SMEs request tax reductions, cash grants amid Covid-19, survey reveals

The findings reveal that sales and cash flow are the two most pressing concerns among service-based SMEs during this period.

PETALING JAYA: A survey of service-based small-medium enterprises (SME) has suggested that a reduction in government taxes and cash grants for workers would be of most help to their business.

The finding is based on two rounds of surveys on 97 service-based SMEs by home services site Recommend my, conducted before and one week after the implementation of the movement control order (MCO).

Nearly half of those surveyed said a reduction in digital and service tax would of great help to their business while nearly 40% requested cash grants for workers who had to take unpaid leave.

"With SMEs and small businesses struggling to find means of earning anywhere, the one takeaway from this is for the government to aid them financially," said in its survey report.

According to the findings, the MCO is taking a toll on service-based SMEs, many of which were already feeling the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak on their business.

As many as 91.1% of those surveyed reported a negative impact to their business one week into the MCO, up from 61.7% prior to the restrictions.

Among the reasons cited for the negative impact was fewer requests for services offered, customer cancellations, reduced spending by homeowners and concerns over face-to-face interactions.

Sales and cash flow were the most affected areas of business, according to the majority of those surveyed.

While there was some worry over supply disruption prior to the MCO, those concerns shifted to sales as well as human resources and marketing after the MCO.

"For more than half of all SMEs, their primary concern is where their next sale will come from," said the findings.

The negative outlook among those surveyed intensified one week into the MCO. Over 40% of those surveyed now have slightly negative expectations for their business in 2020 while about a third have very negative views.

Just slightly over 10% of the SMEs were still optimistic over their prospects for the year, as compared to nearly 17% prior to the MCO.

The growing pessimism ties in with the SMEs' strategy for business continuity with 9.3% of them saying the situation was beyond their control, up from just 1.7% before March 18.

About a quarter of those surveyed focused on work at home policies while about a third prioritised staff hygiene practices including equipping them with masks.
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