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Australia's carbon tax is weeks away. Two in five SMEs are still in the dark on what it means for them.

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Software provider MYOB has released several recent findings on SME dissatisfaction with the Government, but here’s one that has particular resonance. Nearly half of all Australian small-to-medium business operators have said they don’t understand the full implications of the Government’s new carbon tax on their business.

Of the 1,043 SMEs surveyed, 42% admitted that they did not understand the significance of the carbon tax well enough. Overall, 54% of respondents claimed they did understand the implications (17% ‘very well’ and 37% ‘quite well’), while the remaining 4% didn’t know.

Opposition to carbon emissions pricing has grown more vocal as its enactment in July approaches, but that hasn’t necessarily translated into a fuller understanding among business owners.

The survey also revealed some noticeable gaps according to industry and sex. Women business owners were more likely than men to not know the implications, 51% to 36%. Businesses in finance and insurance were least likely to be uninformed (34%), while those in the construction/trade and agriculture/forestry/fishing industries were most likely (51%).

Asked if they thought the impact of the tax on their operations would be positive or negative, only 11% of respondents said it would be positive while 50% said negative. A full third of respondents said the tax would have no impact, with 5% unsure.

It’s not too late to get a clue…

The MYOB Business Monitor for the study was conducted in March, so the number of uninformed businesses may have dropped somewhat. Still, Tim Reed, CEO of MYOB, wants to provide SMEs with a ‘toolkit’ to help enlighten them on the possible costs and benefits of the Government’s new pricing scheme.

“This is a major piece of legislation that will have a lasting effect on all business owners,” said Reed of the carbon pricing legislation, which passed through Parliament in November and will take effect 1 July. “What many don’t realise is that the carbon tax could very well be a positive experience for those who take action now to research, plan ahead, health-check their business fundamentals and capitalise on the opportunities.”

Reed added: “Business owners must recognise that although the carbon tax will have flow-on effects to goods and services they need, there are practical steps that can be taken now to minimise the impact.”

Among MYOB’s recommendations are to pinpoint energy-intensive costs that will be affected by price rises and lock-in to contracts with suppliers at present pre-carbon-tax rates.

The full toolkit for SMEs can be found here.

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