Article

11.12.2016

Why is the European Justice sounding the death knell on "fairness tax"?

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice rules that the "Fairness Tax" contradicts European tax rules. What is the impact on Belgian companies and the State budget?

Since the 2014 tax year, national companies and Belgian subsidiaries of foreign companies have been subject to fairness tax (or "fairness tax"). Introduced by the Di Rupo government, this separate contribution of 5.15% is applied to the distribution of dividends which are not subject to the normal rate of corporation tax. At issue here is the application of the deduction of deferred tax losses or deductions for venture capital.

What is at stake?

When it was introduced, the government wanted to subject companies who paid little or no tax to a minimum tax, by using tax deduction mechanisms. Issue: when this tax was introduced, questions were raised about the compatibility of the legislation with tax law in the European Union.

In February 2014, the Belgian subsidiary of Fortum Project Finance (Finnish company) brought an appeal against this tax before the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court asked the European Court of Justice three questions:

  • Does the fairness tax constitute a withholding tax prohibited by the parent-subsidiary European directive?
  • Do dividends collected by Belgian companies not exempted in Belgium contravene the directive?
  • Does the different treatment of Belgian companies and Belgian subsidiaries of foreign companies contravene the freedom of establishment in the European Union?

A compatible... but problematic tax

The European Court of Justice finally gave its verdict, but the opinion still needs to be qualified in certain respects. The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice in effect deemed the fairness tax "contrary to European regulations", but he considered the measure to be compatible with the principle of free establishment laid down in the texts and treaties. The problem resides precisely around the directive governing parent companies and their subsidiaries in Belgium, the objective of which is an exemption from withholding tax (under certain conditions) for dividends paid by subsidiaries to parent companies, which the fairness tax calls into question.

A highly political issue too

"A skeleton comes out of the closet", commented the Minister of Finance Van Overtveldt after the opinion of the Advocate General. For him, the consequences could be enormous, particularly from a budgetary point of view, without so far giving the slightest indication of these. He added that he has "always had many doubts" about this tax, "a doubt confirmed by the Court." The government has stated that it is currently leaning towards a reform of corporation tax, in a tense atmosphere between the partners of the current majority, particularly to make "this tax fairer for SMEs."

The Socialist Party, for its part, continues to defend this minimal tax through thick and thin. The leader of the Socialist Group in the Chamber of Representatives, Laurette Onkelinkx, in L'Avenir, suspects that the Minister is benefitting from a "technical remark from the Advocate General to give a tax break to the multinationals" and that "this minimum tax should be maintained, (...) a matter of fiscal justice and decency with regard to the efforts required by the population."

Article

24.10.2016

Kilometervergoeding voor elektrische fiets niet altijd fiscaal vrijgesteld

Werknemers die met de fiets naar het werk rijden, kunnen een fietsvergoeding krijgen tot 22 eurocent per kilometer. De regeling geldt in principe ook voor elektrische fietsen. Sommige modellen zoals de speed pedelec, vallen echter uit de boot.

De elektrische fiets wint terrein: ruim één op vier verkochte tweewielers is een elektrisch exemplaar.  Steeds meer mensen gebruiken hun fiets ook om te pendelen. Werkgevers kunnen hun fietsende medewerkers een fietsvergoeding uitbetalen. Tot 0,22 EUR per kilometer is die vergoeding fiscaal onbelast. Het moet dan wel gaan om een “klassieke” elektrische fiets:

  • met een maximumsnelheid van 25 km/u;
  • met een motor van maximum 250 watt;
  • met trapondersteuning, wat betekent dat de fietser ook moet trappen, er mag dus geen sprake zijn van een autonome motor.

Niet voor speed-pedelecs

Die voordelige regeling geldt dus niet voor speed pedelecs, zeg maar de Formule 1-versie van de elektrische fiets. Speed pedelecs kunnen snelheden tot 45 km/u halen. Sinds 1 oktober moeten bestuurders daarom een helm, rijbewijs en verzekering hebben.

Voor alle duidelijkheid: pendelaars die gebruik maken van een speed pedelec kunnen wel degelijk een kilometervergoeding krijgen van hun baas. Maar die uitkering wordt dan wel  beschouwd als een belastbaar inkomen. De werknemer zal dus zowel RSZ als bedrijfsvoorheffing moeten betalen. Op die regel bestaat één uitzondering: medewerkers die kiezen voor een forfaitaire aftrek van hun beroepskosten. Zij hebben recht op een fiscale vrijstelling van maximum 380 EUR.

Wat met bedrijfsfietsen?

Werkgevers kunnen hun medewerkers een fiets ook ter beschikking stellen. Alle kosten die daaruit voortvloeien, onder andere het onderhoud, zijn vrijgesteld van belastingen. Voorwaarde is dat de medewerker de fiets daadwerkelijk gebruikt voor zijn woon-werkverkeer, al zijn zuivere privé-verplaatsingen ook toegestaan. Deze regeling geldt alleen voor de klassieke elektrische fietsen. Speed pedelecs vallen (opnieuw) niet onder deze fiscale vrijstelling.

(Bron: Partena)
Article

13.02.2017

Les conséquences de la taxe douanière américaine

Analyse de Koen De Leus, Chief Economist chez BNP Paribas Fortis.

Au lieu de taxer les entreprises sur la différence entre les revenus et les coûts globaux, les Etats-Unis souhaitent opter pour une taxe portant uniquement sur la différence entre les revenus et les coûts domestiques. Vu que tous les biens consommés aux Etats-Unis n’y sont pas produits, et que tous les biens qui y sont produits n’y sont pas nécessairement consommés, les chiffres nécessitent une correction. Il s’agit de la taxe douanière. Les importateurs paient une taxe de 20% sur les revenus réalisés aux Etats-Unis. Les exportateurs reçoivent un subside de 20% sur les produits exportés. Ce subside est nécessaire pour éviter de pénaliser les exportateurs. Vraiment ?

A première vue, on pourrait qualifier ce système de double protectionnisme : vous augmentez le coût des importations et vous baissez celui des exportations. Mais ce système ne tient pas compte de la probable évolution des taux de change, estime l’agence de recherche BCA. Imaginez que seule une taxe à l’importation soit appliquée : cela réduirait les importations, ainsi que la demande en devises étrangères. Le cours de change de ces devises baisserait et compenserait la taxe. La hausse du dollar aurait ainsi un impact négatif sur les exportations, avec comme conséquence une hausse du déficit de la balance commerciale. Pour éviter ce problème, on introduit parallèlement un subside à l’exportation. Le dollar augmente à un niveau qui ne touche ni les exportations ni les importations. Du moins en théorie.

Dans ce cas, quel est l’avantage d’une telle taxe douanière ? Elle augmenterait sensiblement l’impôt sur le revenu aux Etats-Unis. Aujourd’hui, de nombreuses sociétés internationales évitent de payer des impôts aux Etats-Unis. Les importateurs surestiment la valeur de leurs importations, et les exportateurs sous-estiment celle des exportations. Les importateurs comme Wal-Mart pourront encore surévaluer le prix de leurs importations, mais devront payer une taxe à l’importation. Idem pour les exportateurs comme General Electric. Et vu que le déficit de la balance commerciale américaine se monte à 500 milliards de dollars, la taxe douanière rapporterait 100 milliards de dollars. C’est un montant important comparé aux 350 milliards de dollars d’impôt des sociétés aujourd’hui perçu par le Trésor public, et qui permet de réduire considérablement cette taxe sans perte de revenus.

La question est bien entendu de savoir dans quelle mesure une telle taxe entraînerait une hausse du dollar. Si cette hausse est lente, les importateurs souffriront beaucoup, et les exportateurs seront les grands gagnants. Si le dollar augmente trop rapidement, cela comblera peut-être l’impact de la taxe douanière. La plupart des économistes penchent plutôt pour le premier scénario. Dans ce cas, la facture sera payée par les Américains les moins nantis et les importateurs. Il s’agit surtout de ceux qui consacrent proportionnellement une plus grande partie de leurs revenus à l’achat de biens importés par les grandes chaînes de magasins.

Les principales conclusions de Koen De Leus sont les suivantes :

  • En cas de taxe douanière, le dollar va continuer à remonter.
  • Bien qu’une telle taxe puisse se justifier sur base de considérations macro-économiques, elle sera considérée comme du protectionnisme d’un point de vue politique, et pourrait de ce fait créer un dangereux précédent.
  • Comme les grands exportateurs sont aussi importateurs, cette taxe pèsera sur les grandes chaînes de distribution. Pour Peter Navarro, le patron du nouveau « White House National Trade Council », c’est aussi effectivement l’objectif de l’administration Trump.

Si les Etats-Unis réduisent l’impôt des sociétés, la Belgique se retrouvera en première position d’un nouveau classement : celui du pays occidental dont l’impôt des sociétés est le plus élevé.

(Source : Economic Express Koen De Leus)

Article

06.03.2017

The crowdfunding law: what has changed in Belgium

New rules on crowdfunding entered into force on 1 February 2017. What is the framework and what does it mean for investments?

New rules on crowdfunding entered into force on 1 February 2017. The law passed in December by the Parliament now regulates the legal status of crowdfunding platforms and how they function.

"Crowdfunding is a type of participative financing that consists of requesting private investment to gather funds to finance a specific project through an internet platform."

In Belgium, in addition to direct investment, a tax reduction will be granted for any financing for an SME starting up, starter funds or financing vehicle. However the law does attach several conditions. For example, it is only possible to invest in companies founded less than four years ago. The investment must be made for a period of four years. The SME may only raise EUR 250,000 this way. Finally, each individual or entity may only invest a maximum of EUR 100,000 per year.  

The Minister for SMEs, Willy Borsus, points out that SMEs make up the "backbone" of the economy, as they account for 99.2% of companies: "It is crucial to invest in these young companies, in these starters, and to support this type of system that is an addition to more traditional financial services."

Platforms may request authorisation

Since 1 February, platforms wishing to set up in crowdfunding have been able to lodge an authorisation request with the FSMA. Alexander De Croo, the Minister for the Digital Agenda, believes that with the authorisation of alternative financing platforms, "the system is now complete."

In concrete terms, a tax reduction is now granted for investments in the capital of a young SME of up to 45% for microbusinesses (10 employees per year and EUR 700,000 annual turnover) and 30% for SMEs.

The four ways to invest are:

  • Direct investment in a target company (in stocks or shares, which has already applied since 1 July 2015);
  • Investment in a target company through marketing on a platform (here, the investor is a direct shareholder in the company);
  • Investment in a financing vehicle that then invests in a target company through a platform (the investor isn't a shareholder in the company, it is the 'vehicle' that remains the shareholder);
  • Finally, investment in a starter fund that then invests in several companies (with risk spreading).
   

All the details are available on the FSMA website

Article

11.04.2017

How the tax deduction for innovation affects you

The patent income deduction is ceasing to exist. Belgium has adopted a new tax incentive, called the ‘innovation income’ deduction: below is what you need to keep in mind for your company.

End of the patent income deduction 

Since the 2008 tax year, 80% of companies' gross earnings generated by their patents could be exempted from tax. Since then, there has, in actual fact, been a 6.798% maximum effective tax rate. The intended aim was to stimulate innovation through research and development while promoting the protection of innovation through patents.

What was the problem? Only a limited number of Belgian companies were able to make use of this deduction. This is why - in addition to the new recommendations from the OECD (Base erosion and profit shifting) - Belgium has repealed the regime restricted just to patents so that its scope can be extended. In order to reassure companies which are already affected, there will be a transitional regime which, subject to conditions, will allow such companies to continue to benefit from the former regime for a further five fiscal years.

Law extended from patents to innovation

The Chamber adopted the new deduction for innovation income at the beginning of February 2017. It entered into force with retroactive effect on 1 July 2016.

What changes for you? In addition to patents, new intellectual property rights will, going forward, now be eligible and other adjustments are set out in the law.

Key points:

  • From now on, the deduction also applies to innovation revenue from plant variety rights, orphan drugs, data and market exclusivity and copyright-protected computer programs.
  • Compensation for violation or alienation of intellectual property rights may be taken into account in respect of tax deduction.
  • From now on, the deduction remains valid even if mergers or divisions occur within the company.
  • Unused deduction can be carried forward to a subsequent taxable period. 

The rate of the deduction is currently set at 85% but note, this is after deduction of costs directly linked to R&D activities. In the event of a negative net innovation income, the negative amount will be deducted from other intellectual property rights.

The deduction is applicable to worldwide revenue from the year in which the patent application is lodged (not the year in which it is granted). If rejected, the deduction is cancelled and default interest will apply.

"This tax deduction for innovation allows us to conform to the new OECD directives on tax evasion while preventing profits from being artificially shifted. We are reinforcing the competitiveness of our SMEs and Belgium's position in terms of innovation by taking a common sense approach and extending the scope of the deduction." Johan Van Overtveldt, Minister of Finance.

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