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Big Business Main Culprit of Late Payments

The impact of late client payments on SMEs is worsening, with big businesses identified as the main culprits of late payments, research from the Late Payment Times and Practices Inquiry reveals.

Early survey results from the Late Payment Times and Practices Inquiry (LPTPI) – which is working in conjunction with the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) – shows that almost 50 per cent of small businesses experience late payments with at least half of the bills owed to them.

The survey found that the practice of late payments is getting worse, with around 60 per cent of small businesses reporting an increase in the trend over the past 12 months.

As the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) has recently been appointed to the LPTPI reference group, IPA executive general manager, advocacy and technical, Vicki Stylianiou, says large businesses are the “worst” late-payers.

“We’ve seen an analysis of who are the late payers and definitely the worst ones are large businesses, so there’s government in there, there [are] other large businesses,” Ms Stylianou said.

“Definitely the culprits are the larger ones overall, so it’s very disappointing but it also means that you’ve got a target that you can go after.”

In the wake of the survey’s revelations, Ms Stylianou said the IPA is committed to helping small businesses manage and improve their payment practices.

“From the accountants’ point of view, they’re the ones who can really help their small business clients or if they’re an accountant in a small business, they can help to manage [payment processes] and there’s a whole lot of different things that they can do,” she said.

A separate ASBFEO report, Issues Paper Payment Times and Practices, also addressed the problem of big businesses “using their bargaining power to extend their payment times to their suppliers while reducing or keeping the payment terms for their customers shorter”.

“Late payments and extended payment times have a significant impact on the SME subject to these conditions,” the report said.

“These businesses usually have small, if any, cash reserves and are dependent on a fast cash flow cycle to maintain solvency.

“SMEs are forced to rely on short-term lines of credit from traditional and non-traditional sources to cover any cash flow shortfalls.”

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