Five things we’ve learned about the UK’s smallest businesses in 2016

Newspaper with text: YEAR IN REVIEW, Micro-business, what we've learned in 2016

It’s pretty common to read about small businesses, but it’s a lot rarer to hear about micro-businesses, the smallest type who either have no employees or only employ up to 10 people. In reality, micro-businesses make up a staggering 95% of all businesses in the UK - that’s over five million people whose unique challenges aren’t often talked about in the media, and we wanted to help tell their stories.

Earlier this year, we asked micro-business owners what it was really like to run the smallest kind of businesses in the UK. Over 500 people replied, weighing in on everything from Brexit and funding to work/life balance and the government’s digital tax proposals. Here are some of the stories we found.

The majority of micro-business owners were against Brexit

Back to June - before the referendum even took place - we discovered that nearly three quarters (73%) of survey respondents were not in favour of the UK leaving the EU. In addition, 72% said that they thought Brexit would have a negative impact on the UK economy, while just 5% said that it would be beneficial for their business.

Obviously, this had little effect on the result of the referendum itself, with a slender majority of voters opting for the UK to leave the EU. But we were able to highlight our survey results in a number of follow-up stories and argue that Brexit wasn’t what the micro-business sector had wanted and was unlikely to be beneficial for it.

Note: If you want to weigh in on Brexit’s impact on your business and other issues, our 2017 survey is now open.

Many micro-business owners didn’t know about Making Tax Digital

Making Tax Digital is a flagship proposal by the government to fully digitise tax by 2020 and essentially put an end to the traditional tax return (there was a consultation about the plans in the second half of 2016 - read our take here).

However, while those who were aware of the plans were generally positive about them, nearly half (43%) of those surveyed in the Micro-Business Monitor said they didn’t actually know what Making Tax Digital was.

Most micro-businesses don’t start up with government funding

Although the government revealed figures earlier this year showing that the Start Up Loans Company had reached total lending levels of £250m, our survey showed that the overwhelming majority of small businesses do not rely on any kind of government funding to help cover their start-up costs.

Instead, nearly half (44%) started with no funding whatsoever, while 43% used personal savings to bankroll their start-up costs.

Most micro-business owners think the UK tax system benefits big businesses

In the wake of the European Commission deciding that Apple needed to pay the Republic of Ireland €13 billion in tax, we revealed that the nearly three quarters (71%) of survey respondents said they thought the tax system benefited big businesses more than smaller ones.

A good work/life balance comes at a price

While 74% of people surveyed said that they felt they had a good work/life balance, many still had to work long hours with no time for a proper break. Nearly a third of respondents said they worked over 48 hours per week on their business, while 44% said they hadn’t felt in a position to take a holiday in the last six months.

2017 survey now open

We’re currently collecting responses for our next report, so if you’d like to be represented, take the survey now to add your voice!

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