Hockey's comeback budget: good for small business, bad for the long lunch

By Rosie Baker and Rachael Micallef | 13 May 2015
Image courtesy of Joe Hockey's office

Treasurer Joe Hockey's 2015 budget has given small businesses and startups a helping hand with tax breaks that will make it easier for them to do business, but there's bad news for fringe benefits that greased the wheels of long industry lunches.

The push for small businesses could help startups and small agencies get off the ground.

Breaks include:
A 1.5% cut to the tax rate for businesses with turnover under $2 million
A 5% tax discount of up to $1,000 for unincorporated small businesses.
Small businesses can make an immediate tax deduction on items costing less than $20,000 before 30 June 2017.
Tax on all portable devices – including mobile phones, laptops and tablets used by small businesses is being abolished. Where previously tax benefits could only be claimed on one device it can now be claimed on multiple.

Employees at startups will also get tax breaks on shares they receive as part of salary packages.

Up to 96% of businesses could benefit from the cuts.

The budget, which many commentators are saying panders to a potential election next year, also gives working families with children a slew of benefits.

It's in stark contrast to Hockey's 2014 budget that outlined tough austerity measures and cuts to heath and education that received a devastating reaction for Tony Abbott's Government.

The axe has swung for The Australia Council, Screen Australia, but telcos will receive $131 million to help fund the cost of storing customers' "metadata" for two years. Meanwhile ACMA's total resourcing has dropped from 123.8 million to 108.5 million in the 2015/2016 estimate - in line with the November budget update.

ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said: "There were no surprises in the 2015-16 Budget announced last night.

"The ACMA appreciates the  on-going support of government given the whole-of-government financial environment, as we prosecute our agenda of making media and communications work in Australia's national interest."

Car manufacturers are set to see $105 million in industry assistance and $783 million in a reversal of cuts announced previously.

Tax and meal benefits will be capped at $5000 per person – meaning lavish long lunches may need to be scaled back for those exceeding the cap.

The so-called Netflix Tax, which will see the government apply GST to digital products supplied from overseas, could raise up to $350 million in the first two years. It could also increase the price of services such as Netflix by 10% if the streaming service chooses to pass it on to consumers rather than absorb the cost.

Meanwhile spending on the national broadcasters – ABC and SBS – remained at levels reported in the mid-year economic fiscal outlook in November last year.

At the time, funding for SBS was cut by $53.7 million over five years. However in legislation before the Senate is proposing to allow SBS to shift its advertising minutes into prime-time slots. The budget papers noted: “Without the passage of this legislation, SBS will be forced to implement cuts to its programs and services, effective from 2015-16."

See how the papers treated the budget on the front pages.

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