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Simplified Cost Options and Joint Action Plans

What is it?

Simplified Cost Options (SCOs) are an innovative way of reimbursing grants and repayable assistance under the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds. Instead of reimbursing ‘real costs’, SCOs allow reimbursing expenditure according to predefined methods based on process, outputs or results. SCOs can take the form of flat rate financing, standard scales of unit costs, and lump sums.

Why is it useful?

The main advantage of the use of simplified costs is that the tracing of every euro of co-financed expenditure to individual supporting documents is no longer required.

The use of simplified cost options entails advantages such as:

  • they significantly reduce the administrative burden for both managing authorities and beneficiaries
  • allow administrations to shift the focus from collecting and verifying financial documents to achieving policy objectives, i.e. concentrating on achieving concrete outputs and results instead of verification and control of actually-incurred costs;
  • they simplify the audit trail, thereby reducing the risk of errors - for three years in a row the European Court of Auditors has not found any error on transactions using SCOs, which means less interruptions and suspensions and faster reimbursement of expenditure;
  • thanks to the simplification of the management process, the use of simplified cost options can facilitate access of small beneficiaries to the ESI Funds.

Another way of focusing on results is by using a Joint Action Plan (JAP). A JAP enables Member States to implement parts of one or more operational programmes using a results-orientated approach towards a pre-defined goal. Find out more about why, when, and how to use JAPs here.

How to do it?

The rules for using SCOs are laid down in the following articles:

The below document provides technical guidance on the three types of simplified costs applicable to the ESI Funds for the 2014-2020 programming period(in accordance with Article 67-68 of CPR):

Guidance documents on Simplified Cost Options (SCOs)

Given the importance of simplified cost options for operations funded under the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), additional rules have been introduced in Article 14 of the ESF Regulation.

Article 14(1) of the ESF Regulation empowers the Commission to prepare and adopt a delegated act defining standard scales of unit costs and lump sums on the basis of data submitted by the Member States. These SCOs are different from the ‘classical’ simplified costs under Article 67 of the CPR, as they are used by the Commission for reimbursement of expenditure to Member States and Member States may apply different arrangements with their beneficiaries. 

What are the advantages of Article 14(1) ESF?

In addition to all the above advantages, Article 14(1) of the ESF regulation:

  • makes it possible to apply standard scales of unit costs and lump sums to more operations (even to those which have been 100% publicly procured);
  • reduces the scope of control and audit to the activity/output/result on the basis of which the unit cost or lump sum was calculated;
  • allows Member States to continue to use their own accounting practices to support operations on the ground;
  • allows the Commission to develop off-the-shelf EU-level unit costs which can be applied by any Member State without having to submit its own calculation method.

Above all, it provides legal certainty on the methodology used to calculate unit costs or lump sums and the amounts.

Further background information on this type of simplified cost options highlighting the advantages of Article 14(1) and when it can be used, can be found in this document:

Guidance on standard scales of unit costs and lump sums adopted under Article 14(1) Reg. (EU)1304/2013

The Commission delegated act and subsequent amendments adopted under Article 14(1) of the ESF Regulation

When a Member State would like to establish standard scales of unit costs or a lump sums under Art. 14(1), it shall submit all relevant data to the Commission and propose a methodology for the definition of SCOs which take into account the Member State's specific needs. The Commission will then assess the data and adopt a delegated act (or an amendment to the relevant delegated act in force) setting out the agreed amounts and methods for the use of the simplified cost option.

Member States may submit data for the consideration of the Commission by using this template:

The delegated act:

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2195 of 9 July 2015 regarding the definition of standard scales of unit costs and lump sums for reimbursement of expenditure by the Commission to Member States (this Delegated Regulation concerns unit costs for France and Sweden).

Amendments to the delegated act adopted so far:

  1. Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/812 of 18 March 2016 (unit costs for Belgium (Flanders) and the Czech Republic)
  2. Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/90 of 31 October 2016 (unit costs for the Czech Republic, Italy, Malta, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Germany)
  3. Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2016 of 29 August 2017 (unit costs for the Czech Republic, Malta, Italy, Slovakia, Austria, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania, and amendments to existing unit costs for Sweden, lump sums for the Netherlands and EU-level unit costs in the area of education which can be used by any of the mentioned Member States)
  4. Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2416 of 20 October 2017 (unit costs for Germany and Cyprus and amendments to existing unit costs for Sweden and France)
  5. Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1127 of 28 May 2018 (new unit costs for Croatia, Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom, amendments to existing unit costs for France, Czech Republic, Malta, Slovakia and Cyprus, and amendments to the existing EU-level SCOs on education)
  6. Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/379 of 19 December 2018 (new unit costs for, Slovakia, Austria, Romania, Cyprus, Croatia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, amendments to the existing unit costs for France, amendments to the existing EU-level SCOs on education and new EU-level SCOs for training for the unemployed, counselling services, training for employed people)
  7. Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/697 of 14 February 2019 (new unit costs for France, Italy, The Netherlands, Croatia and the UK (Northern Ireland), amendments to the existing unit costs for Czech Republic, new lump sums for Malta)

A consolidated version of Regulation (EU) 2015/2195 is also available. The text includes all the amendments adopted so far until the 4th amendment and is meant purely as a documentation tool with no legal effect.

How are the act and its amendments structured?

Each act or amendment contains one annex per country concerned. Each annex provides an overview of all the SCOs already in place for that member state and information about any new or amended SCO. Each act clearly reflects the state of play of SCOs in a particular country at the date of adoption.

 

Country

Delegated act or amendment

Adoption date

Entry into force

Type of SCO

Austria

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2016

(3rd amendment)

29/08/2017

06/12/2017

Unit costs for:

hourly rates for teacher's salaries

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/379

(6th amendment)

19/12/2018

01/04/2019

Unit costs for:

Provision of basic education;

Face-to-face counselling;

Management verification services;

Hourly rates for direct staff costs for all operations

Belgium (Flanders)

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/812

 

(1st amendment)

18/03/2016

14/06/2016

Unit costs for:

In-work training leading to a job;

Vocational Training leading to a job

Bulgaria

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/379

(6thamendment)

19/12/2018

01/04/2019

Unit costs for:

training for employed and unemployed persons

Croatia

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1127

(5th amendment)

28/05/2018

04/09/2018

Unit costs for:

teaching assistants

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/379

(6th amendment)

19/12/2018

01/04/2019

Unit costs for:

Occupational training;

Employment aid;

Monthly allowance for travel cost of participant

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/697

(7th amendment)

14/02/2019

27/05/2019

Unit costs for employment aid for disadvantaged workers and workers with disabilities

 

Cyprus

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2416

(4th amendment)

20/10/2017

12/01/2018

Unit costs for:

school and social inclusion actions;

central administration of welfare benefits service

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1127

(5th amendment)

28/05/2018

04/09/2018

Unit costs for:

the provision of a disability and functionality assessment

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/379

(6th amendment)

19/12/2018

01/04/2019

Unit costs for:

VET operations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Czech Republic

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/812

(1st amendment)

18/03/2016

14/06/2016

Unit costs for

operations to increase supply of childcare facilities;

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/90

(2nd amendment)

31/10/2016

09/02/2017

Unit costs for

training of employees;

inclusive support to students and staff of educational facilities

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2016

(3rd amendment)

29/08/2017

06/12/2018

Unit costs for:

in the area of inclusive support in education

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1127

(5th amendment)

28/05/2018

04/09/2018

Unit costs for:

mobility of researchers and educational staff;

teaching assistants

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/379

(6th amendment)

19/12/2018

01/04/2019

Unit costs for:

teaching ICT at schools;

specific training for teachers

Update of several amounts

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/697

(7th amendment)

14/02/2019

27/05/2019

Update of amounts

France

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2195 of 9 July 2015

09/07/2015

19/12/2015

Unit costs for:

NEETs with a positive result under the Youth Guarantee

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2416

(4th amendment)

20/10/2017

12/01/2018

Amended unit costs for:

NEETs with a positive result under the Youth Guarantee

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1127

(5th amendment)

28/05/2018

04/09/2018

Unit costs for:

training of unemployed people

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/379

(6th amendment)

19/12/2018

01/04/2019

Amended unit cost for training of unemployed people (clarification of terminology)

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/697

(7th amendment)

14/02/2019

27/05/2019

Unit costs for:

Qualifying and professional training

Adult prequalification vocational training

Result-based unit costs

Germany

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/90

(2nd amendment)

31/10/2016

09/02/2017

Unit costs for:

inclusive school development (training of teachers)

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2416

(4th amendment)

20/10/2017

12/01/2018

Unit costs for:

training of teachers and school management

Ireland

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1127

(5th amendment)

28/05/2018

04/09/2018

Unit costs for:

training of unemployed people

Italy

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/90

(2nd amendment)

31/10/2016

09/02/2017

Unit costs for:

national YEI OP;

support for PhD scholarships in research

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2016

(3rd amendment)

29/08/2017

06/12/2017

Unit costs for:

educational classes for adults and disadvantaged youths;

language training and internships

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/697

(7th amendment)

14/02/2019

27/05/2019

Unit costs for:

training in higher technical institutes

mobility programmes for researchers

Lithuania

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2016

(3rd amendment)

29/08/2017

06/12/2017

Unit costs for:

vocational training and informal vocational training

Malta

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/90

(2nd amendment)

31/10/2016

09/02/2017

Unit costs for:

employment aid

disadvantaged workers and workers with disabilities

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2016

(3rd amendment)

29/08/2017

06/12/2017

Unit costs for:

training of staff in enterprises

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1127

(5th amendment)

28/05/2018

04/09/2018

Unit costs for:

training measures;

preparation classes for specific exams

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/697

(7th amendment)

14/02/2019

27/05/2019

Lump sums to cover indirect costs

Poland

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2016

(3rd amendment)

29/08/2017

06/12/2017

Unit costs for:

transnational mobility

Romania

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2016

(3rd amendment)

29/08/2017

06/12/2017

Unit costs for:

monthly rates of employment aid paid to employers for hiring specific categories of workers

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/379

(6th amendment)

19/12/2018

01/04/2019

Unit costs for:

Vocational training;

Employment aid

Slovakia

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/90

(2nd amendment)

31/10/2016

09/02/2017

Unit costs for:

foreign language (for employees) and ICT skills

supporting inclusion in kindergartens and elementary schools

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2016

(3rd amendment)

29/08/2017

06/12/2017

Unit costs for:

monthly rate for teaching assistant;

hourly rate for training teachers

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1127

(5th amendment)

28/05/2018

04/09/2018

Unit costs for:

integration of pupils in kindergartens and schools

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/379

(6th amendment)

19/12/2018

01/04/2019

Unit costs for

peer-to-peer learning of teachers;

additional school classes

Spain

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1127

(5th amendment)

28/05/2018

04/09/2018

Unit costs for:

vocational training courses

Sweden

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2195 of 9 July 2015

09/07/2015

19/12/2015

Unit costs for:

staff costs and participant allowances in training operations

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2016 of 29 August 2017

(3rd amendment)

29/08/2017

06/12/2017

Amending existing unit costs to cover all costs of the operation

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2416

(4th amendment)

20/10/2017

12/01/2018

Rates for Priority Axis 2 of Swedish OP amended

The Netherlands

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/90

(2nd amendment)

31/10/2016

09/02/2017

Unit costs for re-integration activities for detainees in prisons, forensic care and youths in institutions

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2016

(3rd amendment)

29/08/2017

06/12/2017

Lump sum for technical assistance measures

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/697

(7th amendment)

14/02/2019

27/05/2019

Unit cost for: provision of job coaching activities for young disabled persons

United Kingdom

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1127

(5th amendment)

28/05/2018

04/09/2018

Unit costs for apprenticeships

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/697

(7th amendment)

14/02/2019

27/05/2019

Unit costs for staff supporting or training participants of specific target groups

EU level

(these SCOs can be used by all Member States concerned)

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/2016

(3rd amendment)

29/08/2017

06/12/2017

Unit costs in the area of education

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1127

(5th amendment)

28/05/2018

04/09/2018

Unit costs in the area of education

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/379

(6th amendment)

19/12/2018

01/04/2019

Unit costs for:

Training for unemployed people

Counselling services

Training for employed people

Amended existing EU-level SCOs in the area of education

Another way of focusing on results: Joint Action Plans (JAPs)

What is it?

One of the main objectives of the legislative framework for the European Structural and Investment Funds for 2014-2020 is to reinforce the focus on results. Within the Cohesion Policy, one of the ways to do so is by using a Joint Action Plan (JAP). A JAP enables Member States to implement parts of one or more operational programmes using a results-oriented approach towards a pre-defined goal. Its focus on results is ensured because it has a coherent intervention logic and makes use of SCOs. Selected output and result indicators are linked with corresponding unit costs or lump sums, and this makes it possible to make payments based on achievement levels.

Why is it useful?

Using a joint action plan is particularly useful when adequate measures and a more integrated approach are needed to tackle an existing problem and achieve some of the goals of one of more operational programme(s). Moreover, the use of SCOs significantly simplifies the financial management and control arrangements of JAPs and reduces the error rate.

How to do it?

To use a JAP, the Member State concerned must first agree it with the Commission. The rules for submitting a proposal for a JAP, its content, preparation and implementation are laid down in Articles 104-109 of Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013.

More detailed information can be found via the document below:

Guidance on Joint Action Plans