Late payments for May hardly changed from the prior month as small businesses navigated the final months of the Australian financial year. But if past trends hold, an uneventful May may be just a pause before payment times stretch out to some of their worst of the year.
In May, the most recent month available, invoices with 30-day payment terms were paid in an average 36.3 days, or six days late, based on aggregated and anonymised data from hundreds of thousands of businesses on Xero. That’s the same figure as April. In fact the two months have performed similarly during the past few years.
When data for June becomes available, we may see payment times lengthen. This is partly because larger businesses, especially publicly traded ones, sometimes delay paying suppliers so they can end the financial year with maximal cash on the balance sheet, with says James Solomons, co-founder of accounting firm Aptus Accounting & Advisory in suburban Sydney.
The May breakdown in payment times by states showed little difference from April, with Tasmanian and ACT small businesses again paid fastest. Here’s how long the average business waited for a 30-day invoice to be paid:
- ACT 29.9 days
- New South Wales 36.6 days
- Northern Territory 34.5 days
- Queensland 33.2 days
- South Australia 36 days
- Tasmania 31.6 days
- Victoria 39 days
- Western Australia 35.4 days
One of the other key measures of business health — positive cash flow — also held steady in May. Some 52 percent of small businesses on Xero saw more money coming in the door than leaving, a number unchanged from April. It’s the first time in three years that most businesses have been cash flow positive in May, which is typically one of the worst months, along with the post-Christmas holidays. The 2018 milestone is part of a broader trend toward improved cash flow and payment times for customers on Xero over the past three years.
One reason for relatively low May cash flow may be heavier spending toward the end of the financial year. Small businesses can claim an instant $20,000 tax write-off for some capital investments. May and June are their last chances to claim the cost of new vehicles and office equipment as a deduction for the financial year, says Solomons.
Hiring for the month of May was up just slightly from April. Overall employment at small businesses rose by 0.9 percent in May, as compared to a 0.9 percent drop one month earlier. The fastest growing employment segment was casual, where headcount grew 1.4 percent. Part-time and full-time growth each rose by less than 1 percent.
In the realm of overseas trading, Xero data suggests that activity increased by the most in a year, with the value of total trade jumping 4.6 percent month on month, as measured by foreign exchange transactions. That’s the biggest increase in a year. Imports drove the increase, jumping 12 percent, while export activity fell 5.9 percent.
Be sure to tune in for the latest update to Small Business Insights data in early August. And this month, check out the debut of XSBI TV, a series aimed at telling the stories behind the data. In the first episode, we catch up with Simon Fischer, the founder of Trippy Taco, one of the most loved Mexican joints in Melbourne, to talk about his passion for Mexican food. Simon also shares some of the challenges he has faced as a small business owner and his goals heading into the new financial year.