Federal Budget 2017: what do accountants want?
The Federal Budget is an opportunity for the government to showcase its vision for the future – so what would accountants like to see?
The Pulse asked three accountancy peak bodies what their members wanted to see from the budget.
Their responses were a mix of the practical and the big picture. They also recognised that in recent budgets taxation policy had been addressed while truly big ideas were unlikely to be tackled in this term of government.
In all cases, what they wanted wasn’t so much about taxation as simply to make life easier for small business in Australia. The easier life is for small business, the more of them will exist.
CPA Australia said it was after three broad measures from the budget.
The first was the extension of the $20,000 instant asset write-off scheme.
“That policy was very good for SMEs, and I think there’s a good business case for it to be extended in the very least,” CPA’s Head of Policy, Paul Drum, told The Pulse.
“There was an injection into purchases and claims into businesses in that category, so there was a good economic flow-on.”
Drum also said CPA would like to see the government bring in a unified business structure for small businesses, similar to the S Corp arrangement in the US to avoid costly double-ups.
“If we had an entity in Australia for small business that had some of the features of a company and some of the features of a trust, we might be able to do away with the multiple company trust structures that very small businesses find themselves in,” said Drum.
Finally, the CPA would love to see the conversation on abolishing inefficient state taxes with an increased GST re-opened, but Drum acknowledged this was unlikely.
“Stamp duty in particular is a conversation. There’s an argument going on about first home buyers and what should be done about negative gearing, but one of the biggest costs in buying a house is stamp duty which isn’t deductable,” he said.
“It’s just a dead-weight tax you pay because property transferred from one owner to another.”
Chartered Accountants’ (CA) wishlist was all about efficiency and support.
It told The Pulse that one of the main things it was after was making sure startups and small businesses were supported in the early phase of their growth – which could save a lot of headaches later.
“Small businesses need start-up assistance to better manage cash flow. That assistance could be provided through vouchers for accredited professional assistance during the start-up phase,” it said.
It also said that capital gains tax and the PAYG instalment system needed to be looked at to make sure they were running as smoothly as possible.
CA also pointed to small business tax concessions and simplifying Fringe Benefits Tax as something which should be looked at in the Federal Budget.
CA suggested the government should embrace big-picture thinking while looking at the small stuff.
Key policy decisions could be forecast over a decade rather than the standard four years, while also calling for the government to “initiate a public debate on the appropriate size and role of government”.
Institute of Public Accountants (IPA)
The IPA’s Head of Technical Analysis, Tony Greco, told The Pulse that the body recognised the government had done a lot of good work for small business in recent budgets.
There were still a few key things it could do.
“I think people have forgotten that the instant tax write-off for assets under $20,000 isn’t set in stone,” he said.
“What we’re asking for that is to extend the opportunity beyond the 30th of June this year.
“It’s at the top of our list at the moment.”
He said the IPA would also like to see some concrete action to get bigger businesses to pay smaller business on time.
“It’s been well documented that small businesses are the ones who wait the longest. The government doing something about its own government departments is a start,” said Greco.
“It’s now a case of big business following suit.”
Meanwhile, Greco said the government could boost the economy if it made the process of hiring new staff easier.
“Taking on new employees is quite horrendous. The rigmarole you face is a pain in the proverbial which is why people choose not to hire in a lot of cases.”