The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Micheál Martin, has expressed 'utter disbelief' at ICTU's decision to lodge a formal complaint with the EU over the expansion of the Business Expansion Scheme.

ICTU said yesterday that it believed an extension of the BES announced in the Budget would benefit only high earners who do not pay tax on the money they put into the schemes. The extension of the schemes by the Government has to be approved by the European Commission.

'The expansion of the scheme announced in Budget 2007 is aimed at helping small businesses to grow and create jobs in communities across the country. The BES scheme has helped small businesses to create over 800,000 jobs, and this expansion will support an enterprise culture,' said Minister Martin.

He said any suggestion that the scheme would be used as a tax avoidance measure 'flies in the face of the reality'. The Minister has invited ICTU to meet him to discuss its concerns.

In the Budget the amount an individual can invest increases from €31,000 to €150,000, and the amount a company can receive rises from €1m to €2m.