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Was the Autumn Statement good news for British SMEs?

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From the rolling out of a digital tax platform to the introduction of an apprenticeship levy, Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement contained plenty of revelations that will impact British SMEs. Is the next fiscal year looking good?

The positives

The chancellor’s pledge to invest seven billion into the construction industry will be sweet music to small building firms. Likewise, businesses across the board will be pleased to learn of plans for a digital system that allows SMEs to view crucial tax-related information in real time.

The government's small business rate relief initiative has also been extended for another 12 months; firms that fall under this scheme won’t be liable for business rates on premises worth up to £6,000. Other important rates-related news featured during Mr. Osborne's passage on devolution, in which he announced that the government will create 18 new low-tax 'enterprise zones' in an effort to tackle England's infamous North-South split.

The negatives

While the Autumn Statement gave SME owners a fair bit to smile about, there were plenty of downsides to mull over too. Business groups have voiced concerns over the impending apprenticeship levy, for instance, which could account for half a per cent of some companies’ wage bills from April 2017. Carolyn Fairbairn, the Confederation of British Industry’s Director-General, described the levy as a “significant extra payroll tax” that “will now catch more smaller firms.”

However, the worst parts of the Statement for SMEs didn’t stem from what the chancellor said, but from what he didn't. Despite the fact that late payments cost small outfits £26 million during the past year, Mr. Osborne did not indicate any intention to appoint a Small Business Commissioner. A rumoured 12 month extension of the Bank of England's Funding for Lending scheme was also conspicuously absent – quite a surprise in light of the Chancellor's acknowledgement that this step would “support improvements in SME credit conditions.”

Given these omissions from the Autumn Statement, small businesses will continue to find themselves dogged by tardy suppliers and uncertain liquidity. There's no need to go it alone, however, as debt recovery experts such as Dukes Bailiffs can help to recover late payments efficiently without damaging supplier relationships. If you work for an SME and are worried about your future after the Autumn Statement, contact one our Debt Advisors today.

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