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07 July 2020

Viability voucher program proposed to assist cash-strapped small businesses

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell is backing the nation’s peak accounting bodies which have today called on the Government to provide small businesses with better access to financial advice through a voucher system.

CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia and NZ have issued a joint statement requesting a government-funded voucher system to ensure small businesses can access urgently needed professional advice on their viability once stimulus measures end in September.

The proposal is in line with ASBFEO’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan, which recommends a small business viability voucher program.

“Small businesses have endured some of the toughest trading conditions we’ve ever seen in Australia over the past few months,” Ms Carnell says.

“ABS data tells us 900,000 businesses are getting JobKeeper payments and about 690,000 businesses have received emergency cash flow assistance, while 38% of businesses still trading have renegotiated their rent arrangements.

“Two thirds of businesses were still reporting reduced revenue in June. Of those about a third were reporting revenue losses of 50% or more.

“Small businesses with cash flow issues, compounded by falling revenue, may find getting the professional financial advice they need unaffordable. The ramifications of this could be devastating, both for the business and its owner and family, down the line.

“That’s why our COVID-19 Recovery Plan recommends the establishment of a small business viability voucher program, where small business owners facing financial stress can obtain a voucher valued up to $5,000  to access tailored advice on how and whether to turn around their business.

“Under the program, a business owner (or their accountant) would apply for the voucher with services provided by a relevant accredited professional.

“This would ensure small businesses have access to expertise in judging business viability, so they can make an informed decision about whether to turn their business around or exit.

“The advisor would be paid directly by the government to the accredited professional up to the value of the voucher.

“Ultimately, we want to see as many small businesses come out the other side of this difficult period as possible – getting a tailored business plan is critical to their survival.”