Despite government initiatives to crack down on late payments, a quarter of small UK business owners say they are owed over £40,000 from customers in unpaid invoices.
The latest quarterly Close Brothers Invoice Business Barometer revealed that 25.2 per cent of businesses suffering from late payments reported that they were owed more than £40,000, almost twice as many as the 13.2 per cent of small firms suffering to this extent in March 2015.
A further 33.8 per cent were owed between £20,000 and £40,000, up from 22.7 per cent three years ago.
It said 24.2 per cent of small company owners now regard late payments as a problem for their business and despite this figure being down from 33.2 per cent in March 2015, they were left “struggling to cope”.
This, Close Brothers said, was despite a series of Government initiatives to get on top of the problem and boost the economy by £2.5bn.
This has included the appointment of Small Business Commissioner Paul Uppal last October tasked with helping SMEs resolve payments disputes and tackle unfair payment practices and The Prompt Payment Code to set payment standards.
David Thomson, chief executive of Close Brothers Invoice Finance, said small firms needed more help to combat late payments, with the issue threatening to hold back SME growth.
“Our research suggests that despite a series of efforts to combat the matter led by government and other organisations, too many SMEs still aren’t being paid on time,” he said.
“This is an issue causing real hardship for many firms and has negative implications for the performance of the economy as a whole.”
The ongoing problem has however failed to result in a lift for invoice finance demand.
Close Brothers said that 37.2 per cent of SMEs said they would consider using invoice finance with 9.9 per cent already doing so. However, these figures are down from 43.8 per cent and 11.9 per cent respectively in March 2015.
“Invoice finance can provide crucial funding for growing SMEs and a potential solution for late payments-related issues,” Thomson added.
“It can play a key role in helping SMEs unlock the value tied up in invoices issued to customers. More work needs to be done to prove the case for this type of alternative finance.”
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