Australia’s small and medium businesses are among the winners in this year’s budget, which puts skills and training, the digital economy and dispute resolution front and centre.
The budget tackles some much-needed areas of concern for small business owners, while at the same time extending the SME-friendly policies from last year’s budget and dropping those, like the JobMaker hiring credits, that didn’t work.
As expected, the government hasn’t held back in its spending commitments in what is likely to be its last budget before it faces the polls again.
In his budget speech tonight, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will proclaim small and family businesses are “at the heart of every local community”, and borrowing a line from his predecessors, “the engine room of our economy”.
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“Under the Coalition, small business will always be stronger,” Frydenberg will say.
While Frydenberg’s speech gives a nod to small businesses, they are by no means the focus. It’s further into the budget papers where some of the most promising small business policies appear.
Last year’s massive asset write-off scheme will be extended by another year, as will the well-received loss carry-back scheme.
More funding for the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman to continue helping small businesses resolve disputes is an important budget measure, as is the already announced change that will allow small businesses to take disputes with the tax office out of the court system.
The government is also removing the current exclusion that applies to deductions for the first $250 spent on education courses, which will give more business owners (and their employees) a reason to learn new skills.
These smaller budget measures are not likely to make many headlines, and individually they represent relatively small spending outlays.
But taken together, they start to piece together a picture in which long-held concerns in the small business community are being addressed.
Small businesses around the country have been telling the government it is difficult to find skilled workers to hire.
They’ve shouted from the rooftops about the devastating effects of being stuck in tax disputes.
And time and time again, they lose out on valuable government contracts to the big end of town, or don’t even get a look in in the first place.
There will be much to analyse and dissect over the coming days, weeks and months, but first impressions matter and this budget gives the impression that the government has been listening.