One must always remember that a government’s primary concern at any given time is simply to cling on to power for as long as possible. This comes before everything else. Before healthcare. Before education. Before social welfare, transport, work and pensions. Everything. And when there’s a general election in sight, it’s a case of all hands on deck. Nothing is off limits. They’ll sling mud, unfortunately not literally. They’ll distort statistics to suit their needs. They’ll make empty promises to entice an increasingly apathetic electorate. They’ll say anything, absolutely anything, if they think it will give them that all important Edge. It is, by all accounts, a desperate game.
So anyway, how does all this relate to SMEs in 2014? Well, in our scrupulous observation of government, we have, I’m afraid to say, detected some rather glaring discrepancies and, as such, feel it is our moral duty to express these to you, our readers. In the last six months or so, Cameron has had a fair bit to say about SMEs, whom he’s described as “the lifeblood of our economy.” His main piece of advice to SMEs (in this particular broadcast, at least) was simply to “keep doing what you’re doing” – a phrase he was evidently rather fond of, choosing to repeat it several times during the short address, whilst standing in front of some factory-looking pipes and valves. Probably just the boiler room at No 10 or something. What a phoney. So anyway, his advice to SMEs was basically, keep on keepin’ on. Thing is, this gleaming pearl of wisdom becomes a tad problematic when we consider the fact that the number of winding up petitions presented by HMRC, our government’s trusted band of henchmen, has risen by a dramatic 57% in one year alone. The number increased from 3,367 in 2010-11 to a whopping 5,302 in 2011-12. Rather difficult to “keep doing what you’re doing” when you’re having to contend with relentless harassment from HMRC’s hired goons, on top of trying to run a successful business. Seems suspiciously like another case of the government saying one thing and doing another.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been some positive moves. There was the promise of a £100m broadband fund to help SMEs from selected cities across the country get themselves decent internet connections, for example. A move which will, in Cameron’s words, “bring China to Cardiff, Brazil to Bristol and the Emirates to Edinburgh.” Paints quite a picture, doesn’t he? Not entirely sure that the kinds of businesses that have managed to operate offline up until 2014 have business deals waiting for them in Beijing but you never know, I suppose. There was also the pledge to cut some of that dreaded red tape that mercilessly stunts the growth of developing businesses. Overdue perhaps, but better late than never, as they say.
Sadly, though, it seems to be the same tired old tale: a few welcome incentives, coupled with a load of empty talk and condescending back-patting, but a fundamental failure to properly address the real issues – i.e. the fact that millions of youthful SMEs, who are yet to generate any real profits, are being forced to pay an entirely unrealistic amount of tax. But, then again, what can you expect from these snakes? Yeah, they want to appear to be in support of SMEs but, in reality, they’ll sell you down the river for a quick score. The most frustrating thing about this kind of behaviour is that if these businesses were allowed the time to grow and prosper and, consequentially generate some real profit, the government would, over time, collect far more tax as they would receive a steady stream of income (wrong word) as opposed to a one-time pay out. But who knows if they’ll ever figure this out…
It’s like Lenin said a hundred years ago, “there are no morals in politics; only expedience.” In other words, politics is just a big, bloated, over-financed popularity contest with policies and manifestos carrying about as much weight and importance as the closing remarks of a children’s beauty pageant winner. For advice on how to deal with HMRC, have a look at our article here or, better still, get in touch with us.