22nd March 2012
However, there was already a slice of good news before the Budget. This was the introduction of a new bank lending scheme.
Under the £20bn National Loan Guarantee Scheme (NLGS), SMEs will be able to access loans with interest rates one percentage point lower than those available outside the initiative.
But it also emerged that some banks are setting a minimum floor of £25,000 for loans available through the scheme, cutting out access for many minnow firms.
There are a few changes that could greatly impact on the UK's small and medium-sized enterprises – which will be welcome in a harsh business environment.
After all, access to financing continues to be one of the most significant challenges for the creation, survival and growth of SMEs in particular.
And, of course, this is exacerbated by the financial and economic crisis as SMEs – and entrepreneurs have suffered a double shock: a drastic drop in demand for goods and services alongside difficult credit conditions.
But as SMEs are vital for the future growth of the economy, it's important that they're offered a lifeline.
When we spoke to Julie Meyer, online "dragon" for the BBC's Dragons' Den, chief executive of the investment firm Ariadne Capital, and a member of the Entrepreneurs' Forum, a few months' ago, and she said – "Building the economy means growing SMEs and providing the right environment for this to happen.
"We should be creating a positive tax environment – we could be making tax concessions/ benefits for SMEs and the employees who work for them. We should do that and force the lending targets for banks – particularly the ones that we own – as I am skeptical that this is being done. We should also grow content, IT, media companies – the rest of the vertical industries that the UK is strong in."
It appears this is starting to happen – Tax Simplifications
One of the biggest changes for small firms in the Budget is how they have to calculate their tax payments.
From April 2013, companies with sales of up to £77,000 per year will be allowed to change their accounting from the established accrual method to a cash basis.
This means that firms will only have to pay tax on the amount of money they have actually received, rather than total orders, as under the current accrual-based system. Fortunately, this will end their having to pay tax on received orders for which they have yet to be paid.
If successful, the Treasury will consider expanding the change to firms with sales of up to £150,000 per year. Under this, it estimates more than three million firms being able to benefit.
Yet while it will make life much easier for small firms, and in many cases remove an unwanted financial pressure, some commentators have warned that it will make tax evasion far easier.
George Osborne also confirmed that the government is to move ahead with plans to integrate income tax and national insurance, first announced in last year's Budget, so firms do not have to run two different payroll tax systems.
Small firms which have patented a product will be able to benefit from the ‘Patent Box'. This will come into effect from April 2013, and is essentially a reduced level of corporation tax on profits attributed to patents and similar types of intellectual property.
As confirmed by the chancellor, it will introduce a lower rate of 10%.
Sectors likely to benefit most include pharmaceuticals and the software industry.
Another announcement from the chancellor was his decision to speed up the drop in the basic rate of corporation tax – the taxation that firms have to pay on their profits.
The basic rate will now fall to 24% next month, down from the current 26%. However, this change does not effect particularly small firms, as those with profits not exceeding £300,000 a year already only have to pay 20%.
Young entrepreneurs were given a boost in the Budget by the announcement of a new loan initiative.
There will be a one-year pilot scheme, launched by March 2013, where up to 7,000 young people aged between 18 and 24 will be able to apply to borrow between £5,000 and £10,000 to back their business idea. The Prince's Trust is one name suggested as a third party to administer the scheme.
It is not yet known what rates of interest will be charged on the loans, but if the scheme is successful, the government says it wants to introduce it permanently.
So what were the disappointments?
Perhaps the biggest Budget disappointment for small firms was that George Osborne did not announce any reduction in business rates – the tax firms have to pay on their property.
Instead, business rates will go up by 5.6% from next month, as had previously been announced, and many small firms have complained that
this rise will hit them hard.
The Budget also offered no reprieve for small firms struggling with the high price of petrol and diesel. Instead, fuel duty will continue to go up by 3p in August.
More on Mindful Money
To receive our free email newsletter sign up here.