Budget update: What it means for our clients

The Federal Government released its latest Budget on Tuesday, 25 October with a raft of measures that will impact the wider business community. Here are some of the most important takeaways for business owners across the country.

Biggest takeaways

  • A number of energy grants will help SMEs shift to more energy-efficient solutions in order to battle soaring power bills.
  • The ATO now has more funding and power to take on tax-avoiding businesses.
  • A three-pronged skilled-migrant strategy is intended to reduce the impact of the skills and labour shortage.
  • Business owners will have more support from SME mental health and financial counselling programs.

Energy grants for SMEs

Aside from major financial support for individuals through childcare subsidies, the Budget focused heavily on rising energy prices and adopting more sustainable solutions. Labor announced that a range of grants worth $62.6 million will be available over the next three years, all of which are designed to help SMEs improve their energy efficiency and reduce their overall energy consumption.

With Treasurer Jim Chalmers predicting energy prices will grow by 20% in late 2022 and then soar a further 30% over 2023–24, these grants will empower business owners to invest in more cost-saving, energy-efficient solutions to put downward pressure on utility bills.

Change in wage reporting rules

Large companies will now be required to publicly report their gender pay gap to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). This move is intended to improve transparency and enact real change on this issue.

Furthermore, there will be changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 to provide greater support for women working in low-paid industries to make pay-equity claims.

More funding to quash tax cheats

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has been awarded a sizeable cash injection to help the entity uncover tax cheats – particularly businesses that are operating in the ‘shadow economy’.

The Government expects that business owners who have been skirting the boundaries of tax compliance will come under much greater scrutiny from the ATO, which now has the funding and people-power to take serious action.

Employing skilled migrants

With a global skills and labour shortage impacting numerous industries, the Government is looking further afield to source the right skills that can support the Australian economy and drive future growth. Migration will play an integral role, with a number of key strategies as outlined by business.gov.au.

  • The permanent Migration Program will be expanded to 195,000 in 2022–23 with more than 90% of new places for skilled migrants and targeted to regional areas.
  • Additional funding of $42.2 million will be provided to accelerate visa processing to help reduce the visa backlog and raise awareness of opportunities for high‑skilled migrants in the permanent Migration Program.
  • Student and secondary training visa holders will have their work restrictions relaxed until 30 June 2023 to allow them to work additional hours in any sector.

Support for enterprise bargaining

With the Government keen to further expand rules around enterprise bargaining, the Fair Work Commission will now have greater responsibility to support SMEs who wish to engage with the system.

While the $7.9 million investment over four years is meagre compared to some of the other Budget announcements, this funding will hopefully support small and medium-sized business owners who have previously struggled to navigate the costly – and often complex – enterprise bargaining system.

Mental health support services for small businesses

Small business mental health and financial counselling programs will receive a further $15.1 million in funding from the latest Budget – a much-needed injection in the wake of COVID-19 and recent natural disasters such as the floods.

Both NewAccess for Small Business Owners and the Small Business Debt Helpline will be the main recipients and will continue to support business owners as they navigate challenges beyond their control.

Compliance changes

Finally, a slew of state and territory business grants that were delivered during the early stages of COVID-19 will now be classified as “non-assessable, non-exempt income” for tax purposes.

The former Coalition Government’s allowance for business owners to self-assess the effective life of intangible depreciating assets, unveiled during their 2021–22 Budget, has also been dumped – so make sure you speak to a tax specialist to ensure you are complying with these most recent changes.

Star & Associates will provide further updates as the effects of this latest Budget flow through to the wider business community.

You can also contact us on 1300 308 460 for all your tax planning, accounting and advisory needs.