Basically, the legal definition of "small business" varies by country and by industry.
In the United States, the Small Business Administration establishes small business size standards on an industry-by-industry basis, but generally specifies a small business as having fewer than five hundred employees for manufacturing businesses and less than $7.5 million in annual receipts for most non manufacturing businesses.
The definition can vary by circumstance – for example, a small business having fewer than twenty-five full-time equivalent employees with average annual wages below $50,000 qualifies for a tax credit under the health care reform bill Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The European Union generally defines a small business as one that has fewer than fifty employees. However, in Australia, a small business is defined by the Fair Work Act 2009 as one with fewer than fifteen employees.
In addition to number of employees, other methods used to classify small companies include annual sales (turnover), value of assets and net profit (balance sheet), alone or in a mixed definition. These criteria are followed by the European Union, for instance (headcount, turnover, and balance sheet totals). Small businesses are usually not dominant in their field of operation.
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