Regulatory Roundup – November 2013

Government releases legislation to repeal carbon tax

The government released the carbon tax repeal bills for public comment, and invited businesses to comment on specific details of the repeal process up to November 4, 2013. The federal government said the repeal would be effective come July 1, 2014, and would save households around $550 in the 2014-15 financial year. Some of the key issues highlighted in the bills include:

  • liable businesses and other entities must pay their final carbon tax compliance obligations at the next payment time
  • liable businesses and other entities must pay all carbon tax liabilities incurred up to June 30, 2014 under the carbon pricing mechanism, the fuel tax credits system, excise or excise-equivalent customs duties, or synthetic greenhouse gas levies, and
  • industry assistance provided under the Jobs & Competitiveness Program and the Energy Security Fund will continue in 2013-14.

Fair work Ombudsman warns businesses to immediately heed compliance notices

Employers have been urged to take prompt action when issued with a compliance notice from the Fair Work Ombudsman, requiring them to back-pay under-remunerated employees. The ombudsman identified more than $20 million in underpayments across thousands of Australian businesses every year. In a minority of cases where employers refuse to cooperate, Fair Work inspectors issue a compliance notice demanding action within 28 days. If employers ignore the notice, they could face a penalty of up to $25,500 for companies and $5,100 for individuals, on top of a court order to rectify the underpayment in full.

Changes to business register rules to give privacy back to home-based business owners

A change to the National Business Names Register’s rules, brought in by the new Small Business Minister Bruce Billson, means that home-based business owners will no longer need to supply their home address as they now have the option to register a postal address rather than a physical address. Previously, a business could only address privacy issues by registering their accountant’s address, but this incurred a fee and increased the cost of starting a business.

Small business wants a rethink on scrapping tax breaks

The Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA), the peak body for small businesses, said the promised reversal of tax breaks that were initiated by the previous government is not only disappointing but will potentially damage many small enterprises. The small business lobby has asked the new Treasurer Joe Hockey to abandon plans to scrap several tax breaks and said many of its members are discouraged by the Coalition’s pledge to ditch an instant asset write off as well as the ability for companies to carry back losses incurred during the financial year.

Opposition leader appoints himself as shadow small business minister

Business bodies have commended Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten for taking on the small business portfolio. NSW Business Chamber chief executive Stephen Cartwright said it is a refreshing change in attitude from the Labor party. “When you consider that in the last government, the small business minister seemed to change every six months or so, for Opposition leader Bill Shorten to want to take on that responsibility personally shows he appears to understand the importance of small business to the national economy.”

Report recommends that regulators make small business’s life easier

A study by the Productivity Commission found that small businesses feel the consequences of regulation more than any other type of business. Specifically, it said that more localised government agencies need to ease off on regulatory requirements and recommended that regulators should accurately target businesses that are more likely to present a higher risk to the community – removing unnecessary burdens from lower-risk businesses. This would mean fewer inspections or less onerous reporting requirements, it said.

Government report shows Australians largely negative about future of manufacturing

More than 50% of Australians hold a pessimistic view of the manufacturing sector’s global competitiveness, according to a report by market and social research firm Wallis. The report found that a majority (64%) expect manufacturing to become smaller in the next 10 years and do not think manufacturing jobs are stable and secure (65%). The pessimism is affecting job prospects in manufacturing, as the sector is rated the second least attractive sector to work in after retail – mainly due to poor job security, long hours, shift work, and boring and repetitive tasks.

GST ‘loophole’ has little to do with Australians buying online

Research by consumer group Choice revealed that the campaign by Australian retailers to blame the goods and services tax (GST) threshold for the industry’s poor performance is based more on fiction than reality. Items bought from overseas escape the GST if they cost less than $1,000. The survey found that although many Australians shop online to get the best bargain, their main reasons actually relate more to convenience than price. The top reason given was the ability to shop at a time that suits, followed by the ability to get home delivery.

Western Australia maintains pole position, Tasmania lags behind on every front: CommSec

Western Australia is the top-performing economy in the country with no slippage in ranking over the past three months, according to CommSec’s State of the States Report for October 2013. The ACT maintained its position as the second-best performing economy, with little to separate the Northern Territory, Queensland, NSW and Victoria until a large gap materialised between Victoria and South Australia, and then South Australia and Tasmania. Queensland and Western Australia had faster economic growth rates due to historically faster population growth, but the Northern Territory had the fastest annual economic growth in the nation. Conversely, Tasmania was the only economy where construction work was not higher than decade averages.

SMEs dominate corporate insolvencies

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) said small to medium-sized businesses dominated corporate insolvencies – with 85% having assets of $100,000 or less, 81% with less than 20 employees, and 43% with liabilities of $250,000 or less. According to ASIC’s 2012-13 annual review of corporate insolvencies, the three main causes of company failure on 2012-13 were poor strategic management of business (42%), inadequate cash flow or high cash use (41%) and trading losses (32%) – the same top three causes as 2011-12 and 2010-11.