word

Suppliers across the country will no doubt attempt to increase prices in the next few weeks but you shouldn’t just accept new costs without question. Get your suppliers on the phone, and get them to justify any type of increase, even if it’s as small as 1%. Ask them to substantiate the cost, and make sure you aren’t getting ripped off.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating any claims of dodgy increases – you should submit a report if you think anything’s amiss.

3. Set some contracts in place

Think about setting up some contracts with your suppliers. That means you’ll be given a little bit more certainty and at least allow you to prepare in advance for any price increases.

4. Take a look at moving

This isn’t an easy one at all, but if you find that your current offices are letting you down, then you should look at moving. Plenty of new buildings are built to higher standards for energy efficiency, and you could save yourself a lot of money if you end up moving.

It’s a costly endeavour, and you should really do it if you have the cash and it’s going to save you a fair amount, but it’s still something to think about.

5. Get more efficient!

There are plenty more energy-efficient technologies you can use to save money. Light bulbs are a big category, and there are a range of different types you can buy. Computers are another, where there are all sorts of different monitors and desktops that use less power. Shop around and see what you can find.

Also, if your office contains a fridge, then make sure it’s always about three quarters full. It won’t strain and use as much energy.

You may need to call in a consultant for this one, but it’ll be worth it. You may find that you need some simple upgrades to your lighting or electricity that will save you hundreds.

6. Introduce some company policies

There are actually plenty of savings you might be able to find within your business if you just looked a little harder. However, that may mean you have to introduce some strict policies when before, you didn’t necessarily have any guidelines.

For instance, turning off computers. There are plenty of businesses which leave their desktops on overnight, draining unnecessary power. Having staff turn them off every night when they leave helps save power, and it adds up.

You should also see if your electricity set-up is as efficient as it could be. If one area of your office is using a lot of power boards, then you may be draining more electricity than usual.

Many offices have a television, and sometimes they even keep it on overnight. Make it a policy to turn it off when the last person leaves – and that goes for the lights as well.

You don’t necessarily need to use air conditioning every time it’s really hot. Invest in some floor fans and see how that works out.

All these changes mean you may have to draw up an official policy telling staff when they should or shouldn’t turn on certain devices, but it’ll eventually save you money. And every little bit counts.

7. Investigate government assistance

There’s a lot of assistance on offer from the federal and state governments. For instance, businesses using up to $20,000 in electricity per year or that have up to 10 employees can get a 50% rebate on an energy assessment plan that’s aimed at introducing more efficiency. That can cover a number of areas including heating, ventilation, air conditioners, or insulation.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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