What are Small Businesses Thinking Today?
By Connie Certusi
Executive Vice President and General Manager
Sage Small Business Accounting Solutions
U.S. small businesses are optimistic about their business prospects, but are concerned about the economy and what the future holds. So reveals the second release of Sage Business Index, an international business outlook survey by The Sage Group,a leading provider of business management software and services to small and midsized businesses worldwide. According to the survey, American business owners are optimistic about the prospects for their businesses but are growing concerned about the country’s economy.
Sage Business Index found that, on a scale of 0-100, where 50 is neutral, values above 50 reflect optimism and those below 50 denote pessimism, business owners have a confidence index at 55 when asked about their business prospects in the next six months. Confidence in the U.S. economy, however, was at 41.57, a drop from 50.75 since the first Sage Business Index was conducted in February 2011.
Findings showed that confidence differences exist based on the size of the business and small businesses are the least confident about the future.
These results don’t mean that small businesses don’t trust the American business sphere. On the contrary, small businesses saw many favorable aspects in doing business in the U.S., particularly the business culture and entrepreneurial spirit of its people, which 59 percent of respondents favored the most, followed by having a skilled workforce to recruit from (46 percent) and access to a strong domestic market (41 percent).
However, those same businesses are concerned about the bureaucratic barriers they will face. Respondents cited government and bureaucracy as the biggest problem they have to surmount when doing business. Government’s handling of current economic challenges also ranked highly (63 percent), as did government bureaucracy and legislation (59 percent). Government’s attitude to business was ranked the least favorable aspect.
What’s more, when polled about government support, 69 percent of surveyed businesses responded that the U.S. government is not providing them with sufficient support. Businesses with fewer employees are more likely to feel this way.
The message small businesses are sending is clear. Although they have the will and potential to thrive in a market they hold in high esteem, the thick bureaucratic walls and lack of support from the government is draining their confidence in a bright future. The findings of this survey may present an opportunity for small businesses to be heard and for the government to pay attention, so we can work together and help each other move toward economic recovery.
About Sage North America
Sage North America is part of The Sage Group plc, a leading global supplier of business management software and services. Sage North America employs 4,000 people and supports 3.2 million small and midsized business customers. The Sage Group plc, formed in 1981, was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1989 and now employs 13,400 people and supports 6.3 million customers worldwide. For more information, please visit the Web site at www.sagenorthamerica.com. Follow Sage North America on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/SageNorthAmerica, and Twitter, http://twitter.com/#!/sagenamerica.
Six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda
New Deloitte research reveals that tax leaders are under increasing pressure to add strategic value as companies accelerate business model transformation, from undergoing digital transformations to rethinking their supply chains or investing in green initiatives.
According to Phil Mills, Deloitte Global Tax & Legal Leader, to “truly deliver value to the business, the tax function needs to rethink its resourcing model and transform its technology infrastructure to create capacity and control costs”.
And the good news, according to Mills, is that tax and business leaders have more options at their disposal to achieve this.
Reflecting the insights of global tax and finance executives at global companies, Deloitte’s Tax Operations in Focus study reveals the six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda.
Trend 1: Businesses seek more strategic counsel from tax
Companies are being pushed to develop new digital products and distribution channels and accelerate sustainable transformation and this is taking them into uncharted tax territory. Tax leaders say their teams must have the resources and skills to give deeper advisory support on digital business models (65%), supply chain restructuring (49%) and sustainability (48%) over the next two years. This means redrawing the boundaries of what tax professionals focus on, and accelerating adoption of advanced technologies and lower-cost resourcing models to meet compliance requirements and free up time.
According to Joanne Walker, Group Tax Director, BT Group PLC, "There’s still a heavy compliance load today, but the vision for the future would be that much of that falls away, and tax people become subject matter experts who help program the machine, ensure quality control, and redirect their time to advisory activity.”
Trend 2: Tipping point for resourcing models
Business partnering demands in the tax department are on the rise, but 93% of tax leaders say their department’s budget is remaining flat or falling. To ensure that the tax function can redefine itself as a strategic function at the pace that is required, leaders are choosing to move increasing amounts of compliance and reporting to a combination of shared service centers, finance departments, and outsourcing providers that have invested in best-in-class technology.
Trend 3: Digital tax administration is moving faster than expected
in addition to the rising focus of the corporate tax department partnering with their business counterparts, transformative changes to the way companies share tax information with revenue authorities is also creating an imperative to modernize operations at a faster pace. Nine in 10 (92%) respondents say that shifting revenue authority demands on digital tax administration will have a moderate or high impact on tax operations and resources over the next five years—and several heads of tax said the trend is moving faster than expected.
"It’s really stepped up in the last couple of years," says Anna Elphick, VP Tax, Unilever. "Tax authorities don't just want a faster turnaround for compliance but access into a company’s systems. It's not unreasonable to think that in a much shorter time than we expect, compliance will be about companies reviewing a return that's been drafted by the tax authorities."
Trend 4: Data simplification and lower-cost resourcing are top priorities
Tax leaders said that simplifying data management (53%) and moving to lower-cost resourcing models (51%) must be prioritized if tax is to become more proactive at delivering strategic insights to the business. Many tax teams are ensuring that they have a seat at the table as ERP systems are overhauled, which is paying dividends: 56% of those that have introduced NextGen ERP systems are now highly effective at supporting the business with scenario-modeling insights. Only 35% of those with moderate to low use of NextGen ERP systems said the same.
At Stryker, “we automated the source P&L process for transfer pricing which took a huge burden off of the divisions," says David Furgason, Vice President Tax. "Then we created a transfer price database to deposit and retrieve data so we have limited impact on the divisions. We are moving to a single ERP platform which will help us make take the next step with robotics.”
Trend 5: Skillsets are shifting
Embedding a new data infrastructure and redesigning processes are critical for the future tax vision. Tax leaders are aligned — data skills (45%) and technology process experience (43%) are ‘must have’ skills in a tax department of the future, but more traditional tax specialist knowledge also remains key (40%). The trick to success will be in tax leaders facilitating the way these professionals, with their different backgrounds, can work together collectively to unlock lasting value.
Take Infineon Technologies, which formed a VAT technology and governance group "that has the right knowledge about how to change the system to ensure it generates the right reports", according to Matthias Schubert, Global Head of Tax. "Involving them early was key as we took a greenfield approach, so we could think about what the optimal processes would look like and how more intelligent systems could make an impact
Trend 6: 2020 brought productivity improvements
Improved productivity (50%) and accelerating shifts to remote working (48%) were cited as the biggest operational benefits to emerge from COVID-19-driven disruption. But, as 78% of leaders now plan to embed either hybrid or fully remote models in the tax function long term, 34% say maintaining productivity benefits is a top concern. And, as leaders think about building their talent pipeline and strengthening advisory skill sets, 47% say they must prioritize new approaches to talent recognition and career development over the next two years, while 36% say new processes for involving tax in business strategy decisions must be established.