Confidence amongst UK SMEs is on the rise, according to new data from business advisory group, Champion Accountants.

The annual SME outlook survey revealed that SMEs re focussed on growing their business during the next 12 months, with the economy (40%), cash flow (34%) and competition (23%) cited as the biggest barriers to achieving this. Britain’s exit from the EU ranked bottom of the list of threats to business growth, with just 3% of respondents saying that Brexit will hold them back.

Ged Cosgrove, group managing partner at Champion Accountants, said: “It’s really positive to see SMEs focussed on growth and not allowing any uncertainty surrounding Brexit to have a negative impact on their business. Obviously, opinion will differ and it will be interesting to see any change in views once the negotiations ramp up.

“What is clear is that persistent concerns remain over the economy, cash flow and competition. SMEs are the main drivers of economic growth and job creation and it’s paramount that we tackle these head on to support businesses.”

The data also showed that SMEs are still failing to take advantage of government tax breaks such as Research & Development (R&D), Entrepreneurs Relief and Business Property Relief (BPR).

Of those surveyed, only half (54%) were aware of the types of tax incentives available to them, including those listed above. Of these, only 7% had actively used one of the schemes within the last 12 months, showing a lack of understanding and awareness amongst SMEs about their eligibility and benefits.

Ged continues: “There are clear measures that can be taken to address the number of SMEs claiming government tax breaks. Most significantly, dispelling the misconceptions around eligibility, which hold lots of businesses back.

“There are so many myths surrounding the likes of R&D tax credits, for example, with many owner-managers believing that you need to wear a white coat to claim. When in fact, any type of innovation within a business could be eligible.”

Champion Accountants has four offices across the North West in Manchester, Preston, Chester and Blackpool, employing around 100 business and financial advisors.

Other key survey findings:

  • 100% of businesses will retain current staffing levels or plan to increase over the next 12 months