Budget 2022: CPA Australia leads renewed call for small business advice vouchers

Gavan Ord CPA Australia small business privacy act

CPA Australia senior manager of business policy Gavan Ord. Source: supplied.

One of the country’s peak accounting bodies has renewed its call for the federal government to fund a voucher system that would allow small businesses to access professional advice to help them through the pandemic. 

In a pre-budget submission seen by SmartCompany, CPA Australia listed five priorities for the government ahead of the 2022 federal budget, which is expected to take place in March ahead of the next election. 

One of the priorities is for the government to provide small businesses with “financial incentives” in the form of vouchers or grants to help small businesses access advice from trusted advisors.

CPA Australia was one of a number of small business representative groups to back a similar proposal in 2020, for subsidies of up to $5000 for professional advice. 

Earlier that year, former small business ombudsman Kate Carnell said a government-funded system of financial advice vouchers would increase the likelihood of SMEs getting the help they need. 

“Small businesses with cashflow issues, compounded by falling revenue, may find getting the professional financial advice they need unaffordable. The ramifications of this could be devastating, both for the business and its owner and family, down the line.”

Gavan Ord, senior manager of business and investment policy at CPA Australia, told SmartCompany business support measures in this year’s budget must focus on building up the ability of businesses to manage the “ongoing and evolving” challenges of the pandemic. 

“Helping them to access advice is one of the best and fastest ways to build this capability,” says Ord. 

CPA Australia wants to see a voucher or grant system that would allow businesses to seek advice from their advisor of choice, and Ord says a federal program could be modeled on the Tasmanian government’s COVID-19 Small Business Advice and Financial Guidance Program.

Under that program, eligible businesses can receive between $750 and $1500 to pay for services from qualified specialists and consultants, including financial, operational and strategic advice. 

“Many businesses don’t have the financial resources to pay for advice or are focused on other priorities,” says Ord. 

“Our members often find that the further a small business gets into difficulty, the more reluctant they may be to access advice. This potentially damages their viability and limits their options for recovery.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday foreshadowed an election campaign that will be contested on the topic of economic management, and CPA Australia are calling on the government to ensure SMEs are not forgotten in coming months. 

The group’s pre-budget submission calls for “short-term business support and longer-term economic transformation”. 

In particular, CPA Australia wants to see the government provide support for small businesses to undertake digital transformations and increase the number of free or highly subsidised training places to address skills shortages across the country. 

At the same time, CPA Australia is calling for the government to “back off on new regulatory requirements” that would increase red tape for businesses, such as a proposal to remove the small business exemption to the Privacy Act

“Governments put a lot of regulatory changes on hold over the past two years [and] now is not the time to play catch up with this backlog,” said Ord. 

“Including fewer new regulatory measures in the budget will give businesses the breathing room they need to focus on current challenges.”

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