Drones will play an essential role in future companies, and the European Commission intends to open new horizons for them by offering a blueprint for their use in low-level airspace.
Since April 2016, a drone pilot licence has been required in Belgium. Professional use nevertheless requires that the pilot take a training course and take piloting tests. Funds were recently made available to ensure that electronic data is shared between pilots and the DGTA (the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority). The new computer system should also speed up licence authorisation procedures. It is part of an ambitious European framework.
"The commercial applications of drones are enormous. Our goal has always been to develop a safe work environment with the existing royal decree. We have always said that we need to keep pace with the sector's technology and vigorous growth."
François Bellot, Belgian Federal Minister of Mobility
What is its purpose?
Aside from recreational use, there are many other industrial and professional areas of use: service provision in urban areas, data collection, infrastructure inspection, agriculture, precision logistics and transport. The drone service market is expected to grow, and estimates vary between 10 billion euros by 2035 and 127 billion euros in the coming years. To mention one example, the size of the drone market will increase by 42% for precision agriculture by 2020.
U-Space over Europe
In Europe, the Commission gave the company SESAR the task of developing the European aerial drone traffic system. On 16 June, the company unveiled U-Space, the blueprint for a low-level airspace drone usage concept. The plan comprises the airspace up to 150 meters in altitude and sets benchmarks for the development of a drone service market in the EU.
"Beyond drones, there is new areas of innovation, new services for citizens, new business models and enormous economic growth potential. We need the EU to be firmly in control and the European drone service market to be safe and operational in 2019. The EU must take charge on a global scale of the development of this adapted framework, which will allow this market to thrive and will open up its potential, benefiting major sectors of the economy."
Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Transport.
- low-altitude safety must be equal to that of classic, on-board pilot aerial operations;
- the system provides information that allows highly automated drones to fly safely and avoid obstacles and collisions;
- in 2019 it will be possible to register drones and their users as well as their electronic identification and their geo-tracked location.
The Arval Mobility Card – the future of transport
Arval and XXImo have been joining forces for more than 6 months now to devise a flexible travel solution and to implement an integrated mobility policy.
Flexibility, simplicity, and speed: these three words encapsulate the new Arval and XXimo transport solution designed for Belgian and Dutch customers. The Arval Mobility Card and accompanying app allow you to plan and pay for use of the various transport services available to your employees, including public transport, taxis, shared vehicles and bicycles, and high-speed rail. No more receipts or expense claims – everything is done with an electronic card.
To find out more, go to:
Green light for new law for companies and associations
From 1 May 2019, new legislative rules will apply for Belgian companies and associations.
On 28 February, the Belgian House of Representatives adopted a bill for a new Code on Companies & Associations. The aim? To modernise the current legal framework, align more closely with reality and help make Belgian companies more competitive in relation to their European colleagues.
The aim? To modernise the current legal framework, align more closely with reality and help make Belgian companies more competitive in relation to their European colleagues. The new legislation will enter into force from 1 May 2019 for new companies and associations and 1 January 2020 for all existing companies and associations (unless these opt in before that date). Mass conversion is likely to occur between 2020 and 2023. All existing companies and associations must use this period to review their articles of association and legal status.
The new rules would normally have entered into force on 1 January, but the bill's adoption was delayed by the government shenanigans in recent months (Prime Minister Michel submitted his government's resignation on 18 December 2018 after a Green-Red vote of no confidence, ed.). Although the new legislation has been approved by the House, it hasn't yet been published in the Belgian Official Gazette currently. Also, the implementing decrees will take a little longer. Nevertheless, the new rules will apply as of 1 May this year.
Thinking of buying a property with your company? Take care!
We explain how stricter rules now apply to the "split purchase" of a property obtained via a company. This is a favourable fiscal arrangement for a company director, but one that must be approached with more caution than ever.
The "usufruct/bare ownership" structure
For several years now, the so-called mixed purchase (private/professional) of a property has been common practice for some company directors. This fiscally beneficial solution is based on the principle of "breaking up" full ownership of the property. On one hand, the usufruct is assigned to the company for a certain amount (proportion of the purchase price). This means that the company is entitled to use the property with no rental liabilities during a given period (generally between 20 and 30 years). On the other, the company director acquires bare ownership of the property, which allows him/her to retake full possession of the building once the usufruct has expired without paying a euro more.
The crux of the issue: the valuation of the usufruct
Where is the interest in this arrangement? It lies in maximising the cost to the company of acquiring the usufruct. This is because the larger the sum paid by the company, the smaller the sum the director has to pay at the time of purchase (not forgetting taxes, registration levies, indemnities, etc.). In addition, the company can deduct building/service charges such as withholding tax, maintenance and financial costs, and amortise the value of the usufruct over the agreed term. This is the best possible fiscal scenario, but one that has resulted in a certain amount of abuse at the point of the oft-mentioned "usufruct valuation". It is not by chance then that the tax authorities have been studying the issue for a few years now with a view to tidying things up a little.
The taxman turns the screw even more
Up until now, the authorities used a formula known as the Ruysseveldt formula to calculate the usufruct value, based on the discounted proceeds of gross rental yield for the duration of the usufruct term. However, this approach led to over-valuations, and so did not prove effective enough in the eyes of the tax authorities. This is why they recently decided to apply a new financial appraisal formula which is much tougher. In reality, this is the method already in place since 2016 to assess cases filed with the Service des décisions anticipées (SDA) (advance ruling service) of Federal Public Service Finance. It should be recalled that this service has established a "pre-filing procedure" for usufruct arrangements (used in advance of the official application) to ensure the future operation benefits from a certain degree of legal security.
The "advance ruling" formula is much less favourable
By changing its stance on the issue, the tax authorities could cause problems for some directors who have been too greedy. This is because the two formulae produce rather different results. Take this basic example of a property with a purchase price of EUR 500,000, for which the company acquired the usufruct at a cost of EUR 425,000 under the Ruysseveldt formula (85% of the price). In this case, the director has only paid EUR 75,000 for the bare ownership. Based on the authorities' new approach, the financial valuation of the usufruct would actually sit at around 60%, with bare ownership at around 40%. This means the individual would have had to pay EUR 125,000 more – an altogether different situation.
Handle with care
So any head of a company who wishes to be involved in this kind of operation will need to be more prudent than ever before. One of the most important things is to demonstrate that the arrangement genuinely reflects a financial logic. With this in mind, well-informed entrepreneurs will ensure they prove the property deal will profit the company, and will adequately evaluate the usufruct's value and term. Finally, we should emphasise that approval can be sought from the tax authorities via the fiscal ruling website.
Bank loans: better information for business owners
The 2018 version of the code of conduct on financing SMEs continues the work already done to provide more information to companies, especially with regard to the state-provided mechanisms open to them. These are essential means of overcoming the problem of insufficient guarantees at the point of application.
Why a code of conduct?
This is not a brand new idea, as a first version of this code of conduct was drawn up in 2014 in order to apply the law of 21 December 2013 relating to financing for SMEs. At that time the code already aimed to reconcile banks and business owners seeking credit, in particular by specifying the information to be provided by the banker, the documentation required for the loan application, and the terms of the arrangement. In other words: the business owner had to be in possession of the full facts and placed in a position that allowed them to choose the best possible option and compare credit institutions. Following a review of this legislation, a new version of the law entered into force at the start of 2018, necessitating publication of a suitably updated version of the code of conduct governing the financing of SMEs. This has been in effect since 1 March.
Creating a climate of mutual trust
Loans from banks are an essential financing mechanism that allows companies to start up and grow. This is why it is important to enable business owners to place all the odds in their favour when they make an application. And one way of doing so is by providing a clear picture of all financing options open to them. To achieve this aim, one factor is key: information. It is important when the entrepreneur is completing their application, but it is equally as important once the request has been assessed and then either granted or refused. "Acting in possession of the full facts" also means that the business owner can discuss the matter transparently with their bank's representative and come to view this person more as a "financial partner", especially where an application is rejected and both need to find an alternative solution "together". If this is the case, the objective is clearly to prioritise directing the business owner towards other forms of financing or state guarantees which may underwrite or support the application for a bank loan.
Improving access to financing
The various actors at the table on this issue – Febelfin (Belgian Federation of the Financial Sector) and organisations that represent the self-employed (UNIZO – the union of small entrepreneurs, UCM – the small business owners' network, and SNI – the neutral self-employed union) – have taken concrete steps to reinforce these ideas:
- Provision of the www.financementdesentreprises.be online platform: this gives an overview of the main state guarantees, as well as the support and guidance systems available. This is a reliable tool that provides real support to bank advisors when they need to explain the range of options to their customers.
- Also available on this website are information sheets that explain the most common guarantees and securities and the reasons why these may be required. It should be remembered that the lender has a duty to inform the business owner of all details connected with their application.
- If it is declined, the bank must set out its reasons in writing. The business owner is also entitled to request an explanation (orally or in writing) of the reasons cited by the credit institution.
- The repayment penalty, which is the cost to the company of early repayment of the capital borrowed, was previously limited to a maximum of six months' interest for loans of under EUR 1 million taken out after 10 January 2014; however, the code of conduct has raised this cap, which is now set at EUR 2 million.