Small businesses voice red tape concerns

More than half of smaller business owners (55 per cent) say their company's growth is being held back by the amount of time they have to dedicate to business administration, according to new research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The findings show that a small business owner spends over 33 hours every month on internal business administration – that represents almost a quarter of an individual’s working hours. In addition, the average small business sees around 70 hours of employee time tied up in business admin alone. 

Two-thirds of smaller businesses (67 per cent) say the administrative burden is preventing them from focusing on their business’ primary purpose. The study reveals that three-quarters of business owners (76 per cent) spend more time than they would like on business compliance, tackling issues ranging from tax, employment law issues and insurance to dealing with workplace pensions, accounting tasks or health and safety issues.

Dave Stallon, commercial director at FSB said: "The Government has pledged to remove £10 billion worth of red tape over the course of this Parliament. FSB welcomes this focus on deregulation, which should free up small business owners to spend more time doing business and creating economic growth. Initiatives like The Red Tape challenge, the ‘one-in-two-out’ approach to new regulations, and steps to boost the regulatory Policy Committee are all moves in the right direction."

Business administration is not just a burden on time, it can also have major cost implications. FSB members spend an average of £3,600 on help and advice with tax compliance. Small business owners’ time and money will be stretched even further by Government plans around tax reporting, announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement. This will require small businesses and the self-employed to keep digital tax records and report, on a mandatory basis, electronically every quarter.

Owners say they could use the time spent on business administration more productively, with 61 per cent claiming they would spend more time on sales or sales development. Indeed, the average smaller business owner claims to only spend 8 hours 50 minutes per month on new business development, just a quarter (25 per cent) of the time they spend on business administration.

Nearly half of respondents to the survey (46 per cent) said they would hire external advisors to help them with these tasks if they could afford to. However, it does come with a cost. The average smaller business that outsources these services spends almost £14,000 a year doing so. 

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