The carbon tax: What your business must know

feature-carbon-tax-thumbThe carbon tax has been a contentious issue in the Australian business community since the Federal Government announced shortly after the last election that it will come into effect on July 1 this year.


But regardless of how you feel about the tax, with less than two weeks until its launch you need to be ready for it. According to a recent MYOB survey, 42% of SMEs still don’t have a good grasp of how the tax could affect them.


“This is a major piece of legislation that will have a lasting effect on all business owners,” MYOB chief executive Tim Reed says.


“What many don’t realise is that the carbon tax could very well be a positive experience for those who take action now.”


“Business owners must recognise that although the carbon tax will have flow-on effects to goods and services they need, there are practical steps that can be taken now to minimise the impact.”


Michael Schaper, deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, says it’s still unclear what kind of impact the carbon tax will have on small businesses.


“Because you don’t know what the impact will be, it might be an idea to sit back and see what flows through before you make a decision,” Schaper says.


“For a lot of business owners, maybe wait and see what impact it has on your bottom line… Be calm and carry on.”


Greg Evans, director of economics and industry policy at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, agrees it will be difficult for businesses to predict the impact of the carbon tax.


“The industry impact with regard to many of the inputs they purchase will be difficult to ascertain. This will only be clear over time,” Evans says.


“Every business will also be different in terms of their energy intensity… To predict the impact on a business depends on what the business is and the supply chain of that business.”


“The next difficulty is the extent to which they’ll be able to pass on any carbon-related price increases, which depends on what their competitive position is.”


While you should follow Schaper’s advice and remain calm, it’s important to do some research.


Here are the main things start-ups need to know about the carbon tax:


1. Facts and figures


As part of the government’s Clean Energy Future Plan, the carbon tax will be introduced on July 1. Only 294 of Australia’s largest polluters will be required to pay a price on carbon, fewer than the 500 initially earmarked for the scheme.


The carbon price will start at $23 per tonne of carbon emissions. It will increase by 2.5% on July 1, 2013 and again on July 1, 2014.


From July 1, 2015, the carbon price mechanism will move to an emissions trading scheme, where the price will be flexible, and will rise and fall depending on market fluctuations.


Although the carbon price is not a direct tax on households or smaller businesses, there will be indirect impacts to consider.


The government intends to reduce these impacts through a range of tax changes, offsets and business support.


For example, 50% of the money generated from the carbon tax will compensate households for any increase in the cost of living, via tax cuts or increases to family benefits or social security.


The rest will be reinvested into clean energy technology and renewable energy projects.


Offshoot development funds will also be set up to focus on biodiversity, low carbon agriculture, small business grants and indigenous communities.


2. Key impacts for business owners


Most businesses will not be required to directly pay a carbon price. As such, most business operators are not required to undertake any compliance activity, such as counting or monitoring their carbon pollution or electricity use.


They will not have additional paperwork or forms to complete as a result of the carbon tax.


The government has also committed $240 million over the next three years to help businesses improve their energy efficiency, lower their costs, and grow their business sustainably.


Although most businesses won’t directly pay a carbon price, it will have a flow-on effect to a number of goods and services such as fuel, electricity, business travel, freight and waste removal.


Although much has been made about the negative impact the tax will have on businesses, recent research has pointed to the numerous benefits it will bring start-ups in the future, not least for those able to access the $10 billion clean energy fund that comes as part of the package.


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