Small Business Minister Mark Arbib identifies rents and payroll tax as top SME concerns

Newly-appointed Small Business Minister Mark Arbib has downplayed the level of concern among small businesses over the carbon tax, identifying rents and payroll tax as more important.


According to Arbib, who is also Assistant Treasurer, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and the Minister for Sport, the carbon tax is “not top of mind for most small businesses”.


“The bigger issue for them is looking at some of their fixed costs,” Arbib told SmartCompany.


“Issues around rent are something that gets raised with me often. State payroll tax is something that’s constantly raised.”


Arbib said he plans to explore the idea of eliminating state taxes, flagged during last year’s tax forum, and hopes to reduce the obstacles for small business in procuring government contracts.


He will also consider the Franchise Council’s call for a small business assistance program, which would let emerging companies use the Federal Government guarantee when seeking funding.


Arbib’s comments come on the back of ANZ’s latest Small Business Sales Trends report, which shows sales increased by 3.3% year-on-year in December.


This is the eighth consecutive month of positive annual growth in sales for small businesses, driven by growth in the mining states as well as the non-retail and services sectors.


Non-retail and services continue to outperform traditional retailers, with automotive and trades the best performers in December (increasing 8.2% and 6.4% year-on-year respectively).


Among the retail-related small businesses, restaurants retain the best growth rates, rising 10% year-on-year in December 2011, following an 11.8% year-on-year rise in December 2010.


Not surprisingly, boom state WA continues to surge ahead of the others, recording 4.9% year-on-year sales growth in December.


Nick Reade, ANZ general manager of small business, says the December figures reflect a “reasonable” Christmas trading period overall.


“A better than initially expected Christmas period was also seen in general by retail-related small businesses, with sales growth of 1.8% year-on-year,” Reade says.


“The year-to-date growth figure of just 1.9% is still a concern, however, and remains consistent with generally subdued market conditions.”


“The divergence in performance between Western Australia and the less mining-intensive states and territories is also becoming more apparent.”


Reade says small businesses sales are “a very mixed story”, with wide gaps across states and between certain segments, particularly between retail versus trades and services.


“While retail sales on the whole were positive, clothing and fashion, and appliances and electrical, had negative year-on-year growth,” he says.


“This sustained gap… could be due to a complex mix of factors, including changing consumer preferences and an increased range of direct competitors via rapid growth of online shopping.”


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