SME Update

January 2021

  • EUIPO launches EUR 20 million grant programme to help SMEs claim their intellectual property (IP) rights
  • European Commission proposes new digital market and services rules aiming to facilitate opportunities for SMEs
  • Accountancy Europe co-signs letter calling for support to help SMEs access COVID funding

European Commission

Commission gives green light to up to EUR 200 billion financing for companies affected by COVID

The European Commission has announced that a new EUR 25 billion Pan-European Guarantee Fund managed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) to support companies affected by COVID is in line with EU State aid rules. The Fund is expected to mobilise up to EUR 200 billion of additional financing to support mainly SMEs affected by the outbreak in 21 participating Member States.

The Fund will provide guarantees on debt instruments (such as loans) and equity instruments. It aims to address the financing needs of European companies (mainly SMEs) that are expected to be viable in the long-term, but are facing difficulties in the current crisis. Read more

Commission publishes legislative package on digitalisation to improve digital space for SMEs

The proposals for a Digital markets act and Digital services act aim to create a single set of new rules for digital economy actors across the whole EU.

The rules specified in the Digital services act primarily concern online intermediaries and platforms such as online marketplaces, social networks, and content-sharing platforms. The Digital markets act includes rules that govern gatekeeper online platforms, i.e. platforms with a systemic role in the internal market that function as bottlenecks between businesses and consumers for important digital services.

Of interest to SMEs, the new rules introduce for example the following:

  • give business users flexibility in offering products and services at different prices through other online intermediation services
  • provide SMEs access to the data generated while providing goods or services using a gatekeeper’s platform
  • prevent platforms from favouring their own services/products in online ranking

Commission proposes new cyber security strategy and Directive

The new strategy and Directive on cyber security aim to strengthen Europe’s collective resilience against cyber threats. Launched on 16 December, these initiatives help to ensure that all citizens and businesses can fully benefit from trustworthy and reliable services and digital tools.

For SMEs, the cyber initiatives include dedicated support under the Digital Innovation Hubs, as well as increased efforts to upskill SMEs’ workforce, attract and retain cybersecurity talent and invest in research and innovation.

The Directive’s legal requirements ensure proportionality for SMEs by requiring entities to take only those measures necessary to ensure a level of security of network and information systems that is appropriate to the risk presented. Most small and micro entities are excluded from the Directive’s scope with certain exceptions. Member states will also be required to devise national policies for guidance and support in improving the cyber resilience of SMEs, especially those excluded from the scope of the Directive.

Commission launches public consultation on EU insolvency law reform

The consultation was launched on 18 December. It will feed into the Commission’s future proposal on corporate insolvency expected for 2022, and focuses on issues such as:

  • the liability and duties of directors of companies in the vicinity of insolvency
  • the status and duties of insolvency practitioners
  • the ranking of claims
  • avoidance actions
  • identification and preservation of assets belonging to the insolvency estate
  • core procedural notions

Stakeholders may respond to the consultation until 26 March. Read more

European Parliament

European Parliament adopts its position on EU SME strategy

The European Parliament adopted its non-binding opinion on the Commission’s new SME Strategy on 16 December. The strategy was launched in March 2020.

The Parliament calls for several recommendations, including:

  • to accelerate and expand initiatives to identify the skills needs and to address the gaps in the labour market through education, professional training strategies and skills development programmes targeted at SMEs
  • on the Commission to present and commit to a roadmap for the reduction of administrative burdens for SMEs, and to report annually to the Parliament on the implementation of the SME strategy through a dedicated ‘State of the SMEs Union’
  • for the inclusion in EU trade agreements of a standalone SME chapter that signposts micro-enterprise and SME-friendly provisions from other chapters, and to introduce tools such as a single digital entry point to easily identify opportunities for SMEs stemming from international trade agreements

The Parliament opinion was prepared by the MEP Paolo Borchia (ID/Italy). Read more

MEP questions & answers

Commission gives overview of initiatives to facilitate the internationalisation of EU’s SMEs

  • Question by MEP Maria Grapini (S&D/Romania)
  • Reply by Commissioner Breton


Portuguese Presidency promises agenda focusing on SMEs

The Portuguese Council Presidency started in January 2021 and will continue until July. Ahead of its rotating Presidency, Portugal published a work programme that outlines its priority policy area for work in the next six months.

Of interest from the SME angle, the programme commits to strengthening the single market with a special focus on SMEs, driving the debate to adapt the regulatory framework for SMEs to today’s reality, developing the EU industrial strategy fit for SMEs and taking into account different SME sizes across EU member states, and supporting SMEs in specific strategic areas such as technology, space, security and defence. Read more

OECD instructs tax administrations on Supporting SMEs to Get Tax Right

The OECD has published a new report intended to assist tax administrations in the development and implementation of strategic approaches to support SMEs with tax compliance as well as to identify opportunities for burden reductions.

It is the first in a planned series of reports on supporting SMEs, with future ones looking at tax administration engagement with SMEs; the provision of digital services; issues around trust, fairness and co-operation; and solutions that integrate tax affairs in the software used to support the regular business operations of SMEs, or so called “seamless taxation” solutions. Read more

EUR 20 million grant fund to help SMEs maximise their intellectual property assets

The EU’s intellectual property authority (EUIPO) will help SMEs develop their intellectual property (IP) strategies and protect their IP rights, at national and EU level through a new EUR 20 million grant programme.

The new scheme launched on 11 January is open to all enterprises in the EU that fit the official definition of a SME. It offers financial support in form of reimbursements for IP scan services (IP pre-diagnostic) and trademark and design application, up to a maximum amount of EUR 1,500 per business. The grants are awarded on a first come, first served basis.

Accountancy Europe is happy to promote this initiative as part of its ongoing collaboration framework with EUIPO, and calls on its members to see whether their SME clients could benefit from the financial support. Read more

Accountancy Europe co-signs letter calling for COVID support for SMEs

SMEunited, Accountancy Europe, European Federation of Accountants and Auditors (EFAA) and ACCA call on the European Institutions and national governments to ensure better access for SMEs to advisory services to support them in COVID times. These advisory services should aim to help SMEs identify the best support financing options available to them, guide them through the application procedures and to advice them on the best use of the support. The associations recommend to include such provisions in the upcoming National Recovery and Resilience Plans, as well as other European programmes. Read moreThis curated content was brought to you by Johan Barros, Accountancy Europe policy manager since 2015. You can send him tips by email, follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.