23% of businesses at risk of closure due to late payments

Research published in recent days has revealed that almost a quarter (23 per cent) of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are running the risk of closure due to their ongoing troubles with late payments.

The study, which was carried out by the financial arm of tech group Siemens, suggests that SMEs all across the country are missing out on more than £250bn of liquid cash flow every year due to unpaid invoices, unreasonably long payment terms and the time and money spent chasing clients to pay up.

Siemens’ report also suggests that smaller firms are the worst hit by the UK’s so-called late payments crisis.

It states that businesses with an annual turnover of £1m or less are having to wait on average 72 days for invoices to be paid, while those with turnovers between £1m and £10m wait approximately 54 days.

Meanwhile, larger businesses in the £10m or more category are still having to wait as long as 48 days to receive payments, the study suggests.

Earlier this summer, a separate study carried out by Bacs – the company responsible for handling direct debit and credit communications in the UK – found that as many as 640,000 SMEs now consider late payments to be ‘the norm’, and actively ‘expect’ to wait beyond agreed terms before invoices are paid.

It found that 39 per cent of small businesses spend around four hours every single week chasing late payments, while 16 per cent have experienced significant cash flow complications as a result of their ongoing late payment struggles.

Worse still, almost one in five SME respondents told Bacs that, in their current state, being owed an additional figure of between £20,000 and £50,000 would be enough to force them into insolvency.

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