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  • Small business engagement research 2017

    The following information outlines the small business engagement research for 2017. You can also download in a PDF version Small business engagement research 2017 (PDF 1.6MB).

    Disclaimer: Please note that the data contained in this report has been prepared for the specific purpose of addressing the items contained in the project contract between Ipsos/Winangali and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). It may not be suitable for other applications. Ipsos/Winangali accepts no responsibility for unauthorised use of this data by a third party.

    1. Executive summary

    Small business play an important role in the Australian economy, with 3.2 million small businesses employing 5.5 million Australians. Small businesses also make up 99 per cent of all Australian businesses and contribute more than $380 billion to the economy.Footnote1

    Due to the importance of small business – as well as the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO’s) own efforts at adopting a more client-centric approach – the ATO requires ongoing research to continue to develop and improve its product and service offerings to small business. The ATO aims to offer small business the help they need with their tax and superannuation in ways and formats they find most convenient.

    Winangali and Ipsos were commissioned by the ATO to conduct research to:

    • track levels of engagement satisfaction between small business and the ATO
    • understand the most effective ways to engage small business using their natural business systems
    • explore the relationship and engagement between small businesses and their tax professionals and business advisors
    • offer the ATO insights into small business engagement strategies and services.

    The research was comprised of:

    • qualitative research:
      • three (3) focus groups and nineteen (19) in-depth interviews with small businesses across Australia (including n=2 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) owners)
      • six (6) in-depth interviews with tax professionals
      • conducted in February 2017
       
    • quantitative research:
      • n=800 telephone interviews with small businesses (including 32 ATSI businesses)
      • n=120 telephone interviews with tax agents who specialise in small business from across Australia.
      • conducted in May 2017
       

    Summary of key findings

    1. Small businesses vary when and where they seek advice and information when starting and running their business

    Three in four small businesses (75%) report that they first started thinking about their business tax requirements prior to or just following their launch. A number of small businesses (13%) stated they first started thinking about their business tax requirements after their tax professional mentioned it, underlining the high level of influence tax professionals have on small businesses to ensure early engagement.

    There is significant variation in where small businesses are seeking advice or information on their business administration systems when starting their current business. Around half (51%) are seeking advice or information from one or more formal sources (eg tax professionals or business and industry associations). A further 49% are seeking advice or information from one or more informal sources (eg previous experience, friends, family, google, online forums, other businesses, business partner or a mentor). While 16% claim they did not seek advice or information from anyone, this is statistically significantly fewer than in 2015 (28%). The current research was unable to identify what may have caused this shift. There is also variation in the number of different sources used, with 62% using a single source only, and 37% using two or more sources.

    Accountants were statistically significantly more likely to be the first point of contact for all business advice compared to two years ago (39% in 2017 and 25% in 2015) when starting a small business. The current research was unable to identify what may have caused this change. Accountants are also the first source for tax advice (76%). Slightly over one in ten (12%) small businesses also sought information from business or industry associations, highlighting the opportunity of working with these third parties to encourage early positive engagement remains strong.

    Figure 1: Sources of information and advice when commencing business (%)

    Figure 1. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QB4 Thinking about when you first started your current business, where did you go for advice or information on these issues? by Year Respondents could choose multiple answers. Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017). Chart may not add to 100% due to multiple responses.
    See full data table for figure 1

    Confidence in management of business tax requirements

    Almost three quarters of small business owners (71%) are confident about their management of their tax and super requirements. Small business owners who are confident are statistically significantly more likely to use a tax professional (82%) than to do their own tax (18%). It appears that use of tax professionals offers small businesses a level of peace of mind regarding their business tax requirements, and is an important driver in their use.

    Only 28% of small businesses think they have systems that are efficient and effective, while a further 44% think their systems work, but could be improved, indicating that levels of tax confidence are not related to the perceived effectiveness of their business systems.

    There is a relationship between the length of time spent in business and levels of confidence, as business owners with more experience were more familiar with their tax and super requirements and therefore more confident with compliance activities. This highlights the importance of assisting small businesses in the start-up phase to help them setup their systems well in this critical phase of their business.

    The qualitative research indicates that, while many small businesses intuitively believe their systems could be improved, they struggle with finding the time/motivation to make these improvements. This is typically expressed as being ‘busy doing the business, not building or improving the business.’

    Figure 2: How do small business fulfil their business tax and super requirements (%)

    Figure 2. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QB6 How confident are you in managing your business tax requirements? Base n = 800 (2015)/800 (2017).
    See full data table for figure 2

    2. Tax professionals continue to play an important role in supporting small business and remain the preferred source of tax and super information and advice

    Tax professionals remain the key authority for the majority of small businesses around tax and super affairs, with their ability to provide tailored guidance and information, and around three quarters of small businesses using them reliant or extremely reliant on them to manage their tax and super. Those who are not confident in their business tax requirements (11%) are statistically significantly more likely to say they are reliant or extremely reliant on their tax professional (87%). The qualitative research reflected this with outsourcing the management of tax and super requirements to a tax professional helping assure small businesses this area is being looked after.

    While digital systems can make basic bookkeeping easier, tax professionals are still perceived as highly valuable and beneficial by small business for their:

    • tax knowledge and expertise (61%), and
    • ability to help small businesses meet their obligations and do the right thing (51%).

    Small business perceptions of the value of tax professionals do not currently appear to encompass the more general business advice they can provide.

    Accountants are the most used commonly used tax professional, with 95% of small businesses who pay for help with their tax and super accessing them. Additionally, 76% of small businesses cite accountants as the first place they went to when seeking business tax advice or information, with a further 12% as the second place.

    Almost a third (37%) of small businesses who use a tax professional are interacting with them at least once every three months, with a further third interacting more frequently (12% weekly and 23% monthly). This indicates contact between the majority of small business and their tax professional is regular, and not only happening around income tax time.

    The preference for seeking advice from tax professionals remains driven by very positive perceptions of them, as trusted, reliable, capable, knowledgeable, approachable and honest.

    There is a small group of small businesses in 2017 across all business life stages (16%) who stated they do all of their tax and super themselves. This varies from ATO data, which shows that in 2016-17, 92% of small businesses lodged their income tax returns through a tax agentFootnote2. There appears to be a slight bias in the sample towards self prepares, which should be noted when interpreting some results. Small businesses who stated they do all of their tax and super themselves were statistically significantly more likely to agree they are the kind of person who will proactively seek out all the information they need about tax (52%), and to have contacted the ATO specifically about their tax return in the last year (25%). Additionally, of those small businesses who said they went to an accountant when first seeking out business tax advice (76% of total sample), 11% now report that they do all their own tax.

    Figure 3: Sources of information or advice about business tax requirements (%)

    Pie chart and bar chart showing the majority of participants seeking professional advice for business information.

    QB8. Have you ever sought advice or looked for information about business tax requirements Base n=800 (2017). Single Response.
    QB9a.When you were looking for this business tax advice or information, where did you go first? Base n= 588 (2015)/663 (2017). Single response.
    QB9b. Anywhere else? Base n= 588 (2015)/663 (2017). Multiple response. Chart may not add to 100% due to multiple responses.

    Among the general small business audience the ATO is still not top of mind for business tax advice and small businesses are much more inclined to engage with the ATO for transactional reasons only. There remain many small businesses that have not interacted with the ATO in the last year (18% in 2017 and 22% in 2015) or at all (9% in 2017 and 8% in 2015). The level of engagement with tax professionals is greater than the level of engagement with the ATO on almost all tax-related issues. Of those who are not interacting with the ATO, 91% of them use a professional tax advisor for some or all of their tax and super affairs. The primary reasons for interaction with the ATO also tends to be transactional in nature, in particular BAS (31%), annual tax returns (16%) and tax payments (12%).

    Most small businesses appear as engaged with their tax professionals and/or the ATO to the extent that it meets their immediate and obvious needs. The qualitative findings suggest small businesses have somewhat transactional and reactive mindsets in regards to their tax and super affairs – as opposed to proactive mindsets that could lead to overall tax system improvements.

    3. Tax agents see themselves as playing an important role in supporting small business and their preferred source of information and advice

    Tax agents’ experiences and interactions with their small business client base reinforce that small business owners are time poor and many have neither the time or the inclination to learn the detail of tax and super, or the desire to manage them. Small businesses perceptions of tax professionals as experts in their field and trusted advisors that can help them navigate through the world of tax and super effectively is supported by tax professionals themselves.

    Figure 4: Reasons tax agents think small business come to them (%)

    Figure 4. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QC1. Which of the following reasons do you think small business clients come to you for business management or tax and super? Base n=120. Respondents could choose multiple answers.
    See full data table for figure 4

    There is some discrepancy between the perceptions held by tax agents and small businesses about how frequently they interact, with 95% of tax agents stating they interact with their small business clients at least quarterly compared to 72% of small businesses who use a tax professional saying they do. The majority of tax agents monitor of their interactions with a small business as part of their charge for service model, so their perception is likely based on their practice records.

    Figure 5: Perceptions of frequency of interactions (%)

    Figure 5. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QC5a. How regularly would you interact with your typical small business client? Examples of interactions could be email or telephone call - any way in which you communicate with one another Base n=120, and
    QC1a. Apart from the lead up to tax time how regularly do you think you interact with your [tax professional, SC13]? Base n=674 (2017)
    See:
    Full data table for tax professionals response
    Full data table for small business response

    Both small businesses and tax agents perceive that similar regulatory activities define their interactions with each other. For example, 74% of small businesses say they mainly use tax professionals for annual tax returns, compared to 68% of tax agents stating annual tax returns as the main activity with clients. Likewise, BAS (40% for small businesses and 57% for tax agents) and GST management (11% and 23% respectively) feature highly.

    Figure 6: Main type of advice given (%)

    Figure 6. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QC3. Can you please list the kinds of business advice you give? Base n=120. Multiple responses
    See full data table for Figure 6 * Please note the large Other/NA* section is a result of many respondents being unable to separate non-tax related advice from business advice and therefore citing some kind of tax advice in this question.

    Tax agents also provide broader advice that has implications on small business performance and flow-on effects for regulatory requirements. When asked what kind of non-tax or super advice they thought their clients most need help with, a quarter of tax agents (25%) stated their small business clients needed most guidance around cash flow, 23% financial management ,and 17% for both record keeping and business planning.

    Figure 7: Perceptions of non-tax advice small business need most help with (%)

    Figure 7. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QC6. What kind of non-tax or super advice do you think your small business clients most need help with? Base n=120. Respondents could choose multiple answers.
    See full data table for figure 7

    This was reflected in the qualitative research, where general understanding of incomings and outgoings, good recordkeeping and better understanding of asset purchases were noted by tax agents as concerns that brought small business clients to them. The advisory aspect of the service offered by tax agents may not be recognised by small business when it is packaged into regular interactions.

    The majority of tax agents (92%) are providing small business with some business advice, in addition to advice on regulatory matters. Almost half (45%) indicated that it accounts for 11-30% of their overall work with small business. Eight percent are not giving any kind of non-transactional advice. Around three quarters (78%) of tax agents state their small business clients are open to the idea of paying them for business advice, while also acknowledging that cost is the main barrier for why small businesses are not open to getting business advice from tax professionals (48% cite this).

    The qualitative interviews with small business owners and tax professionals highlight a disconnect between what tax professionals think small businesses need in regards to business advice and what small businesses themselves say they need. While not quantitatively captured, small businesses said their biggest business concerns centred on getting new business and marketing to potential customers.

    The qualitative research suggests that small business owners and tax professionals are somewhat at odds about how to create system improvements – small businesses seeing the winning of new business the vehicle that will one day give them time and resources to make systems improvements, whereas tax professionals see the opposite as being true. The qualitative research also found that many tax professionals had difficulty separating non-tax type advice from tax advice, suggesting the industry itself is still maturing from a transactional business role to a more advisory role.

    4. The four key drivers of engagement with the ATO remain:

    • The ATO gives me the right information to meet my needs
    • The ATO listens to the needs of small business
    • Dealing with the ATO is simple
    • The ATO are on my side

    Around two fifths (42%) of small businesses are satisfied with the ATO’s ability to provide advice, support and information, with around a third ‘neutral’ in their view (37%).

    Small business confidence in managing their business tax requirements impacts on their level of satisfaction with the ATO. Around half of small businesses who report being confident in managing their business tax requirements (48%) are, statistically significantly more satisfied with the ATO’s ability to provide information. In comparison, those who report not being confident in managing their business tax requirements (38%) are statistically significantly more dissatisfied with the ATO’s ability to provide advice, support and information. Taken together, these findings highlight that a small business’s level of confidence in management of their business influences their satisfaction with the ATO.

    Figure 8: Overall satisfaction with the ATO (%)

    Figure 8. Bar chart showing the overall satisfaction with the ATO listed above. A link to the data table containing these and other questions asked is available below.

    QG1. Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the ATO’s ability to provide advice, support and information for your business? Chart does not show ‘don’t know’ and ‘not applicable’. Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017)
    See full data table for figure 8

    The research reconfirmed the four key drivers of engagement with the ATO, which impact significantly on small businesses’ satisfaction with the ATO, and which should remain the focus of engagement strategies the ATO develops for small business. Maximising agreement with each of these attributes will in turn maximise overall engagement satisfaction with the ATO. These drivers are:

    • The ATO gives me the right information to meet my needs
    • The ATO listens to the needs of small business
    • Dealing with the ATO is simple
    • The ATO are on my side

    Agreement with each of these drivers varies considerably, with the highest agreement evident for the ATO providing the right information to meet my needs (54% agree), and the lowest agreement with the ATO listening to the needs of small business (27% agree). While the agreement rates are low and demonstrate a lack of engagement with the ATO, between one quarter and one third of small business are neutral in their rating for each of the key drivers, indicating considerable potential to improve engagement by shifting neutral to positive.

    Figure 9: Agreement with the four key drivers of engagement (%)

    Figure 9. Bar chart showing survey results for the four key drivers listed above. A link to the data table containing these and other questions asked is available below.

    QF2. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements about the ATO. These results exclude ‘don’t know’ and ‘N/A’ answers. Base n=800 (2017). * For analysis purposes and to facilitate understanding, this statement was reversed to be positive and consistent with the other statements
    Full data table for figure 9

    Segmentation analysis identified five different categories of small business, based on their shared attitudes, suggesting that multilayered approaches based on these attitudes could be used to shape effective engagement strategies with small business. The segmentation analysis reinforces that one size fits all strategies are unlikely to be fully effective with the small business audience, and that a variety of ways of engaging with small business needs to be considered for all key messages, covering small business who are proactive in their attitudes, through to those who currently reject assistance and contact with the ATO.

    2. Strategic recommendations

    Based on this research, there are a number of recommendations for consideration:

    Small businesses vary when and where they seek advice and information when starting and running their business

    This research has reinforced the key findings and benchmarks established in the initial engagement research. Government sources are not the first choice for advice and information for small business when setting up and running their business and strategies are likely to be more successful when leveraging opportunities with third parties (eg accountants, industry associations) and utilising their natural touch points with small business.

    Further research is required to fully understand why there was a statistically significant shift to accountants as the first point of contact for business advice, and what factors may be contributing to this shift.

    Tax professionals want to continue to play an important role in supporting small business and remain the preferred source of tax and super information and advice

    Engagement strategies with small business should continue to consider and incorporate the broad group of tax professionals when planning the design of ATO products and services and in the development of ATO communication with small business.

    The regular and ongoing contact between tax professionals and small business throughout the financial year is an important touchpoint that could be leveraged to further assist small business.

    The four key drivers of engagement with the ATO remain giving the right information to meet needs, listening to needs, simple dealings and being on the side of small business

    It is recommended that the ATO continue to develop integrated strategies to improve performance against each of the four key drivers of engagement to lift small business satisfaction to a rating of 70% or more.

    As part of this drive to improve engagement and services to business, it is recommended that the ATO further considers and incorporates a multilayered approach based on the differences identified in business attitudes, as well as other demographic characteristics.

    Small businesses benefit from efficient and effective business administration systems

    It is important to recognise that better business administration systems are linked to more positive business performance outlook and confidence for small business. A need to improve their business administration systems was identified by many small businesses and their tax professionals.

    It is recommended that consideration be given to strategies supporting tax professionals in assisting to set up and drive better behaviour and systems reporting with small businesses.

    3. Background

    The aim of the research was to obtain the views of small business on their current and preferred engagement experience:

    • with the ATO, tax professionals and business advisors, and
    • to understand the drivers of their engagement with the ATO, tax professionals and business advisors.

    This research:

    • Tracks against baselines established in the previous 2015 research and monitors levels of engagement satisfaction.
    • Explores in more depth the relationship and engagement between small business and tax professionals and business advisors identified in the previous research, and the most effective ways to engage small business using their natural business systems.
    • Provides actionable information to improve small business engagement strategies and services.

    4. Methodology

    4.1 Overview of research approach

    A multi-modal research approach was used to explore the issues outlined in the research objectives, as well as to ensure the tracking component of the study followed best practice methodology. This comprised a qualitative component, and a quantitative component for benchmarking, segmentation and new insights purposes.

    A text version of this overview of the research design is available as an alternative to this image.

    A text version of this overview of the research design is available as an alternative to this image.

    4.2 Qualitative phase

    Purpose of qualitative research

    The qualitative phase of this research guided the quantitative research phase and explored new questions of interest.

    At the inception meeting, Ipsos recommended altering the qualitative sample as outlined in the research brief. This alteration reduced the number of focus groups (FGs) and increased the amount of in-depth interviews (IDI).

    • All IDIs and FGs were held between 13-28 February 2017.
    • IDIs and FGs were held in Brisbane, Toowoomba, Melbourne, Sydney and rural Victoria.
    • Small business owners were recruited by Q&A recruitment and grouped according to the phase of business the small business best identified with (start-up, running, change)Footnote3. Participants in the small business FGs and IDIs were offered an incentive for their time ($150 for FGs and $120 for IDIs).
    • As a pre-requisite for participation in qualitative research, all small businesses also had less than $2 million business turnover per annum, the definition of small business at the time of the research.
    • Tax professionals were recruited from a list of tax agents supplied by the ATO. Tax professional participants were offered a $150 incentive by Ipsos for their participation in an IDI of approximately 50-60 minutes.
    Focus group sample (18 participants)

    Location

    Small business phase

    Participants

    Sydney

    Changing

    n=6 small business owners (including n=2 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) owners)

    Brisbane

    Start-up

    n=6 small business owners

    Brisbane

    Running

    n=6 small business owners

    In depth interview sample (25 participants)

     

    Brisbane

    Toowoomba

    Sydney

    Melbourne

    Regional Vic

    Small business owner or financial controller (19 interviews)

    3 start-up

    2 running

    1 ATSI

    3 changing

    1 start-up

    1 ATSI

    2 changing

    2 running

    2 start-up

    2 changing

    Tax professional (6 interviews)

     

     

    3 tax agent

    3 tax agent

     

    Discussion guides

    The discussion guides were designed by Winangali and Ipsos, and provided to the ATO for review, comment and approval prior to use.

    The discussion guides were designed as memory aids for the facilitators in order to ensure key topics were covered. Discussion with participants in the qualitative phase was flexible to enable participant-led issues and themes to be raised and discussed. Please refer to Appendices 10.1.1 and 10.1.2 for the discussion guides.

    4.3 Quantitative phase

    4.3.1 Small business quantitative research

    The quantitative measurement phase tracked small businesses perceptions against specific questions from the previous research, as well as quantitating new issues identified in the 2017 qualitative phase.

    Computer assisted telephone interview methodology was used to replicate the original research. N=8 cognitive tests were undertaken to ensure the questionnaire was understood clearly and consistently across different small businesses. Review and amendments of questionnaire content and wording was conducted in response to the cognitive test findings. The questionnaires were reviewed and approved by the Australian Government Statistical Clearing House (SCH), approval number 02545-01.

    Computer assisted telephone interviews were conducted with n = 800 small businesses, with quotas set on geographic location. Interviews were conducted by i-View and the sample was sourced from Dunn and Bradstreet. On average, the time taken to complete the small business survey was 16.75 minutes (field dates 1-12 May, 2017). The average time to complete the tax practitioner’s survey was 14.02 minutes (field dates 3-10 May, 2017).

    Four percent (n = 32) of the small business participants identified as being 50% or more ATSI owned. Analysis of the ATSI small business sample responses showed no significant differences with the other small businesses surveyed in this research.

    4.3.2 Note on graphs and significance testing

    Unless otherwise indicated, any statistical differences are indicated in the tables and graphs by arrows. An upward arrow (Blue up arrow.) indicates a significantly higher result and a downward arrow (Red down arrow.) a significantly lower result. In some tables, significant results are also color-coded, with significantly higher results shown in blue and significantly lower results in red.

    The significance tests in this report are highlighted as significant if the corrected p-value is less than or equal to the specified overall significance level of p<=0.05. Due to the rounding of decimals, some tables and graphs display percentages that do not equal exactly to 100. As survey research collects subjective data, behaviours discussed in this report are stated behaviours by the participants and not objective data on actual behaviour.

    4.4 Sample demographics

    Business location

    2015(%)

    2017(%)

    Sydney

    8

    8

    NSW - other

    11

    11

    Melbourne

    9

    12

    VIC - other

    10

    7

    Brisbane

    4

    4

    QLD - other

    8

    9

    Perth

    8

    7

    WA - other

    5

    6

    Adelaide

    8

    5

    SA - other

    4

    7

    TAS

    9

    9

    NT

    9

    9

    ACT

    6

    6

    Annual turnover

    Less than $75,000

    19

    28

    $75,000 - $2 million

    81

    73

    Structure

    Sole trader

    17

    29

    Partnership

    13

    14

    Company

    56

    47

    Trust

    16

    15

     

    Number of employees

    0

    17

    26

    1-5 employees

    65

    57

    6-10 employees

    13

    13

    11-20 employees

    4

    4

    More than 20 employees

    1

    1

    Registered for GST

    Yes

    96

    90

    No

    4

    9

    Don’t know

    0

    1

    Business life stage

    My business is in the early stages (start-up phase)

    4

    7

    The business is established

    61

    65

    The business is about to go through major changes (for example, expanding, downsizing, changing direction)

    14

    13

    I am considering exiting the business (for example, selling, closing, transferring ownership)

    22

    15

    Don’t know

    0

    1

     

    Industry

    2015(%)

    2017(%)

    Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing

    5

    5

    Mining

    2

    2

    Manufacturing

    10

    10

    Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services

    2

    2

    Construction

    8

    8

    Wholesale Trade

    2

    2

    Retail Trade

    25

    25

    Accommodation and Food Services

    5

    5

    Transport, Postal and Warehousing

    3

    3

    Information Media and Telecommunications

    3

    3

    Financial and Insurance Services

    5

    5

    Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services

    3

    3

    Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

    9

    9

    Administrative and Support Services

    1

    1

    Public Administration and Safety

    0

    0

    Education and Training

    3

    3

    Health Care and Social Assistance

    4

    4

    Arts and Recreation Services

    7

    7

    Other Services

    6

    1

    Other (please specify)

    0

    2

    5. General attitudes and perceptions of small business

    5.1.1 Overview of current small business landscape

    Business profile

    Overall, the time of operation of the small businesses surveyed is similar to the previous research, although there was a statistically significant decrease in the number of businesses in operation for 21 or more years (37% 2017; 56% 2015). There was a higher proportion of small businesses in the first 5 years of running their current business (17% 2017; 8% 2015) compared to the previous research. The majority of the small businesses surveyed considered themselves established businesses (65%). As such, the results of this research may partly reflect the behaviour of successful businesses, who have engaged with appropriate resources at the appropriate times.

    Figure 10: Business length of operation (%)

    Figure 10. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    SC9. How long has your main business been in operation? Base n=800(2015)/800(2017)
    Full data table for figure 10

    Business sentiment

    Business sentiment among the small businesses surveyed was mixed, with half either positive or extremely positive (50%), and one-third neutral (32%). However, statistically significantly more small businesses reported being extremely positive with their current performance in the current research (19% in 2017; 14% in 2015).

    Figure 11: Perception of current business performance, total (%)

    Figure 11. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QB1. Using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is extremely negative and 5 is extremely positive, how positive or negative would you say you are currently feeling about how your business is performing at the moment? Base n=800(2015)/800(2017)
    Full data table for figure 11

    Small business perceptions of their future performance was generally confident, with around half positive or extremely positive (56%), and one-third neutral (29%). In the current research, statistically significantly more small businesses reported being extremely positive about their future performance (24% in 2017; 17% in 2015).

    Figure 12: Perception of future business performance (%)

    Figure 12. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QB2. And using the same scale of one to five , how are you feeling about the future of your business, in say 12 months from now? Base n=800(2015)/800(2017)
    Full data table for figure 12

    Established small businesses are statistically significantly more positive about both their current performance (71%) and their future performance (70%). Small businesses who are considering exiting their business (15% of total sample) however, are statistically significantly more likely to be negative about both their current business performance (38%) and future performance (45%). Furthermore, those small businesses who are extremely negative about their current performance (7% of total sample) are statistically significantly more likely to have a turnover of less than $75,000 (47%).

    Of the small business who stated they are positive about their future, a statistically significant number (16%) are also about to go through a major change. While the survey did not explore the nature of planned changes (eg taking on more staff due to growth, reducing staff due to a restructure), the qualitative research suggests that small businesses may feel positive about restructures because they have made the decision and have a clear path forward.

    Figure 13: Business administration experience (%)

    Figure 13. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    SC1. How long have you been involved in managing the business administration of this (or other) businesses? Base n=800(2015)/800(2017)
    Full data table for figure 13

    As in the previous research, the self-selected business stage did not directly relate with the length of time the business has been in operation. Around half of businesses that had been operating 1-2 years were statistically significantly to see themselves in the start-up phase (49%) and one fifth of those operating 3-5 years (22%). However, 21% of businesses in operation for less than one year considered themselves as established, as did 30% of businesses that had been operating 1-2 years. It appears that business stage perceptions may have less to do with length of time in business, compared to expected business performance and the turnover a small business owner believes necessary to be ‘established’.

    Figure 14: Business life stage (%)

    Figure 14. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    SC8. Which of the following best represents the stage your main business is currently in?
    Full data table for Figure 14

    6. Current perceptions and behaviours of small business with regards to tax requirements

    6.1.1 Confidence in management of business tax requirements

    Almost three quarters of surveyed small business owners (71%) feel confident in managing their business tax requirements. The levels of business management confidence have not changed significantly since 2015.

    The length of time in business however, influences confidence in managing business tax requirements, with businesses in operation for less than one year (2% of total sample) statistically significantly less confident (29%). Established small businesses that have been operating for over 11 years (68% of total sample) are statistically significantly more likely to be confident with managing their business tax requirements (76%). This finding reflects some of the qualitative discussions where business owners with more experience were more familiar with their tax and super requirements and therefore more confident with compliance activities.

    Among small businesses who pay a tax professional to do all their business‘s tax and super requirements, 58% report being confident in managing their business tax requirements. In contrast, 82% of small businesses who do all their tax and super themselves say they are confident. Among small business owners who report being very confident in their business tax requirements (37% of sample), statistically significantly more are likely to have qualifications as a Chartered Accountant or as a Certified Practicing Accountant (9%). This group is significantly more likely to come from a Professional, Scientific and/or Technical Service industry. Significantly, most small businesses who are both confident and who do their own tax (8% of total sample) close to half (45%) have had on the job training as administrators. Other confident small business owners who do their own tax are statistically significantly more likely to have done short courses at TAFE or other private institutions (29%), or done an industry course or studied a university degree or diploma (27% both).

    Figure 15: Confidence in managing business tax requirements (%)

    Figure 15. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QB6. Using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is not at all confident and 5 is very confident, how confident are you in managing your business tax requirements? Base n=800(2015)/800 (2017)
    Full data table for figure 15

    6.1.2 Small business administration systems

    Almost three quarters of the small businesses surveyed (72%) believe they have business systems that work for them. Just over a quarter (28%) of the small businesses surveyed thought they had systems that are efficient and effective. However, 44% acknowledged their business administrative systems could probably be better. Sixteen per cent stated their systems are basic and that their approach to dealing with administration tends to be reactive in nature. Small businesses with basic systems are statistically significantly more likely to have an average turnover less than $75,000 (22%).

    Among small businesses who are confident with their business tax requirements (71% of total sample), 34% stated their systems were efficient and effective. This drops to 14% among those who are not at all confident with their business tax requirements (11% of total sample).

    When small business owners’ administration systems are compared to their business performance outlook, those who were extremely positive about their current business performance (19% of total sample) were significantly more likely to also believe they have systems that are efficient and effective (38%). In contrast, those who are negative about their current business performance (7% of the total sample) were statistically significantly more likely to have a few basic systems but mostly deal with things as they come up (26%).

    These findings were also apparent in the qualitative research, with many small businesses expressing they are time poor and tend to focus their time, energy and resources on the day-to-day running of their businesses, as opposed to more strategic planning or system improvements. Those business owners, who seemed to be positive, efficient and happy with their performance, also indicated they had strong systems in place. Often, they also remarked they had regular meetings with their tax professionals and actively sought out system improvements, rather than have them suggested to them.

    Figure 16: How small businesses describe their business administration systems (%)

    Figure 16.  A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QB3. In your opinion, which of the following statements would you say best represents your business administration systems: Base: n=800 (2017)
    Full data table for figure 16

    6.1.3 Source of information for business administration

    Tax professionals (and accountants in particular) remain a major influence on small business, regardless of their business life stage. Accountants are the first source for all business advice when first starting out (39%), and the first source for tax advice (76%). Forty percent of the small businesses surveyed stated they are extremely reliant on their tax professional to manage their tax and super affairs

    Accountants have increased significantly as the first point of contact for small business (39% 2017; 25% 2015) when starting their current business. Significantly, more small businesses are also taking action to get advice, with only 16% of small business owners saying they did not go anywhere for advice when first starting in 2017, compared to 28% in 2015. With the data available, it is difficult to indicate why this is the case.

    Younger businesses are more digitally engaged. Around one fifth (19%) of small businesses that have been operating 1-2 years (3% of total sample), and 16% of businesses that have been operating 3-5 years (10% of total sample), were significantly more likely to state their first source of business/administration advice was the internet or a google search. The internet and google searches decreased as the first source of advice the longer a business has been in operation. While it was significant that only 2% of businesses operating for over 21 years’ recall using the internet as a first source of business information, this is almost certainly due to the limited information available online at the time.

    Figure 17: Source of business administration systems advice when commencing business (%)

    Figure 17. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QB4 Thinking about when you first started your current business, where did you go for advice or information on these issues (business administration systems)? PROBE: Anywhere else? Respondents could choose multiple answers. Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017). Note: Superannuation company, BAS agent, Fair Work Australia and Department of Fair Trading missing from graph as received 0%.
    Full data table for figure 17

    6.1.4 Triggers for thinking about business tax requirements

    Three in four small businesses (75%) report that they first started thinking about their tax requirements prior or just following their business launch. A further 13% of businesses indicated they first started thinking about their tax requirements after their tax professional mentioned it, indicating the high level of influence tax professionals have on small businesses. There were no significant differences with the previous research.

    Figure 18: Small business commenced thinking about tax requirements (%)

    Figure 18. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QB5. When did you first start thinking about your business tax requirements? Would it be… Base   = 800 (2017)
    Full data table for figure 18

    6.1.5 Have small businesses sought business tax advice?

    The majority of small businesses say they have sought advice or looked for information about business tax requirements (83%). This is a statistically significant increase from the 2015 research, where 74% of small businesses had sought advice of this kind. Of concern is the business who consider themselves to be in the start-up phase (7% of total sample), of which one tenth (10%) had not yet looked for information about their business tax requirements, and a further 10% of start-up businesses had not sought advice or looked for information about business tax requirements, but indicated they might.

    When it comes to where small businesses are getting this advice, accountants remain the major influencer in this space, with 76% of small businesses citing them as their first source of advice. The ATO website is the second most cited source of business tax advice, with 11% of small businesses going there for this kind of information.

    Figure 19: Sought information or advice about business tax requirements (%)

    Figure 19. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QB8. Have you ever sought advice or looked for information about business tax requirements?
    Full data table for figure 19

    6.1.6 Seeking business advice

    The majority of small businesses (83%) stated they have sought advice or looked for information about their business tax requirements at some stage, an increase from 74% in the previous research. The number of small businesses stating they have never sought advice or looked for information has decreased (14% 2017; 26% 2015).

    Small businesses that currently do all their own tax and super are statistically significantly less likely than those who use tax professionals to go to an accountant first, although somewhat over half (57%) still had. Small businesses who currently do all their own tax and super are statistically significantly more likely than those who use tax professionals to go to the ATO website (19% vs 10%), call the ATO (5% vs 1%), or go to other government departments (4% vs 1%).

    Figure 20: First source of business tax advice/information – split by self-preparers only and tax professional users (%)

    Pie chart and bar chart showing small business seeking information or advice has increased in 2017.  The number of small businesses stating they have never sought advice or looked for information has decreased.

    QB8. Have you ever sought advice or looked for information about business tax requirements Base n=800 (2017). Single response
    QB9a. When you were looking for this business tax advice or information, where did you go first? Single response. n=566 Professional tax user. n=97 DIY Tax user. (2017)
    QB9b. Anywhere else? Multiple response. n=566 Professional tax user. n=97 DIY Tax user. (2017). Only top 5 options chosen shown in both responses.

    Of the small business owners who use a tax professional (85% of total sample), 95% stated they use an accountant, 30% a bookkeeper, 15% a tax agent, 8% a BAS agent and 7% a business advisor. Those small businesses that pay a professional to fulfil all their business tax and super requirements (23% of total sample) are significantly more likely to use bookkeepers (47%).

    Figure 21: Tax professionals used by small business for business tax requirements (%)

    Figure 21. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    SC13. You mentioned earlier that you pay for professional help with your tax and super. Which of the following professionals do you use? Multiple responses allowed. Base n=674 (2017). Question only asked of those who use tax professionals.
    Full data table for figure 21

    7. Engagement with tax service providers

    7.1.1 Motivations and reasons for using tax professionals

    The majority of the small businesses surveyed (85%) pay a professional to do some or all of their tax. This varies from ATO data, which shows that in 2016-17, 92% of small businesses lodged their income tax returns through a tax agent.Footnote4 There appears to be a slight bias in the sample towards self-preparers, which should be noted when interpreting some results.

    Figure 22: How does small business fulfil their business tax and super requirements (%)

    Figure 22. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    SC11. Which of the following would best describe how you go about fulfilling your business’s tax and super requirements? Base n=800 (2017)
    Full data table for figure 22

    Small businesses value tax professionals’ specialist knowledge and expertise, with 61% citing this as the core benefit of using a tax professional. Consistent with the previous research, the two main business tax activities small businesses use tax professionals for is their annual tax return (74%) and business activity statement (40%). In 2017, statistically significantly more small businesses were talking to their tax professionals about super than in 2015 (13% vs 4%), which may be due to changes to the superannuation system that were to underway at the time of the research.

    The qualitative research supports the quantitative findings. Small businesses discussed trying to find a balance between paying their fair share of tax while making tax savings. By hiring a tax professional to help them navigate the tax system, they feel assured that they pay tax and super appropriately and remain compliant.

    Figure 23: Main business tax activities small business use tax professionals for (%)

    QC1. What is the main business tax activity you used them for within the last year

    2017

    Annual tax return

    74

    Business Activity Statement (BAS) related

    40

    General advice/information

    14

    Superannuation

    13

    Tax preparation

    12

    GST management

    11

    Tax advice

    11

    Record keeping: systems, maintenance

    10

    Tax payments

    10

    Other (please specify)

    6

    Business structure/Business Planning

    6

    Income and deductions/depreciation information/advice/management

    6

    Pay as you go (PAYG)

    5

    Advising on tax regulations, legal changes, updates

    5

    Don’t know

    1

    Total

    674

    QC1. What is the main business tax activity you used them for within the last year? Base n=800 (2015)/674 (2017). Multiple response. Question only asked of those who use tax professionals in 2017. Note: The base values available for 2015 are those reported.
    Full data table for figure 23

    7.1.2 How often do small businesses interact with their tax professional?

    Almost three quarters (72%) of the small businesses surveyed interact with their tax professional at least every quarter, not including the lead up to tax time, with around one third (35%) interacting weekly or monthly. Those who pay a professional to fulfil all their business and tax requirements (23% of total sample) are significantly more likely to interact once a week (23%).

    Small businesses who interact with their tax professional only once or twice a year (8% of those who use a tax professional), are statistically significantly more likely to have an annual turnover of less than $75k (54%), to be a sole trader (52%), to be considering exiting their business (31%) or to do their tax partly themselves (89%).

    Small businesses that use bookkeepers have statistically significantly more frequent interactions than those using other tax professionals (28% weekly, 33% monthly). This likely reflects the nature of typical bookkeeping services (eg payroll processing, bank reconciliations and accounts payable).

    The qualitative research indicated that the nature of most small business-tax professional interactions are generally on an as-required basis, with advice and support only accessed ‘when necessary or things come up’. Few small businesses mentioned having the time, resources or inclination to be proactive about tax and super system improvements in a fully considered way.

    Figure 24: How often are small business interacting with their tax professional? (%)

    Figure 24. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QC1a. Apart from the lead up to tax time how regularly do you think you interact with your [tax professional, SC13]? Base n=674 (2017. Question only asked of those who use tax professionals.
    Full data table for figure 24

    7.1.3 Small business reliance on tax professionals

    Around three quarters (71%) of the small businesses surveyed who use tax professionals considered themselves reliant or extremely reliant on their tax professional to manage their tax and super affairs. Those small businesses that pay a professional to look after all of their business’s tax and super requirements (23% of total sample) were statistically significantly more likely to be extremely reliant on their tax professional for business advice (65%).

    The extent of reliance of small business on tax professionals for tax and super advice does not seem to extend to more general business advice for many small business, with around two thirds of the small businesses who use tax professionals (63%) rating themselves as not reliant at all to neutrally reliant on their tax professional for business advice. The remaining third (37%) consider themselves reliant or extremely reliant.

    The qualitative research suggested that for many small businesses, getting professional help for tax and super is normal and habitual. Simply put, it is what you do if you are in business. The main benefits tax professionals deliver is helping owners navigate an often confusing and complicated tax world, as well as saving the small business time and effort. The qualitative findings also suggest that tax professionals can become so integral to a small business that, even if they are unhappy with their current tax professional, they are reluctant to find a new one because of their current tax professional’s familiarity with their business and the extra effort that would be required to change their tax professional. That small business are less likely to consider tax professionals for more general business advice was also reflected in the qualitative findings. As one small business owner stated, “They’re the bean counters. Why would I go to them for business advice?”

    Figure 25: How reliant are small business on tax professional for tax and super advice? (%)4

    Figure 25. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QC3. Using a scale of 1-5, where 1 is not reliant at all and 5 is extremely reliant, to what extent do you think you rely on your tax professional to manage your tax and super affairs? Base n=674 (2017) Question only asked of those who use tax professionals.
    Full data table for figure 25
    4 It should be noted that the survey question reads '…to what extent do you rely on your tax professional…' an emphasis being placed on 'your'. It could be interesting to further test whether this use of a possessive pronoun has influenced the findings and what impact the use of 'a tax professional' might have on the data. Should this question be included in future research, we recommend further cognitive tests prior to launch to see whether this impacts responses.

    Figure 26: How reliant are small business on tax professionals for business advice? (%)

    Figure 26. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QC4. Using the same scale of 1-5, where 1 is not reliant at all and 5 is extremely reliant, to what extent do you think you rely on your [tax professional, SC13] to give you other types of business advice? Base n =674 (2017). Question only asked of those who use tax professionals.
    Full data table for figure 26

    7.1.4 Perceived benefits of using tax professionals

    Small businesses are generally keen to do the right thing, and are willing to pay for appropriate assistance to help them deal with their tax and super requirements. The small businesses surveyed who use a tax professional (78% of total sample) nominated the key benefits of tax professional use as:

    • accessing tax knowledge and expertise (61%)
    • helping to meet their obligations (26%)
    • helping them to do the right thing (25%)
    • saving them time (15%)
    • tax professionals’ familiarity with ATO systems (13%) and
    • not having to do it themselves (12%).

    These benefits were supported by the qualitative research.

    Small businesses in the current research were statistically significantly less likely to nominate the benefits of using tax professionals as their tax knowledge and expertise (61% 2017; 72% 2015) or their familiarity with the ATO (13% 2017; 19% 2015). This was likely due to a number of additional options provided in 2017, which rated highly. Of these, 26% nominated the benefits of using tax professionals as keeping them out of trouble by meeting their obligations and 25% as helping them do the right thing.

    The proportion of small business who say that their tax professionals saved them money remained very low (3% 2017; 4% 2015). Small businesses in operation for less than 5 years (17% of total sample), and particularly those in operation for less than 1 year (2% of total sample), are statistically significantly more likely to believe their tax professional has the right tax knowledge and expertise (67% and 61% respectively).

    Figure 27: What benefits do small businesses perceive to using tax professionals? (%)

    QC2 What benefits are there to using your tax professional?

    2015

    2017

    Have the tax knowledge/expertise

    72 Blue up arrow indicating a significant increase.

    61 Red down arrow indicating a significant decrease.

    Keeps me out of trouble/meets my obligations*

    n/a

    26 

    Doing the right thing*

    n/a

    25

    Saves me time

    13

    15

    Familiarity with the ATO and the way they work

    19 Blue up arrow indicating a moderate increase.

    13 Red down arrow indicating moderate decrease.

    Not having to do it myself

    14        

    12        

    Trust/confidence

    6 Red down arrow indicating a slight decrease.

    10 Blue up arrow indicating a slight increase.

    Knows my business

    3 Red down arrow indicating a slight decrease.

    9 Blue up arrow indicating a slight increase.

    Personalised service

    1 Red down arrow indicating a slight decrease.

    5 Blue up arrow indicating a slight increase.

    Financial benefits or saves me money

    4        

    3        

    Reliable

    5 Blue up arrow indicating a slight increase.

    3 Red down arrow indicating a slight decrease.

    Other (please specify)

    4        

    3        

    On my side/work for me

    2

    2

    Easy to get hold of/access

    2

    2

    Don’t know

    3

    2

    Cost effective

    4 Blue up arrow indicating a slight increase.

    2 Red down arrow indicating a slight decrease.

    Habit

    0        

    0        

    Total

    755

    674**

    QC2 What benefits are there to using your [Tax professional, SC13]? Anything else? Note: by Year Total sample. Base n=755 (2015), 674 (2017). * indicates new code frame in 2017. ** Indicates question filtered to respondents who use tax professionals. Multiple responses allowed.
    Full data for figure 27

    7.1.5 When are small businesses engaging with the ATO?

    Small businesses are much more inclined to engage with the ATO for transactional purposes. Consistent with the 2015 research, business activity statements (31%), annual tax returns (16%) and tax payments (12%) were the most commonly cited reasons for interacting with the ATO. There was a statistically significant increase in the number of interactions for annual tax return (16% 2017; 10% 2015) and superannuation (5% 2017; 1% 2015).

    Around a quarter of the small businesses surveyed (27%) had not contacted the ATO in the last year, or at all. Small businesses are more likely to engage with their tax professionals for tax advice, with 11% of small businesses who use a tax professional contacting them for tax advice, compared to 2% of all small business surveyed contacting the ATO for tax advice.

    Small businesses about to go through major changes (13% of total sample) were statistically significantly more likely to contact the ATO for payment arrangements for debt (19%). Small businesses that look after their own business tax and super requirements (16% of total sample) were statistically significantly more likely to have contacted the ATO to enquire about their annual tax returns (25%).

    Figure 28: When are small business interacting with the ATO? (%)

    Figure 28. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QD1. Within the last year, what are the reasons you would generally interact with the ATO for? Anything else? Respondents could choose multiple answers - Small Business Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).
    Full data table for small business response
    Full data table for tax professionals response

    7.1.6 Brand associations of tax professionals and the ATO

    Tax professionals have significantly stronger associations with all of the ATO’s desired brand attributes than the ATO by small business. Over nine in ten small businesses associate tax professionals with being trusted, reliable, capable, knowledgeable, approachable and honest. The strongest associations with the ATO (from about seven out of ten small businesses) were trusted, reliable, capable, knowledgeable, consistent and honest.

    The largest differential between tax professionals and the ATO were:

    • being supportive (85% association for tax professionals, versus 52% for the ATO)
    • being approachable (91% association for tax professionals, versus 59% for the ATO)
    • being accessible (89% association for tax professionals, versus 58% for the ATO)

    This suggests these three attributes in particular need to be a focus for improved engagement with the ATO. Being approachable and accessible also had the largest differential in the previous research. Being supportive was a new option added in 2017.

    Overall, the differential between tax professionals and the ATO was less than the previous research (an average differential of 23.6% in 2017; 30% in 2015). This was largely due to improvements in the ATO’s desired attribute scores, indicating an improvement in perceptions of the ATO by small business.

    Statistically significant increases occurred between 2015 and 2017 for the option ‘both’ for most of the attributes (trusted, reliable, efficient, capable, knowledgeable, cost effective and consistent). This suggests an improved perception of the ATO overall because, while respondents are not selecting the ATO solely on many attributes, they are combining them with tax professionals by selecting ‘both’ – indicating an improved perception in these areas.

    Figure 29: Comparison of attributes, ATO vs tax professionals, total (%)

    Figure 29. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QE1. Tell me if that word best represents the ATO and/or a tax professional or neither. Figures for tax professionals and the ATO include ‘both’ figure as part of their overall attribute score. Base n= 800 (2015)/800 (2017). Please note: Two additional attributes added in 2017. Significance shown is at the combined level for ‘ATO’ and ‘Tax Professional’ and includes ‘both’
    Full data table for figure 29

    8. Drivers of engagement with the ATO

    8.1.1 Overall satisfaction with the ATO

    Slightly more small businesses were satisfied with the ATO’s ability to provide advice, support and information for their business in 2017 when compared to the previous research (42% 2017; 37% 2015). However, this was not a significant difference. The same overall proportion were neutral (37% 2017, 37% 2015), and dissatisfied (18% 2017; 19% 2015).

    Figure 30: Overall satisfaction with the ATO (%)

    Figure 30. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QG1. Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the ATO’s ability to provide advice, support and information for your business? Chart does not show ‘don’t know’ and ‘not applicable’. Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017)
    Full data table for figure 30

    Small business confidence in managing their business tax requirements impacts on their level of satisfaction, with around half (47%) those who report being confident in this significantly more satisfied with the ATO’s ability to provide information. Those small businesses who report not being confident in managing their business tax requirements were statistically significantly more likely to be very dissatisfied with the ATO’s ability to provide advice support and information (20%). There is no significant difference between small businesses who do their own tax or use tax professionals and their overall satisfaction with the ATO’s abililty to provide advice, support and information.

    Figure 31: Overall satisfaction with the ATO, by confidence in managing business tax requirements (%)

    A graph that shows no significant difference between small businesses who do their own tax or use tax professionals and their overall satisfaction with the ATO’s abililty to provide advice, support and information.

    QB6. How confident are you in managing your business tax requirements? and
    QG1. Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the ATO's ability to provide advice, support and information for your business? Base n=769 (2017). Chart does not show ‘don’t know’ and ’not applicable’ responses.

    8.1.2 Driver analysis

    Methodology for the driver analysis

    Based on the qualitative research, a range of key attributes for the ATO was measured, to help explain small businesses’ engagement with the organisation.

    Multivariate statistical analysis (Shapley’s importance score) was undertaken to explore the relationship between the measured attributes and overall satisfaction. This enabled identification of the relative impact, or importance, of each attribute on overall satisfaction. By examining the strength of agreement with these attributes, in combination with their relative impact on overall satisfaction, we can then categorise attributes into the following groups. Performance can be defined as the level of agreement with key performance statements.

    1. High importance, high performance (top right box) – these attributes have a strong impact on overall satisfaction, and are performing well. Generally, they need to be maintained at current levels by the ATO, and used as core engagement/communication tools.
    2. High importance, low performance (top left box) – these attributes also have a strong impact on overall satisfaction, but are not performing well. They are a focus for improvement to increase positive engagement.
    3. Low importance, high performance (bottom right box) – these attributes while performing well, do not impact strongly on overall satisfaction. As such, focusing too much on these attributes to strengthen engagement will have little impact. They are the “nice to have” components of the engagement strategy.
    4. Low importance, low performance (bottom left box) – these attributes are neither important to overall engagement, nor performing well. While improving these will have some impact on overall engagement, they will not have the same impact as those with higher importance. As such, they are considered a secondary focus for improving engagement.

    While the differentiation between stronger and weaker performance can be arbitrarily set at any point, as a rule of thumb, service industries define their top level of performance (boxes on the right) at 70–100%. An attribute is considered a strong performer with an agreement or satisfaction rating of 70% or more.

    Results

    As outlined in the following figure, the four key drivers of engagement for the ATO are:

    • The ATO gives me the right information to meet my needs
    • Dealing with the ATO is simple
    • I feel that the ATO listens to the needs of small business
    • The ATO are on my side

    The top four attributes that small businesses agree with remain consistent from 2015 to 2017 and are the key drivers of engagement. In 2017, over half (51%) of those who agreed with these statements are satisfied with the ATO’s ability to provide advice, support and information. In contrast, of those who didn’t agree with the statements, only 13% were satisfied. These attributes therefore remain the key drivers of engagement, and should be the focus of engagement and communication activities.

    The one significant change involves Statement C (the simplicity of dealing with the ATO), which is growing in importance for small businesses. As such, efforts towards making small business-ATO dealings simpler should deliver increased small business satisfaction.

    Small businesses did not rate any attributes in the top right quadrant (high importance and high performance), indicating there are currently no clear strengths that the ATO can claim with respect to engaging with small businesses.

    As outlined in the following figure, there are four key drivers of engagement for the ATO are:

    • The ATO gives me the right information to meet my needs
    • Dealing with the ATO is simple
    • I feel that the ATO listens to the needs of small business
    • The ATO are on my side
    • An explanation of this scattergraph on performance is shown below.

    Performance attributes (ranked in order of importance)

    Higher Importance/Lower Performance

    A - The ATO gives me the right information to meet my needs

    C - Dealing with the ATO is simple

    B - I feel that the ATO listens to the needs of small business

    D - The ATO are not on my side*

    Lower Importance/Lower Performance

    E - The ATO does not do enough to support new businesses when they are first setting up*

    F - The ATO is never going to help you save money

    K - I needed the ATO more when I first started the business than I do now

    H - The ATO is more about compliance than helping small businesses*

    I - I would prefer to contact a tax professional before contacting the ATO if I need help with my tax*

    G - I’d prefer to have nothing much to do with the ATO*

    * Statements that were negative in nature have had their scale reversed for the purpose of consistent presentation and interpretation among all statements.

    A third (34%) of small businesses surveyed in 2017 stated dealing with the ATO is simple, compared to 27% in 2015. There were also fewer small businesses who stated they would rather have nothing to do with the ATO (35% 2017; 41% 2015).

    Figure 32: Agreement with the four key drivers of engagement (%)

    Figure 32. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QF2. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements about the ATO. These results exclude ‘don’t know’ and ‘N/A’ answers. Base n=800 (2017).
    Full data table for figure 32
    * For analysis purposes and to facilitate understanding, this statement was reversed to be positive and consistent with the other statements

    8.1.3 Attitudinal segmentation

    Attitudinal segmentation is a way to identify groups based on sets of shared attitudes. This approach recognises that attitudes drive and influence behaviour and groups audiences around those shared sentiments.

    Figure 33: Attitudinal segmentation

    Figure 33. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QF1. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements? Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017)
    Full data table for figure 33

    Segmentation was undertaken using six attitudinal statements (latent class analysis).

    There were five small business attitudinal segments identified:

    Business attitudinal segments

    The proactive knowledge seekers
    n=150 (19%)

    The satisfied
    n=216 (27%)

    The passive motivated
    n=149 (19%)

    The ATO rejecters
    n=169 (21%)

    The overall rejecters
    n=117 (15%)

    I know what the ATO could do to help my business*

    Agree (41%)

    Agree (75%)

    Disagree (61%)

    Disagree (68%)

    Disagree (66%)

    I’d prefer the ATO to contact me directly when there have been changes to tax

    Agree (62%)

    Agree (52%)

    Agree (82%)

    Disagree (75%)

    Disagree (26%)

    I’d like to understand my business’ tax requirements and obligations better

    Agree (56%)

    Agree (55%)

    Agree (67%)

    Agree (55%)

    Disagree (53%)

    I’m the kind of person that will proactively seek out all the information I need about tax

    Agree (85%)

    Agree (77%)

    Disagree (58%)

    Disagree (26%)

    Agree (70%)

    I’ll deal with business taxation issues proactively, not only when needed*

    Agree (78%)

    Disagree (79%)

    Disagree (73%)

    Disagree (65%)

    Disagree (88%)

    I want personalised service when dealing with my business tax requirements

    Agree (77%)

    Agree (80%)

    Agree (82%)

    Agree (78%)

    Disagree (30%)

    * For analysis purposes and to facilitate understanding, these statements were reversed to be positive and consistent with the other statements

    The proactive knowledge seekers:

    • The most proactive: they are the kind of person that will proactively seek out all the information they need about tax and they deal with business taxation issues ongoing, not just when they arise.
    • Eager to learn: they want to understand their business’ tax requirements and obligations better and they want personalised service when dealing with their business tax requirements.
    • Open to the ATO: they would prefer the ATO to contact them directly when there have been changes to tax.

    The proactive knowledge seeker small business is more likely to be registered for GST (95%), and more likely to go about fulfilling their business’s tax and super requirements themselves (23%). Their small business is more likely to employ 6-10 people (20%), and is more likely to be set up as a trust (20%). They are more likely to go to the ATO website when they look for business tax advice or information (20%) or to online business/industry forums (4%). They are more likely to be Chartered Accountant or CPA (13%).

    The satisfied:

    • Want personalised service: they want personalised service when dealing with their business tax requirements, but only some have the desire to understand their small business’ tax requirements.
    • Know the ATO: they have a very good understanding of what the ATO can do to help their small business but they only somewhat interested in the ATO contacting them directly when there have been changes to tax.
    • Reactive: they say they are the kind of person that will deal with business taxation and super issues only when they arise, but see themselves as proactively seeking out all the information they need about tax.

    The satisfied are more likely to prefer to contact the ATO before contacting a tax professional if they need help with their tax (69%), and are more likely to phone the ATO when looking for tax advice or information (15%). They are more likely to have completed an industry course (33%).

    The passive motivated:

    • Want personalised service: they want to understand their small business’ tax requirements and obligations better and they want personalised service when dealing with their business tax requirements.
    • Open to ATO: they would strongly prefer the ATO to contact them directly when there have been changes to tax, but they mostly do not really know what the ATO can do to help their small business.
    • Reactive: they are not at all the kind of person that will proactively seek out all the information they need about tax and they tend to deal with business taxation issues only when they arise.

    The passive motivated are less likely to think the ATO gives them the right information to meet their needs (40%). They are more likely to have a few basic systems, but mostly deal with business tax issues as they arise (25%), and are less likely to be confident about managing their business tax requirements (22% are not confident). They are less likely to nominate they do it themselves when it comes to fulfilling their business’s tax and super requirements (7% do it all themselves).They are more likely to be a business in their start-up phase (11%). They are less likely to be extremely positive about the current state of their business (only 8% are).

    The ATO rejecters:

    • Do not know the ATO and do not want to interact: they do not want the ATO to contact them directly when there have been changes to tax, and they do not know what the ATO can do to help their small business.
    • Reactive: they tend to deal with business taxation issues only when they arise and they are not really the kind of person that will proactively seek out all the information they need about tax.
    • Want personalised serviced: they strongly want personalised service when dealing with their business tax requirements, but are only somewhat interested in understanding their business’ tax requirements and obligations better.

    The ATO rejecters would prefer to contact a tax professional before contacting the ATO if they need help with their tax (92%). They are more likely to pay a professional to fulfil all their tax and super requirements (32%). They are less likely to go to the ATO website when they look for tax advice or information (6%).

    The overall rejecters:

    • Do not want to interact with the ATO : they do not know what the ATO can do to help their small business, and are not very interested in the ATO contacting them directly when there have been changes to tax.
    • Reactive: they say they really only deal with business taxation and super issues when they arise although they are the kind of person that will proactively seek out all the information they need about tax.
    • Learning and personalisation rejecters: they do not want to understand their business’ tax requirements and obligations better and they are less interested in personalised service when dealing with their business tax requirements.

    The overall rejecters are more likely to be very confident about managing their business tax requirements (55%), and are not reliant at all on tax professionals to give them other types of business advice (28%). They are less likely to have ever sought advice or looked for information about their business tax requirements (25% answered not at all). They are more likely to do all their tax themselves (22%). Their business has been in operation for more than 21 years (49%), and they are less likely to be registered for GST (15% not registered).

    9. Perceptions of tax agents regarding small business engagement

    9.1.1 Why small businesses go to tax agents

    As part of this research, 120 tax agents were surveyed about their experiences, interactions and perceptions of their small business client base. Almost half of those in the sample (46%) had worked as a tax professional for 21+ years. Twenty per cent had worked as a tax professional for between 11-20 years and 21% for between 6-10 years. The tax agents worked across a variety of practice tier classifications, and all had a focus on small business clients (minimum of 30% small business clients).

    The findings from the research reinforce that tax agents perceive small business owners as time poor, not inclined to learn the detail of tax and super, or the desire to manage them. It should be noted that the tax agents were asked about their small business client base, and their comments will not relate to those small businesses who are currently managing their own tax and super obligations. Tax agents surveyed say their small business clients come to them because they:

    • 97% do not know how to do tax and super themselves
    • 93% do not have the time to do tax and super themselves
    • 88% do not want to do tax and super themselves
    • 87% are seeking help before they have registered their business or before starting their business.

    In addition, tax agents stated:

    • 79% of small businesses coming to them are doing so after trying to do something themselves and then encountering a tax or super problem
    • 73% of small businesses seeking their assistance are doing so when they are in financial trouble.

    Figure 34: Reasons tax agents think small business come to them (%)

    Figure 34. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QC1. Which of the following reasons do you think small business clients come to you for business management or tax and super? Base n=120. Respondents could choose multiple answers.
    Full data table for figure 34

    9.1.2 Tax agents services for small business

    Both small businesses and tax agents perceive that similar regulatory activities define their interactions with each other. For example, 74% of small businesses say they mainly use tax professionals for annual tax returns, compared to 68% of tax agents stating annual tax returns as the main activity with clients. Likewise, BAS (40% for small businesses and 57% for tax agents) and GST management (11% and 23% respectively) feature highly.

    Figure 35: Main regulatory activities tax agents help small business with (%)

    Figure 35. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QC2. What are the main tax activities, and other regulatory obligations (eg ASIC, state regulatory bodies) you helped small business clients with last year? These results exclude ‘don’t know’ and ‘N/A’ answers Base n=120. Respondents could choose multiple answers
    Full data table for figure 35

    Tax agents believe small businesses could be doing much more in regards to improving their systems and have concerns about their clients’ general understandings of:

    • cash flow (25%)
    • financial management (23%)
    • record-keeping (17%)
    • business planning (17%).

    Figure 36: Tax agents’ perceptions of the non-tax advice small business need most help with (%)

    Figure 36. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QC6. What kind of non-tax super advice do you think your small business clients most need help with? Base n=120. Multiple response option.
    Full data table for figure 36

    The 71% of small businesses that use tax professionals believe they have business administration systems that are either efficient, effective or working well enough. However, 16% of small businesses who use tax professionals say they have basic systems but mostly deal with things that come up. This largely agrees with tax agents’ perceptions of small business.

    9.1.3 Where small businesses go for advice

    Accountants see themselves as the preferred formal channel for small businesses to get advice about running, managing or developing their own business (71%), followed by business and industry associations (25%). Informal sources of advice were also mentioned as frequently used, including family and friends (30%) and internet and google searches (17%).

    Figure 37: Tax agents’ perceptions of small business preferred sources of advice (%)

    Figure 37. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QF1. Based on your own observations of small businesses, what are some of the main ways they get advice about running, managing or developing their businesses? Base n=120. Multiple responses
    Full data table for figure 37

    9.1.4 Type of advice tax agents provide to small business

    Of the tax agents surveyed, the main business advice provided was business structure (36%), business planning (30%), and cash flow (28%). Respondents had some difficulty separating what was strictly advice relating to tax and what was not, reflecting to complexities of this area.

    Figure 38: Main business advice tax agents give to their small business clients (%)

    Figure 38. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QC3. Can you please list the kinds of business advice you give? Base n=120. Multiple responses
    Full data table for figure 38
    * Please note the large None section is a result of many respondents being unable to separate non-tax related advice from business advice and therefore citing some kind of tax advice in this question.

    9.1.5 Tax agents as a source of business advice

    The majority of tax agents (92%) are providing small business with some business advice, in addition to advice on regulatory matters. Almost half (45%) indicated that it accounts for 11-30% of their overall work with small business.

    The qualitative research found that many tax professionals had difficulty separating non-tax type advice from tax advice, suggesting the industry itself is still maturing from a transactional business role to a more advisory role.

    The qualitative interviews with small business owners and tax professionals also highlighted a disconnect between what tax professionals think small businesses need in regards to business advice and what small businesses themselves say they need. While not quantitatively captured, small businesses said their biggest business concerns centred on getting new business and marketing to potential customers. Tax agents, on the other hand, stated that cash flow (23%), record keeping (22%) and time keeping (21%) were things they would most like to help clients with.

    The majority (78%) of tax agents say their small business clients are open to the idea of paying them for business advice.

    Figure 39: Tax agents’ perceptions of small businesses openness to paying for business advice (%)

    Figure 39. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QD2. In your experience, are small businesses open to the idea of paying tax professionals for business advice? Base n=120
    Full data table for figure 39

    9.1.6 Perceived barriers to getting business advice

    Forty-eight per cent of tax agents perceive cost is a barrier for small businesses getting business advice from them. A further 14% believe small businesses think they know better and 13% believe small businesses do not see tax agents as business advisors. These findings reflect discussions in the qualitative research.

    Figure 40: Tax agents perceptions of barriers to small business seeking business advice (%)

    Figure 40. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QD3. Why do you think clients may not be not open to getting business advice from tax professionals? Base n=120 (201)
    Full data table for figure 40

    9.1.7 Perceptions of frequency of interactions

    There is some discrepancy between the perceptions held by tax agents and small businesses about how frequently they interact, with 95% of tax agents stating they interact with their small business clients at least quarterly compared to 72% of small businesses who use a tax professional saying they do. There was no significant difference between tax agents of different tiers for frequency of interaction.

    Figure 41: Perceptions of frequency of interactions (%)

    Figure 41. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QC5a. How regularly would you interact with your typical small business client? Examples of interactions could be email or telephone call – any way in which you communicate with one another. Base n=120, and
    QC1a. Apart from the lead up to tax time how regularly do you think you interact with your [tax professional, SC13]? Include small businesses who use tax professionals only. Base n=674 (2017)
    Full data table for figure 41 and figure 24

    9.1.8 Tax agents and accounting software

    Seventy-five per cent of tax agents state that their small business clients use either accounting software or some kind of computerised system to track their records. However, 10% of the small business clients of tax agents still use paper-based receipts as their main form of record keeping.

    Figure 42: Tax agents nominated main small business record keeping systems (%)

    Figure 42. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QE1. When it comes to tax and super, what is the main way your small business clients keep track of their records? Base n=120 AND QE3. What do you think would be the second most used way your clients keep track of their records? Combined responses.
    Full data table for figure 42

    Around two-thirds (64%) of tax agents recommend particular software to their small business clients, while just over a third (36%) do not recommend any specific software. Recommended software is listed below.

    Figure 43: Software recommended by tax agents (%)

    Figure 43. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QE5. Do you recommend a particular accounting software to your small business clients? If so, what is it? Base n=120
    Full data table for figure 43

    9.1.9 Tax agent perceptions of small business attitudes to the ATO

    The majority of tax agents either agree or strongly agree (94%) that their small business clients prefer to contact them before contacting the ATO themselves. There was overall significant agreement with the statements:

    • The ATO is more about compliance than helping small businesses (59% agree vs 10% disagree)
    • I feel that the ATO listens to the needs of small business (36% agree vs 24% disagree)

    There was overall significant disagreement with the statements:

    • The ATO does not do enough to support new businesses when they are first setting up (42% disagree vs 24% agree)
    • The ATO is never going to help small businesses save money (39% disagree vs 32% agree)

    Figure 44: Tax agents’ association with statements of small business clients and the ATO (%)

    Figure 44. A link to the data table containing all the information used within this image is available below.

    QG1. Using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is strongly disagree and 5 is strongly agree, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statements? Base n=120
    Full data table for figure 44

    10. Appendix

    10.1 Qualitative and quantitative instruments

    10.1.1 Small business owner discussion guide

    The handling of a moderation guide

    As an open method of exploration, focus groups are not completely standardised. Listing of relevant questions in the moderation guide covers relevant subjects and leaves enough space for discussions in the sense of an open approach. The questions mentioned below are not meant to be literally asked. Likewise, the order must not be strictly followed. In this sense phrased questions describe the different subject areas and are meant to control the discussion process. Each subject area is firstly explored openly. Then more detailed probing by the moderator follows, with regard to subjects that were not spontaneously mentioned by the participants, but that are relevant.

    Discussion guide flow:

    1. Introduction
    2. Specific business context
    3. Business networks
    4. Natural business processes
    5. Relationship with their accountant / bookkeeper / business advisor (behaviours, experiences, motivations and barriers)
    6. Significance/importance of tax
    7. ATO interactions (behaviours, experiences, motivations and barriers)
    8. Co-creation activity – Small business thoughts on ATO service offerings/improvements
    9. Close

    Introduction – 5 mins – The purpose of this section is to clarify the reasons for the research and build rapport with participant.

    Moderator notes:

    • Introduce self.
    • Thank participant for their time.
    • We are doing some research for the ATO, the purpose of which is to find better ways to engage and support small businesses, especially in regards to their day to day management of their tax and super obligations.
    • This will be a very informal and confidential discussion and I’d ask you to be as honest as possible with your answers. The final report will show the combined responses of the people we speak to. Nothing you say will be attributed to you or your business.
    • If you’re comfortable, I would like to record the interview to assist with preparing our report. We adhere to the privacy principles of the Australian Market and Social Research Society.

    Specific business context – 10 mins – The purpose of this section is to get the participant to ‘open up’, speak freely and for us to learn about their specific business.

    Moderator notes:

    • To start things off, can you first tell me a little bit about yourself?
    • Now can you tell me a bit about your business, for example, industry, structure, role, time in operation and number of employees?
    • Why did you start the business in the first place? [determine if this is their first business or not]
    • Tell me a little bit about what it was like when you first started your business?
    • And what kinds of things did you have to do when starting up? [keep a list and take note of compliance-related matters dealing with employees, tax, super, etc.]
    • Can I ask how you knew to do those things in the first place?
    • Choose some of the compliance tasks: Where did you specifically go to get these things sorted?
    • Did anyone help you to do these things? For example, industry body, accountant, ATO website, etc?
    • Why did you choose these people to help you?
    • How confident were you that you were doing the right things?
    • And how did you feel about that?
    • If not in start-up: Now I’d like you to jump forward to where you’re at today. If you look back on it, what do you consider some of the milestones in your business journey so far? [keep a list of these milestones to refer to]
    • Can you tell me a bit about that? [prompt for the who, what, where, when and why of each milestone?]
    • Why does that stand out? Why is that meaningful for you?
    • How were you feeling at that stage?
    • Did you get any advice to do that?
    • What changed in your business as a result of that milestone?
    • How do you feel about it now?

    Business networks – 10 mins – The purpose of this section is to gain clarity about their formal or informal business networks.

    • Can you tell me some of the ways you keep on top of what’s happening in your industry? [probe for networks]
    • How does that work? For example, attend conferences, go to business groups, online forums, read trade magazines etc.
    • How did you hear about those places?
    • Why do you choose to go to these places for information?
    • What kinds of things do you learn from these sources? For example, marketing, HR advice, workplace safety, etc.
    • What does that do for you? I mean, how does it help you with your business?
    • Could it do more for you? I mean, is there anything that these networks don’t do, but could.
    • What about other kinds of business advice? I mean, not just things specific to your industry but things about business in general? Can you think of other places where you get business information from?
    • How does that work? For example, attend conferences, go to business groups, online forums, read trade magazines etc.
    • Why do you choose to go to these places for information?
    • What kinds of things do you learn from these sources? For example, marketing, HR advice, workplace safety, etc.
    • What does that do for you? I mean, how does it help you with your business?
    • Could it do more for you? I mean, is there anything that these networks don’t do, but could.

    Natural business processes – 10 mins – The purpose of this section is to discover how – or if – tax fits within their existing business systems, perceptions/attitudes around their existing processes.

    • I’d like to shift topic just a bit and learn about your business systems. Can you now describe the things you do in order to keep on top of the day-to-day running of your business? [keep a list and check for online or offline, in-house or outsourced]
    • If not mentioned: Given that we’re doing this for the ATO, we’d also like to learn how ‘tax stuff’ fits within your business. Can you tell me how you deal with tax matters and any systems/process you have for them?
    • Can you tell me why you do it this way? [check for influencers]
    • Do specific things prompt you to think about tax?; For example, times of year, calendar alerts, accountant.
    • If not mentioned: Does any person or product help you with these matters? Who are they and how do they help? [note any accountants, 3rd party providers, it systems, etc.]
    • Have you always done it this way? If not, what has changed? [probe to discover what might have changed in their business, or who influenced them to do things differently].
    • How is this working out for you? What do you like or dislike about your processes?
    • Is there anything that would make them better?
    • Can you tell me the last time you had to go get help or information about your accounting requirements?
    • Why did you feel it important enough to get this help from someone else?
    • Who did you go to?
    • Why did you choose to go there specifically? [probe for rationale and motivation]
    • How did that work for you?
    • Has anything changed in your processes as a result of that assistance or are you doing anything differently?

    Relationship with their accountant / bookkeeper / business advisor (behaviours, experiences, motivations and barriers) – 10 mins – The purpose of this section is a general discussion of these relationships, and the kinds of broad help and services they are accessing.

    • Tell me the last time you directly contacted your main accountant / bookkeeper / advisor or engaged with their products, tools or communication? [probe to see the motivation for this engagement]
    • How did you find that experience? Did you manage to get what you needed? If not, how could it have been better?
    • What other things have you gone directly to your accountant / bookkeeper / advisor for?
    • So what is it that your accountant etc gives you in these interactions that other services can’t? [probe for notions of trust, best advice, convenience, record keeping, authoritativeness, etc.]
    • Are your experiences with your accountant etc similar to what you hear from other small business owners?
    • Why might that be?
    • What types of things wouldn’t you go to your accountant etc for?
    • Who would you go to for this help or support? Why is that?

    Significance/importance of tax and super – 10 mins - The purpose of this section is to discover: how much tax matters affect them, perceptions of burden/efficiency.

    • In general, how do you feel about tax and superannuation requirements?
    • What kinds of words would you use to describe the role that tax and super plays in your business? For example, time-consuming, easy, obligatory, opportunistic, etc.
    • Do you think that’s a common view for people in small business or are you different in some way?
    • Why do you think that is?
    • Are there certain aspects of the tax and super system that are easier or harder than others? Dealing with the tax office?
    • Which are easier to deal with and why do you think that might be?
    • Which are harder to deal with and why do you think that might be?
    • If it hasn’t come up: Is there anything good about dealing with tax? If so, what are the benefits and how does it make you feel?

    ATO interactions (behaviours, experiences, motivations and barriers) – 10 mins – The purpose of this section is to discern if there are any differences in people’s minds about what the ATO can offer and what other sources offer. We also want to know what people’s first-hand experiences are and compare these with perceptions of what they think they will be like.

    • Tell me the last time you directly contacted the ATO or engaged with its products, tools or communication? [probe to see the motivation for this engagement, why that specific channel was selected and whether it was inbound or outbound]
    • Why did you choose to do it that way? e.g phone over website, app over website, etc...
    • How did you find that experience? Did you manage to get what you needed? If not, how could it have been better?
    • What other things have you gone directly to the ATO for?
    • So what is it that the ATO gives you in these interactions that other services can’t? [probe for notions of trust, best advice, convenience, record keeping, authoritativeness, etc.]
    • Are your experiences with the ATO similar to what you hear from other small business owners?
    • Why might that be?
    • What types of things wouldn’t you go to the ATO for?
    • Who would you go to for this help or support? Why is that?

    Co-creation activity – 5 mins – The purpose of this section is to leave small businesses feeling empowered and to bring to the surface any possible service delivery solutions that may arise.

    • I’d like you to imagine for a moment that you work at the ATO and are tasked with helping a small business like you with tax matters. What kinds of things would you suggest they do to help?
    • Go deeper: What else can you think of? For example, is there a product, service or communication that you think could be developed or improved to better meet your needs?
    • As a final activity, I’d like you to write down (or tell me) any final message you’d like my client to know about businesses like yours? What is the overriding message you think they need to hear, in order to help people like you in regards to tax matters.
    1. Close

    Thanks, incentive and signature/acknowledgement of incentive.

    10.1.2 Tax professional discussion guide

    The handling of a moderation guide

    As an open method of exploration, focus groups are not completely standardised. Listing of relevant questions in the moderation guide covers relevant subjects and leaves enough space for discussions in the sense of an open approach. The questions mentioned below are not meant to be literally asked. Likewise, the order must not be strictly followed. In this sense phrased questions describe the different subject areas and are meant to control the discussion process. Each subject area is firstly explored openly. Then more detailed probing by the moderator follows, with regard to subjects that were not spontaneously mentioned by the participants, but that are relevant.

    Discussion guide flow:

    1. Introduction
    2. Specific business context
    3. Understanding of small business client base
    4. Small business issues
    5. Small business processes
    6. Advisors relationship with ATO and ATO systems
    7. Co-creation activity – Small business thoughts on ATO service offerings/improvements
    8. Close

    Introduction – 2 mins – The purpose of this section is to clarify the reasons for the research and build rapport with participants.

    Moderator notes:

    • Introduce self
    • Thank participant for their time
    • We are doing some research for the ATO, the purpose of which is to find ways to make life easier for small businesses and the people who support them with business decisions and processes.
    • This will be a very informal and confidential discussion and I’d ask you to be as honest as possible with your answers. The final report will show the combined responses of the people we speak to. Nothing you say will be attributed to you or your business
    • If you’re comfortable, I would like to record the interview to assist with preparing our report. We adhere to the privacy principles of the Australian Market and Social Research Society.

    Specific business context – 5 mins – The purpose of this section is to get the participant to ‘open up’, speak freely and for us to learn about their specific business.

    Moderator notes:

    • To start things off, can you first tell me a little bit about yourself?
    • Now can you tell me a bit about your business; e.g role, time in operation and number of employees?

    Understanding of small business client base – 10 mins – The purpose of this section is to better understand the types of clients business advisors have and the nature of their business.

    • I’d also really like to know about your client base. Can you tell me a bit about them, and the kinds of businesses they run? [try to ascertain what the maturity is of the businesses they support, the sizes of the businesses, as well as specific industry types]
    • So what would your typical client do, what kind of business would they be in, and what kinds of things are on their mind?
    • Have you gone after this kind of business specifically? If so, why is that?
    • And how do they find you specifically? [eg advertising, cold call, referral, etc.]
    • I’d also like to know how you keep clients happy? What sorts of things do you do to keep them on your books?
    • Which of those things do you think work the best?
    • What is challenging about convincing your clients of your services?
    • As technology changes, are you looking to provide a greater service to your clients outside of traditional accounting and compliance related activities? Are you becoming more of a Business Advisor looking at all elements involved in a Business Plan to help grow your clients business?

    Small business issues – 15 mins – The purpose of this section is to discover the common business issues their clients have.

    • Tell me about the last client you spoke to. What did you do for them?
    • Would you say that is normal or different to most of your clients? Why do you say that?
    • So tell me what kinds of things your clients regularly come to you for help with?
    • Are there certain things that are easier or harder than others for them to work out?
    • Why do you think these things are an issue for them?
    • Are there any differences between what you think they need and what they want?
    • Why do you think those differences exist?
    • So, for example, what services won’t clients pay for or that you find hard to up-sell?
    • Why do you think that is?
    • What do you think could be done about it?
    • Quick projection activity: I’d like you to imagine that someone beside your clients was paying you to help small businesses. Can you tell me what types of things you would like to do for them that they don’t do? [list these down]
    • Why do you think those are the most important things for them to get right?
    • Why is that important?

    Small business processes – 15 mins – The purpose of this section is to discover the common tax-processes clients have and what kinds of solutions their advisors give them.

    • So, now just thinking about tax and super, what would you say pushes people to get tax and super help in the first place? [check for influencers/ motivation: For example, compliance warning, industry association advice, informal network, too much work]
    • Are there certain aspects of the tax system that are easier or harder than others for them to work out?
    • Why do you think these things are an issue for them?
    • Can you see any trends in this? I mean, are there common reasons for them needing help?
    • Do you think there’s anything that can be done about this? For example, could you or the ATO get involved earlier to help them out or do they need different type of training or communications?
    • What about trends in, say, the industry type or the age of the business. Can you see any commonalities there?
    • Can you describe what sort of state are their businesses in when they come to you?
    • So when a client first comes to you, can tell me how you go about helping them?
    • What kinds of things, systems, processes or structures would you consider for them?
    • Go deeper: How exactly does that work? [eg: over the phone, via software, app, etc…?]
    • How do they feel about that? Is it hard for them to work this out?
    • What kind of support do they need to get this in place?
    • In your opinion, have you seen this change over time? I mean, are people coming to you for different reasons than they used to? Why is that? [try to determine if the nature of support is changing, or if technology is having an influence]
    1. Advisors relationship with ATO and ATO systems – 5 mins – The purpose of this section is to discover how tax advisors feel about the ATO, as well as to learn about how their own systems and processes work with the ATO?

    Co-creation activity – 5 mins – The purpose of this section is to leave advisors feeling empowered and to bring to the surface any possible service delivery solutions that may arise.

    • I’d like you to imagine for a moment that you work at the ATO and are tasked with helping small business accountants improve their clients’ businesses and meet their compliance requirements. What kinds of things would you suggest the ATO does to help?
    • Go deeper: What else can you think of? For example, is there a product, service or communication that you think could be developed or improved to better meet your needs? Or other ways the ATO and the tax profession and/or other community members could work together better to support small business?
    • As a final activity, I’d like you to write down (or tell me) any final message you’d like my client to know about tax advisors like you? What is the overriding message you think they need to hear, in order to help small businesses in regards to tax matters.
    1. Close

    Thanks, incentive and signature/acknowledgement of incentive.

    10.1.3 Small business CATI survey

    16-090561 Small business engagement research telephone survey with business owners

    Introduction

    Hello, my name is ______________ calling on behalf of Winangali, a social research company. I am not trying to sell you anything. We are currently doing some research on small businesses on behalf of the Australian Government regarding small business needs and your preferences for receiving information and interacting with government.

    The survey will last about 15 minutes. It can be done now or at a time that is more convenient to the Business Owner. May I speak to the Business Owner please? [if joint owners ask for the one that is the person who mainly deals with tax or super]

    [if more information on research required]

    The Australian Taxation Office is seeking information on how it can help small businesses in regards to tax and super. This includes those businesses that get tax help from people like accountants or business advisors. This research will help the ATO better understand small business needs and also possibly help to develop new products and services. Your contact information has been sourced by Dunn and Bradstreet, a data collection company.

    [if queried about bona fides of research] I can provide the names of people who will verify the legitimate nature of this research project. The first is the Australian Market and Social Research Society enquiry line on 1300 364 830 who can verify that we are a legitimate market and social research company. The second is the research project manager, Patrick Watson at Ipsos, the organisation managing this research project, who can discuss the specifics of this research. His phone number is 042 025 2165. Respondents can also verify the authenticity of the research by contacting the ATO switchboard on 13 28 69 and asking for Marisa Strazzari ext 72983.

    Alternatively, they can check the credentials at the ATO website.

    This survey has been approved by the Australian Government Statistical Clearing House. Would you like the Approval Number? 02545-01

    Section A: Screener

    Ask all:

    To start off with, I have a few questions about you and your business....

    SC1. How long have you been involved in managing the business administration of this (or other) businesses?

    Single response

    Less than one year

    1

     

     

    1 – 2 years

    2

     

     

    3 – 5 years

    3

     

     

    6 – 10 years

    4

     

     

    11 – 20 years

    5

     

     

    21 years +

    6

     

     

    I don’t manage the business administration

    7

    Terminate. close and read termination script

     

    Don’t know/can’t remember

    98

     

     

    Prefer not to say

    99

     

     

    Interviewer to read:

    The following questions relate to the business telephone number that I have called you on. So, if you do have more than one business, please answer the questions only with this business in mind.

    SC2. Where is your main business location?

    Single response. prompt if necessary. if mention ‘overseas’, ask: Where is the main location in Australia?

    If multiple location in Australia clarify: This is where you have the largest part of your business

    Sydney

    1

    NSW – other

    2

    Melbourne

    3

    VIC – other

    4

    Brisbane

    5

    QLD – other

    6

    Perth

    7

    WA – other

    8

    Adelaide

    9

    SA – other

    10

    TAS

    11

    NT

    12

    ACT

    13

    Quotas

    NSW

    141

    VIC

    141

    QLD

    94

    WA

    94

    SA

    94

    TAS

    70

    NT

    70

    ACT

    47

    Total

    750

    SC3. What was your approximate turnover for the financial year 2015-2015?

    If necessary: That is from the 1st of July 2015 until the 30th of June 2015.

    If necessary: Turnover is also known as ‘Gross sales’ or ‘revenue’

    Read out:

    Less than $75,000

    1

    MONITOR NUMBERS

    $75,000 - $2 million

    2

    MONITOR NUMBERS

    Over $2 million

    4

    TERMINATE CLOSE

    AND READ TERMINATION SCRIPT.

    Do not wish to answer

    99

    TERMINATE CLOSE

    AND READ TERMINATION SCRIPT.

    SC4. Is your business set up as a…?

    Read out - Multiple response required

    Sole trader

    1

    go to sc6

    Partnership

     

    2

    Company

    3

     

    Trust

    4

     

    (Self-managed super fund)

    5

    do not read out

    (Do not wish to answer)

    99

    do not read out

    Ask if SC4 = 2 to 4

    SC5: How many people are currently employed in your business, not including contractors, volunteer staff or yourself?

    (Interviewer note: This is the total number, including part time and casual staff)

    0

    1

     

    1–5 employees

    2

     

    6–10 employees

    3

     

    11–20 employees

    4

     

    More than 20 employees

    5

     

    Unsure

    98

    Terminate. close and read termination script

    SC6. Is your business registered for GST?

    SINGLE RESPONSE

    Yes

    1

    No

    2

    Don’t know

    98

    SC7. And can I confirm that your main business is in the <Insert industry type from sample> industry? Code as confirmed by respondent.

    Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing

    1

    Mining

    2

    Manufacturing

    3

    Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services

    4

    Construction

    5

    Wholesale Trade

    6

    Retail Trade

    7

    Accommodation and Food Services

    8

    Transport, Postal and Warehousing

    9

    Information Media and Telecommunications

    10

    Financial and Insurance Services

    11

    Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services

    12

    Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

    13

    Administrative and Support Services

    14

    Public Administration and Safety

    15

    Education and Training

    16

    Health Care and Social Assistance

    17

    Arts and Recreation Services

    18

    Other Services

    19

    Other (please specify) ________________________

    97

    Unsure

    98

    SC8. Which of the following best represents the stage your main business is currently in?

    Read out - Multiple response required

    My business is in the early stages (start-up phase)

    1

    The business is established

    2

    The business is about to go through major changes (eg expanding, downsizing, changing direction)

    3

    I am considering exiting the business (eg selling, closing, transferring ownership)

    4

    (Do not read out) Prefer not to answer

    99

    (Do not read out) Don’t know

    98

    SC9. How long has your main business been in operation?

    Single response

    Less than one year

    1

    1 – 2 years

    2

    3 – 5 years

    3

    6 – 10 years

    4

    11 – 20 years

    5

    21 years +

    6

    Don’t know/can’t remember

    98

    Prefer not to say

    99

    SC10. Is your business 50% or more indigenous owned?

    Yes

    1

    No

    2

    Don’t Know

    98

    Prefer not to say

    99

    QSC11. Have you undertaken any of the following types of training in business management or administration? Read out. Multiple response

    University degree or diploma

    1

    Full-time TAFE course

    2

    Short courses at TAFE or other private institutions

    3

    Industry course

    4

    Chartered Accountant (CA) or Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA) qualification

    5

    On the job training as an administrator

    6

    (Do not read out) None of the above

    97

    (do not read out) Prefer not to say

    99

    Section B: Current perceptions

    Ask all

    QB1. Using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is extremely negative and 5 is extremely positive, how positive or negative would you say you are currently feeling about how your business is performing at the moment?

    Extremely negative

     

    Extremely positive

    DK

    N/A

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    QB2. And using the same scale of one to five, how are you feeling about the future of your business, in say 12 months from now? [prompt if necessary] A rating of one is extremely negative and 5 extremely positive.

    Extremely negative

     

    Extremely positive

    DK

    N/A

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    QB3: In your opinion, which of the following statements would you say best represents your business administration systems: [if necessary] Business administration systems include things like paying staff, sending invoices, record keeping, etc.

    Read out - Single response only

    I have systems that are efficient and effective

    1

    I have systems that work for me, but they could probably be better

    2

    I have a few basic systems, but mostly deal with things as they come up

    3

    I work with systems that were developed by someone else

    NOTE FOR INTERVIEWER: EXAMPLES INCLUDE CONTRACTORS, PEOPLE WHO BOUGHT BUSINESSES OR FRANCHISE SYSTEMS

    4

    QB4: Thinking about when you first started your current business, where did you go for advice or information on these issues? [Probe: Anywhere else?]

    Do not read out - multiple response

    Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

    1

    State government business websites

    2

    Business.gov.au (in Department of Industry, Innovation and Science)

    3

    Accountant

    4

    Bookkeeper

    5

    Tax agent

    6

    BAS agent

    7

    Other businesses

    8

    Business partner

    9

    Family, friends

    10

    Business/industry associations

    11

    Course, training program/seminar

    12

    Books, guides, leaflets

    13

    Online business/industry forums

    14

    Internet/Google search

    15

    Superannuation company

    16

    Mentor

    17

    Bank/Financial Planner

    18

    Previous experience/knowledge

    19

    Department of Fair Trading

    20

    Fair Work Australia

    21

    Small Business Commissioner

    22

    Existing clients

    23

    Other (please specify)

    97

    Nowhere

    99

    QB5. When did you first start thinking about your business tax requirements? Would it be…

    Read out - single response. Interviewers: please prompt respondent to answer as they hear the option that best applies to them.

    Before you started the business

    1

    As soon as the business started operating

    2

    When your accountant/tax professional brought it to your attention

    3

    When you received/wrote your first invoice

    4

    When it was time to lodge your first business tax return

    5

    Reached GST ($75k)

    6

    When I got a compliance warning

    8

    When a friend/family brought it up

    9

    DO NOT READ OUT – I haven’t started thinking about business tax requirements yet

    7

    Other specify

    97

    (DO NOT READ OUT) Can’t remember

    98

    QB6. Using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is not at all confident and 5 is very confident, how confident are you in managing your business tax requirements?

    Not at all confident

     

     

    Very confident

    DK

    N/A

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    QB8. Have you ever sought advice or looked for information about business tax requirements? [probe fully]

    Ever sought info / advice about business tax requirements?

     

    No, not at all

    14 %

    Not yet, but might

    3%

    Yes

    83 %

    Can’t remember

    0%

     

    Ever sought info / advice about business tax requirements?

     

    No

    17 %

    Yes

    83 %

     

    Yes

    1

    No, not at all

    2 – go to section c

    Not yet, but might

    3– go to section c

    Can’t remember

    9– go to section c

    QB9b. Anywhere else? - multiple response

     

    Qb9a

    QB9b

    Australian Taxation Office (ATO) phone

    1

    1

    Australian Taxation Office (ATO) service centre

    2

    2

    ATO website

    3

    3

    Other government departments

    4

    4

    Business.gov.au

    5

    5

    Accountant

    6

    6

    Bookkeeper

    7

    7

    Tax agent

    8

    8

    BAS agent

    9

    9

    Other businesses

    10

    10

    Business partner

    11

    11

    Family, friends

    12

    12

    Business/industry associations

    13

    13

    Course, training program/seminar

    14

    14

    Books, guides, leaflets

    15

    15

    Online business/industry forums

    16

    16

    Google search

    17

    17

    Superannuation company

    18

    18

    Mentor

    19

    19

    Other (please specify)

    97

    97

    Nowhere

    20

     

    No other

     

    99

    QG1. Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the ATO’s ability to provide advice, support and information for your business? Base n = 769 (2107). Does not include ‘don’t know’ and ‘not applicable’ responses.

     

    Overall satisfaction with the ATO

    1 - Very dissatisfied

    2

    3 - Neutral

    4

    5 – Very satisfied

    Confidence in managing your business tax requirements

    Confidence with tax requirements

    5 %

    8 %

    35 %

    33 %

    14 %

    Neutral

    4 %

    19 %

    46 %

    21 %

    4 %

    Not confident with tax requirements

    20 %

    17 %

    31 %

    26 %

    6 %

    Section C: Tax professionals

    SC11. Which of the following would best describe how you go about fulfilling your business’s tax and super requirements? READ OUT. SINGLE RESPONSE

    I do it all myself

    1

    Classify as ‘DIY Tax user’. CONTINUE TO SECTION D

    I do some of it myself, but also pay a professional to help me

    2

    Classify as ‘Professional Tax user’

    I pay a professional to do all of it

    3

    Classify as ‘Professional Tax user’

    Continue this section only if classified as a ‘professional tax user’; ie ask only if answered 2 or 3 at qc11 all others go to Section D

    For this next set of questions, I’ll be asking you some questions about tax professionals. For example, tax agents, BAS agents, accountants and bookkeepers.

    SC13. You mentioned earlier that you pay for professional help with your tax and super. Which of the following professionals do you use? [Read out. multiple responses allowed]

    Accountant

    1

    Business Advisor

    2

    Bookkeeper

    3

    BAS agents

    4

    Tax agents

    5

    Other (specify)

    97

    QC1. Thinking now specifically about these [plug in answer from sc13], what is the main business tax activity you used them for within the last year? [Probe: Anything else?]

    Do not read out - multiple response

    Business structure/Business Planning

    1

    Business Activity Statement (BAS) related

    2

    GST management

    3

    Income and deductions/depreciation information/advice/management

    4

     

     

    Pay as you go (PAYG)

    5

    Record keeping: systems, maintenance

    6

    Advising on tax regulations, legal changes, updates

    7

    Superannuation

    8

    Tax advice

    9

    Tax preparation

    10

    Tax payments

    11

    Annual tax returns

    12

    General advice/information

    13

    Other (please specify)

    97

    Don’t know

    98

    Refused

    99

    QC1a. Apart from the lead up to tax time how regularly do you think you interact with your [plug in answer from SC13]?

    Do not read out - probe if required

    Do not read out - multiple response

    Around once a week

    1

    Around once a month

    2

    Around Quarterly

    3

    One or two times a year

    4

    Once a year

    5

    I only talk to him/her at tax time

    6

    Unsure

    98

    QC2. What benefits are there to using your [plug in answer(s) from sc13]? Probe: Anything else?

    Do not read out. Probe fully. Multiple response allowed

    Personalised service

    1

    Knows my business

    2

    Saves me time

    3

    Cost effective

    4

    Financial benefits or saves me money

    5

    Trust/confidence

    6

    On my side/work for me

    7

    Reliable

    8

    Easy to get hold of/access

    9

    Not having to do it myself

    10

    Have the tax knowledge/expertise

    11

    Familiarity with the ATO and the way they work

    12

    Habit

    13

    Keeps me out of trouble/meets my obligations

    14

    Doing the right thing

    15

    Other (please specify)

    97

    Don't know

    98

    QC3. Using a scale of 1-5, where 1 is not reliant at all and 5 is extremely reliant, to what extent do you think you rely on your [plug in answer from SC13] to manage your tax and super affairs?

    Not reliant at all

     

    Extremely reliant

    DK

    N/A

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    QC4. Using the same scale of 1-5, where 1 is not reliant at all and 5 is extremely reliant, to what extent do you think you rely on your [PLUG IN ANSWER FROM SC13] to give you other types of business advice?

    Not reliant at all

     

    Extremely reliant

    DK

    N/A

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    QC5. Are there any negative aspects of using an accountant or bookkeeper?

    Yes

    1

    No

    2 go to Section D

    Not sure

    9 go to Section D

    Ask only if answered 1 at qc5

    QC6: What do these negative aspects include?

    Do not read out. Prompt only if necessary

    Expense involved

    1

    Not sure if they’re needed

    2

    Poor service

    3

    Hard to get a new one because they know my system

    4

    Old-fashioned

    5

    Other (specify)

    98

    Prefer not to answer

    97

    Section D: Associations and ATO

    Ask all

    Now I’d like you to think about the Australian Taxation Office or ATO for this next set of questions.

    QD1. Within the last year, what are the reasons you would generally interact with the ATO for? Probe: Anything else?

    Do not read out. Probe fully. Multiple response

    Business structure

    1

    Business Activity Statement (BAS) related

    2

    GST management

    3

    Income and deductions information/advice/management

    4

    Pay as you go (PAYG)

    5

    Record keeping: systems, maintenance

    6

    Advising on/questions about regulations, legal changes,

    7

    updates

     

    Superannuation

    8

    Tax advice

    9

    Tax preparation

    10

    Tax payments

    11

    Payment arrangements (for debt)

    12

    Annual tax returns

    13

    General advice/information

    14

    Arranging payment extensions

    15

    Error in tax return

    16

    When didn’t understand something

    17

    Needing to change/update details

    18

    Other (please specify)

    97

    Don’t know/refused

    98

    I don’t interact with the ATO at all

    19

    I have not interacted with the ATO in the last year

    20

    QE1. For this next question, I’m going to read out some words and I’d like you to tell me if that word best represents the ATO and/or a Tax Professional or neither. (Interviewer prompt if needed: If you have had little or nothing to do with a tax agent or ATO, we are still interested in your thoughts.) The first word is…

    Read out. Randomise. Single response

    Response

    ATO

    Tax professional

    Both

    Neither

    Not sure

    a. Trusted

    1

    2

    3

    4

    9

    b. Reliable

    1

    2

    3

    4

    9

    c. Efficient

    1

    2

    3

    4

    9

    d. Capable

    1

    2

    3

    4

    9

    e. Knowledgeable

    1

    2

    3

    4

    9

    f. Cost effective

    1

    2

    3

    4

    9

    g. Consistent

    1

    2

    3

    4

    9

    h. Accessible

    1

    2

    3

    4

    9

    i. Approachable

    1

    2

    3

    4

    9

    j. Supportive

    1

    2

    3

    4

    9

    k. Honest

    1

    2

    3

    4

    9

    SECTION E: ENGAGEMENT PROFILE

    Section E: Engagement profile

    Ask all

    QF1. Using a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is strongly disagree and 5 is strongly agree, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statements. [interviewer prompt if necessary: 1 means strongly disagree and 5 means strongly agree]. Read out. Randomise order

    Question

    Strongly disagree

    Disagree

    Neither agree nor disagree

    Agree

    Strongly agree

    DK

    N/A

    a) I have no idea what the ATO could do to help my business

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    b) I'm the kind of person that will proactively seek out all the information I need about tax

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    c) I'll deal with business taxation issues only when needed

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    d) I'd like to understand my business' tax requirements and obligations better

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    e) I want personalised service when dealing with my business tax requirements

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    f) I'd prefer the ATO to contact me directly when there have been changes to tax

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    QF2. Using the same scale, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statements about the ATO?

    [Interviewer prompt if necessary: 1 means strongly disagree and 5 means strongly agree] Read out. Randomise order

    Question

    Strongly disagree

    Disagree

    Neither agree nor disagree

    Agree

    Strongly agree

    DK

    N/A

    a) Dealing with the ATO is simple

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    b) I would prefer to contact a tax professional before contacting the ATO if I need help with my tax

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    c) I feel that the ATO listens to the needs of small business

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    d) The ATO are not on my side

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    e) I needed the ATO more when I first started the business than I do now

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    f) The ATO gives me the right information to meet my needs

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    g) The ATO is more about compliance than helping small businesses

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    h) The ATO is never going to help you save money

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    i) The ATO does not do enough to support new businesses when they are first setting up

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    j) I'd prefer to have nothing much to do with the ATO

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    Section F: Performance

    Ask all:

    QG1. Using a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is very dissatisfied and 5 is very satisfied, overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the ATO’s ability to provide advice, support and information for your business?

    Very dissatisfied

     

     

     

    Very satisfied

    DK

    N/A

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    Section G: Close

    Thank you very much for your participation in our survey. Just to confirm, all the answers you provided are treated in the strictest confidence and will be aggregated with other people’s answers for analysis. They will not be passed on to anyone or anywhere else.

    In case my supervisor needs to contact you to check the validity of this interview, could I please confirm some details?

    Respondent’s first name: ____________________

    Phone: _______________________________________

    Company name: _______________________________

    As a Market Research company, we comply with the requirements of the Privacy Act. Would you like me to read out the details of how Ipsos complies with the Privacy Act (again)?

    In accordance with the Privacy Act, once information processing has been completed, please be assured that your name and contact details will be removed from your responses to this survey. After that time we will no longer be able to identify the responses provided by you. However, for the period that your name and contact details remain with your survey responses, which will be approximately 2 to 4 weeks, you will be able to contact us to request that some or all of your information be deleted. Thank you for your time.

    Termination script:

    Thank you for your time. Unfortunately we have reached the allocated quota for this study and I will need to leave the survey there

    Just to confirm, all the answers you provided are treated in the strictest confidence and will be aggregated with other people’s answers for analysis. They will not be passed on to anyone or anywhere else.

    In case my supervisor needs to contact you to check the validity of this interview, could I please confirm some details?

    Respondent’s first name: ____________________

    Phone: _______________________________________

    Company name: _______________________________

    10.1.4 Tax professionals CATI survey

    16-090561 Small business engagement research

    Telephone survey with tax professionals

    Introduction

    Hello, my name is ______________ calling on behalf of Winangali, a social research company. I am not trying to sell you anything. We are currently doing some research on small businesses for the Australian Government. The purpose of the research is to better understand the ways – and reasons why – small businesses interact with tax professionals. Acknowledging your important relationship with your small business clients, the ATO would also like to understand how we could help tax professionals to assist their small business clients further.

    The survey will last about 10 minutes. It can be done now or at a time that is more convenient to one of your tax professionals. May I speak to the Business Owner or a tax professional please?

    Capture info if call back required

    [If more information on research required]

    The Australian Taxation Office is seeking information on how it can help small businesses and tax professionals in regards to tax and super. Your contact information has been provided by the ATO.

    [If queried about bona fides of research] I can provide the names of people who will verify the legitimate nature of this research project. The first is the Australian Market and Social Research Society enquiry line on 1300 364 830 who can verify that we are a legitimate market and social research company. The second is the research project manager, Patrick Watson at Ipsos, the organisation managing this research project, who can discuss the specifics of this research. His phone number is 042 025 2165. Respondents can also verify the authenticity of the research by contacting the ATO switchboard on 13 28 69 and asking for Marisa Strazzari ext 72983.

    Alternatively, they can check the credentials at the ATO website.

    This survey has been approved by the Australian Government Statistical Clearing House. Would you like the Approval Number? 02545-01

    Section A: Screener

    Ask all:

    To start off with, I have a few questions about you in your role as a tax professional.

    SC1. How long have you worked as a tax professional?
    Single response

    Less than one year

    1

    1 – 2 years

    2

    3 – 5 years

    3

    6 – 10 years

    4

    11 – 20 years

    5

    21 years +

    6

    Don’t know/can’t remember

    98

    Prefer not to say

    99

    SC2. And where are the majority of your small business clients located? [insert from ATO-provided list].

    If multiple location in Australia clarify: This is where you have the largest part of your small business clients. If required: Small businesses are typically defined as having an annual turnover of less than $2 million.

    Sydney metro

    1

    NSW – other

    2

    Melbourne metro

    3

    VIC – other

    4

    Brisbane metro

    5

    QLD – other

    6

    Perth metro

    7

    WA – other

    8

    Adelaide metro

    9

    SA – other

    10

    TAS

    11

    NT

    12

    ACT

    13

    Quotas

    NSW / ACT

    40

    Vic

    30

    Qld

    24

    WA

    12

    SA

    9

    Other

    5

    Total

    120

    SC2b. And after that location, where would the next largest client base be?

    Sydney metro

    1

    NSW – other

    2

    Melbourne metro

    3

    VIC – other

    4

    Brisbane metro

    5

    QLD – other

    6

    Perth metro

    7

    WA – other

    8

    Adelaide metro

    9

    SA – other

    10

    TAS

    11

    NT

    12

    ACT

    13

    Not sure

    98

    No other

    97

    Section B: Client profiles

    QB1. What industry would most of your small business clients come from?

    QB1b: And after that, what industry do you think the second biggest portion might come from?

    Code as confirmed by respondent.

     

    QB1

    QB1b

    Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing

    1

    1

    Mining

    2

    2

    Manufacturing

    3

    3

    Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services

    4

    4

    Construction

    5

    5

    Wholesale Trade

    6

    6

    Retail Trade

    7

    7

    Accommodation and Food Services

    8

    8

    Transport, Postal and Warehousing

    9

    9

    Information Media and Telecommunications

    10

    10

    Financial and Insurance Services

    11

    11

    Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services

    12

    12

    Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

    13

    13

    Administrative and Support Services

    14

    14

    Public Administration and Safety

    15

    15

    Education and Training

    16

    16

    Health Care and Social Assistance

    17

    17

    Arts and Recreation Services

    18

    18

    Other Services

    19

    19

    No other

    99

     

    Other (please specify) __________________________

    97

    97

    Unsure/Couldn't say

    98

     

    QB2. Do you consider yourself a specialist for this/these particular industries?

    Yes

    1

    No

    2

    QB3. What percentage of your small business clients do you think have a good understanding of their tax and super requirements?

    0-9 %

    1

    10-19%

    2

    20-29%

    3

    30-39%

    4

    40-49%

    5

    50-59%

    6

    60-69%

    7

    70-79%

    8

    80-89%

    9

    90-100%

    10

    Not sure

    98

    QB4. And what percentage of your small business clients do you think have little understanding of their tax and superannuation requirements?

    0-9 %

    1

    10-19%

    2

    20-29%

    3

    30-39%

    4

    40-49%

    5

    50-59%

    6

    60-69%

    7

    70-79%

    8

    80-89%

    9

    90-100%

    10

    Not sure

    98

    Section C: Tax and super support

    QC1. Which of the following reasons do you think small business clients come to you for business management or tax and super help?

    Read out - Multiple response required

    Randomise

    Seeking help before they’ve registered their business / before starting their business

    1

    Seeking help after trying to do things themselves and encountering a tax or super problem

    2

    Seeking help with tax and super because they don’t have the time

    3

    Seeking help because they don’t want to do it themselves

    4

    Seeking help because they don’t know how to do it themselves

    5

    Seeking assistance when they are in financial trouble

    6

    Seeking help to change or grow their business

    7

    Not sure

    98

    QC2. What are the main tax activities, and other regulatory obligations (eg ASIC, state regulatory bodies) you helped small business clients with in the last year? Probe: Anything else - Multiple responses

    Business Activity Statement (BAS) related

    1

    GST management

    2

    Pay as you go (PAYG) withholding

    3

    Super

    4

    Fringe Benefits Tax

    5

    Income and deductions/depreciation information/advice/management

    6

    Tax preparation

    7

    Annual tax returns

    8

    PAYG Instalments

    9

    Tax payments

    10

    Advising on tax regulations, legal changes, updates

    11

    General Tax advice

    12

    Tax audits

    13

    Company reporting to ASIC

    14

    Other external audit, for example, company audit

    15

    Financial or other regulatory reporting to other regulators

    16

    General advice/information (non-tax regulations)

    17

    Other (please specify)

    97

    Don’t know

    98

    Refused

    99

    QC3: Can you please list the kinds of business advice you give?

    Multiple response. probe if required

    Business planning

    1

    Business structure

    2

    Setting up a Trust

    3

    Staff-related advice

    4

    Research and Development

    5

    Product development/getting product IP registered

    6

    Marketing

    7

    Business Software

    8

    Website/online presence/digital strategy

    9

    Financial management

    10

    Asset purchases

    11

    Pricing, for example, costing of jobs, product pricing

    12

    Cash flow

    13

    Record keeping: systems, maintenance

    14

    Selling the business/business exit strategy

    15

    Other (specify)

    97

    QC4. In your opinion, what reporting requirement do you find your small business clients have the most difficulty understanding?

    Interviewer note: This could be difficult understanding, or difficulty completing. Probe: Anything else? Multiple responses

    Payroll tax

    1

    Business Activity Statement (BAS) related

    2

    Fringe Benefit tax

    3

    GST management

    4

    Income and deductions/depreciation

    5

    Pay as you go (PAYG)

    6

    Superannuation issues

    7

    Tax preparation

    8

    Tax payments

    9

    Annual tax returns

    10

    ASIC reporting

    11

    Self Managed Super Fund

    12

    Other (please specify)

    97

    Don’t know/refused

    99

    QC5a. How regularly would you interact with your typical small business client? Examples of interactions could be email or telephone call – any way in which you communicate with one another.

    Do not read out - probe if required

    Around once a week

    1

    Around once a month

    2

    Around Quarterly

    3

    One or two times a year

    4

    Once a year

    5

    I only talk to them at tax time

    6

    Unsure

    98

    QC5b

    NOTE

    QUESTION

    VARIABLES

    CODE

    IF ANSWERED 1 AT QC5a

    And in a week, how much time do you think the interaction takes all together?

    Less than an hour

    1

    A few hours

    2

    Around a day

    3

    More than a day

    4

    Not sure

    98

    IF ANSWERED 2 AT QC5a

    And in the month, how much time do you think the interaction takes all together?

    Less than an hour

    1

    A few hours

    2

    Around a day

    3

    More than a day

    4

    Not sure

    98

    IF ANSWERED 3 AT QC5a

    And in that Quarter, how much time do you think the interaction takes all together?

    Less than an hour

    1

    A few hours

    2

    Around a day

    3

    More than a day

    4

    Not sure

    98

    IF ANSWERED 4 AT QC5a

    And in those one or two times, how much time do you think the interaction takes all together?

    Less than an hour

    1

    A few hours

    2

    Around a day

    3

    More than a day

    4

    Not sure

    98

    IF ANSWERED 5 AT QC5a

    And in that instance, how much time do you think that interaction took all together?

    Less than an hour

    1

    A few hours

    2

    Around a day

    3

    More than a day

    4

    Not sure

    98

    IF ANSWERED 6 AT QC5a

    And at tax time, how much time do you think you spend interacting with your typical client all together?

    Less than an hour

    1

    A few hours

    2

    Around a day

    3

    More than a day

    4

    Not sure

    98

    QC6., What kind of non-tax or super advice do you think your small business clients most need help with?

    Multiple response - probe if necessary

    Business planning

    1

    Business structure

    2

    Setting up a Trust

    3

    Staff-related advice

    4

    Research and Development

    5

    Product development/getting product IP registered

    6

    Marketing

    7

    Business Software

    8

    Website/online presence/digital strategy

    9

    Financial management

    10

    Asset purchases

    11

    Pricing, costing of jobs, product pricing

    12

    Cash flow

    13

    Record keeping: systems, maintenance

    14

    Selling the business/business exit strategy

    15

    Other (specify)

    97

    Section D: Business advice

    QD1. Approximately what percentage of your work with small business relates to giving business advice? This is separate to the more transactional kind of tax or super support that most tax professionals provide.

    Single response

    Less than 5%

    1

    6-10%

    2

    11-20%

    3

    21-30%

    4

    31-40%

    5

    41-50%

    6

    51-60%

    7

    61-70%

    8

    71-80%

    9

    81-90%

    10

    91-100%

    11

    I don’t give this kind of advice

    12

    Don’t know

    98

    QD2. In your experience, are small businesses open to the idea of paying tax professionals for business advice?

    Yes

    1

    No

    2

    A mix of both

    3

    Not sure

    98

    QD3: Why do you think clients may not be not open to getting business advice from tax professionals?

    They find it expensive

    1

    They don’t see tax professionals as business advisors

    2

    They have other ways of getting business advice

    3

    They think they know better

    4

    They don’t think of it

    5

    Other (specify)

    97

    Don’t know

    98

    QD4: If you could get your small business clients to take up one piece of business advice, what would it be?
    OE

    Section E: Business systems

    QE1. When it comes to tax and super, what is the main way your small business clients keep track of their records?

    Single response - probe if required

    Accounting software, for example, MYOB, XERO, Intuit, QuickBooks

    1

    Spreadsheets, for example, Excel

    2

    Paper-based, for example, box of receipts

    3

    Payroll software

    4

    Other (specify)

    97

    QE2. And what percentage of your small business clients do you think would use (insert option selected in QE1) ?

    Single response

    Less than 5%

    1

    6-10%

    2

    11-20%

    3

    21-30%

    4

    31-40%

    5

    41-50%

    6

    51-60%

    7

    61-70%

    8

    71-80%

    9

    81-90%

    10

    91-100%

    11

    Don’t know

    98

    QE3. What do you think would be the second most used way your clients keep track of their records?

    Single response - probe if required

    Accounting software, for example, MYOB, XERO, Intuit, QuickBooks

    1

    Spreadsheets, for example, Excel

    2

    Paper-based, for example, box of receipts

    3

    Payroll software

    4

    Not sure

    98 SKIP TO QE5

    Other (specify)

    97

    Ask only if answered 1, 2, 3 or 4 at QE3

    QE4. And what percentage of your clients do you think would use (insert option(s) selected in QE3)?

    Single response

    Less than 5%

    1

    6-10%

    2

    11-20%

    3

    21-30%

    4

    31-40%

    5

    41-50%

    6

    51-60%

    7

    61-70%

    8

    71-80%

    9

    81-90%

    10

    91-100%

    11

    Don’t know

    98

    QE5. Do you recommend a particular accounting software to your small business clients? If so, what is it?

    MYOB

    1

    QuickBooks

    2

    Xero

    3

    Intuit

    4

    Reckon

    5

    Other (specify)

    97

    I don’t recommend specific software

    6

    Section F: Influencers

    QF1. Based on your own observations of small businesses, what are some of the main ways they get advice about running, managing or developing their businesses?

    Probe: anywhere else? Do not read out - multiple response

    Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

    1

    State government business websites

    2

    Business.gov.au (in Department of Industry, Innovation and Science)

    3

    Accountant

    4

    Bookkeeper

    5

    Tax agent

    6

    BAS agent

    7

    Other businesses

    8

    Business partner

    9

    Family, friends

    10

    Business/industry associations

    11

    Course, training program/seminar

    12

    Books, guides, leaflets

    13

    Online business/industry forums

    14

    Internet/Google search

    15

    Superannuation company

    16

    Mentor

    17

    Bank/Financial Planner

    18

    Previous experience/knowledge

    19

    Small Business Commissioner

    22

    Existing clients

    23

    Not sure

    98

    Other (please specify)

    97

    Nowhere

    99

    Section G: Associations

    QG1: For this next question, I’m going to read out some statements. Using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is strongly disagree and 5 is strongly agree, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    [Interviewer prompt if necessary: 1 means strongly disagree and 5 means strongly agree]

    Read out. Randomise order

    Question

    Strongly disagree

    Disagree

    Neither agree nor disagree

    Agree

    Strongly agree

    DK

    N/A

    a) My clients would prefer to contact me before contacting the ATO themselves.

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    98

    99

    b) I feel that the ATO listens to the needs of small business

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    99

    98

    c) Small businesses need the ATO more when first starting out.

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    99

    98

    d) The ATO is more about compliance than helping small business

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    99

    98

    e) The ATO is never going to help small businesses save money

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    99

    98

    f) The ATO does not do enough to support small businesses when first starting up.

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    99

    98

    Section H: Close

    Thank you very much for your participation in our survey. Just to confirm, all the answers you provided are treated in the strictest confidence and will be aggregated with other people’s answers for analysis. They will not be passed on to anyone or anywhere else.

    In case my supervisor needs to contact you to check the validity of this interview, could I please confirm some details?

    RESPONDENT’S FIRST NAME: ____________________

    PHONE: _______________________________________

    COMPANY NAME: _______________________________

    As a Market Research company, we comply with the requirements of the Privacy Act. Would you like me to read out the details of how Ipsos complies with the Privacy Act (again)?

    In accordance with the Privacy Act, once information processing has been completed, please be assured that your name and contact details will be removed from your responses to this survey. After that time we will no longer be able to identify the responses provided by you. However, for the period that your name and contact details remain with your survey responses, which will be approximately 2 to 4 weeks, you will be able to contact us to request that some or all of your information be deleted.

    Thank you for your time.

    10.2 Tables

    10.2.1 Small business survey

    Table 1. SC1. How long have you been involved in managing the business administration of this (or other) businesses? by Year.
    Total sample Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    Duration

    2015

    2017

    Less than one year

    2%

    2%

    1 - 2 years

    4%

    3%

    3 - 5 years

    9%

    10%

    6 - 10 years

    11%

    17%

    11 - 20 years

    29%

    34%

    21 years +

    45%

    34%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 2. SC2. Where is your main business location? by Year
    Total sample Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    Location

    2015

    2017

    Sydney

    8%

    8%

    NSW - other

    11%

    11%

    Melbourne

    9%

    12%

    VIC - other

    10%

    7%

    Brisbane

    4%

    4%

    QLD - other

    8%

    9%

    Perth

    8%

    7%

    WA - other

    5%

    6%

    Adelaide

    8%

    5%

    SA - other

    4%

    7%

    TAS

    9%

    9%

    NT

    9%

    9%

    ACT

    6%

    6%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 3. SC3. What was your approximate turnover for the financial year 2015-2016? by Year
    Total sample. Total sample Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    Annual turnover

    2015

    2017

    Less than $75,000

    19%

    28%

    $75,000 - $2 million

    81%

    73%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 4. SC4. Is your business set up as a by Year. Multiple responses allowed
    Total sample Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    Is your business set up as a by Year?

    2015

    2017

    Sole trader

    17%

    29%

    Partnership

    13%

    14%

    Company

    56%

    47%

    Trust

    16%

    15%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 5. SC5. How many people are currently employed in your business, not including contractors, volunteer staff or yourself? by Year. Base n=667 (2015)/580 (2017)

    Employees

    2015

    2017

    0

    17%

    26%

    1-5 employees

    65%

    57%

    6-10 employees

    13%

    13%

    11-20 employees

    4%

    4%

    More than 20 employees

    1%

    1%

    Total

    667

    580

    Table 6. SC6. Is your business registered for GST? by Year
    Total sample; Total sample Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    Is your business registered for GST?

    2015

    2017

    Yes

    96%

    90%

    No

    4%

    9%

    Don’t know

    0%

    1%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 7. SC7. And can I confirm that your main business is in the […] industry? by Year
    Total sample Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    Industry

    2015

    2017

    Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing

    5%

    5%

    Mining

    2%

    2%

    Manufacturing

    10%

    10%

    Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services

    2%

    2%

    Construction

    8%

    8%

    Wholesale Trade

    2%

    2%

    Retail Trade

    25%

    25%

    Accommodation and Food Services

    5%

    5%

    Transport, Postal and Warehousing

    3%

    3%

    Information Media and Telecommunications

    3%

    3%

    Financial and Insurance Services

    5%

    5%

    Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services

    3%

    3%

    Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

    9%

    9%

    Administrative and Support Services

    1%

    1%

    Public Administration and Safety

    0%

    0%

    Education and Training

    3%

    3%

    Health Care and Social Assistance

    4%

    4%

    Arts and Recreation Services

    7%

    7%

    Other Services

    6%

    1%

    Other (please specify)

    0%

    2%

    Unsure

    0%

    0%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 8. SC8. Which of the following best represents the stage your main business is currently in? by Year
    Total sample Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    Business stage

    2015

    2017

    My business is in the early stages (start-up phase)

    4%

    7%

    The business is established

    61%

    65%

    The business is about to go through major changes (eg expanding, downsizing, changing direction)

    14%

    13%

    I am considering exiting the business (eg selling, closing, transferring ownership)

    22%

    15%

    Don’t know

    0%

    1%

    Prefer not to answer

    0%

    0%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 9. SC9. How long has your main business been in operation? by Year
    Total sample Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    Length of operation

    2015

    2017

    Less than one year

    1%

    2%

    1 - 2 years

    2%

    5%

    3 - 5 years

    5%

    10%

    6 -10 years

    7%

    16%

    11 – 20 years

    29%

    30%

    21 years +

    56%

    37%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 10. SC10. Is your business 50% or more indigenous owned? Note: All DK’s inclusive in the ‘No’ response (2%) New Question. Total sample; Base n=800 (2017).

    Is your business 50% or more indigenous owned?

    Percentage

    Yes

    4

    No

    96

    Total

    800

    Table 11. QSC11 Have you undertaken any of the following types of training in business management or administration? *indicates a new code frame in 2017. By Year. Total sample. Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    Have you undertaken any of the following types of training in business management or administration?

    2015

    2017

    University degree or diploma

    28%

    27%

    Full-time TAFE course

    16%

    10%

    Short courses at TAFE or other private institutions

    30%

    28%

    Industry course

    34%

    26%

    Chartered Accountant (CA) or Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA) qualification

    6%

    6%

    On the job training as an administrator*

     

    45%

    None of the above

    38%

    26%

    Prefer not to say

    1%

    0%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 12. QB1. Using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is extremely negative and 5 is extremely positive, How positive or negative would you say you are currently feeling about how your business is performing at the moment. By Year. Total sample. Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    How positive or negative would you say you are currently feeling about how your business is performing at the moment. By Year

    2015

    2017

    1 Extremely negative

    7%

    7%

    2

    15%

    12%

    3

    32%

    32%

    4

    31%

    31%

    5 Extremely positive

    14%

    19%

    DK

    0%

    0%

    N/A

    0%

    0%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 13. QB2. And using the same scale of one to five, how are you feeling about the future of your business, in say 12 months from now? By Year. Total sample. Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    how are you feeling about the future of your business, in say 12 months from now?

    2015

    2017

    1 Extremely negative

    6%

    6%

    2

    12%

    9%

    3

    28%

    29%

    4

    32%

    32%

    5 Extremely positive

    17%

    24%

    DK

    2%

    1%

    N/A

    3%

    0%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 14. QB3. In your opinion, which of the following statements would you say best represents your business administration systems New Question. Base n=800 (2017)

    Which of the following statements would you say best represents your business administration systems?

    Percentage

    I have systems that are efficient and effective

    28

    I have systems that work for me, but they could probably be better

    44

    I have a few basic systems, but mostly deal with things as they come up

    16

    I work with systems that were developed by someone else

    12

    Total

    800

    Table 15. QB4 Thinking about when you first started your current business, where did you go for advice or information on these issues?

    Where did you go for advice or information on these issues?

    2015

    2017

    Accountant

    25%

    39%

    Nowhere

    28%

    16%

    Previous experience/knowledge

    17%

    15%

    Family, friends

    12%

    13%

    Business/industry associations

    13%

    12%

    Other businesses

    10%

    8%

    Internet/Google search

    2%

    7%

    Course, training program/seminar

    4%

    6%

    Business partner

    3%

    4%

    Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

    1%

    4%

    Other (please specify)

    5%

    3%

    Mentor

    3%

    2%

    Bookkeeper

    0%

    2%

    State government business websites

    3%

    2%

    Business.gov.au (in Department of Industry, Innovation and Science)

    1%

    2%

    Bank/Financial Planner

    4%

    2%

    Online business/industry forums

    1%

    1%

    Tax agent

    0%

    1%

    Books, guides, leaflets

    0%

    1%

    Small Business Commissioner

    0%

    1%

    Existing clients

     

    1%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 16. QB5. When did you first start thinking about your business tax requirements? Would it be… By Year. Total sample. Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    When did you first start thinking about your business tax requirements?

    2015

    2017

    Before you started the business

    40%

    42%

    As soon as the business started operating

    39%

    33%

    When your accountant/tax professional brought it to your attention

    11%

    13%

    When you received/wrote your first invoice

    1%

    1%

    When it was time to lodge your first business tax return

    5%

    4%

    Reached GST ($75k)

    1%

    1%

    I haven’t started thinking about business tax requirements yet

    0%

    0%

    When I got a compliance warning

    0%

    1%

    When a friend/family brought it up

    0%

    1%

    Other specify

    0%

    3%

    Can’t remember

    4%

    2%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 17. QB6. How confident are you in managing your business tax requirements? By Year. Total sample. Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    How confident are you in managing your business tax requirements?

    2015

    2017

    1 Not at all confident

    4%

    4%

    2

    5%

    7%

    3

    16%

    18%

    4

    31%

    34%

    5 Very confident

    42%

    37%

    DK

    1%

    0%

    N/A

    1%

    0%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 18. QB8. Have you ever sought advice or looked for information about business tax requirements? By Year. Total sample. Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    Have you ever sought advice or looked for information about business tax requirements?

    2015

    2017

    Yes

    74%

    83%

    No, not at all

    26%

    14%

    Not yet, but might

    0%

    3%

    Can’t remember

    0%

    0%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 19. QB9a. When you were looking for this business tax advice or information, where did you go first? By Year. Total sample. Base n=588 (2015)/663 (2017).

    When you were looking for this business tax advice or information, where did you go first?

    2015

    2017

    Accountant

    80%

    76%

    ATO Website

    10%

    11%

    Bookkeeper

    2%

    2%

    Australian Taxation Office (ATO) phone

    1%

    2%

    Google search

    1%

    2%

    Tax agent

    1%

    2%

    Other (please specify)

    0%

    1%

    Other government departments

    1%

    1%

    Family, friends

    0%

    1%

    Course, training program/seminar

    1%

    0%

    Business.gov.au

    0%

    0%

    Business partner

    0%

    0%

    Business/industry associations

    1%

    0%

    Australian Taxation Office (ATO) service centre

    1%

    0%

    Other businesses

    0%

    0%

    Books, guides, leaflets

    1%

    0%

    Nowhere

    0%

    0%

    BAS agent

    0%

    0%

    Online business/industry forums

    0%

    0%

    Superannuation company

    0%

    0%

    Mentor

    0%

    0%

    Total

    588

    663

    Table 20. QB9b. Anywhere else? by Year. Multiple responses allowed.
    By Year. Total sample. Base n=588 (2015)/662 (2017).

    Anywhere else?

    2015

    2017

    No other

    63%

    53%

    ATO Website

    11%

    15%

    Accountant

    8%

    12%

    Australian Taxation Office (ATO) phone

    4%

    9%

    Other (please specify)

    3%

    4%

    Google search

    4%

    4%

    Bookkeeper

    2%

    3%

    Business/industry associations

    2%

    3%

    Family, friends

    1%

    2%

    Other government departments

    2%

    2%

    Australian Taxation Office (ATO) service centre

    1%

    1%

    Business.gov.au

    0%

    1%

    Course, training program/seminar

    2%

    1%

    Online business/industry forums

    1%

    1%

    Tax agent

    0%

    1%

    Other businesses

    2%

    1%

    Books, guides, leaflets

    1%

    1%

    Business partner

    0%

    1%

    Mentor

    0%

    0%

    BAS agent

    0%

    0%

    Superannuation company

    0%

    0%

    Total

    588

    662

    Table 21. SC11. Which of the following would best describe how you go about fulfilling your business’s tax and super requirements? New Question. Total sample; Base n=800 (2017)

    Which of the following would best describe how you go about fulfilling your business’s tax and super requirements?

    Percentage

    I do it all myself

    16

    I do some of it myself, but also pay a professional to help me

    62

    I pay a professional to do all of it

    23

    Total

    800

    Table 22. SC13 You mentioned earlier that you pay for professional help with your tax and super. Which of the following professionals do you use? New question. Base n=674 (2017)

    Which of the following professionals do you use?

    2017

    Accountant

    95%

    Business Advisor

    7%

    Bookkeeper

    30%

    BAS agents

    8%

    Tax agents

    15%

    Other (specify)

    2%

    Total

    674

    Table 23. QC1. What is the main business tax activity you used them for within the last year By Year. Total sample. Base n=800 (2015)/674 (2017).

    What is the main business tax activity you used them for within the last year By Year?

    2015

    2017

    Annual tax returns

    68%

    74%

    Business Activity Statement (BAS) related

    39%

    40%

    General advice/information

    9%

    14%

    Superannuation

    4%

    13%

    Tax preparation

    5%

    12%

    GST management

    9%

    11%

    Tax advice

    4%

    11%

    Record keeping: systems, maintenance

    8%

    10%

    Tax payments

    5%

    10%

    Other (please specify)

    2%

    6%

    Business structure/Business Planning

    3%

    6%

    Income and deductions/depreciation information/advice/management

    8%

    6%

    Pay as you go (PAYG)

    5%

    5%

    Advising on tax regulations, legal changes, updates

    4%

    5%

    Don’t know

    1%

    1%

    Total

    800

    674

    Table 24. QC1a. Apart from the lead up to tax time how regularly do you think you interact with your [tax professional, SC13]? New Question. Total sample. Base n=800 (2017).

    Apart from the lead up to tax time how regularly do you think you interact with your [tax professional, SC13]?

    2017

    Around once a week

    12%

    Around once a month

    23%

    Around Quarterly

    37%

    One or two times a year

    17%

    Once a year

    8%

    I only talk to him/her at tax time

    3%

    Unsure

    1%

    Total

    674

    Table 25. QC2 What benefits are there to using your [Tax professional, SC13]? Anything else? Note: * indicates new code frame in 2017. Multiple responses allowed. by Year Total sample. Base n=755 (2015)674 (2017).

    What benefits are there to using your [Tax professional, SC13]? Anything else?

    2015

    2017

    Have the tax knowledge/expertise

    72%

    61%

    Keeps me out of trouble/meets my obligations*

     

    26%

    Doing the right thing*

     

    25%

    Saves me time

    13%

    15%

    Familiarity with the ATO and the way they work

    19%

    13%

    Not having to do it myself

    14%

    12%

    Trust/confidence

    6%

    10%

    Knows my business

    3%

    9%

    Personalised service

    1%

    5%

    Financial benefits or saves me money

    4%

    3%

    Reliable

    5%

    3%

    Other (please specify)

    4%

    3%

    On my side/work for me

    2%

    2%

    Easy to get hold of/access

    2%

    2%

    Don’t know

    3%

    2%

    Cost effective

    4%

    2%

    Habit

    0%

    0%

    Total

    755

    674

    Table 26. QC3. Using a scale of 1-5, where 1 is not reliant at all and 5 is extremely reliant, to what extent do you think you rely on your [tax professional, SC13] to manage your tax and super affairs? New question.
    Total sample; Base n=674 (2017)

    To what extent do you think you rely on your [tax professional, SC13] to manage your tax and super affairs?

    2017

    1 Not reliant at all

    2%

    2

    7%

    3

    19%

    4

    31%

    5 Extremely reliant

    40%

    DK

    0%

    N/A

    0%

    Total

    674

    Table 27. QC4. Using the same scale of 1-5, where 1 is not reliant at all and 5 is extremely reliant, to what extent do you think you rely on your [tax professional, SC13] to give you other types of business advice? New question. Total sample; Base n=674 (2017)

    To what extent do you think you rely on your [tax professional, SC13] to give you other types of business advice?

    Percentage

    1 Not reliant at all

    17

    2

    19

    3

    27

    4

    22

    5 Extremely reliant

    15

    DK

    0

    N/A

    0

    Total

    674

    Table 28. QC5. Are there any negative aspects of using an accountant or bookkeeper? New question.
    Total sample; Base n=674 (2017)

    Are there any negative aspects of using an accountant or bookkeeper?

    2017

    Yes

    36%

    No

    63%

    Not sure

    1%

    Total

    674

    Table 29. QC6. What do these negative aspects include?
    New question. Total sample; Base n=244 (2017)

    What do these negative aspects include?

    2017

    Expense involved

    78%        

    Not sure if they’re needed

    1%        

    Poor service

    11%        

    Hard to get a new one because they know my system

    0%        

    Old-fashioned

    1%        

    Other (specify)

    1%        

    Hard to find a good one

    1%

    Makes error / miscommunication

    5%

    They are risk averse, not creative nor proactive / don't take responsibility

    3%

    They don't know my business

    2%

    Availability

    3%

    Trust issue

    3%

    Prefer not to answer

    0%

    Total

    244

    Table 30. QD1. Within the last year, what are the reasons you would generally interact with the ATO for? Multiple responses allowed. PROBE: Anything else? By Year. Total sample. Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    Within the last year, what are the reasons you would generally interact with the ATO for?

    2015

    2017

    Business Activity Statement (BAS) related

    26%

    31%

    I have not interacted with the ATO in the last year

    22%

    18%

    Annual tax returns

    10%

    16%

    Tax payments

    14%

    12%

    Payment arrangements (for debt)

    6%

    9%

    I don't interact with the ATO at all

    8%

    9%

    General advice/information

    7%

    8%

    GST management

    9%

    7%

    Pay as you go (PAYG)

    8%

    5%

    Superannuation

    1%

    5%

    Other (please specify)

    0%

    5%

    Needing to change/update details

    2%

    4%

    Advising on/questions about regulations, legal changes, updates

    4%

    4%

    Arranging payment extensions

    3%

    3%

    Error in tax return

    2%

    3%

    Tax advice

    1%

    2%

    When didn’t understand something

    1%

    2%

    Income and deductions information/advice/management

    2%

    2%

    Business structure

    1%

    1%

    Tax preparation

    2%

    1%

    Don’t know/refused

    1%

    1%

    Record keeping: systems, maintenance

    2%

    0%

    Total

    800

    800

    Table 31. QE1. Tell me if that word best represents the ATO and/or a Tax Professional or neither. Note: * indicates option only available in 2017. Total sample; Unweighted; Base n=800(2015)/800(2017)

    2015

    ATO

    Tax professional

    Both

    Neither

    Not sure

    Trusted

    4%

    33%

    56%

    6%

    2%

    Reliable

    5%

    33%

    55%

    5%

    2%

    Efficient

    6%

    37%

    46%

    9%

    3%

    Capable

    3%

    34%

    58%

    2%

    3%

    Knowledgeable

    4%

    35%

    56%

    3%

    3%

    Cost effective

    12%

    31%

    30%

    22%

    5%

    Consistent

    5%

    31%

    54%

    7%

    3%

    Accessible

    3%

    42%

    49%

    4%

    2%

    Approachable

    4%

    41%

    52%

    2%

    1%

     

    2017

    ATO

    Tax professional

    Both

    Neither

    Not sure

    Trusted

    3%

    23%

    67%

    5%

    2%

    Reliable

    5%

    25%

    65%

    4%

    1%

    Efficient

    4%

    32%

    54%

    8%

    2%

    Capable

    3%

    27%

    66%

    2%

    2%

    Knowledgeable

    4%

    26%

    66%

    2%

    2%

    Cost effective

    9%

    27%

    38%

    21%

    5%

    Consistent

    5%

    23%

    64%

    5%

    3%

    Accessible

    4%

    34%

    54%

    6%

    2%

    Approachable

    3%

    35%

    56%

    4%

    2%

    Supportive*

    4%

    36%

    49%

    9%

    3%

    Honest*

    4%

    19%

    72%

    3%

    2%

    Table 32. QF1. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements
    By Year. Total sample. Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    Row percentage 2015

    Strongly disagree

    Disagree

    Neither agree nor disagree

    Agree

    Strongly agree

    DK

    N/A

    I have no idea what the ATO could do to help my business

    14%

    20%

    19%

    27%

    18%

    3%

    1%

    I’m the kind of person that will proactively seek out all the information I need about tax.

    7%

    16%

    18%

    35%

    25%

    0%

    0%

    I’ll deal with business taxation issues only when needed

    8%

    13%

    13%

    38%

    27%

    1%

    0%

    I’d like to understand my business’ tax requirements and obligations better

    7%

    16%

    23%

    33%

    19%

    1%

    1%

    I want personalised service when dealing with my business tax requirements

    3%

    5%

    10%

    38%

    41%

    2%

    1%

    I’d prefer the ATO to contact me directly when there have been changes to tax

    12%

    20%

    16%

    25%

    26%

    1%

    1%

     

    Row percentage 2017

    Strongly disagree

    Disagree

    Neither agree nor disagree

    Agree

    Strongly agree

    DK

    N/A

    I have no idea what the ATO could do to help my business

    17%

    14%

    25%

    16%

    25%

    2%

    0%

    I’m the kind of person that will proactively seek out all the information I need about tax.

    9%

    11%

    23%

    24%

    33%

    0%

    0%

    I’ll deal with business taxation issues only when needed

    9%

    10%

    17%

    28%

    34%

    1%

    0%

    I’d like to understand my business’ tax requirements and obligations better

    9%

    12%

    27%

    24%

    28%

    1%

    0%

    I want personalised service when dealing with my business tax requirements

    4%

    6%

    15%

    24%

    50%

    1%

    0%

    I’d prefer the ATO to contact me directly when there have been changes to tax

    16%

    14%

    20%

    17%

    32%

    1%

    0%

    Table 33. QF2. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements about the ATO
    Total sample; Unweighted; Base n=800(2015)/800(2017)

    Row percentage 2015

    Strongly disagree

    Disagree

    Neither agree nor disagree

    Agree

    Strongly agree

    DK

    N/A

    Dealing with the ATO is simple

    16%

    25%

    25%

    22%

    5%

    6%

    2%

    I would prefer to contact a tax professional before contacting the ATO if I need help with my tax

    3%

    5%

    8%

    39%

    44%

    1%

    1%

    I feel that the ATO listens to the needs of small business

    17%

    23%

    26%

    17%

    5%

    11%

    1%

    The ATO are not on my side

    13%

    31%

    26%

    14%

    10%

    5%

    1%

    I needed the ATO more when I first started the business than I do now

    13%

    32%

    18%

    19%

    9%

    4%

    4%

    The ATO gives me the right information to meet my needs

    6%

    11%

    21%

    39%

    13%

    8%

    3%

    The ATO is more about compliance than helping small businesses

    4%

    12%

    20%

    34%

    24%

    5%

    1%

    The ATO is never going to help you save money

    9%

    23%

    21%

    20%

    19%

    7%

    1%

    The ATO does not do enough to support new businesses when they are first setting up

    7%

    17%

    22%

    16%

    13%

    20%

    5%

    I’d prefer to have nothing much to do with the ATO

    9%

    25%

    23%

    24%

    17%

    2%

    1%

     

    Row percentage 2017

    Strongly disagree

    Disagree

    Neither agree nor disagree

    Agree

    Strongly agree

    DK

    N/A

    Dealing with the ATO is simple

    19%

    18%

    24%

    20%

    14%

    3%

    1%

    I would prefer to contact a tax professional before contacting the ATO if I need help with my tax

    6%

    7%

    8%

    23%

    57%

    0%

    0%

    I feel that the ATO listens to the needs of small business

    16%

    19%

    33%

    18%

    9%

    4%

    1%

    The ATO are not on my side

    23%

    23%

    30%

    11%

    11%

    1%

    1%

    I needed the ATO more when I first started the business than I do now

    19%

    22%

    27%

    15%

    15%

    1%

    2%

    The ATO gives me the right information to meet my needs

    6%

    8%

    28%

    31%

    23%

    3%

    2%

    The ATO is more about compliance than helping small businesses

    5%

    11%

    22%

    27%

    32%

    3%

    1%

    The ATO is never going to help you save money

    13%

    19%

    30%

    13%

    21%

    3%

    1%

    The ATO does not do enough to support new businesses when they are first setting up

    11%

    17%

    30%

    14%

    17%

    9%

    2%

    I’d prefer to have nothing much to do with the ATO

    14%

    18%

    32%

    15%

    20%

    0%

    1%

    Table 34. QG1. Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the ATO’s ability to provide advice, support and information for your business? By Year. Total sample. Base n=800 (2015)/800 (2017).

    Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the ATO’s ability to provide advice, support and information for your business

    2015

    2017

    1 Very dissatisfied

    8%

    7%

    2

    11%

    11%

    3

    37%

    37%

    4

    28%

    30%

    5 Very satisfied

    9%

    12%

    DK

    6%

    3%

    N/A

    2%

    1%

    Total

    800

    800

    QB9a. When you were looking for this business tax advice or information, where did you go first?

    Single response

    When you were looking for this business tax advice or information, where did you go first? Anywhere else?

    2015 first mention

    2015 other mention

    2017 first mention

    2017 other mention

    Accountant

    80 %

    8 %

    76 %

    12 %

    ATO Website

    10 %

    11 %

    11 %

    15 %

    ATO phone

    1 %

    4 %

    2 %

    9 %

    ATO shopfront

    2 %

    1 %

    0 %

    1 %

    QB9b: Anywhere else? Multiple responses

    When you were looking for this business tax advice or information, where did you go first? Anywhere else?

    Professional tax user first mention

    Professional tax user other mention

    Self-preparer first mention

    Self-preparer other mention

    Accountant

    79 %

    12 %

    57 %

    14 %

    ATO Website

    10 %

    14 %

    19 %

    16 %

    Bookkeeper

    2 %

    3 %

    1 %

    1 %

    Google search

    2 %

    4 %

    3 %

    4 %

    ATO phone

    1 %

    8 %

    5 %

    11 %

    10.2.2 Tax professionals survey

    Table 35. SC1. How long have you worked as a tax professional?
    Total sample; Unweighted; Base n=120

    How long have you worked as a tax professional?

    Percentage

    Less than one year

    0

    1 – 2 years

    3

    3 – 5 years

    10

    6 – 10 years

    21

    11 – 20 years

    20

    21 years +

    46

    Don’t know/can’t remember

    0

    Prefer not to say

    0

    Total

    120

    Table 36. SC2 And where are the majority of your small business clients located? Total sample; Unweighted; Base n=120

    Where are the majority of your small business clients located?

    Percentage

    Sydney metro

    20

    NSW - other

    10

    Melbourne metro

    18

    VIC - other

    8

    Brisbane metro

    7

    QLD - other

    13

    Perth metro

    5

    WA - other

    5

    Adelaide metro

    5

    SA - other

    3

    TAS

    4

    NT

    0

    ACT

    3

    Total

    120

    Table 37. SC2b. And after that location, where would the next largest client base be?
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    After that location, where would the next largest client base be?

    Percentage

    Sydney metro

    8

    NSW – other

    14

    Melbourne metro

    6

    VIC – other

    7

    Brisbane metro

    8

    QLD – other

    18

    Perth metro

    3

    WA – other

    4

    Adelaide metro

    0

    SA – other

    3

    TAS

    2

    NT

    1

    ACT

    1

    No other

    23

    Not sure

    3

    Total

    120

    Table 38. QB1. What industry would most of your small business clients come from?
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    What industry would most of your small business clients come from

    Percentage

    Unsure/Couldn’t say

    29

    Construction

    22

    Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing

    13

    Retail Trade

    8

    Accommodation and Food Services

    8

    Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

    7

    Manufacturing

    3

    Transport, Postal and Warehousing

    3

    Health Care and Social Assistance

    3

    Wholesale Trade

    2

    Other Services

    2

    Mining

    1

    Administrative and Support Services

    1

    Arts and Recreation Services

    1

    Total

    120

    Table 39. QB1b. And after that, what industry do you think the second biggest portion might come from?
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=84 (only asked to those who answered at QB1)

    After that, what industry do you think the second biggest portion might come from?

    Percentage

    Retail Trade

    24

    Construction

    23

    Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

    10

    None

    7

    Transport, Postal and Warehousing

    6

    Other Services

    5

    Accommodation and Food Services

    5

    Wholesale Trade

    4

    Health Care and Social Assistance

    4

    Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services

    4

    Financial and Insurance Services

    2

    Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing

    2

    Manufacturing

    2

    Information Media and Telecommunications

    1

    Mining

    1

    Administrative and Support Services

    1

    Other (please specify)

    0

    Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services

    0

    Public Administration and Safety

    0

    Education and Training

    0

    Arts and Recreation Services

    0

    Total

    84

    Table 40. QB2. Do you consider yourself a specialist for this/these particular industries?
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    Do you consider yourself a specialist for this/these particular industries?

    Percentage

    Yes

    43

    No

    57

    Total

    120

    Table 41. QB3. What percentage of your small business clients do you think have a good understanding of their tax and super requirements?
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    What percentage of your small business clients do you think have a good understanding of their tax and super requirements?

    Percentage

    0-9 %

    3

    10-19%

    3

    20-29%

    8

    30-39%

    1

    40-49%

    6

    50-59%

    13

    60-69%

    9

    70-79%

    18

    80-89%

    15

    90-100%

    25

    Not sure

    0

    Total

    120

    Table 42. QB4. And what percentage of your small business clients do you think have little understanding of their tax and superannuation requirements?
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    What percentage of your small business clients do you think have little understanding of their tax and superannuation requirements?

    Percentage

    0-9%

    28

    10-19%

    28

    20-29%

    18

    30-39%

    8

    40-49%

    5

    50-59%

    7

    60-69%

    3

    70-79%

    2

    80-89%

    2

    90-100%

    0

    Not sure

    1

    Total

    120

    Table 43. QC1 Which of the following reasons do you think small business clients come to you for business management or tax and super help?

    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    Which of the following reasons do you think small business clients come to you for business management or tax and super help?

    Percentage

    Seeking help because they don’t know how to do it themselves

    97

    Seeking help with tax and super because they don’t have the time

    93

    Seeking help because they don’t want to do it themselves

    88

    Seeking help before they’ve registered their business / before starting their business

    87

    Seeking help to change or grow their business

    83

    Seeking help after trying to do things themselves and encountering a tax or super problem

    79

    Seeking assistance when they are in financial trouble

    73

    Not sure

    1

    Total

    120

    Table 44. QC2 What are the main tax activities, and other regulatory obligations (eg ASIC, state regulatory bodies) you helped small businesses with last year?
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    What are the main tax activities, and other regulatory obligations (for example, ASIC, state regulatory bodies) you helped small businesses with last year?

    Percentage

    Annual tax returns

    68

    Business Activity Statement (BAS) related

    57

    Super

    33

    GST management

    23

    Company reporting to ASIC

    19

    General Tax advice

    17

    Tax preparation

    14

    Tax payments

    13

    Pay as you go (PAYG) withholding

    9

    Financial or other regulatory reporting to other regulators

    8

    Fringe Benefits Tax

    7

    PAYG Instalments

    6

    Other (please specify)

    6

    Advising on tax regulations, legal changes, updates

    5

    General advice/information (non-tax regulations)

    5

    Income and deductions/depreciation information/advice/management

    3

    Tax audits

    3

    Other external audit, for example, company audit

    0

    Don’t know

    0

    Refused

    0

    Total

    120

    Table 45. QC3. Can you please list the kinds of business advice you give? Multiple responses allowed.
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    Can you please list the kinds of business advice you give? Multiple responses allowed.

    Percentage

    Business structure

    36

    Business planning

    30

    Cash flow

    28

    Financial management

    25

    None N/A

    19

    Other (specify)

    13

    Record keeping: systems, maintenance

    13

    Staff-related advice

    8

    Asset purchases

    7

    Pricing, for example, costing of jobs, product pricing

    7

    Tax related

    6

    Setting up a Trust

    5

    Research and Development

    5

    Business Software

    4

    Financial reporting/forecasting

    4

    Marketing

    3

    Growth/Business planning

    3

    Selling the business/business exit strategy

    3

    Tax planning

    3

    Product development/getting product IP registered

    1

    Website/online presence/digital strategy

    1

    Property

    1

    Total

    120

    Table 46. QC4. In your opinion, what reporting requirement do you find your small business clients have the most difficulty understanding. Multiple responses allowed. Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    What reporting requirement do you find your small business clients have the most difficulty understanding?

    Percentage

    Business Activity Statement (BAS) related

    28

    Annual tax returns

    27

    Superannuation issues

    17

    Financial reporting/modelling

    13

    GST management

    13

    Other (please specify)

    11

    Income and deductions/depreciation information/advice/management

    8

    Pay as you go (PAYG)

    8

    Tax preparation

    8

    Tax payments

    8

    Payroll tax

    7

    Staff issues/Payroll

    7

    Don’t know/refused

    5

    Legislation/Compliance

    4

    Cash Flow

    4

    Fringe Benefit tax

    3

    ASIC reporting

    3

    Capital Gains Tax

    3

    Self Managed Super Fund

    2

    Total

    120

    Table 47. QC5a. How regularly would you interact with your typical small business client? Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    How regularly would you interact with your typical small business client?

    Percentage

    Around once a week

    13

    Around once a month

    36

    Around Quarterly

    46

    One or two times a year

    3

    Once a year

    3

    I only talk to them at tax time

    0

    Unsure

    0

    Total

    120

    Table 48. QC5b. And in that [time period], how much time do you think the interaction takes all together?
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    And in that [time period], how much time do you think the interaction takes all together?

    Percentage

    Less than an hour

    53

    A few hours

    33

    Around a day

    6

    More than a day

    4

    Not sure

    3

    Total

    120

    Table 9. QC6. What kind of non-tax or super advice do you think your small business clients most need help with? Multiple responses allowed. Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    What kind of non-tax or super advice do you think your small business clients most need help with?

    Percentage

    Cash flow

    25

    Financial management

    23

    Business planning

    17

    Record keeping: systems, maintenance

    17

    Not sure/Don't know

    14

    Staff-related advice

    11

    Business structure

    6

    Other (specify)

    5

    Compliance

    5

    Research and Development

    3

    Marketing

    3

    Asset purchases

    3

    Product development/getting product IP registered

    1

    Business Software

    1

    Pricing, for example, costing of jobs, product pricing

    1

    Selling the business/business exit strategy

    1

    Table 50. QD1. Approximately what percentage of your work with small business relates to giving business advice? This is separate to the more transactional kind of tax or super support that most tax professionals provide. Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    Approximately what percentage of your work with small business relates to giving business advice?

    Percentage

    Less than 5%

    9

    6-10%

    15

    11-20%

    28

    21-30%

    17

    31-40%

    12

    41-50%

    6

    51-60%

    2

    61-70%

    0

    71-80%

    1

    81-90%

    1

    91-100%

    1

    I don’t give this kind of advice

    8

    Don’t know

    3

    Total

    120

    Table 51 QD2. In your experience, are small businesses open to the idea of paying tax professionals for business advice?
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    In your experience, are small businesses open to the idea of paying tax professionals for business advice?

    Percentage

    Yes

    78

    No

    13

    A mix of both

    9

    Not sure

    1

    Total

    120

    Table 5244. QD3. Why do you think clients may not be not open to getting business advice from tax professionals? Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    Why do you think clients may not be not open to getting business advice from tax professionals?

    Percentage

    Expensive

    48

    Think they know better

    14

    Don’t see TPs as business advisors

    13

    Don’t know

    6

    They have other ways of getting business advice

    5

    Other (specify)

    5

    Lack of trust

    4

    They don’t think of it

    3

    Don't value it

    2

    Total

    120

    Table 45. QD4. If you could get your small business clients to take up one piece of business advice, what would it be
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    If you could get your small business clients to take up one piece of business advice, what would it be?

    Percentage

    Cash Flow

    23

    Regular review of profits/Record keeping

    22

    Better time keeping

    21

    Business growth

    18

    Improved systems

    17

    N/A: Not sure

    5

    Get professional advice

    4

    Other

    0

    Total

    120

    Table 46. QE1. When it comes to tax and super, what is the main way your small business clients keep track of their records? Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    When it comes to tax and super, what is the main way your small business clients keep track of their records?

    Percentage

    Accounting software; for example, MYOB, XERO, Intuit, QuickBooks

    75

    Paper-based; for example, box of receipts

    10

    Spreadsheets; for example, Excel

    9

    Bank Statements/transactions

    5

    Other (specify)

    1

    Payroll software

    0

    Total

    120

    Table 47. QE2. And what percentage of your small business clients do you think would use [QE1]?
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    And what percentage of your small business clients do you think would use [QE1]?

    Percentage

    Less than 5%

    0

    6-10%

    1

    11-20%

    4

    21-30%

    2

    31-40%

    3

    41-50%

    12

    51-60%

    8

    61-70%

    10

    71-80%

    23

    81-90%

    18

    91-100%

    21

    Don’t know

    0

    Total

    120

    Table 48. QE3. What do you think would be the second most used way your clients keep track of their records? Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    What do you think would be the second most used way your clients keep track of their records?

    Percentage

    Accounting software; for example, MYOB, XERO, Intuit, QuickBooks

    14

    Spreadsheets; for example, Excel

    45

    Paper-based; for example, box of receipts

    34

    Payroll software

    0

    Other (specify)

    3

    Not sure

    3

    Column n

    120

    Table 49. QE4. And what percentage of your clients do you think would use [QE3]?
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=112

    And what percentage of your clients do you think would use [QE3]?

    Percentage

    Less than 5%

    22

    6-10%

    15

    11-20%

    19

    21-30%

    21

    31-40%

    4

    41-50%

    11

    51-60%

    2

    61-70%

    1

    71-80%

    2

    81-90%

    1

    91-100%

    2

    I don’t give this kind of advice

    0

    Don’t know

    0

    Column n

    112

    Table 50. QE5. Do you recommend a particular accounting software to your small business clients? If so, what is it?
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    Do you recommend a particular accounting software to your small business clients? If so, what is it?

    Percentage

    I don’t recommend specific software

    36

    MYOB

    29

    Xero

    23

    Reckon

    4

    QuickBooks

    3

    Cash flow manager

    3

    Intuit

    1

    Handy

    1

    Microtax

    1

    Sage One

    1

    Other (specify)

    0

    Column n

    120

    Table 51. QF1. Based on your own observations of small businesses, what are some of the main ways they get advice about running, managing their business? Multiple responses allowed. Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    . Based on your own observations of small businesses, what are some of the main ways they get advice about running, managing their business?

    Percentage

    Accountant

    71

    Family, friends

    30

    Business/industry associations

    25

    Internet/Google search

    17

    Bank/Financial Planner

    13

    Other businesses

    7

    Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

    6

    Course, training program/seminar

    5

    Bookkeeper

    4

    Books, guides, leaflets

    4

    Previous experience/knowledge

    4

    Nowhere

    3

    Tax agent

    3

    Online business/industry forums

    3

    Mentor

    3

    Other (please specify)

    3

    State government business websites

    2

    Business partner

    2

    Small Business Commissioner

    2

    Not sure

    2

    Superannuation company

    1

    Business.gov.au (in Department of Industry, Innovation and Science)

    0

    BAS agent

    0

    Existing clients

    0

    Column n

    120

    Table 52. QG1. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements - X
    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statem?

    1 - Strongly disagree

    2 - Disagree

    3 - Neither agree nor disagree

    4 - Agree

    5 - Strongly agree

    N/A

    Don’t know

    My clients would prefer to contact me before contacting the ATO themselves

    3%

    1%

    2%

    19%

    75%

    0%

    0%

    I feel that the ATO listens to the needs of small business

    11%

    13%

    38%

    28%

    8%

    0%

    1%

    Small businesses need the ATO more when first starting out

    10%

    22%

    25%

    25%

    18%

    0%

    1%

    The ATO is more about compliance than helping small businesses

    2%

    8%

    32%

    28%

    31%

    0%

    0%

    The ATO is never going to help small businesses save money

    16%

    23%

    28%

    15%

    17%

    1%

    1%

    The ATO does not do enough to support new businesses when they are first setting up

    12%

    30%

    33%

    16%

    8%

    0%

    2%

    Table 53. QC5a. How regularly would you interact with your typical small business client?

    Total sample; Unweighted; base n=120

    Frequency of interaction by tier

    How regularly would you interact with your typical small business client?

    Medium

    Small

    High Bulk

    PT Focussed

    Around once a week

    10%        

    17%        

    29%        

    0%        

    Around once a month

    36%        

    35%        

    29%        

    45%        

    Around Quarterly

    50%        

    40%        

    43%        

    55%        

    One or two times a year

    2%        

    4%        

    0%        

    0%        

    Once a year

    2%        

    4%        

    0%        

    0%        

    I only talk to them at tax time

    0%        

    0%        

    0%        

    0%        

    Unsure

    0%        

    0%        

    0%        

    0%        

    Total

    50

    52

    7

    11

    Figure 1: Sources of information and advice when commencing business (%)

    Sources of information and advice when commencing business (percentage)

    2015

    2017

    Nowhere

    28%

    16%

    Informal

    39%

    41%

    Accountant

    25%

    39%

    Business/Industry association

    13%

    12%

    ATO

    1%

    4%

    Figure 6: Main type of advice given (%)

    Business structure

    36%

    Business planning

    30%

    Cash flow

    28%

    Financial management

    25%

    Other (specify)

    13%

    Record keeping: systems, maintenance

    13%

    Figure 7 Perceptions of non-tax advice small business need most help with (%)

    Cash flow

    25%

    Financial management

    23%

    Business planning

    17%

    Record keeping: systems, maintenance

    17%

    Staff-related advice

    11%

    More information

    Overview of the research design

    Phase 1

    • Imersion and inception meeting

    Phase 2

    • Qualitative recruitment
    • Qualitative research via 3 focus groups, 19 individual interviews with small business owners and 6 with tax professionals
    • Topline qualitative report and presentation

    Phase 3

    • CATI survey development
    • Survey to SCH for approval
    • Quantitative research via CATI n=800 small business, n=120 tax professionals
    • Topline presentation

    Phase 4

    • Analysis, reporting and presentation.

    Contact details

    Project contact:

    Patrick Watson
    Research Manager
    Ipsos Public Affairs
    Queensland

    Contact address:

    Suite 3a
    201 Leichardt St,
    Spring Hill Queensland 4000

    Office phone:

    +61 7 3016 7660

    Email:

    patrick.watson@ipsos.com

    Footnote 1
    Australian Government, Backing Small Business - Creating jobs, opportunity and growth, April 2017.

    Return to footnote 1 referrer

    Footnote 2
    Commissioner of Taxation Annual Report 2016–17

    Return to footnote 2 referrer

    Footnote 3

    Definitions used to define these categories were:

    Start-up: New businesses, whose focus is on setting up and establishing their business

    Running: Businesses who are established, and focussed on growing further

    Changing: Mature businesses considering making changes or exiting/winding up.

     

    Return to footnote 3 referrer

    Footnote 4

    Commissioner of Taxation Annual Report 2016–17

     

    Return to footnote 4 referrer

      Last modified: 05 Apr 2018QC 54975