Page last updated at 15:37 GMT, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Small firms 'may be exempt from lodging accounts'

European Parliament, Strasbourg
The vote strongly supported the change in policy

Small companies may be exempted from having to draw up and lodge annual accounts, after MEPs approved changes to European Union rules.

Politicians say the policy will cut red tape and help firms be more competitive in tough economic times.

However, there is no guarantee it will come into force as each EU country must choose whether it adopts the exemption.

Firms would also still have to keep records of their business transactions and their financial position.

Savings

An estimated 75% of companies in the European Union are classed as "micro-entities" - usually small businesses operating in a small region with no activity in other EU nations.

These firms have less than 500,000 euros on their balance sheet, a net turnover of less than 1m euros, and employ an average of 10 or fewer people during a year, would qualify under the proposals.

MEPs argue that if usual reporting requirements were waived this would free up firms from red tape and allow them to grow more quickly and be more competitive.

The European Commission cited a study suggesting that that the average cost of complying with the current requirements of the accounting directives was 1,558 euros.

The Vice President of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and small business champion, Arlene McCarthy MEP, said: "As our small firms struggle to overcome the crisis we are determined to help them by cutting red tape.

"It is vitally important that EU law does not over-burden very small businesses. This exemption means that very small firms will save around £1,000 in accountancy and audit fees."

However the European parliament report said that individual countries should have a free choice of whether or not to exempt such firms "taking account in particular of the situation at national level regarding the number of businesses covered".



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