Greater emphasis on eradicating tax avoidance/evasion, improved education and greater infrastructure investment called for by small and medium sized businesses
Small and medium sized companies (“SMEs”) believe they are shouldering an unfair proportion of corporate taxes and Government is not doing enough to clamp down on corporate tax avoidance/evasion schemes, according to the latest Business Environment/OnePoll conducted in the last fortnight before the General Election.
SMEs employ more than 15 million people and generate a turnover of approximately £1.6 trillion annually, according to the latest Federation of Small Businesses statistics. As such it is the UK’s largest single employment sector.
A survey of 1,000 SME owners and senior managers discovered that more than 50% of respondents believed that lower Corporation Tax would help this business sector grow over the next five years. 56% of polled SMEs also believed that the next Government should create a better tax environment, including lower National Insurance contributions, if the sector is to flourish over the life of the next Parliament.
In addition the survey revealed that SMEs are calling for greater infrastructure investment and an improved education system that focuses on improving the achievement levels of the lower performers.
Not unnaturally, the poll reflected the sector’s concerns over the growing amount of “red tape” particularly in Health & Safety where they believe Risk Assessment bureaucracy is out of control. Typically respondents cite examples of having to produce Risk Assessments on things like Chewing a Biro and using a Sticking Plaster as being time wasteful and costly to implement.
Interestingly, Small and Medium Sized businesses were less concerned about two key election issues: the EU and immigration. Only a quarter of respondents believed that less interference from the EU would improve the business environment while only 13% called for less immigration. At the same time 45% of those polled felt that immigration had a positive impact on their business and the economy.
However at the straightforward political level almost 42% of respondents believed that the Conservatives would be best for small businesses while only 28% felt Labour is beneficial for the sector. None of the other parties featured highly in this area although almost four out of ten believed that UKIP is the worst party for small businesses.
At the same time the poll showed SMEs were divided over the prospects of a coalition Government with 28% stating that a Labour/Lib Dem coalition would be good for small businesses. This compared with less than 23% who felt a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition would benefit SMEs. While a third regarded a Labour/SNP coalition as providing the worst prospects for the sector.
David Saul, Managing Director of Business Environment, a leading London and South-East based provider of flexible business space aimed at the SME sector, said: “There is a tendency by politicians of all colours to forget that SMEs represent a huge proportion of UK business, as well as being the largest single employment sector, and I think that no one party is making an impact with this key element of the electorate.
“What is clear from our survey is that small businesses feel a greater proportion of the corporate tax burden falls on their shoulders and that Government is not doing enough to ensure large companies pay their fair share of tax. It also shows that both the EU and immigration are not regarded as priority issues by this sector.”