Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent 99% of all businesses in the EU. The definition of an SME is important for access to finance and EU support programmes targeted specifically at these enterprises.
What is an SME?
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are defined in the EU recommendation 2003/361.
The main factors determining whether an enterprise is an SME are
- staff headcount
- either turnover or balance sheet total
Balance sheet total
≤ € 50 m
≤ € 43 m
≤ € 10 m
≤ € 10 m
≤ € 2 m
≤ € 2 m
These ceilings apply to the figures for individual firms only. A firm that is part of a larger group may need to include staff headcount/turnover/balance sheet data from that group too.
Further details include
- The revised user guide to the SME definition (2020) (2 MB, available in all EU languages)
- Declaring your enterprise to be an SME (the form is available in all languages as an annex in the revised user guide)
- The SME self-assessment tool which you can use to determine whether your organisation qualifies as a small and medium-sized enterprise
What help can SMEs get?
There are 2 broad types of potential benefit for an enterprise if it meets the criteria
- eligibility for support under many EU business-support programmes targeted specifically at SMEs: research funding, competitiveness and innovation funding and similar national support programmes that could otherwise be banned as unfair government support ('state aid' – see block exemption regulation)
- fewer requirements or reduced fees for EU administrative compliance
Monitoring of the implementation of the SME definition
The Commission monitors the implementation of the SME definition and reviews it in irregular intervals. Pursuant to the latest evaluation, the Commission concluded that there is no need for a revision.
- Staff working document on the evaluation of the SME definition (2021)
- Executive summary on the evaluation of the SME definition (2021)
- Q&A on the evaluation of the SME definition (2021)
- Final report on evaluation of the SME definition (2018) (10 MB)
- Final report on evaluation of the SME definition (2012) (1.8 MB)
- Executive summary on evaluation of the SME definition (2012) (345 kB)
- Implementing the SME definition (2009) (50 kB)
- Implementing the SME definition (2006) (40 kB)