More than a third of small businesses believe Australia’s economy has worsened in the last six months, new research shows, while less than a quarter are unaware of a new tax write-off.
The findings come from independent research, commissioned by Telstra Business and the Council of Small Business of Australia, to gauge issues of importance to small businesses.
The Telstra SMB survey, conducted by Stollznow Research, includes the owners of 321 Australian businesses, from the self-employed to those with 200 staff.
The survey reveals small businesses are becoming increasingly concerned about the state of the national economy, and less satisfied with the performance of the major political parties.
The number of small businesses that believe the Australian economy has worsened in the last six months is 35%, an increase of 13% from six months ago.
As a business priority, adding new customers in the next year has slumped from 72% to 66%, a fall of 6% in 12 months.
With regard to politics, the Labor Government scored an approval rating of 38 points out of 100, according to the survey, while confidence in the Opposition has fallen one point to 46.
Approval for the Greens was at 43%, while the independents scored 40%.
Meanwhile, only 24% of the survey respondents are aware of Labor’s announcement last year to instantly write off the first $5,000 of outlay on any capital asset, starting from July.
“With cost pressures such a concern to small business, it’s surprising so many are unaware of a tax write-off that could provide a real stimulus,” COSBOA executive director Peter Strong says.
“The government needs to do more to sell its initiatives, while the low approval rating for all MPs shows they could be doing more to focus on the needs of small business.”
While there are problems at home, the survey respondents identified the European debt crisis as the biggest issue they would face in the next 12 months.
More than a quarter (27%) nominated it as the key issue of concern, ahead of the carbon tax at 24%.
While 73% of survey respondents were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the carbon tax, 26% said they were not.
Tax reform was identified as the biggest area for improvement, in addition to climate change, superannuation, infrastructure and industrial relations.
Strong believes the appointment of a Federal Small Business Commissioner would help the government better communicate with the small business sector and also assist MPs.
“I have had many MPs ask how to communicate more effectively with the small business people,” Strong says.
“A commissioner will assist the government, the bureaucracy and the elected members achieve that outcome.”