Cashflow

Payment inquiry extended: SMEs fear revenge if they name and shame late payment offenders

Matthew Elmas /

Michaelia Cash

Small and Family Business Minister Michaelia Cash. Source: AAP/Mick Tsikas.

An inquiry into the late payment of invoices and its effect on small business cashflow will be extended after an outpouring of responses from the SME community.

Announced last week, Australian small business and family enterprise ombudsman Kate Carnell is currently running a microscope over late invoice payments.

The ombudsman was originally due to report findings to Small and Family Business Minister Michaelia Cash today but has been granted an extension after 500 businesses responded to the survey in just four days.

The deadline for the survey is now Friday, November 30, while the reporting deadline has moved to December 7.

Initial findings from the survey reveal that while Carnell has encouraged the naming and shaming of big business late payers, many respondents are reluctant to do so for fear of retribution or to comply with non-disclosure agreements.

Late payment times remain a significant issue for small businesses in Australia, particularly in relation to cashflow concerns.

Illion data from August shows the average payment time across the Australian economy is 36.74 days, but this likely masks the extent of the problem for SMEs.

In a letter to Carnell sent on Monday, Cash said she wanted to allow the ombudsman time to verify terms and conditions with big business.

It is understood Carnell’s final report will provide larger firms with an opportunity to self-report on their own payment practices.

“I always expected that small business would respond to this call quickly and enthusiastically, it mirrors the feedback I have received when travelling around Australia talking to business owners, but the response has been unprecedented,” Cash said on Monday.

Last week Carnell told SmartCompany payment times were still “dreadful” despite efforts by the Business Council of Australia to set an industry standard for payment within 30 days.

Cashflow issues were the primary reason small businesses went broke in 2017-18, according to ASIC data released last week.

Other issues being examined by Carnell’s inquiry include the seeking of discounts for on-time payments and offering loans to cover extended terms.

Businesses are being asked to contribute their views to an anonymous survey, available here.

NOW READ: Six steps to managing your cashflow – in good times and bad

NOW READ: Mastering the basics of cashflow: Six tips for keeping your business on track

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany.

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