Economy, Politics

Tax reform, parental leave and global growth policies: What entrepreneurs want from Budget 2017

Dominic Powell /

b.box for kids first customers

B.box for kids founders Dannielle Michaels (right) and Monique Filer. Source: Supplied.

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From the preservation of the research and development tax incentive to the extension of the $20,000 instant asset write-off scheme, the majority of SME owners are hoping for practical and tangible benefits for businesses in Budget 2017.

However, some believe the business community could be left in the dust this year, even though they still have their eye on broader innovation policies.

SmartCompany asked 10 business leaders what they want to see announced on Tuesday night. Here are their top priorities.

Jo Burston
Managing director Job Capital, chief executive at Rare Birds

“The tax system for businesses, especially SMEs has been largely over-complicated for many years. Although the Senate approved tax cuts for companies with a turnover of less than $50M, there is still the ongoing elephant in the room known as payroll tax, which is state driven. The complexity between federal and state tax remains. Most SMEs I know seek to understand why this tax still exists at all.

“With the sharing economy and gig economy being new but rapidly growing areas, it is no surprise that the black economy is so large. Businesses in Australia are very regulated and I believe largely compliant, so it warrants the question about how the government will manage individuals trading with cash, it’s going to be hard to stop a cash payment for a spare car space paid by a friend.

“Overall, I don’t see much here for SMEs, but I would have liked to have seen R&D grants revisited and less regulated and Export Grants increased if we truly are to be global players running entrepreneurial businesses.”

Sean Senvirtine
Founder, MyDeal

“Despite the passing of the small business tax cut earlier this year, a significant overhead to small businesses can be state levied payroll taxes. The Commonwealth Government would be wise in using the federal budget this year to encourage state governments to embark on payroll tax reform. This could be implemented in the same way the Commonwealth Government incentivised state government asset recycling through the promise of investment in large infrastructure projects.”

Dannielle Michaels and Monique Filer
Founders, b.box for kids

“We’re looking for more commercial incentives for businesses to grow domestically and internationally. There’s a lot of support for businesses through AusTrade and the Export Market Development Grants Scheme (EMDG), which is awesome in terms of launching a business, but it has a cap. These days most of our growth is coming from offshore, which means more money coming back into Australia but we’re a bit on our own, there needs to be more support for growth internationally.

The government could provide this either through funding or through tax advantages, but it needs to be a practical and tangible incentive. A lot of solutions put forward by the government are “sexy” solutions, but at the end of the day growing internationally needs a lot of resources, and right now there are no incentives from the government to propel SMEs to the international stage.”

Rob Ward
Co-founder, Annex Products

“As a small business designing consumer products we had no option other than going global from day one. Australia’s population could never sustain a company such as ours and for this reason, I’d like to see the continued support for AustTrade’s Export Marketing and Development Grant (EMDG).”

Jen Geale
Co-founder, Mountain Bikes Direct

“As a woman who has recently juggled having two young kids while running her own business, I would certainly support moves to make the government’s paid parental leave more flexible and suited to the requirements of women running a small business. It is not always practical for a self-employed mother to down tools for 18 weeks straight before stepping back to her business.

“More generally we are supportive of measures that recognise the importance of small business in Australia and support the continued ability of small businesses to innovate and grow.”

Ian Gibson
Chief information officer and director, SuperChoice

“In this budget, we’d like to see more support for small businesses when it comes to cybersecurity. This tends to be an issue that’s really only emphasised for the big end of town yet the interconnected nature of business means everyone needs to be involved. The federal government has raised the prospect of greater support for small business in its Cyber Security Strategy to assist them in improving their protections against security breaches, however, most of the focus to date has been on the big businesses like the ASX Top 100.

“Small businesses are facing significant issues and to date, they’ve got little practical support. The government has a responsibility to increase awareness around these issues and to allocate more resources dedicated to supporting Australian SMEs to optimise their cybersecurity.”

Jessica Thomas
Founder, Health Labs

“Our wish list to help SMEs thrive and prosper in Australia would include legislated payment terms of 15 days for small businesses to help with cash flow, more generous tax cuts (of course), and employment incentives to help stimulate and boost diversity in the workplace including returning mothers to work and the valuable over 50s.”

Beau Bertoli
Joint chief executive, Prospa

“In recent months, the government has been extremely vocal in its backing of small businesses, and it’s important this rhetoric is supported by positive action in the budget. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the Australian economy and the Government should follow through with concessions, clarity and better communication to help nurture this growth. 

“Alongside an extension to the federal government’s $20,000 instant asset write-off scheme, and a further decrease in corporate tax rates for small business to 27.5%, one of the fundamental issues I would like to see addressed is further clarity on the government’s plans to enable the ATO to disclose small business debt information to credit agencies. Recent research carried out by Prospa shows that 80% of small business owners are not aware of this change. This is a clear indication more needs to be done to communicate the impact this decision could have on their longterm prospects.” 

Gloria Gammo
Co-founder of my proposal co

“With two female business owners leading my proposal co., flexible parental leave is an issue quite important to us. We will struggle to have one owner out of the business for 18 weeks in one block, it would be great to see 18 weeks’ leave staggered over a 12 month period to allow us to juggle both the continuing success of our business as well as being a full-time mother. We think it’s important that superannuation contributions should be enforced at tax time, whether it be 9.5% on 50% of your total sales or a minimum payment annual figure say in year three of your business. We would also like to see the cash economy regulated so that our competitor’s pricing is on par with say our current pricing structure.

“It would also be great to see a simplified business entity that sits somewhere between the current small business structure and a company structure. A structure that allows you to have limited liability like a company but income distribution like a current small business.”

Peter Moriarty
Director, itGenius

“Recently, while reading about the GST witch-hunt of international marketplaces like eBay, Amazon and Alibaba, I couldn’t help but think that our government should be focussing on encouraging international companies to do more business in Australia – not scare them off completely.

“Two other significant multinationals (Google and Apple) have recently reached agreement to comply with local tax laws by bringing part of their operations here, so let’s not scare off additional opportunity to bring more business to the Australian economy through these innovative global marketplaces.”

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is the lead reporter at StartupSmart.

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