Coronavirus: support measures and practical tips for employers and taxpayers

Articles

Coronavirus is hitting many businesses. What exactly can and should you do as an employer? What support measures is the government offering? You can find answers to some of the questions here.

Measures concerning employees

Obligation to take the necessary measures as an employer

First of all, as an employer, you must always ensure that work is carried out under adequate conditions as far as your employees’ health and safety is concerned. The Worker Well-being Act (Loi sur le bien-être/Welzijnswet) also requires you to take measures to ensure the well-being of your employees (protecting workers’ health at work, work hygiene, etc.). Hygiene measures may include: requiring your employees to wash and disinfect their hands, regular disinfection of desks, keyboards, phones and other work or office equipment.

The FPS Employment ( www.werk.belgie.be ) has meanwhile published a COVID 19 prevention checklist.

The checklist below is a self-monitoring list based on World Health Organization and National Security Council guidelines, the principles of the Well-being Act and the Codex on well-being at work. Individual items should be aligned with these guidelines.

Administrative checks 

Information and training

  • Are parties external to the business received and colleagues welcomed in the correct way (no handshake, automatically keeping a distance)?
  • Do you have advice from the external prevention service?
  • Has training been given to the employees?
  • Are people aware of the method of transmission (droplets via coughing, sneezing, but also via surfaces)?
  • Does a cleaning programme exist with a priority for surfaces, handles, light switches, telephones, printers (everything that is touched)?
  • Has provision been made for disinfecting the workplace when an employee leaves the workplace due to illness?

Working with third parties

  • Are third parties informed of these measures?

Control of employees

  • Are workers with mild coughs sent home?
  • Are employees with slightly higher body temperatures (already > = 37.3°C) referred to their GP (after telephone announcement)?
  • Is this also mentioned in posters?
  • Is maximum provision made for teleworking?

Checks in the workplace

1. Social provisions

  • Do hand-washing possibilities exist? 
  • Are paper towels provided?
  • Are there instructions on how to wash hands correctly?
  • Are the Flemish Government's guidelines on social distancing and hygiene on display?
  • Have measures been taken in the canteen for people to eat at a distance from each other (1.5m to 2m in between, not straight across)?

2. Workplace 

  • Can people work at a sufficient distance from each other (> 1.5m)?
  • Are the rooms sufficiently ventilated?
  • Have measures been taken to prevent contamination from equipment (cleaning of workpieces and work equipment used by several employees)?

3. Lifts 

  • Are lifts taken out of service or is a notice displayed that they should be used as little as possible (reason: social distancing cannot be applied in an elevator)?

4. Meeting rooms

  • Are non-essential meetings cancelled?
  • Are essential meetings limited in time?
  • Is the number of participants limited?
  • Are the rooms cleaned and ventilated after meetings?

5. Vehicles

  • Are vehicles cleaned and disinfected before changing driver?

What (support) measures has the government taken on which employers can rely?

Temporary unemployment of employees 

The government greatly simplified the various procedures on Friday 20 March 2020.On 20 March 2020 it was decided that all temporary unemployment due to the coronavirus can be regarded as temporary unemployment due to force majeure. 

Employees can receive increased NEO (National Employment Office - ONEM/RVA) benefits until 30 June 2020. On top of the unemployment benefit, the employee receives a supplement of € 5.63 per day, which is charged to the NEO.

Who is eligible?

Employees

This measure can be introduced for:

  • both blue-collar ("ouvriers/arbeiders") and white-collar employees ("employés/bedienden") (in the private and public sectors);
  • temporary agency workers for the duration of their temporary employment contract;
  • students on alternating work-classroom courses.

Force majeure temporary unemployment does not apply to statutory employees in the public sector and students.

Employers

All employers who are temporarily unable to employ their employees owing to the coronavirus are eligible for this measure.

Extent of support 

When the force majeure is 'Coronavirus', the NEO benefit is increased to 70% of the (capped) average wage  (€ 2,754.76 per month). 26.75% payroll tax (précompte professionnel/bedrijfsvoorheffing) is deducted from this payment.

This increase will apply until 30 June 2020.

Employees who are temporarily unemployed due to force majeure are exempt from waiting period. This means that they are immediately entitled to benefits and do not have to provide proof of the number of working or assimilated days.

An employee who is temporarily unemployed due to force majeure (reason “coronavirus”) receives a supplement of € 5.63 per day on top of the unemployment benefit , payable by the NEO.

As an employer, you can decide to grant an additional compensation on top of the unemployment benefit. 
Many sectors provide for compulsory additional compensation for temporary unemployment, including for force majeure. 
If there is a sectoral collective agreement that obliges you as an employer to pay additional compensation for temporary unemployment, you must at least grant this compensation.Where there is no sectoral obligation, employers who so wish can pay a supplement (for both blue-collar and white-collar employees on top of the unemployment benefit and the NEO supplement to make good the loss of pay. No social security contribution is payable on this supplement, but it remains subject to payroll tax in the same way as unemployment benefit. 

Persons who are temporarily unemployed can in certain cases combine this unemployment benefit with voluntary work or a secondary occupation.

Simplified formalities for the employer

  • For the duration of the restrictive measures (provisionally up to and including 5 April 2020), the employer will no longer have to send notifications of temporary unemployment due to force majeure to the competent NEO unemployment office. This period can be extended until 30 June 2020, if sanitary measures are extended or reinforced by the government.
  • If, for the period from 13 March 2020 onwards the employer indicates the temporary unemployment as due to “force majeure” this counts as the required notice. This is done by indicating in scenario 5 of the electronic social risk declaration (ASR) the number of days on which the employee is temporarily unemployed, indicating the 'nature of the day' code 5.4 and with 'coronavirus' as the reason. 

This procedure applies regardless of whether the employer had already submitted a notice of temporary unemployment due to force majeure for the period from 13 March 2020 onwards. It is also valid if he had submitted a notice of temporary unemployment due to economic causes.

The employer who originally submitted a notice of temporary unemployment due to economic causes can thus switch to temporary unemployment due to force majeure (reason “coronavirus”) without further formalities, even if certain employees can still work, or the business can still operate on certain days. 

  • If, in the ASR scenario 5, the employer indicates “economic causes” as the reason for temporary unemployment (by indicating the 'nature of the day' code 5.1), then the existing procedures will be retained (notification of the planned temporary unemployment due to economic causes, communication of the first effective unemployment day, compulsory working week….).
  • The employer is obliged to deliver an ASR scenario 5 as soon as possible (on the basis of which the NEO can also determine the amount of the benefits for the temporarily unemployed person). The employer must not wait until the end of the month for this, but must do this during the month, as soon as all data until the end of the month are known.
  • From 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020, the employer is not required to deliver C3.2A control cards to employees who are temporarily unemployed, regardless of the reason for temporary unemployment.

Simplified formalities for the employee

  • The employee can use a simplified (C3.2 employee coronavirus) form for submitting his benefit application to his payment institution. Every pay-out institution has such a form.
  • An employee who is temporarily unemployed owing to force majeure is entitled to unemployment benefits without eligibility conditions applying. For the period from 1 February 2020 to 30 June 2020, this also applies to employees who are temporarily unemployed for economic reasons.
  • From 1 February 2020 to 30 June 2020, the employee receives a benefit equal to 70% of his average pay (pay capped at € 2,754.76 per month). An employee who is temporarily unemployed owing to force majeure (reason “coronavirus”) receives a supplement of € 5.63 per day on top of the unemployment benefit, to be paid by the NEO.

Source : RVA – www.rva.be

Temporary unemployment due to force majeure can also be applied for in respect of employees of suppliers of businesses affected by an imposed closure, insofar as these can no longer be employed as a result. This temporary unemployment can provisionally also be accepted up to and including 19 April 2020, insofar as the complete impossibility of employment by the employer has been demonstrated (except if these suppliers are also affected by an imposed closure).

Coronavirus and temporary unemployment: The NEO applies a fixed sum of 1,450 euros gross per month.

Fixed sum benefit

Employees who fall into temporary unemployment due to the recent coronavirus measures can immediately count on a fixed sum unemployment benefit of 1,450 euros gross per month. 
 
Employment Minister Nathalie Muylle announced this decision. 
 
We assume that this fixed amount will be paid in the event of temporary unemployment due to coronavirus to persons in full-time employment. 

New files

The NEO will in the first instance pay this fixed unemployment benefit to employees for whom a new temporary unemployment file has had to be started because of coronavirus. 
A balance will follow later. 
The fact is that a new file takes time to get completely in order.

This solution is very adequate to avoid the situation that payments on new files cannot be paid at the end of this month. 

In this way, the government wants to protect the purchasing power of the affected employees as much as possible during this period of force majeure. It is crucial that people who are temporarily without pay can continue to pay their gas and electricity bills and daily expenses.

Stimulating home working / teleworking

Under the government measures of Tuesday 17 March 2020, companies are now required to organise teleworking for every position where this is possible, without exception.

  • This measure is clear: requiring employees to work from home in these extraordinary circumstances
  • Businesses that are unable to organise this will have to respect strict social distancing.
  • If the company is unable to meet this requirement, the business will have to be closed.
  • This measure does not apply to crucial sectors and essential services.

The employer can make IT equipment and the internet available to employees for teleworking. The employer may also request that employees use their own IT equipment and internet and may contribute to the costs that employees themselves bear (*). It is also important to inform your occupational accidents insurer that more people are working from home or teleworking.

Employers are advised to anticipate a possible recurrence of this kind of situation in the future and include the possibility of (occasional) homeworking in the company's working regulations (arrangements for implementation, equipment to be used, software, expenses, and the like.) We can assist you with this.

(*) Working from home involves certain additional costs for the employees, which are usually borne privately. These can include additional heating of the house during the daytime, higher electricity consumption, the use of a privately financed internet connection. Although all such costs are marginal in a context of solidarity, they are in principle payable by the employer.

That means a tax opportunity. If these costs are reimbursed by the employer, this is a tax-free allowance (deductible for the employer, not taxed as wages for the employee). In that case, double proof must be provided: that the costs are specific to the employer and that the compensation was actually spent on them. Similar principles are applied by the social security authorities.

Demonstrating the size of these costs will not always be easy. For this reason reimbursement can be made on a flat-rate basis, provided it complies with serious standards.
Specifically for the reimbursement of the above-mentioned costs, the National Social Security Office - NSSO (ONEM/RSZ) has set a maximum amount that currently amounts to 126.94 euros per month. In advance decisions in tax matters (rulings) too, the NSSO maximum is often used as the maximum amount.

In addition, the costs of professional use of the internet connection can also be reimbursed, insofar as these are not already borne by the employer. This compensation may not exceed 20 euros per month.

In the context of the coronavirus crisis, rulings for home-working compensation can now be requested through an accelerated procedure. We are talking here of an amount of 126.94 euros per month.
You will find a draft application to the rulings committee on the following website: https://www.ruling.be/nl/nieuws/aanvraag-thuiswerk-covid-19.

Further measures on the way…..

Corona premium?

Federal Minister of Finance Alexander de Croo is considering offering businesses the opportunity to pay their employees a tax-free ‘corona premium’ of up to 1,000 euros. This sum would be exempt from tax and social security contributions. It would encourage employees having to work in difficult circumstances as a result of the corona crisis. This course of action is currently under discussion by the working groups.

A further raft of measures on the way…

Many other proposals are doing the rounds for getting more people to work and ensuring that businesses can keep going. These include:

  • Low-cost additional overtime (would be classified as ‘occurred or imminent incident’)
  • Greater flexibility for variable working hours and work schedules
  • Allowing a succession of short-term contracts
  • Expansion of casual work: for example, expansion of flexi jobs and enabling more temporary work
  • Setting up a platform for students to make it easy for them to work in sectors other than hospitality (hours worked by students during the coronavirus crisis would not be included in their maximum package)
  • ………………

More information to follow: we’re keeping a close eye on the situation.

Other possible questions

Your employee returns from an affected region or is quarantined

An employee who is blocked abroad on vacation or at the end of a professional assignment owing to the cancellation of his return flight, can claim the existence of force majeure, which prevents a return to work. The same applies when the employee is quarantined.

Suspension of performance of the employment contract for reasons of force majeure is governed by Article 26 of the Act of 3 July 1978 on employment contracts. Force majeure is defined as a sudden, unforeseeable event, independent of the will of the parties, that makes the execution of the contract temporarily and completely impossible.

What should the employee do? 
Notify his employer as soon as possible. If the employee does not notify his employer, while still having the opportunity to do so, the employer could consider this as an unlawful absence.

What is the nature of his absence?
The execution of the agreement has been suspended due to force majeure and the employee is therefore not unlawfully absent. However, the non-performance of work results in the absence of pay. Under certain conditions, however, the employee can receive benefits paid by the NEO due to temporary unemployment due to force majeure.

Where appropriate, the employee may choose to convert these days into days off, subject to the agreement of his employer (impossible in the case of a collective holiday scheme in the company) and thus regain entitlement to his pay. 

Your employee is sick 

In this case, the inability to work is due to the employee's incapacity for work and the normal rules apply. The employer will therefore be required to pay guaranteed wages to the employee for a certain period of time.

Sickness and temporary unemployment, what now? If your employee is unable to work (for any reason) during a period of temporary unemployment (all temporary unemployment due to coronavirus can now be treated as temporary unemployment due to force majeure), you do not have to pay guaranteed wages for the days of unemployment. This rule, which applies by law to blue-collar workers only, may also apply to white-collar workers. The employee will receive a payment from his health insurance fund.

The same principle applies as if your employee was already incapacitated for work before the start of the period of temporary unemployment. You only have to pay guaranteed wages for the days of incapacity preceding the period of temporary unemployment. Your employee can claim a payment from his health insurance fund for the days of incapacity for work which coincide with the days of temporary unemployment.

What about parents wanting to take care of their children?

The government has decided to suspend all classes until 3 April 2020 inclusive. Crèches remain open, however. School-aged children should stay at home and should preferably not be looked after by grandparents.
This requires parents to find solutions. Many parents will want to stay at home to look after their children. As an employer, you should look for solutions with them. For example, the employee can take holiday or compensation days first. After that, he or she can take unpaid leave. Of course, home working, where possible, can also be mandatory here. 
In principle, each school provides care for children whose parents are forced to continue working because of the circumstances (crucial sectors such as health care, etc.).

NSSO measures

Deferral of payments owed to the NSSO 

One of the measures taken on 20 March 2020, concerns the deferral of payments to the NSSO until 15 December 2020. These measures cover two types of payment deferral: 

Automatic deferral 
The hotel and catering, recreation, culture and sports sectors and all companies affected by a compulsory closure in accordance with the provisions of the Ministerial Decree of 18 March 2020 will automatically be eligible for this deferral. Eligibility for this automatic deferral can be checked via the on-line application using the business’s enterprise number. 

Deferral after making a prior declaration of honour for businesses that have decided themselves to close completely  

  • Businesses that are not the subject of a compulsory closure, as mentioned in the ministerial decrees of 13 March, 18 March, 23 March and 24 March 2020, but that are closed because they are unable to comply with the sanitary measures, may be granted a deferral of payment based on a declaration of honour. The form for this is available online on the NSSO portal.
  • Businesses that are closed outside of compulsory measures, and those which, for other reasons than inability to comply with the sanitary measures, have decided themselves to close completely. Certain other businesses have had to stop production and sales and close fully, without being compulsorily closed or closed because of their inability to comply with the sanitary measures. One example is the closure of suppliers and closure because customers are closed.
    Provision is also made for these businesses to benefit from the deferral until 15 December on the basis of a declaration of honour.

The “declaration of honour” is currently available on the NSSO portal site.

Deferral after declaration of honour for businesses that have not closed completely and whose economic activity is severely reduced 

Employers who are not forced to close but still see their economic activity substantially reduced for the second quarter of 2020.
They have to submit a declaration of honour via an electronic form, by which they declare that the corona crisis will result in the following for their business:

  • a substantial fall in turnover in the second quarter of 2020, translating for this quarter into a reduction in the amount of VAT declared by at least 65% compared with the second quarter of 2019 or the first quarter of 2020; and/or
  • a reduction in the wage bill declared to the NSSO for the second quarter of 2020 by at least 65% compared with the second quarter of 2019 or the first quarter of 2020

The “declaration of honour” is currently available on the NSSO portal site.

For which amounts owed to the NSSO?
The deferment of payments applies to all payments from 20 March 2020 onwards. This therefore includes:

  • changes in contributions still to be paid;
  • the monthly instalments of the current mutually agreed instalment plans;
  • the third instalment for the first quarter (due on 5 April 2020)
  • the balance for the first quarter 
  • the annual vacation debit report sent to employers from 1 April 2020 onwards and payable by 30 April 2020;
  • the second quarter advances 
  • the second quarter balance

Pease note: the deferment of payment applies to all contributions collected by the ONSS (employer contributions, employee contributions and special contributions, including the social security contributions) and runs until 15 December 2020.

But for clarity's sake: the obligation to submit the NSSO declaration within the stipulated deadlines remains in force.

Source: www.rsz.fgov.be

Possibility to request a mutually agreed instalment payment plan from the NSSO.

The NSSO mutually agreed payment plan allows you to pay monthly instalments over a maximum period of 24 months. If you have paid the social security contributions correctly in accordance with the instalment payment plan, the NSSO can exempt the company from supplementary contributions, flat-rate reimbursements and/or default interest.
In the context of the current Corona crisis : Employers can apply for mutually agreed instalment payment plans for their employer contributions for the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2020, so that their debt can be repaid in monthly instalments.
You can submit an application for a mutually agreed instalment payment plan via the NSSO 'mutually agreed instalment payment plan' page. 
https://www.socialsecurity.be/site_nl/employer/applics/paymentplan/index.htm

Fiscal measures

Possibility to request an instalment payment plan from the tax authorities for the following tax debts: 

  • Payroll tax (précompte professionnel/bedrijfsvoorheffing)
  • VAT;
  • Personal income tax;
  • Corporate income tax; 
  • Legal entities tax

There is a guaranteed exemption from delayed payment interest and a cancellation of fines for non-payment. The debts in question must not arise from fraud and the adapted (see below) conditions for submitting returns must be complied with. 

In the event of non-compliance with the instalment plan (except where the debtor has contacted the relevant authority in good time) or in the event of collective insolvency proceedings, the support measures will be withdrawn.

The above support measures do not apply to businesses experiencing structural payment difficulties independently of the coronavirus. 

The application must be made to the competent regional debt recovery centre (CRR/RIC) no later than 30 June 2020, separately for each debt, upon receipt of a payment or assessment notice. 

Additional measures regarding submission and payment deadlines. 

Declaration periods

Corporate income tax, legal entities tax and non-resident corporate income tax 

Corporate income tax, legal entities tax and non-resident corporate income tax returns with filing deadlines between 16 March 2020 and 30 April 2020 are subject to a postponement until midnight on Thursday, 30 April 2020. 

VAT 

A postponement applies for the submission of periodical VAT returns and intra-Community declarations: 

  • February 2020 declaration - 6 April 2020
  • March 2020 and 1 quarter 2020 return - 7 May 2020

All filers of monthly VAT returns – including those neither receiving monthly refunds nor treated as ‘start-ups’ – will be able to receive an accelerated refund of their VAT credit to their current account (with effect from 31 March 2020), subject to certain conditions. For their return for February 2020, they will be granted a deferral until 3 April 2020 (instead of the 24th of the month following the reporting period). However, the return must be filed via Intervat and the box to request a refund must be checked.  If the return for February 2020 has already been filed, the taxpayer can file an amended return via Intervat by 3 April 2020 to change this option. All other basic conditions for VAT refunds still apply. This measure means that refunds can only take place up to 30 April 2020, instead of the end of May or the end of June. Despite this submission deadline,  other monthly returns for February 2020 (which do not show a credit or for which no refund is requested) can still be filed in due course up to 6 April 2020 (see above).
The deadline for the annual customer listing is extended until 30 April 2020. If you cease your activity which is subject to VAT, the deadline is the end of the 4th month following the cessation. 

Payment deadlines

VAT and payroll tax : automatic deferral of payment by 2 months without additional fines or default interest. The initial support measures mentioned above can also still be applied for.
In concrete terms this means:

  • for VAT: deferral until 20 May 2020 for the VAT for February, and until 20 June 2020 for the VAT for March or the first quarter;
  • for payroll tax: deferral until 13 May 2020 for the payroll tax for February, and until 15 June 2020 for the payroll tax for March or the first quarter. 

The payment deadline for special returns 629 (i.e. the special VAT return for paying VAT due on intra-Community acquisitions and certain services received) relating to the first quarter of 2020 is also extended until 20 June 2020 (originally 20 April 2020).

In addition to this automatic deferral of payment, the support measures described above can also be requested for the payment of payroll tax and VAT. Additional payment terms, an exemption from late payment interest and/or a waiver of fines for late payment can be granted via this application.

Personal income tax, corporate income tax, non-residents tax and legal entities tax: In addition to the normal payment period and without the application of late payment interest, an additional two month deadline will automatically be granted. This measure applies to the settlement of these taxes in respect of the 2019 tax assessment year (income earned in 2018), established from 12 March 2020 onwards.
For the payment of personal or corporate tax debts, including those established before 12 March 2020, the above-mentioned previously announced support measures apply on request.

For the payment of personal or corporate tax debts, including those established before 12 March 2020, the above-mentioned support measures (instalment plan, exemption from delayed payment interest and cancellation of fines) apply on request.

Other measures

Advance payments

It took some time, but the government eventually decided on 3 April 2020 to step in with regard to advance payments for companies and the self-employed. Under normal circumstances, self-employed persons and companies making advance payments in good time can count on a tax benefit. The sooner they make the advance payments, the greater the benefit. In view of this, many taxpayers try to pay as much as possible in advance on the first due date of 10 April.

For taxpayers struggling with liquidity problems as a result of the corona crisis, the government has now decided to increase the percentages of the benefits for advance payments for the third and fourth due dates, 10 October and 20 December respectively. This support measure lessens the disadvantage associated with postponing their advance payments. The actual percentages of the increases remain the same (i.e. 6.75% for companies and 2.25% for the self-employed), as do the due dates for advance payments.

Since the measure is aimed at businesses with liquidity problems, it does not apply to companies that:

  • carry out share repurchases or capital reductions; and/or
  • pay or distribute dividends between 12 March 2020 and 31 December 2020

This means that companies still wishing to distribute liquidation reserves (carried for 5 years) in the form of dividends this year (from 12 March) or wishing to divest the company of its locked-in old reserves included in the capital (known as ‘537 capital’) via a capital reduction will be excluded from this measure.
Nor will the higher rates apply to individuals (e.g. employees) who would consequently be entitled to a higher rebate due to advance payments.

The table below shows the adjusted percentages for advance payments. As already mentioned, these are higher in the third and fourth quarters (unless there is a dividend payment or a capital reduction):

  Personal income tax

Corp. income tax
(without dividend payment)

Corp. income tax
(with dividend payment)
VA1 3% 9% 9%
VA2 2.5% 7.5% 7.5%
VA3 2.25% (*) 6.75% 6%
VA4 1.75% (**) 5.25% 4.5%

(*) Instead of 2%
(**) Instead of 1.5%

In addition, it is possible to request a refund for (unapplied) advance payments or to reapply a payment already made to the following tax assessment year. The advance payments service promises to do everything possible to process these requests as quickly as possible.

Tax inspections 

In its 18 March 2020 report, the FPS Finance reported that all non-essential and/or less urgent on-the-spot tax inspections are postponed. Only those controls necessary to protect the financial interests of the State will continue. This includes controls that must be carried out before a certain date to avoid limitation periods. Controls that can be performed remotely, with the support of fiscal tax applications and on the basis of tax files, are still taking place.

No income tax on support measures of the communities and regions

On 3 April this year, the government also decided to exempt the various measures adopted by the communities and regions to support businesses and families from income tax. This applies, for example, to the (nuisance) premiums provided by the various regions for businesses that have to close and the lump sum payment for water and heating awarded by the Flemish Government to people who are temporarily unemployed.

Temporary tax measures with respect to donations of medical equipment

In a recent circular (Circular 2020/C/46 dd. 24 March 2020 on the donating of goods to certain institutions and donations in kind; ), the tax administration explains a number of exceptional temporary tax measures with respect to donations of medical equipment to certain institutions.  The measures concern both VAT and direct taxes. On 3 April 2020, the government also decided to give the content of the circular a legal basis.

  • VAT

Provided that a number of conditions and modalities are met, the direct donation of certain medical devices (and their accessories) such as, for example, respirators and protective equipment for health care providers and patients (excluding medicines) to health care institutions for the use of the same in their usual activity do not give rise to a VAT obligation.  The usual rules on the withdrawal of goods from which VAT has been deducted therefore do not apply.  As proof that the taxpayer-donor has donated the goods in question free of charge to a qualifying institution, in principle, a document must be drawn up for each donation in which the healthcare institution confirms that the goods in question were obtained free of charge and in which it undertakes to use the goods obtained itself in the context of providing care, or else to make them available free of charge to another health care institution. The aforementioned document is drawn up in duplicate, with each party declaring that it has received its own copy and must be dated and signed by the parties concerned.

  • Corporate income tax and non-resident corporate tax

If the donor is subject to corporate income tax or non resident corporate income tax, the gifts will not be categorised as a disallowed expense on account of abnormal or favourable benefits.  The costs associated with the donated goods will in principle be regarded as tax deductible within the meaning of Article 49 CIR/WIB 92 (1992 Income Tax Act). The same applies when extra costs are temporarily incurred for the production and donation of medical supplies, such as the costs associated with temporary production of disinfecting alcohol by distilleries.This tax treatment will apply only if all conditions regarding VAT are met (see above).

  • Personal income tax and non-resident natural persons tax

The same measures will apply to self-employed persons as to companies.

Contrary to the usual rules, the Minister of Finance has decided to make temporary in-kind donations to Belgian university and CPAS/OCMW hospitals eligible for the tax reduction for donations.  This is a tax reduction for gifts in kind to specific institutions with a value of at least 40 euros (indexed amount). The tax reduction is equal to 45% of the value of the gifts in kind actually made.

The tax credit applies only to gifts made by individuals of medical equipment and products that are valuable in combating coronavirus and which are identified as such by hospitals (e.g. mouth masks, disinfectants, coronavirus test sets, etc.).

It is also still possible to make cash donations to hospitals and healthcare institutions via existing channels. Donations of 40 euros or more (on a cumulative basis per calendar year) lead to a tax reduction. 

Clarification of the exemption conditions for write-downs on trade receivables

In a recent circular (Circular 2020/C/ 45 dd. March 23, 2020 on the effects of the Covid-19 virus crisis on the application of the exemption conditions for write-downs on trade receivables), the tax authorities have confirmed that the coronacrisis is a special circumstance justifying the exemption for write-downs on trade receivables from companies that are late in paying those receivables as a direct or indirect consequence of the measures taken by the federal government.  

Taxpayers who wish to invoke the exemption will have to identify every debtor with solvency problems and explain this in the statement 204.3 to the tax return.  The assessment of the loss on a claim will have to be done for each debtor separately. However, a certain degree of flexibility may be applied in assessing the difficulties of collecting amounts owed by debtors whose sales have decreased significantly owing to the restrictive measures imposed by the federal government. 

Various measures in the field of customs and excise duties

The General Customs and Excise Administration has issued a range of corona measures, ranging from payment facilities for excise duties, packaging levies and VAT for alcohol and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, to the authorization of pharmacists without authorized warehousekeeper status to produce disinfectants.

A complete overview can be found on the following website: https://financien.belgium.be/nl/douane_accijnzen/ondernemingen/corona-informatie-en-maatregelen.

Tax shelter investments

For investments in certain audio-visual productions and stage works via the tax shelter system, the administration agrees to an extension of the statutory deadlines for expenditure by 6 months. In so doing, the Tax Shelter Unit wishes to take into account the temporary shutdown of certain productions. 

For the performing arts, the current deadline for expenditure of 24 months has been extended by 6 months. For the audio-visual sector, it has been decided to also extend the current deadline of 18 months (24 months for animation) by 6 months.

In order to benefit from this measure, the producer must prove that he or she has suffered a direct loss as a result of the measures introduced by the government in order to deal with coronavirus.

Impact of working from home on international tax treatment

The general trend of working from home as much as possible can also impact the tax position of workers who usually work in another country. People working internationally are often taxable in the country where the professional activities are physically performed. However, if the workers concerned remain in their state of residence (e.g. Belgium) in order to work from home, their salaries may no longer be taxable in the state of employment, which could reduce their net income owing to the higher tax burden in Belgium. To date, the Belgian tax authorities do not seem inclined to regard home working as force majeure within the context of the so-called 183-day rule in the event of a salary split (when an employee is active and taxable in several countries).  The same attitude can be expected to be maintained for the time being with regard to the so-called 'travel exclusion' for foreign workers who have the status of foreign executive in Belgium under the circular of 8 August 1983. 

With regard to cross-border work with France, Belgium has concluded an additional protocol to the double taxation treaty, whereby the presence of French cross-border workers in their place of residence in France (for teleworking there) will not be taken into account for the calculation of the maximum period of 30 days per calendar year during which French frontier workers may leave the Belgian border region. A similar arrangement has been worked out for frontier workers working in Luxembourg. The mutually agreed scheme of 16 March 2015 on the application of Article 15 of the Belgian-Luxembourg tax treaty has introduced a tolerance rule that allows frontier workers to carry on their activity outside their usual working state for a maximum of 24 days, while remaining taxable in that state. Here, too, the presence of a frontier worker in his place of residence (for teleworking there) is not taken into account for the calculation of the 24-day period. Both agreements apply from 14 March 2020 and until further notice. 

Measures for self-employed persons

Deferral of social security contributions: 

A one-year payment deferral can be requested for the provisional social security contributions for the first and second quarters of 2020. In this way payments can be deferred by one year, without any increases being charged and with no effect on benefits.

This means that the first quarter 2020 contribution must be paid by 31 March 2021 and the second quarter 2020 contribution by 30 June 2021.

This application can be submitted until 15 June 2020.
The application must always state that the payment deferral is being requested owing to the coronavirus. 

The application must be submitted in writing via one's social insurance fund (https://www.rsvz.be/nl/socialeverzekeringsfondsen). No specific form is provided for the application. Many social insurance funds have already provided a web form for submitting the application online.

The application must always contain at least the following information:

  • name, first name and place of residence of the person concerned;
  • name and registered office of the business;
  • enterprise number.

The payment deferral can be obtained without being subject to 3% or 7% increases and without affecting benefits, provided that contributions are paid on the set dates. The self-employed person must always provide proof of the financial difficulties experienced owing to the coronavirus. 

This measure also applies to the regularization of social security contributions (final accounts) with a set payment term of 31 March 2020, 30 June 2020 and 30 September 2020. 
This means that the contribution for the first quarter of 2020 and the regularization contributions due on 31 March 2020 must be paid by 31 March 2021. The contribution for the second quarter of 2020 and the regularization contributions due on 30 June 2020 and 30 September 2020 must be paid by 30 June 2021.

If the contribution is not paid in full within the deadline provided, increases will be due on the quarters in question and benefits received unjustly will be reclaimed. 

Please note: in order to benefit from the deduction for the free supplementary pension for the self-employed (PCLI/VAPZ), the self-employed person must be in order with his social security contributions on 31 December 2020. Anyone who has obtained a deferment of payment of his social security contributions cannot deduct his PCLI/VAPZ. However, if the self-employed person pays his deferred social security contributions by 31/12/2020, the PCLI/VAPZ contributions will of course be deductible.

Waiver of increases: 

Self-employed persons who do not pay their provisional social security contributions for the first quarter of 2020 by 31 March 2020 will not have to pay any late payment increases. The same applies to the late payment of regularization contributions with a deadline of 31 March 2020. Those increases automatically disappear. The self-employed person therefore does not have to submit an application.

Applying for an exemption from social security contributions:

Persons who are self-employed in their primary occupation and assisting spouses who are unable to pay their social security contributions may request exemption from contributions. The contribution exemption can be granted in whole or in part.

An application for exemption from contributions can be submitted to the National Institute for Social Insurance of the Self-employed (INASTI/RSVZ) because of financial problems due to the coronavirus (one can also apply for this via one's social insurance fund (https://www.rsvz.be/nl/socialeverzekeringsfondsen) which has a simplified application form for this). 

This exemption can be applied for in respect of the first and/or second quarter of 2020. 

An application for future quarters is not possible.

If the application is accepted, no pension rights are accrued for these two quarters (this is a provisional measure and may be adjusted owing to coronavirus).
Start-ups can also apply for an exemption. They do not need to have been operating for four quarters.

It is possible to combine this with the bridging allowance.

No demands or writs of execution for unpaid social security contributions

For the time being, social insurance funds will no longer send demands for social security contributions remaining unpaid. In addition, writs of execution issued for social security contributions remaining unpaid will not be executed until further notice.

Reducing the provisional social security contributions:

Social security contributions for self-employed persons are calculated based on the net taxable income for the year in question. However, the actual net taxable income is known only two years later. For this reason you first pay provisional contributions, with a subsequent adjustment.

If you are likely to earn less in 2020 owing to coronavirus, you can have the provisional contributions for 2020 adjusted. It is best to apply for this directly to the social insurance fund with which you are affiliated. They will then examine with you the possible statutory income thresholds based on which the social security contributions may be calculated.

Payment of the bridging allowance:

In the context of the Corona crisis, the granting of the bridging allowance in the context of force majeure is being relaxed:
As a person who is self-employed in his main profession (including helpers, assisting spouses in the maxi-status) you can qualify for the temporary coronavirus bridging allowance in the following situations:

  • the government has obliged you to completely or partially interrupt your activity. You are immediately eligible for the granting of the bridging allowance. In this way no minimum duration of interruption is required. This concerns, for example, self-employed persons who are obliged to close their businesses (such as restaurants, cafés and non-food shops) or self-employed persons who are obliged to work by appointment only. This includes restaurants providing or delivering takeaway meals.
  • The government has not obliged you to interrupt your activity in part or in full, but you have deemed it necessary to interrupt your activity as a result of the coronavirus crisis for a period of at least 7 consecutive calendar days. This concerns, for example, self-employed persons who interrupt their activity owing to quarantine, a lack of raw materials or for various reasons of an economic or organisational nature (linked to COVID-19). Self-employed persons who exercise a care profession, such as physiotherapists, dentists and specialists, are also included.

For this you must be:

  • self-employed in your main occupation (incl. helpers, assisting spouses in the maxi-statute); or a person self-employed in a secondary occupation who owes provisional contributions that are at least equal to the minimum contributions for persons self-employed in their main occupation;
  • where self-employed social security contributions are owed in Belgium;
  • you do not benefit from replacement income.

Source: www.rsvz.be

Company managers are also able to apply for the bridging allowance. Self-employed persons who work in the form of a company and who have to completely close their businesses because of the coronavirus measures, may also be entitled to the financial benefit. The fact that the self-employed manager or director still receives remuneration from the company does not prevent the bridging allowance from being received. The ordinary rules of the third pillar of the bridging allowance apply in this case.

The bridging allowance can be combined with the Flemish Nuisance Premium or the compensation premium

! Bridging allowance in the construction sector:

The construction sector is very seriously affected by the restrictions imposed by the government in view of the corona crisis, so that absolutely no construction firm can continue to work normally at this time. For this reason, for the purpose of granting the bridging allowance, this sector is considered as a sector that is forced to close partially. This means that construction firms are immediately entitled to a payment for March and April 2020.

Note: the same reasoning does not necessarily apply to freelancers such as architects, because they can carry out a large proportion of their work from home. It should be borne in mind that activities have to be interrupted for at least seven days in order to qualify for the bridging allowance.

What is one entitled to?

The bridging allowance consists of two parts: a benefit and an assimilation.

The coronavirus bridging allowance provides for payment of the full monthly benefit amount for March and April.
The exact amount depends on the family situation: 

  • without family dependants: EUR 1,291.69 per month.
  • with family dependants EUR 1,614.10 per month.

However, the term ‘family dependants’ should still be understood to refer to family dependants for the purposes of health insurance. A self-employed person who has dependants for tax purposes only is not therefore entitled to the higher financial benefit.
Tip: Not sure? Check with your health insurance fund!

The assimilation means that you retain the rights to medical care, family benefits/growth package and disability benefits for a maximum of 4 quarters. No pension rights are accrued during the bridging allowance period.

The self-employed person who is ill (see below) and therefore incapacitated for work and receiving sickness benefit is not eligible for the bridging allowance.

Application procedure

The allowance is granted even if the self-employed person has already enjoyed the maximum number of monthly payments of the bridging allowance in the past. In addition, the periods under this temporary measure do not count towards the maximum number of future bridging allowances.
In the event of extension of the forced closure measure or of a complete lock-down, these temporary aid measures may be extended.

The bridging allowance can be applied for by the entrepreneur himself from his social insurance fund before the end of the second quarter following the quarter in which the self-employed activity was discontinued. We can provide a Bridging Allowance information folder.
The request may also be made by accountants by email or by post.

Entitlement to disability benefits:

Self-employed persons who have been incapacitated for work for at least 8 days are now entitled to disability benefits (via the health insurance fund) from the first day of incapacity for work. 
In this case, you should make a declaration to the health insurance fund to which you are affiliated as soon as possible. You should submit the certificate of incapacity for work completed by your GP to the health insurance fund as soon as possible.

Measures from the financial sector (Banking Plan)

On 22 March 2020, the federal government, the National Bank and the banking sector announced an agreement to:

  • continue existing credit facilities to healthy companies, SMEs and self-employed persons and grant payment deferrals until 30 September 2020, so as to ensure the necessary liquidity;
  • to make available additional loans in a flexible and responsible manner, with the support of government guarantees where necessary.

Meanwhile, Febelfin (the umbrella federation for the financial sector) published a charter for deferral of payment of business loans (Charte report de paiement crédit aux entreprises/Charter betalingsuitstel ondernemingskredieten) on its website on 31 March 2020 (besides a Charte report de paiement credit hypothécaire/Charter betalingsuitstel hypothecair krediet). See also https://www.febelfin.be/fr/consommateurs/article/charte-report-de-paiement-credit-aux-entreprises.

Deferral

Deferral of capital repayments

A payment deferral for a business loan due to coronavirus means that the company/organisation has to make no capital repayments for up to 6 months. Interest is still payable, however. 

Once the period of deferral has elapsed, payments resume. The maturity of the loan is extended by the period of the deferral of payments. In other words: the borrower will repay his/her loan for up to six months longer than originally planned.

No processing or administration fee is payable for taking advantage of deferral of payment.

A guarantee scheme has been devised together with the government for new loans and credit lines with a maximum maturity of 12 months.

Who can request a deferral?

A payment deferral for a business loan can be requested by non-financial companies, SMEs, self-employed persons and non-profit organisations meeting each of the following four conditions:

  • The company / organisation has payment problems as a result of coronavirus:
    • turnover or activity has decreased or will decrease;
    • temporary or full unemployment is claimed fully or partially;
    • the government has ordered the business to close – in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.
  • The company / organisation is permanently based in Belgium; and
  • The company / organisation was not in arrears with its current loans or tax or social security contributions on 1 February 2020 or the company was in arrears by less than 30 days on its current loans or on tax and social security contributions on 29 February 2020; and
  • The company / organisation has fulfilled all of its contractual credit obligations with respect to all banks for the last 12 months prior to 31 January 2020 and is not in the process of active credit restructuring.

Public authorities cannot request deferral of payment.

For which loans can you request deferral?

A payment deferral can be requested for one of the following business credit facilities:

  • loans with a fixed instalment plan
  • cash credits
  • overdrafts

Leasing and factoring are not included in the Banking Plan. A company / organisation can of course always contact its leasing or factoring company on a bilateral basis to investigate how a solution can be provided.

When to request deferral?

Requests for deferral made by 30 April 2020 run for up to 6 months until 31 October 2020.

The latest end date for requests made after 30 April 2020 will still be 31 October 2020.

Deferral of payment will only be granted for future instalments.

Requests submitted before the publication of this Febelfin charter will be assessed according to the criteria of the charter. The bank will contact the borrower if necessary.

Guarantee scheme for new loans 

Activation of a federal government guarantee scheme for all new loans and credit lines provided by banks to viable non-financial corporations and self-employed persons. The guarantee scheme has the following features: 

  • new loans and credit lines with a maximum maturity of 12 months (excluding refinancing loans) granted before 30 September 2020; not applicable to: refinancing loans, all new moratoria (such as deferral of interest, capital,…) and undrawn amounts on existing credit lines
  • the loan amount covered does not exceed EUR 50 million per company (or group of affiliated companies). In addition, government approval is required for each file. The total guarantee amount is EUR 50 billion; 
  • Cost of the guarantee: 
    • SMEs: 0.25%
    • Large companies: 0.50%
  • Cost of the credit: maximum 1.25% (excl. fee).

The burden-sharing of the losses on the credits under the guarantee scheme will take place as follows: 

  • first 3% loss on credits: borne by the financial sector; 
  • losses between 3% and 5%: 50% borne by the financial sector, 50% borne by the government;
  • losses above 5%: 20% borne by the financial sector, 80% borne by the government.

The National Bank, together with Febelfin will set up a monitoring system to monitor the guarantee scheme and the commitments of the banking sector (see also: https://www.nbb.be/nl/artikels/garantieregeling-voor-particulieren-en-bedrijven-getroffen-door-coronacrisis)

Febelfin therefore calls on anyone who is currently suffering - or is in danger of suffering - financially from the consequences of coronavirus and who believes that he or she fulfils the conditions for being entitled to request deferral of payment to contact his or her banker as soon as possible in order to find a solution. It is recommended to contact the bank one week before the next due date. The bank will not normally require any written evidence in order to be able to launch the request.

Measures from the insurance sectoring

The insurance sector has also announced measures for dealing with the coronavirus crisis. The key measures for businesses are set out below (see also: https://www.assuralia.be/fr/21-coin-presse/communiques-de-presse/948-l-assurance-solidaire-avec-tout-le-pays-agir-avec-souplesse-pour-les-clients-en-detresse-et-maintenir-la-protection).

  • Continuing to protect staff in case of temporary unemployment: insurers will maintain coverage for pensions, death benefits, disability and hospitalisation enjoyed by employees under group insurance schemes (including collective hospitalisation insurance) in case of temporary unemployment, and allow employers to defer payment of premiums until 30 September 2020;
  • Offering mortgage repayment holidays: as set out in the Banking Plan, under the same conditions, companies (similarly to private individuals and families) experiencing economic difficulties as a result of the corona crisis will benefit from the suspension of capital repayments and interest payments (Ed : there is no deferral of interest payments under the Banking Plan) on their mortgages with insurance companies until 30 September 2020. By the way, a similar deferral applies to loan protection and fire insurance linked to mortgages. 
  • Offering breathing space in case of payment problems: companies (and families) experiencing payment problems as a result of the corona crisis are advised to contact their insurer or intermediary to find a satisfactory solution to these difficulties.
  • Dealing sensibly with business interruption: for companies whose business stops as a result of the government measures, many insurance policies will automatically adapt to the business interruption. For example, in the case of occupational accident and public liability covers, an adjustment will still take place taking into account the reduction in payroll or turnover. As far as other forms of business insurance are concerned, companies that have had to close their business can request the deferral of payment of their premiums falling due from 30 March to 30 September 2020. Regarding the suspension of insurance policies, companies are advised to contact their insurer or intermediary to find a satisfactory solution, so that they remain covered for the other risks, such as fire, storm and third-party claims. 
  • Extending the deferral of payment to other business loans: the same holiday as for mortgages applies to other business loans issued by insurers. For new business loans, the insurance companies refer the company concerned to the banks, so that the company can benefit from the agreement reached between the government and the banks.

Measures for FLANDERS

Flemish nuisance premium (“hinderpremie”) for compulsory closure 

Update 30/03/2020 : Application for Flemish Nuisance Premium now possible!

To remind you: The corona nuisance premium and the additional closure premium are for companies with a place of business in the Flemish Region which are affected by mandatory closure measures.

When to apply?

You have until 5 May 2020 to submit your application. Each eligible business will be paid the premium.
As of Friday, 27 March 2020, the application link is open to everyone via www.vlaio.be/coronahinderpremie .

VLAIO will process the application. This means that VLAIO verifies everything and decides whether the applicant receives the premium. This decision will be communicated by email. After this, VLAIO will transfer the amount to the specified account. It is trying to keep the lead time as short as possible (approximately two weeks).

How to go about applying for payment of the premium?
 
VLAIO provides a secure connection with authentication. This means that applicants must identify themselves via their electronic identity card (e-ID) or via another registration key.
After registration, the application can be started. You go through 4 screens.

What should you have at hand? 

  • e-ID and an e-ID pin code (or another digital key) 
  • An active Belgian account number of the business to which the premium can be paid (in IBAN format, i.e. consisting of 16 characters starting with BE, followed by 2 digits and then the 12 digits of the account number)
  • The business’s normal opening days, as they applied before the coronavirus measures
  • The legal form (e.g. single proprietorship, BV, NV, etc)
  • For one-man businesses and self-employed persons: 
    • know what self-employed status you have: main occupation or secondary occupation?
    • In the event of secondary occupation:  do you pay social security contributions like a main occupation does?
  • The website address (url) of the business if one exists (in http: // and https: // format)

See also: https://www.vlaio.be/nl/subsidies-fanciering/corona-hinderpremie/hoe-vraag-je-de-corona-hinderpremie-aan/registratie-van

What does the coronavirus nuisance premium involve?

The coronavirus measures oblige some companies to close their doors completely. To support them financially, the coronavirus nuisance premium has been created. The coronavirus nuisance premium is 4,000 euros for companies that are obliged to close completely owing to the coronavirus measures (but can still offer takeaway possibilities or home deliveries). 
The Flemish Government has extended the coronavirus nuisance premium to all companies and shops (e.g.: clothing stores, electrical stores or do-it-yourself stores) that have to close completely because of the new National Security Council decisions.

The premium is awarded only to businesses with physical establishments in Flanders that are obliged to close entirely by the federal measures. The premium is therefore not granted in the event of voluntary closing. In that case, there are other support measures that may be available, such as the bridging allowance, deferral/exemption from social contributions, etc.

The nuisance premium can be combined with the bridging allowance benefit. 

These measures are announced until 19 April 2020. 

If companies are required to remain closed after that date, they will be entitled to an additional 160 euros per day closed.
Where a business with a complete compulsory closure has several operating locations, the number of premiums is limited to a maximum of five per company.

Compensation premium

Compensation premium for businesses suffering substantial losses

The Flemish Government has launched a new plan to deal with a number of consequences of the corona crisis. On 1 April 2020, it decided to introduce a ‘compensation premium’ for businesses which have not been forced to close by the government, but whose turnover is still severely reduced. This must involve a loss of more than 60 percent of their turnover compared with the previous year.

Compensation premium

If the business is not forced to close by the government, but still suffers a substantial loss of turnover as a result of coronavirus, this compensation premium can be claimed.

This affects business owners in many different sectors, including the events sector, the freelance sector, (para)medical professions, animal boarding establishments, the agricultural sector, service providers or specialist food and drink stores, such as chocolate shops or wine stores. Business owners without an office/shop/salon (and consequently not covered by the nuisance premium) will therefore be able to take advantage of the compensation measures.

If the business is forced to close by the government, the nuisance premium can be claimed. The nuisance premium CANNOT be combined with this compensation premium.

Amount

  • 3,000 euros for persons with self-employment as their main occupation or as their secondary occupation who pay social security contributions as a self-employed person with self-employment as their main occupation due to the level of their income.
  • 1,500 euros,
    • for persons with self-employment as their secondary occupation with an income between 6,996.89 euros and 13,993.78 euros;
    • for persons with self-employment as their secondary occupation who are forced to close.
    • Extra condition: this premium does not apply to persons with self-employment as their secondary occupation who combine this with employment amounting to 80% or more.

Conditions

  • loss of turnover of at least 60% compared with the same period the previous year. The reference period is 15 March 2020 to 30 April 2020 inclusive.
  • Start-up: a decrease in turnover of 60% compared with the financial plan filed. Note: to claim this premium as a start-up, you have to have started up by 12 March 2020.
  • Businesses in the form of an ASBL/VZW (non-profit organisation) are also entitled to the compensation premium, provided that there is at least one full-time employee.  
  • If there are multiple establishments / places of business, a maximum of 5 premiums per company applies.

Application process

  • You will shortly be able to apply for the compensation premium via an app from VLAIO.
  • You will have to state via a sworn declaration that you have suffered a loss of turnover of more than 60%. You then submit this sworn declaration to VLAIO. This is then checked via the VAT return in the second quarter and the government will verify that the application was correct:
    • if it is discovered during the VAT check for the second quarter that there is a loss of turnover of 20%, the government will assume that this loss of turnover happened during the crisis period, and you do not need to prove the actual loss of turnover any further as a business owner;
    • otherwise, you will have to prove that you experienced a drop in turnover of more than 60% during the period from 14/3/2020 to 30/4/2020.

Expansion of Coronavirus crisis guarantee scheme

To help deal with the economic impact of coronavirus, the Flemish government has decided to expand the existing guarantee scheme by PMV/z (Participatie Maatschappij Vlaanderen (self-employed)) up to the end of this year to finance debts up to 12 months. €100 million has been released for this. This means that companies and self-employed persons can have bridging loans guaranteed by PMV/z during this crisis period, including for existing non-bank debts (up to 12 months old).

PMV will fully deploy its arsenal of financial and other resources to help alleviate the economic harm to businesses. PMV is also in contact with the European Investment Fund (EIF) to examine if and how it can make use of the additional resources and guarantees made available by the EU in response to this crisis, without this counting as state aid. These consultations may lead to additional tools for coping with the impact of coronavirus. You can find more information on PMV’s website.

For example, PMV/z is granting a three-month payment deferral to all clients benefitting from the Start-up Loan, Co-financing and Co-financing+ schemes. In view of the corona crisis, as the lender of a WIN-WIN Loan, you can grant a borrower a payment deferral for capital or interest.

More flexible deadlines for VLAIO subsidies in response to coronavirus

Businesses which, as a result of the crisis, find it difficult to meet the deadlines stipulated for certain subsidies from the VLAIO may consult with Flanders Innovation and Entrepreneurship regarding the possibility of extending these deadlines.

Deferral of property tax

It has been decided to send out property tax assessment notices for companies later in order to avoid businesses finding themselves with liquidity problems. This means that around 1 billion in taxes will not be collected in the spring, but only in the autumn of 2020. 

Specifically, the property tax assessments for companies will be issued from September 2020 (instead of from May). Taking into account a normal payment term of two months, this means that the property tax will be payable only in early November 2020. Sole proprietorships can without difficulty request instalment payment plans and, if necessary, waivers of late payment interest.

Extension of payment term for traffic tax

Taxable companies that have recently received an assessment notice with the normal payment term of 2 months may add 4 months to this, so that the total payment term amounts to 6 months, without this giving rise to delayed payment interest. 

The assessment notices issued from 26 March 2020 onwards immediately set a payment term of 6 months, instead of the usual 2 months.

One-man businesses should be able without difficulty to request instalment payment plans and, if necessary, waivers of late payment interest.

Extension of deadline to meet registration tax obligations

The Flemish Tax Authorities have automatically extended the period for registering a deed by 2 months after the end of the period of stricter coronavirus measures. The period of stricter coronavirus measures is considered to be a situation of force majeure. No tax increases will be imposed during this tolerance period for the exceeding of initial deadlines. 

For example, after concluding a private sale agreement (“compromis”), an authentic deed is required to be registered by 28 March 2020. This period is extended to 5 June (two months after the end of the period of stricter coronavirus measures). The submission deadline is further extended automatically if the more stringent measures remain in force for a longer period.

In addition, taxpayers will be granted an additional 2 months after the end of the period of stricter coronavirus measures to meet the conditions for certain favourable regimes. This applies, for example, to the restitution of the sales duty in the event of resale of real estate within two years: the authentic deed of sale must in principle be executed within a two year period. This period is extended by two months after the end of the period of stricter coronavirus measures.

Flexibility in the granting of instalment payment plans

The Flemish Tax Authority promises to be flexible in assessing applications for instalment payment plans, for example for:

  • property tax and traffic taxes for assessment year 2020 for one-man businesses;
  • additional registration tax : since this often involves large amounts (for example, if the condition to maintain a favourable regime is not met in time), an instalment plan can be spread over a maximum of 48 months (instead of 24 months). In order to limit the administrative burden, no evidence of financial difficulties will be requested.

Measures in the BRUSSELS-CAPITAL REGION

On 19 March 2020, the Brussels-Capital Region Government decided to take unprecedented economic and social measures to support the worst-hit sectors. For this it has freed up a budget of over 150 million euros.

The one-off Nuisance Premium of 4,000 euros per company that must be closed following the decisions of the National Security Council and that belongs to one of the following sectors:

  • Who is entitled to the premium?
    • businesses, shops and establishments closed under Article 1 of the Ministerial Decree of 23 March 2020, including restaurants supplying takeaway food and hotels; and
    • employing fewer than 50 full-time equivalents (Note: the limit of 50 FTEs is per company, not per establishment); and
    • operating in one of the sectors listed in the annex to the Decree of the Government of Brussels- Capital Region of 26 March 2020, based on the NACE VAT codes entered in the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises on 18 March 2020 (the Brussels-Capital Government may amend the annex in response to changes in the measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19). 

These businesses are entitled to a premium per active establishment in the Brussels Region, registered with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises, with a maximum of five establishments.

!! Update March 24: The federal government has decided also to close barbers' shops until 5 April. This means, of course, that they are entitled to the above-mentioned one-off premium of 4,000 euros. The practical details for obtaining this premium will be communicated as soon as possible. 

How do you apply?

You must submit your application online – by 18 May 2020 – to Brussels Economy and Employment (BEE), via the form which BEE will make available shortly (from the beginning of April) at this address:  www.premiecovid.brussels.
If you would like to be informed when the application form becomes available, you can leave your email address via this link: https://www.flexmail.eu/f-cbfe977ac98c039f

  • The period for payment of the property tax for the 2020 tax year is extended by two months. At the suggestion of the Minister for Finance and Budget, Sven Gatz, the government has passed a draft decree providing for such a two-month extension. The payment terms have also been made more flexible. This measure applies to all inhabitants of Brussels. There is no need to provide evidence that income has decreased as a result of the corona crisis.  As soon as the assessment notice is sent, all Brussels inhabitants will have 4 months to pay the property tax. 
  • The Brussels Region suspends the payment of the city tax for the first half of 2020.
  • Strong cash flow support for affected companies by granting (through the Brussels Guarantee Fund) government guarantees on bank loans in a total amount of 20 million euros;
  •  This represents a delegated assignment for finance & invest.brussels, and more specifically: 
    • the possibility of granting reduced interest rate loans to the core suppliers of the catering industry, to enable them to offer payment terms to catering businesses;
    • catering businesses with more than 50 employees are given the opportunity to obtain loans at a reduced interest rate.
  •  Moratorium on the capital repayment of loans granted by finance & invest.brussels to companies in the affected sectors;
  •  Accelerated or even early processing, establishing and payment of economic expansion aid for the hotel and catering industry, the tourism sector, the events sector and the cultural sector;
  • Greater provision of advice for companies in difficulty by hub.brussels, in collaboration with the Centre for Enterprises in Difficulties (COM), the funding of which has been increased by 200,000 euros.
  •  For the taxi sector: for 2020, the tax on the operation of taxis or vehicles with drivers is waived.
  •  For the social economy and for service vouchers: the Government has also taken measures to support the social integration economy sector and the service voucher sector. Social inclusion economy firms, which are normally not entitled to economic support measures, will be able to avail of all measures taken to support the Brussels economic fabric as a result of the coronavirus crisis. In a harmonised federal framework, the payment of the regional intervention of € 14.60 per hour is maintained, whether or not work is performed. This makes it possible to pay the wages of the household helpers and support the sector insofar as the businesses have not moved to economic unemployment. 20 million euros is being spent on this measure. However, it is feasible only if the federal government agrees to abolish social security contributions for this sector. 
  • For foreign trade: hub.brussels has been instructed to monitor regularly the impact of the Covid19 virus on the Brussels economy and in particular the highly endangered sectors. The authorities are working closely with private players. Following the cancellation of foreign missions (major fairs, missions in risk areas), hub.brussels is contacting the businesses individually to provide them with clear explanations about the technical details (information about the cancellation, how their costs can be reimbursed, etc.). Depending on the evolution of the situation, hub.brussels will formulate alternative proposals for the cancelled missions. 
  • For the Image of Brussels, Sport and Equal Opportunities: in order to support the associative sector and the events, tourism, culture and sport sector in Brussels, exceptional measures have been taken in the policy areas of Image of Brussels, Sport and Equal Opportunities and Social Cohesion:
    • Regarding the promotion of Image of Brussels, in particular for the events that were scheduled to take place in whole or in part from 1 March to 30 April 2020: 
      • For events postponed to a later date in 2020, the grant awarded will continue to exist without the grant decision and amount being changed.
      • For cancelled events, the Government authorises the use of this grant to settle invoices for already incurred and non-cancellable expenses for the event.
    • With regard to Sport, Equal Opportunities and Social Cohesion: 
      • If costs have been incurred for a cancelled event that cannot be postponed to a later date, the organisation is not required to reimburse the subsidy.
      • If the event is postponed to a later date, there is no need to start a new subsidy application procedure and the analysis of the justification documents will be relaxed.
  • Suspension of the LEZ fines. Finally, the Brussels Government has decided to suspend temporarily the fines under the Low Emission Zone for Euronorm 3 vehicles (it was originally planned to issue fines from 1 April 2020) and the sending out of the fines for older vehicles that since 2018 have not been allowed to enter the LEZ. The issuing of fines is postponed until the first day after the end date of the measures taken by the federal government to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. 

These measures complement the measures taken at European and federal level to deal with the economic crisis that is hitting our country hard.

For all questions about these economic measures and support for the Brussels companies, please call 1819 or visit the website www.1819.brussels. 

Source: Press release from the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region

Measures for WALLONIA

COVID fund: compensation to companies

In order to support businesses which are in difficulty as a result of Covid-19, it has been decided to establish an extraordinary compensation fund of EUR 233 million compensation to grant a single standard-sum compensation payments to businesses directly and indirectly affected by the decisions of the National Security Council (NVR) and which meet the definition of micro and small enterprises.

The Walloon government has therefore decided to make available:

EUR 5,000 per business that is completely closed or has ceased operations as a result of NVR decisions and that belongs to the following sectors:

  • NACE-BEL code 47, except NACE-BEL code 47.20, 47.62 (newsagents) and 47.73 (pharmacies) 
  • NACE-BEL code 55 
  • NACE-BEL code 56  
  • NACE-BEL code 79 
  • NACE-BEL code 96

A compensation payment of five thousand euros is also granted to businesses that are completely closed or have ceased operations as a result of the measures to combat coronavirus and are active in the following sectors: 

  • coaches for occasional transport services, included in sections and sub-categories 49.390 of NACE-BEL code; 
  • tourist attractions for the purposes of Articles 110 ff of the Walloon Tourism Code,
  • fairground activities included in sections and sub-categories 93.211 of NACE-BEL code. 

The compensation can be awarded once only per business registered in the CBE.
This measure is implemented via     https://indemnitecovid.wallonie.be/#/
Eligible companies have 60 days from the close of their activity in which to apply for compensation. This measure took effect on 14 March 2020. The actual payments can already be made from mid-April 2020.
This compensation applies to the branch in Wallonia (not the head office elsewhere).

Water and electricity bills

For Walloon companies experiencing difficulties in paying their water bills on time, payment can be staggered upon simple request to the Walloon Water Company (Société wallonne des eaux - SWDE).

In the energy sector, the distribution network operators will take appropriate measures to avoid any interruption in the supply of electricity or gas. No new budget meters may be installed during the relevant period. All interruption procedures will be suspended during this period, except for security reasons.

Mobilisation of the Walloon economic instruments

In addition to direct support, the Walloon government plans to combine all Walloon financial forces to keep financing available to business. The main Walloon financial instruments (SRIW, SOGEPA, SOWALFIN, SOFINEX) have taken a series of measures:

Current loans from the SOWALFIN group, SOGEPA and SRIW

Principal and interest amounts due as of 31 March 2020 will not be claimed. The repayment schedule of the principal is automatically extended for an equivalent period.

This measure will be implemented at no additional interest or cost to the company on all loans with an outstanding amount of less (or equal to) EUR 2.5 million. For loans with a higher outstanding amount, exemption from interest will be subject to individual examination of the file in consultation with the banking and financial partners involved.

Guarantees for short-term credit lines and investment credits

Additional guarantees can be given by SOWALFIN - SOFINEX - GELIGAR up to:

  • 50%, on existing short-term lines, initially granted by banks without any guarantee, to make it possible to keep these funds available to the businesses concerned;
  • max. 75%, on short-term increases of credit lines allocated to companies to help them through this crisis period.

For companies in restructuring ('en retournement'), SOGEPA alone can already guarantee 75% of a maximum amount of 2.5 million euros per beneficiary. The application must be submitted directly to SOGEPA.

Urgent support for the liquidity position of companies by means of a loan of 200,000 euros.

To meet companies' urgent liquidity, SOGEPA and Wallonie Santé will offer loans without a private counterpart for a maximum amount of 200,000 EUR with a grace period of 1 year and a fixed interest rate of 2%.

Consequences for existing commitments

The intervention of the government instruments will be carried out within the financial means made available to them, with a monthly reassessment.
The portfolio companies of these government instruments may contact the Investment Manager responsible for their file directly. Anyone else can contact the government directly at “1890.be” (one-stop-shop) or:

Deadlines and leniency in regional procedures:

In the current context of coronavirus, a certain degree of flexibility and lenience will be applied to existing commitments between businesses and the Walloon Region in the context of regional procedures (premium applications, grants, etc.). These can relate to achieving objectives such as a number of jobs, (final) deadlines for repayment of a support, etc.
Where the impact of the coronavirus on the businesses' operations needs to be demonstrated, each situation will be investigated on a case-by-case basis. 

To support businesses in difficulty:

The existing "Entreprise en Rebond" scheme can provide legal, financial and economic expertise and advice to businesses and self-employed persons in difficulty.
The aim of any business calling on "Entreprise en Rebond" is to stabilise its situation and promote the continuity of its economic activity. 

The situation is often critical. For this reason "Entreprise en Rebond's" Business Advisors respond quickly and effectively: 

  • They perform a diagnosis of your economic, legal, financial, accounting and tax situation;
  • They provide initial advice in order to stabilise the situation; 
  • They guide you to the most suitable support and partner.

The "Entreprise en and Rebond" scheme is primarily intended for self-employed persons and for very small / small and medium-sized enterprises (VSE/SME) .

It is available to you, regardless of which sector you operate in, as long as:

  • The main office of the activity is in Wallonia;
  • The existence of economic-legal difficulties (e.g. conflicts between partners, trade conflicts, economic slowdown, shrinking order book, etc.) can be demonstrated.

Doubtless, you have further questions about this issue. Contact us as soon as possible by phone or e-mail. Lieven Nissens, HR Consultancy Director and Marc De Munter, Tax Partner are there to help with advice and tips.
You’ll find regular updates on the websites of the NEO, the FPS Employment, the FPS Economy, the FPS Finance, 1890.be (Wallonia) and 1819.brussels.