It's not always easy to navigate your way through the maze of leasing legislation. Our specialists explain.
Can the customer choose not to enter its leasing on its balance sheet?
Philippe Tilkin, Marketing & Solutions Manager at BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions:
“This depends on the scheme in question. In the case of leasing based on capital assets (car, IT or other), there are two possibilities. Either the purchase option is less than or equal to 15% of the investment amount and the lessee will amortise it on their balance sheet (on-balance sheet leasing). Or the purchase option is greater than 15% of the investment amount and they could book it as general expenses on their income statement. This will allow them to reduce their taxable profit and therefore the amount of tax to be paid. The transaction will then be entered on the balance sheet of the lessor and not on that of the lessee (off-balance sheet leasing).
There are also two options if the leasing relates to a building. Either the capital is fully repaid during the term of the lease (full pay out) and then the transaction is accounted for on the balance sheet (realisation and amortisation by the recipient, debt on the liabilities side). Or the transaction is not fully paid out – usually a contract with a residual value of 10% for the building, plus the value of the building lot if part of the lease – and then the transaction is not accounted for on the balance sheet (the leasing payments are considered costs).
I would like to stress that all this is ‘within the meaning of current legislation’, as the international accounting regulations seem to be gaining ground. As such, it could be that, in future, any transaction arising from leasing must appear on the balance sheet of the lessee. However, nothing has yet been decided. And I add the advice of Mr Tanguy van de Werve, Managing Director of Leaseurope (professional association representing the European leasing industry), who confirms that in a context where the European political decision-makers are striving to promote access to productive assets to boost growth, playing with the current leasing accounting model would carry considerable risks.”
How should the customer deal with VAT?
P. Tilkin: “Leasing allows companies liable to VAT to pre-finance it and spread the cost over the term of the contract. Furthermore, they can recover the VAT on leasing payments, and also on the interest included in the leasing payments. Finally, if the maintenance and repair costs are covered by the lessee, they are also liable for VAT and are therefore recoverable.”
Marc Melis, Sales Director at Arval: “In the context of vehicles, one of the advantages of operational leasing is the fact that the client only has to fulfil part of their VAT obligations, calculated on the delta between the initial investment and the salvage value of the vehicle at the end of the contract. Companies liable to VAT can recuperate part of the VAT paid by means of their monthly leasing payments. This recovery is done by way of VAT administration which, since January 2013, has established various methods in order to determine the level of recovery depending on the ratio of professional/private usage (with a maximum of 50%).”
P. Tilkin: “In terms of real estate leasing, the distinction should be made between recent buildings or buildings to be constructed, which are liable to VAT – and therefore recoverable provided that the recipient is liable to VAT and entitled to deduction –, and old buildings which do not fall under the VAT system. Consequently, you do not need to pay VAT on the rents.”
Is leasing also suitable for your company?
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Ask the right questions
- Do you already have several "traditional" financing obligations at present?
- Are you nurturing short-term projects that will require use of your liquid funds?
- Would you like the option of regularly renewing your equipment (cars, computers, etc.) and not having to worry about re-selling?
- Would you like to stagger payment of VAT linked to your purchase?
- Do you want to benefit from additional tax advantages?
Choose the leasing that suits you best
- Are you searching for a solution that won't affect your balance sheet?
- Are you thinking of purchasing the equipment upon maturity of the leasing contract?
- Would you like to rid yourself of any administrative formalities (ordering, follow-up, maintenance, etc.)?
- Are you looking for an "all-inclusive" package (insurance, assistance, etc.)?
- Do you want to pay the same amount every month/quarter or a higher initial payment?
- In the case of vehicle or IT leasing, how many vehicles (commercial and/or passenger) or computers do you require?
The answers to these questions will allow your relationship manager to better define your needs and to determine the type of leasing you require. Please contact him or her if you require any further information.
Financial, operational or non-real estate leasing?
What is meant exactly by these terms, often used incorrectly in everyday speech?
Leasing is a contract by which the lessor, in exchange for payment, gives the right to use an asset for an agreed period. The leasing company remains the legal owner of the asset throughout the contract. The ownership of the asset may or may not be transferred to the lessee at the end of the contract. Contracts which provide for the direct transfer of the legal ownership of assets to the customer from the start are not considered as leasing contracts.
Leasing was introduced in Belgium in November 1961. However, it had to wait six years, and more specifically for Royal Decree no. 55 of 10 November 1967, to be given legal status.
This royal decree, still applicable today, determines the criteria which the transactions must meet and sets the principle of approval by the Federal Public Service Economy in order to be able to practise this activity.
It distinguishes non-real estate leasing from real estate leasing:
- Non-real estate leasing
- must be based on capital goods for business use
- the lessee chooses the equipment itself
- the term of the lease corresponds to the estimated economic life of the asset
- the amount of the lease payments is established so as to amortise the amount of the investment over the term of the lease
- the lessee can become the owner of the asset by exercising the purchase option
- Real estate leasing
- must be based on constructed buildings (i.e. it is not possible to take real estate leasing on land only)
- the term of the leasing contract must be fixed and the contract cannot be terminated
- the lessor must give the lessee enjoyment of the building and land on which it is erected
- the lessee can become the owner of the asset by exercising the purchase option
The market distinguishes two possible leasing schemes:
- Financial leasing: this is the oldest and simplest scheme, in the sense that few services are associated with it. It has the advantage of spreading the payment over a defined term.
Although the lessor is always the legal owner of the asset during the term of the leasing contract, in practice, it is the lessee who benefits from the asset as if they were the owner, i.e. it is the lessee who bears the risks and draws the benefits resulting from the ownership of the asset.
- Operational leasing: this is often accompanied by a range of additional services, i.e. in addition to administrative and financial functions, the lessor provides support as well as technical management of the assets.
Here, the lessee does not bear the risks or draw the benefits of ownership.
When leasing appeared on the Belgian market, transactions were not recorded in the annual accounts of the lessee. The lessee treated these leasing transactions as lease contracts and recorded the regular leasing payments in its accounts as general expenses.
As such, the company did not show in its annual accounts the obligations arising from leasing and its commitments were therefore underestimated.
At the request of the Banking Commission (now FSMA), the Royal Decree of 8 October 1976 was established. This changed the accounting principles of leasing transactions. Indeed, this decree states that the accounting treatment of leasing transactions will be based on the economic ownership of the asset (and not exclusively on the legal ownership rights).
One of the results has been to force the lessee to show leasing transactions on its balance sheet. This is not the case, however, for leasing of non-real estate assets with purchase options of over 15% as well as for some forms of real estate leasing.
New mobility: the benefits of technology
Is technology the key to moving towards more sustainable business travel? Here’s what Philippe Kahn, Mobility Solutions Expert, thinks.
Now more than ever, businesses need to rethink mobility so that it forms part of the sustainable transition that needs to take place in our societies. Since 1 July 2023, the regulation meaning that company vehicles with combustion engines will no longer be longer tax-deductible by 2026 has started to have an impact. At the same time, Belgium’s Federal Mobility Budget and its recent developments are making this (r)evolution much more concrete and practical. And one thing is for sure: technology – and especially apps – have a key role to play. Philippe Kahn, Mobility Solutions Expert at Arval BNP Paribas Group, explains why.
1 July 2023: a key date
“In the few weeks that have passed since the pivotal date of 1 July 2023, we have already seen a change in the needs expressed by our corporate customers,” says Kahn. "Some of them had already taken practical steps towards sustainable transition. But nowadays, more and more of them also have to address the specific questions and concerns of their employees. How will I be able to use an electric car when I live in a city and have no charging stations available? Do I want to search for a reliable place to charge every day? And am I ready to fundamentally rethink how I get around? Providing a satisfactory answer to these questions is inevitably a priority for employers. As well as the end-to-end management of company electric vehicles – including the question of charging them – more and more companies are starting to rethink their overall mobility policy, analysing all existing alternatives, particularly multimodal solutions. And that’s great news, because it’s essential for their future. So I think the demand for such solutions is only going to grow. Technology, and apps in particular, are key tools for a smooth transition".
Anticipating change to serve companies better
Whereas this issue is only just emerging for many companies, it has been a priority for Arval BNP Paribas Fortis and Philippe Kahn for years. "For more than five years now, we have been anticipating the changes that are now taking place, ensuring that our vision of mobility and expertise go far beyond leasing. We now have an entire department that deals with these matters exclusively. This enables us to meet and even anticipate the needs of companies that have no experience of these issues, and who sometimes feel a little lost when it comes to this revolution in travel.”
A simpler, smoother experience thanks to technology
But why and how is technology playing an important role in this transition to more sustainable business travel? "It’s making the experience of new mobility easier and smoother for its users. And that's where the latest developments in the market are heading," says Kahn. "In fact, that's also what our new Mobility Arval App now offers our corporate customers. It makes it easier for employers to manage the mobility budget established by the federal authorities. This budget, its three pillars and recent developments are crucial factors when a company is rethinking its mobility. But at the same time, it involves some regulatory complexity. That’s why, five years ago, we started developing a whole range of technological tools to help companies deal with these matters. For example, we make it simple for our customers to manage the combination of an electric car and bicycle within this mobility budget. In this spirit of innovation, and aiming to improve the user experience, our app integrates all facets of new business mobility, which are all accessible from a smartphone. Use of public transport, shared mobility, taxis, and even parking – even though this is not one of the pillars of the mobility budget – everything is in one place. The app also makes it easier to manage transactions: low-value mobility transactions, such as buying a bus ticket, are automatically captured and validated, so manual checks are no longer needed. Similarly, there is no longer any need to advance money to employees or reimburse them for anything, and no need for them to keep and present tickets or any other proof of purchase. In short, our app translates the entire mobility budget, which can be pretty complex, into a user-friendly tool where all the important components are taken into account: car, bicycle, scooter, multimodal solutions, public transport, shared mobility, etc."
Technology as a strategy accelerator
Arval Belgium’s innovations perfectly illustrate why technology is an important accelerator when implementing new mobility strategies. And it goes without saying that what exists today will evolve very quickly, leading to an ever-richer user experience. As Philippe Kahn says, "there are a lot of innovative tools out there already. But one of the challenges, linked to the complexity of the situation in Belgium, is to bring together all the players involved under the same umbrella, so that the result of this collaborative work can be found in a single 'magic' app. The solutions that exist today in Belgium are often local in scope. This is a limitation that doesn’t exist in the Netherlands, for example, thanks to their OV card. Belgium’s urban planning realities are also a challenge: outside the major urban centres, it’s less easy to set up mobility hubs in which all modes of travel are accessible."
One thing is certain: for companies, the transition to new forms of mobility is well underway. And the new Arval Belgium app is a valuable tool for those companies. “This technological innovation now makes it possible to mitigate the regulatory complexity for employers, and to make multimodal transport a very fluid experience for employees,” concludes Kahn.
Arval Belgium SA, Ikaroslaan 99, 1930 Zaventem – Registered with the Brussels trade register – Belgian VAT number 0436.781.102. Company with an ancillary insurance brokage business, registered with the Belgian Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA) under number 047238 A. Subject to acceptance of your request.
Arval Belgium SA is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas Fortis S.A.
How are we doing when it comes to sustainable mobility?
A recently commissioned survey by BNP Paribas Fortis on mobility found that this remains a major challenge for the coming years. The bank is determined to play its part.
A survey among 2,000 people, and representative of the Belgian population, on mobility shows that the switch to electric driving is slowing. Almost 80% of those surveyed still drive a diesel or petrol vehicle, and more than a third of them have no intention of trading in their cars for a more environmentally friendly model any time soon. And yet almost 50% want to be driving electric by 2029. But before that switch, some hurdles first need to be cleared. According to two-thirds of respondents, the bank needs to take a proactive role in the transition to sustainable mobility.
- Only 10% of cars on the streets today are electric, hybrid or run on hydrogen. Users of these vehicles confirm they are very satisfied. Though most have their own charging station, public charging stations are a bottleneck.
- While fighting climate change remains the main argument for switching, changing mobility habits isn’t so easy. The switch to electric is slow, and more incentives are needed, such as new tax measures, and above all, a commitment from the government. Prices also need to come down. It is clear that the practical issues of driving and charging times mean people hesitate to make the switch.
- As a result, enthusiasm about new mobility initiatives is rather muted. Although, especially in big cities, an app that combines mobility options has good chances of success.
- Mobility and work are strongly linked. One in three people spend at least an hour a day travelling to/from work. It turns out that teleworking is a solution for only 50% of the people, and that the other half of the population don’t have the opportunity to work from home.
- More awareness needs to be created around new mobility. Not everyone is familiar with shared cars, bikes and charging stations yet.
BNP Paribas Fortis is determined to contribute to more sustainable mobility and be a mobility partner for both professional and private customers. We are doing this by informing audiences of all the advantages of an environmentally friendly switch. And also by offering support through financing, insurance and leasing. Our goal is to provide a global response to tomorrow's mobility needs through innovative services.