General Election 2015: Tax is a bigger policy concern than red tape for entrepreneurs - but Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem manifestos failed to address any

Lynsey Barber
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Entrepreneurs think tax is an issue for the next government to tackle

British entrepreneurs are more concerned about how the next government will address the issue of tax than they are about red tape and regulation.

Research by Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) found reforming tax was the biggest policy concern for a quarter of entrepreneurs.

Just four per cent called for the government to simplify regulations and decrease the bureaucracy faced by entrepreneurs.

However, the slew of political party manifestos unveiled this week were lacking in addressing the issues facing innovative new businesses as top line topics won the day, it found.

"There has been a surprising lack of focus on innovation and entrepreneurship in the manifestos from main political parties to date. These two areas are major drivers of national competitiveness, increased employment and wealth creation," said SVB's head of UK relationship banking, Gerald Brady.

"The parties gravitated to the big three issues in the last couple of elections. which means there is a risk the concerns of the entrepreneurial community are overlooked or lost in the noise of other policy topics."

A fifth of the more than 100 executives leading innovation in the UK who were surveyed said helping give businesses access to capital was the most important thing they wanted the new government to do.

Immigration was the top priority for 11 per cent, while championing small businesses and startups was essential for 12 per cent and support for research and development was top of the list for seven per cent.

The six top policy concerns of entrepeneurs

1. Reforming the tax system (25%)

2. Helping businesses access capital (21%)

3. Championing small businesses and startups (12%)

4. Encouraging immigration (11%)

5. Supporting research and development (7%)

6. Simplifying regulations and decreasing the bureaucracy faced by entrepreneurs (4%)

Brady said the parties were missing out on many economic benefits by overlooking the needs of innovative business leaders. "As many new jobs in the UK have been created by entrepreneurs, rather than large and established companies, we think the next government should have a strong focus on this community," he said.

"There is a very clear correlation between the success of venture-backed companies, job creation and increasing GDP. This has been seen in the US where venture-backed companies account for some 21 per cent of US GDP."

According to The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec), the policy group representing startups, Labour's manifesto was most positive on digital inclusion, while the pledges made by the Conservatives were strong on entrepreneurship and innovation. The Lib Dem manifesto was positive on immigration and digital rights.

Both the Labour and Conservatives failed to address tax relief schemes aimed at entrepreneurs and digital startups, leaving a question mark over whether they will continue to commit to the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), Entrepreneur's Relief or Enterprise Management Incentives (EMIs) which are of "significant value" to digital startups, Coadec said.

Neither party made mention of making coming to the UK easier for highly skilled immigrants wanting to work at or start a new business, which Coadec said was the "disappointing reality of the current political discourse on immigration".

While Labour addressed small businesses with plans to cut and freeze business rates and action on late payments, Coadec argued it should focus more specifically on high-growth small businesses, as it is where "the greatest macroeconomic value is added".

The Conservatives' sentiment towards entrepreneurs and startups included "a positive tone" on supporting entrepreneurs, startups and business, but "little in the way of new policy", mentioning a review of business rates, a commitment to keeping corporate tax rates at the lowest rate in the G20 and "backing of the financial technology revolution".

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