State aid control
State Aid Scoreboard 2014 > Non-crisis aid > Conceptual and methodological remarks (non-crisis aid)
The State Aid Scoreboard comprises aid expenditure made by Member States before 31.12.2013 which falls under the scope of Article 107(1) TFEU. The data is based on the annual reporting by Member States pursuant to Article 6(1) of Commission Regulation (EC) 794/2004. Expenditure refers to all existing aid measures to manufacturing industries, services, agriculture and fisheries for which the Commission adopted a formal decision or received an information fiche from the Member States in relation to measures qualifying for exemption under the General Block Exemption Regulation.
Subsidies to railways are excluded from the total State aid figure in the State Aid Scoreboard since they fall under Article 93 TFEU and corresponding regulations. Furthermore, subsidies that Member States grant as general measures are not included in the State Aid Scoreboard since they escape the scope of Article 107 TFEU. Also, aid granted under the primary objective "Services of General Economic Interest" (SGEI), which fulfils the conditions for an SGEI measure, is excluded from the Scoreboard, while any aid amount above the SGEI-covered compensation is included as, usually, that part of the aid is authorised by a decision from the Commission. Finally, all expenditure granted through EU funds and other EU instruments is also excluded if such measures are not financed from the national budget of a Member State.
In their annual reports, Member States provide information on all existing aid measures that fall under the scope of Article 107(1) TFEU and have been authorised by the Commission or implemented by Member States in the case of aid measures falling under block exemption. Cases under examination are however excluded, with few exceptions (such as crisis-related aid granted to the financial sector where the aid was provided prior to the Commission's authorisation). Annex III of Regulation 794/2004 specifies the scope and format of the information to be reported. The annual reports submitted by Member States in 2014 covered aid granted by Member States between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2013 and included, where appropriate, revised versions of provisional information that Member States provided in previous years. While Member States supply information on State aid expenditure and co-financing in their annual reports, all other information on existing aid measures is provided by Member States in the notification forms or summary information forms for block-exempted aid measures. The Commission verifies partly the completeness of these data, focusing on issues like the primary objective of the aid, the aid instruments, and regional and sectoral information. Accuracy of the data remains a responsibility of Member States.
In view of the fact that the scope of information collected from Member States is guided by different sub-annexes of Annex III of Regulation 794/2004, namely Annex IIIA for aid granted to industry and services, Annex IIIB for aid granted to the agricultural sector and Annex IIIC for aid granted to fisheries and aquaculture, and hence differ significantly in detail, some information in the State Aid Scoreboard focuses solely on the State aid to industry and services.
The economic advantage passed on to undertakings through State aid measures can be estimated in different ways: for grants, the advantage passed on to the beneficiary normally corresponds to the budgetary expenditure. For other aid instruments, the advantage to the beneficiary and the cost to government may differ. In the case of guarantees, for example, the beneficiary avoids the risk associated with the guarantee, since it is carried by the State. Such risk-carrying by the State should normally be remunerated by an appropriate premium. Where the State forgoes all or part of such a premium, there is both a benefit for the undertaking and a drain on the resources of the State. Thus, even if no physical payments was ever made by the State under a guarantee, there may nevertheless be State aid within the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU. The aid is granted at the time when the guarantee is given, not when the guarantee is called on nor when payments are made under the terms of the guarantee. For further detail, see categories of aid.
Generally, Member States are required to report State aid expenditure in terms of actual expenditure expressed in the form of the aid element calculated for the aid measure. Where such data were not available by the deadline for submitting the annual report (i.e. 30 June), Member States were requested to provide either the corresponding commitment information or an estimate of the aid component. In the absence of that information, Member States were asked either to confirm or to adjust the estimate calculated by the Commission staff, in line with the standard method applied and on the basis of information provided in previous years. For the purpose of producing a meaningful State Aid Scoreboard, the absence of actual data makes it necessary to include an estimate in order to provide the most complete picture possible of State aid expenditure in the Member States.
Data on State aid expenditure may differ from data for the same year published previously. First, all expenditure information is provided by Member States at current prices (in million currency) but is then converted to constant prices referenced to the year for which the State Aid Scoreboard gives an update, taking into account the corresponding inflation and exchange rates applicable for the individual year and Member State. Secondly, Member States may have replaced provisional figures or estimates from the previous year(s) by final actual expenditure. In particular, with respect to expenditure in tax schemes, which is notoriously difficult to quantify, if expenditure is corrected at a later stage it may also change previous data and shift the distribution of horizontal and sectoral aid. Thirdly, when the Commission adopts a decision on a non-notified aid measure by which it deems the aid compatible, the aid amount in question is attributed to the year(s) in which it was awarded. Where such expenditure has been made for a number of years, the total aid amount is generally allocated equally over the corresponding years.
Generally, all figures when expressed as a percentage of GDP are measured by reference to the year to which the expenditure data relate and include the corresponding GDP value for the calculation.
Specific provisions with respect to aid granted under the temporary framework
State aid granted under the temporary framework is considered to be crisis-related aid. While aid to the financial sector typically involved the use of special aid instruments targeted at banks and financial services, the temporary framework made use of the classical instruments, e.g. direct grants, guarantees or loans. However, such aid granted under the temporary framework is presented separately and kept distinct from non-crisis aid in order to obtain an undistorted picture of Member States' efforts in granting aid for objectives of common interest. The Commission also decided to simplify the reporting for aid granted under the temporary framework, requesting to report only the approved volume and the amount actually used.
Member States were asked to report on aid granted under the temporary framework by following a general method.
- In instances where a temporary framework measure is (i) a new ad hoc measure, (ii) a new scheme or (iii) a new framework scheme under which a number of new schemes may be implemented, the Member State simply reports expenditure under that temporary framework measure;
- In instances where (i) a temporary framework measure modifies an existing aid measure or (ii) the Member State uses one or more existing aid measures for its implementation, and hence aid is granted under temporary framework conditions, the Member State reports the aid amounts (including the aid element) under the corresponding temporary framework measure. By contrast, all aid that falls outside conditions (i) and (ii) above must be reported under the case number of the initially authorised non-temporary framework measure.
State aid represents a cost or a loss of revenue to the public authorities and a benefit to recipients. However, the aid element, i.e. the ultimate financial benefit contained in the nominal amount transferred to the beneficiary depends to a large extent on the form in which the aid is provided.
Grants and tax exemptions
Grants and tax exemptions are types of aid transferred in full to the recipient. They represent the majority of aid granted in most Member States. They may be subdivided depending on whether the aid was granted through the budget or through the tax or social security system. Below is a list of aid instruments where the aid element is equal to the capital value of aid:
- Interest subsidy which the recipient receives directly
- Tax credit and other tax measure, where the benefit is not dependent on having a tax liability (i.e. if the tax credit exceeds the tax due, the excess amount is repaid)
- Tax allowance, tax exemption, and rate relieve where the benefit is dependent on having a tax liability
- Reduction in social security contributions
- Grant equivalent e.g. sale or rental of public land or property at prices below market value
It is necessary to determine whether a financial transfer by the public authorities in the form of equity participation is an aid to the recipient or a matter of the public sector engaging in a commercial activity and operating like a private investor under normal market conditions. For this reason, any forms of equity participation were grouped under this category.
Soft loans and tax deferrals
Soft loans and tax deferrals cover a transfer of aid in which the aid element is the interest saved by the recipient during the period for which the capital transferred is at disposal. The financial transfer takes the form of a soft loan or tax deferral. The aid element is much lower than the capital value of the transfer. The following aid instruments come under this category:
- Soft loans whether from public or private sources
- Participatory loans from public or private sources
- Advances repayable in the event of success
- Deferred tax provisions (reserves, free or accelerated depreciation, etc.)
A guarantee is typically expressed in the nominal amount guaranteed. The aid element is much lower than the nominal amount since it corresponds to the benefit which the recipient receives free of charge or at a lower than the market rate if a premium is paid to cover the risk. However, if losses are incurred under the guarantee scheme, the total loss, net of any premiums paid, is included, since it can be considered as a definitive transfer to the recipient. Pursuant to the Commission's Notice on guarantees, the aid is granted at the moment when the guarantee is given and not when the guarantee is invoked or payments are made under the terms of the guarantee.
Methods of assessing the aid element
Grants and tax exemptions
The aid element is equal to the amount of aid granted or its equivalent.
In line with established Commission policy, such interventions constitute aid when a private investor operating under normal market conditions would not have undertaken such an investment. It is based on calculating the benefit of the intervention to the recipient.
Soft loans and tax deferrals
The aid element is lower than the capital values of the aid. Where a Member State fails to provide the aid element, a proxy of 15% of the total amount lent by the government is estimated.
Where a Member State does not indicate the reimbursement ratio in case of a reimbursable advance, the aid element is estimated to be 90% of all advances as the repayment ratio has shown to be very low on average.
The aid element is much lower than the capital value guaranteed. Where the exact amount of the aid element is not available, the losses to the Government are estimated. Where only the capital value guaranteed is available, the aid element is estimated to be 10% of that value.