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Budget 2016: Employment a key battleground for small business

It’s hard to disagree that the 2015 budget wasn’t a cash cow for small business.

Across Australia some two million businesses cashed in on $5.5 billion in tax breaks as the government attempted to stoke the home fires of the economy.

The key prize allowed small business to claim basically any item needed for the business valued at less than $20,000 each – from cars to machinery to computers.

What’s more, around a third of Australian small businesses got 1.5 per cent knocked off their tax, with the rate lowered from 30 per cent to 28.5 per cent.

The real rub for the year ahead though ahead could lie within employment incentives.

Last year, the government threw $19 million at the problem of unemployment.

Employers willing to take on a previously unemployed jobseeker, stand to gain a wage subsidy with flexible payment arrangements.

The $1.2 billion national wide subsidy pool launched in November, freeing up $6,500 cash payments to employers who hire an eligible jobseeker. This includes people under 30, Indigenous job seekers, parents returning to work, long-term unemployed, and mature workers over 50.

The promise was that employers would be able to access wage subsidies from the time a person started the job, to soften the blow of upfront costs related to hiring and training staff.

But based on the latest figures, the raft of measures aimed at incentivising employers to take on unemployed job seekers doesn’t appear to have made a dent.

It’s true that the unemployment rate has fallen – now sitting at 5.7 per cent – but overall it’s part-time jobs that have increased, while full-time roles have markedly fallen.

So what does this say for small business?

It’s hard to imagine that so soon into a new employment-bolstering measure the government would backflip on these key incentives. That said, it is high time small businesses looking to recruit new staff capitalise on a wage subsidy that won’t be there forever.

While speculation is rife around what the 2016 budget will contain, the government has closely guarded what will be a very interesting budget especially for small business when it’s announced on May 3. For now, a one-stop shop on all things wage-subsidy can be found here.

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