Funders had an overall positive reaction to the Budget announced by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, which included some policies affecting small businesses.
Osborne pledged to back UK businesses with lower corporation tax, lower small business rates and continued fuel duty freeze.
"This means that small firms are being given a much-needed financial lifeline," says Mark Sismey-Durrant, chief executive officer at Hampshire Trust Bank.
Osborne announced a cut in corporation tax rate to 17% in 2020, benefiting over one million companies, large and small.
Mike Cherry, policy director at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) welcomed this announcement and said it will provide a boost for affected firms.
"The government recognises that business rates represent a higher fixed cost for small businesses and this Budget cuts business rates from next year for half of all properties – 900,000 smaller properties," Osborne says.
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The government will permanently double Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) from 50% to 100% and increase the thresholds to benefit a greater number of businesses. Businesses with a property with a rateable value of £12,000 and below will receive 100% relief. Businesses with a property with a rateable value between £12,000 and £15,000 will receive tapered relief.
Carl D’Ammassa, group managing director of business finance at Aldermore, commented: "The increase of the tax threshold for SMEs announced today provides a much needed boost to more than half a million SMEs right across the country. SMEs continue to be the driver of economic growth, but at a time when the economy faces significant threats, anything that can be done to provide added relief to small businesses is a welcome shot in the arm."
The budget also mentioned a cut in the higher rate of Capital Gains Tax from 28% to 20% and the basic rate from 18% to 10% from April 2016 (except for residential property and carried interest), and extend entrepreneurs’ relief to long term investors in unlisted companies.
"The cut in Capital Gains Tax also provides an added incentive to those seeking to build and grow small businesses across the UK. It is vital that the Government continues to provide support to both existing and growing small businesses but also builds incentives for micro businesses and sole traders to grow their activity in the long-term," said D’Ammassa.
The government said it is supporting SME access to finance, setting out a £1bn package to support SMEs through the British Business Bank.
"The £1 billion package to support SMEs via the British Business Bank is also positive. But without a concerted effort to give firms broader access to business capital, many smaller enterprises will struggle to function at all," said Alex Littner, managing director at Boost Capital.
The Budget also mentioned that SMEs rejected by high-street banks will be able to access other funding options. "The Budget announces that Bizfitech, Funding Options and Funding Xchange will be designated as finance platforms to help match borrowers and alternative lenders. And on 1 April 2016 the government will designate the banks and Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs) that are within scope of the SME credit data regulations. This will ensure CRAs will receive SME credit information from high street banks and provide equal access to this information to all finance providers."
Adam Tavener, chairman of the Alternative Business Funding portal (ABF), said: "It’s pleasing to see the first round of designation has been completed by HM Treasury as this starts the implementation phase of the Bank referral legislation – which has the long-term potential to transform small business funding in the UK.
This intention to designate really fires the starting gun in the process of delivering options and confidence for SMEs looking beyond their existing bank for financial support. As more platforms are added to the list so choice and diversity of offering will grow."
Despite characterising the Budget ‘positive’ for small businesses, Sismey-Durrant expressed a concern that the money saved by SMEs may not be invested.
"We are concerned that smaller businesses may now just sit with more money in their current accounts without investing this cash, due to concerns about a slowing economy. This means that both the Government and financial institutions need to do all they can to help businesses of all sizes to invest in their futures," said Sismey-Durrant.
Mike Francis, head of Investec Asset Finance commented: "Helping UK businesses to grow in the midst of economic challenges and to compete with multinationals is an enormous challenge. Yet several measures emerged in yesterday’s Budget which will make life easier for UK businesses, particularly smaller ones. Notably, Osborne has pledged to back business with a lower corporation tax rate and a big reduction in small business rates.
In my view, these reforms are significant and very welcome. Corporation tax and business rates are often some of the largest bills a company has, and the outlay can be of great impediment to growing businesses. Investec Asset Finance has provided corporation tax funding for many SMEs over the past year, highlighting the very real need for funding support.
Crucially, a reduction in tax and rates, and alternative funding options will help businesses preserve working capital and enable them to invest back into their business. Given that Osborne has also pledged a major overhaul of corporation tax reliefs, however, it is very difficult to know exactly who the winners will be – the details will emerge in the Finance Bill."