Zali Steggall MP asks treasurer about small business support

7 September 2023


Small businesses make up 97.5 per cent of businesses in Australia and they are facing a perfect storm of impossible cashflow situations, with high interest rates and increased levels of debt from COVID, delayed rents now falling due and also rising. Add to this high energy prices, supply and staff shortages and a downturn in consumer confidence and spending and many are facing closure. What additional measures will the government consider including delaying ATO reporting requirements to assist them through this difficult period? I give the call to the Treasurer.

Thank you to the member for Warringah for her question and also for the opportunity to speak with her about some of these issues in recent days. We do know that Australian small businesses are doing it tough. I agree with you. This is because, as you rightly identify, the inflationary pressures that they are under and the ongoing impact of higher interest rates as well. While we know that the vast majority of Australian businesses meet their obligations, we do understand that for different reasons, some are struggling to do that. There was a pause on collections during COVID and this year the ATO has increased its engagement to try and help businesses catch up on their tax and superannuation obligations. We do understand that this can be difficult. It does ensure that businesses that don't meet their tax obligations, don't get an unfair advantage over those that do follow the rules. The ATO does provide support to businesses who need help, meeting their tax obligations, including payment plans, there are a number of steps that they can take to help businesses stay on top of their obligations, SMS messages, myGov, phone calls, overdue letters and the like. If a small business is struggling, whether it is in the member for Warringah's area or any of the communities represented here in this house, I encourage them to reach out to the ATO as soon as possible to discuss what payment options might be available. The ATO is willing to work with businesses to help them meet their obligations but in order for that to happen, we need the small business to reach out to the ATO. They will always try and work with people who are genuinely trying to meet their obligations. The member for Warringah asks me about new measures to support small business and here I pay tribute to the Small Business Minister for the new measures that we are funding in recognition of the difficult circumstances that small businesses face. Whether it is the small business energy incentive, the targeted energy bill relief that those opposite voted against in this place, whether it is the instant asset write-off, the industry growth plan and the Industry Minister's portfolio, the cyber wardens and this comes on top of the support we are providing already, digital solutions, changing the Commonwealth procurement rules to favour small businesses, help with unfair contract terms, making sure small businesses are paid on time, the work we are doing on the franchising sector, all of this is in recognition of the genuine pressures that small businesses, in particular, are under. We are grateful for the representation of the member for Warringah. We encourage small businesses to reach out if they need help, as the ATO continues its important work