Commission communication — Model declaration on the information relating to the qualification of an enterprise as an SME
OJ C 118, 20.5.2003, p. 5–15 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)
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Model declaration on the information relating to the qualification of an enterprise as an SME
This Communication aims to promote the application of Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC(1) on the definition of SMEs, which replaces Recommendation 96/280/EC of 3 April 1996.
There are some 20 million micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in the European Economic Area. They are a major source of jobs and a challenge for competitiveness. Their ability to identify new needs of both end-consumers and industrial operators, their potential for absorbing new technologies, and their contribution to apprenticeship, vocational training and local development, govern future advances in productivity of the entire European Union and its ability to achieve the objectives set at the Lisbon European Council. The responsibility of local, national and Community administrations in devising enterprise policies which take account of the specific needs and skills of these categories of enterprise is thus a question of major importance.
Promoting the development of such policies is the main objective of the new Commission Recommendation on the definition of SMEs. A more precise definition will ensure greater legal certainty. More suited to the various subcategories of SME, and taking account of the various types of relations between enterprises, it will promote investment and innovation in SMEs and foster partnerships between enterprises. These advantages should be acquired while preventing enterprises which do not have the economic characteristics or face the problems of genuine SMEs from benefiting unduly from measures targeted at SMEs.
This Recommendation has been the subject of extremely wide-ranging discussions with business organisations, with the Member States and individual business experts within the Enterprise Policy Group(2). The preliminary draft was in addition the subject of two open consultations on the Internet. After work lasting for more than one year, there was almost complete consensus despite the diversity of the objectives pursued.
All those who contributed to the revision felt that it is important that the increased legal certainty and improved recognition of the economic reality, should be accompanied by an effort by administrations to simplify and speed up the administrative handling of cases requiring qualification as a micro, small or medium-sized enterprise. To this end, offering enterprises the possibility to complete themselves a concise declaration was considered a modern and convenient method. This declaration could, if necessary, be completed on-line and could also function as a practical "users' manual" for enterprises.
The document attached to this Communication is a model for such a declaration. It is in no way mandatory as regards its use or content, either for enterprises or for the administrations of the Member States, but is designed as one possible example amongst others. Such declarations are without prejudice to the checks or investigations provided for under national or Community rules.
If those Member States using the definition of SMEs wish to speed up the processing of administrative files, it would of course be desirable for this declaration not to increase the overall administrative burden on enterprises, but to replace whenever possible other requests for information previously required. Also it could be preferably incorporated into the files relating to applications to take part in measures for which SME qualification is required.
To this end, the model can be used in the form proposed in the annex. It can also be completed, simplified or adapted to take account of customary national administrative usage. In order to maximise the simplification effect, it would of course be desirable that the same model declaration established by a Member State be used for all administrative purposes in that Member State for which the SME qualification is required.
As the aim of the Recommendation is to provide a common reference framework for the definition of SMEs, it would of course be counter-productive if the use of such a model declaration were to lead to diverging interpretations of that definition. Attention is therefore drawn to the fact that any other model declaration serving the same purpose must take account of all the provisions of the text of the Recommendation in order to determine the qualification of the applicant enterprise as a micro, small or medium-sized enterprise within this Recommendation's meaning. It is the text of the Recommendation, and not that of the declaration, which sets out the conditions for the SME qualification.
In this regard, it must be stressed that the model declaration proposed refers to the Seventh Council Directive 83/349/EEC concerning consolidated accounts. Enterprises meeting one or other of the conditions set out in Article 1 of that Directive are in fact linked within the meaning of Article 3(3) of the definition of SMEs, having regard to the nature of those conditions. It is therefore convenient for enterprises which are obliged to draw up consolidated accounts, pursuant to that Council Directive, to know automatically that they are also linked within the meaning of the definition of SMEs. In the event of a subsequent amendment to that Directive leading to a divergence between the two definitions, the model declaration would, however, have to be adapted to take account of that.
In view of the timetable for the entry into force of any such possible amendment, that adaptation could probably take place simultaneously with any possible future amendment to the Recommendation on the definition of SMEs, pursuant to Article 9 of its annex.
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(1) OJ L 124, 20.5.2003, p....
(2) Commission Decision 2000/690/EC of 8 November 2000 setting up an Enterprise Policy Group (OJ L 285, 10.11.2000, p. 24).