Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas delivered his sixth budget on Tuesday, revealing a $23.3 billion deficit in what he called “the most difficult year in living memory”.
The sweeping budget covers job creation, health, innovation, housing, transport and education, and while small businesses have something to gain, CPA Australia’s manager of external affairs Jane Rennie says some SMEs may feel overlooked.
“Businesses may feel somewhat ignored by this budget, although the state government has delivered support to business outside of the budget cycle,” Rennie tells SmartCompany.
“The government has nonetheless delivered a very socially minded budget which will support some of the state’s most vulnerable people,” Rennie says.
Support for business
The budget includes the support already provided to Victorian businesses affected by the pandemic this year, such as the $2.6 billion Business Support Fund, and indicates some support will continue for the rest of the financial year.
Businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million can continue deferring payroll tax for the rest of the 2020-21 financial year, and employers will be able to pay payroll tax annually instead of monthly from July 2021, if their yearly payroll tax liabilities are less than $100,000.
The move is intended to provide $309 million of cashflow support to 7,000 businesses over the next four years, according to the government.
SMEs that re-hire staff, restore hours and create new jobs are set to benefit from a new jobs tax credit, which will run for two years.
Under the scheme, eligible businesses will qualify for a tax credit of 10 cents for every dollar of Victorian taxable wages above previous years.
About $6 million will go towards the Small Business Support Toolkit, which will offer SMEs with high-growth potential masterclasses and coaching in digital innovation.
To encourage business to open or relocate to regional Victoria, the government is also offering a 50% stamp duty concession on commercial and industrial property purchases.
The budget also includes a previously announced voucher program to encourage Victorians to visit regional pubs, hotels and wineries.
Small businesses including sole traders will have access to financial advice and mental health support services under the Business Advisory and Wellbeing Program.
Farming-related small businesses suffering financial hardship will receive free financial counselling as part of the Rural Financial Counselling Service, which is co-funded by the federal government.
This year’s Victorian budget also puts forward a plan to create 200,000 new jobs by 2022, and to then double that figure by 2025.
‘The Jobs Plan’ focuses on those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including women, young people, those aged over 60 and Victorians with experience but without formal qualifications.
A $619 million Jobs for Victoria program will offer $250 million to support businesses through a six‑month wage subsidy targeting young people, retrenched workers and people who have been long‑term unemployed.
About $150 million will support women returning to the workforce with wage subsidies directed towards women over 45.
There will be more funding for apprentices and trainees with a focus on helping women get into the trades.
To help women and families juggle work and care, the government has also allocated $170 million to make kindergarten free next year, and will invest $82 million to increase the availability of before- and after-school care.
The Victorian government will establish a venture capital fund to invest in the state’s startups, as well as continuing to fund LaunchVic, which supports high-potential startups.
About $10 million will go towards a women’s founders fund help female entrepreneurs access startup capital.
Eligible small businesses will be able to access vouchers to build their digital capacity and participate in workshops as part of the Small Business Digital Adaption program.
To drive innovation, the government has allocated $2 billion to Breakthrough Victoria Fund as part of a plan to make Victoria a leader in research and technology.
The Andrews government has also pledged $626 million to improve mobile coverage and broadband access in regional areas under the Digital Future Now fund.
Other notable additions to the budget include a 50% concession on stamp duty on eligible properties for the remainder of the financial year.
The health system will receive $9 billion of funding and transport will also get a boost, with $10 billion allocated for better roads and public transport, and a further $10 billion for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link in 2022.