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News

08.07.2016

Productivity slowdown: the new normal?

Why does economic growth remain slow in our country? Arne Maes, Economic Advisor at BNP Paribas Fortis sheds light on these issues.

Economic growth in Belgium has been slow for decades. Yet Belgium is not alone in this. Almost all industrialised countries have suffered the same fate and the underlying causes are largely the same.

For example, the gradual transition from a manufacturing to a service economy has led to a slowdown in growth in the countries concerned. Technological progress, which allows the manufacturing industry to produce more efficiently, has a much less marked effect on the services sector. This means that an increase in employment in services acts as a brake on overall growth. 

What about Belgium?

Labour productivity is growing at a significantly slower rate in Belgium than in neighbouring countries. Since the beginning of the crisis, the extent to which productivity has declined in the Belgian services industry, especially in non-market services, such as education, health and government activities, has been particularly striking. Naturally, another issue is that since the beginning of this century, the wages in our country have risen nearly four times faster than our productivity.

One explanation for Belgium’s poor performance could be the lack of innovative technology companies within our national borders. After all, the relative importance of these rapidly-growing sectors in the Belgian economy has waned in recent years, and with it its contribution to research and development.

Moreover, several trends which, historically, have contributed to economic growth are slowly drawing to a close. So-called global value chains, where multinationals ship their products from continent to continent as part of the production process, have gained in importance. In recent years, increased local specialisation has led to significant efficiency gains. As an economy that is strongly focused on international trade, Belgium has always been one of the pioneers in this respect, but comprehensive task specialisation has now reached a natural ceiling.

In addition, the increase in the educational levels of the Belgian population is slowly approaching its limits. As a result, we cannot expect education to make a positive contribution to growth, either.

The new normal?

Some of the developments discussed above are therefore irreversible, but growth itself is not, by any means. Fortunately, there are some ways in which this stuttering economy can be revived.

We need investment in order to improve our long-term prospects. Companies need legal certainty and transparency. In this respect, the forthcoming review of the Belgian Dock Work Regulation Act and the Belgian Excess Profit Rulings tax scheme inspire little confidence.

On top of that, public investment has also fallen sharply in recent years, often under the guise of much-needed consolidation of finances. However, further erosion of the existing infrastructure must be stopped. Even in difficult budgetary times, projects with high added value pay dividends, especially at a time when interest rates remain historically low.

In addition, Antwerp and Brussels are both in the top five cities for traffic congestion. A redesigning of the existing network and financial incentives affecting individual car usage are absolute musts.

Despite some positive reports, the employment rate – at 67% – remains significantly lower than that in our neighbouring countries. Earlier this year, the IMF put its finger on the sore spot: in the fragmented Belgian job market, some population groups (older people, immigrants) are still finding it extremely difficult to carve out a space. For its part, in its recent country-specific recommendations the European Commission has yet again denounced Belgium's relatively inflexible wage setting. This means that further reforms are urgently needed. 

One thing is clear: the new normal is bringing with it other challenges. However, we will be able to kick-start higher growth if we focus on investments that pay for themselves and structural reforms.

News

11.12.2018

Phase-out of CIRI files for payment orders

To modernise interbank standards, the CIRI format is no longer used for payment orders by BNP Paribas Fortis. All your euro bulk transfers must be sent to us in XML format. It is also recommended to use XML format for all your transfers in other currencies. Timing and impact. Read our FAQ.


1. What are CIRI files?

2 types :

  • CIRI FBF: used for domestic payments in EUR.
  • CIRI VME: can be used for EUR payments within the EU or for EUR payments worldwide or for payments in a foreign currency worldwide.
2. Which channels have been affected?

Upload of credit transfers via a CIRI FBF or CIRI VME file will no longer be possible in all bank channels (Easy Banking Business, Isabel, Connexis, Swiftnet File Act, Host to Host) offered by BNP Paribas Fortis.

3. When will it no longer be possible to upload credit transfers via a CIRI FBF or CIRI VME file?

Upload of credit transfers via a CIRI FBF or CIRI VME file will no longer be possible in all bank channels from 01/01/2020 onwards (Easy Banking Business, Isabel, Connexis, Swiftnet File Act, Host to Host) offered by BNP Paribas Fortis.

4. What will replace CIRI files?

The XML format is legally required for EUR payments within the EU.

Both the XML format and the Swift format MT101 can still be accepted for payments in foreign currency and for payments in EUR outside the EU. Note: Swift, in its turn, is studying the possibility of soon replacing its MT formats with XML formats. This is therefore not a forward-looking solution.

We refer to the XML Febelfin standards for both SEPA Credit Transfers in EUR and for payments in foreign currency and payments in EUR outside the EU.

5. How can you test your XML files?

BNP Paribas Fortis is giving you free access to XML Solver * to help your company in the transition to this new format. This online tool, developed by Azzana Consulting SPRL, makes it easy for you to check whether your payment files are in the correct format.

XML Solver allows you to test your files before you send them to us through the usual channel. In that way, you can rest assured that they are fully compatible with the XML format.

The tool is intuitive, easy and performs the necessary checks before processing.

6. How is XML Solver activated and used?

First of all, you must create a user account to use the application. You will then receive an e-mail with your activation code.

Once you have activated your account, you will gain access to XML Solver via the following link: http://be.sepaformatvalidation.com.

There you can immediately upload the XML files you want to check. After performing the checks, the application will always give you the following information:

  • A detailed report of the errors found in the file
  • Instructions to improve on these errors.

A detailed manual can also be found on the homepage of the tool. Use of XML Solver is free for BNP Paribas Fortis customers.

 

Need more information?

Do you have questions about XML Solver or are you experiencing problems using it? Please do not hesitate to contact the Azzana helpdesk at support@azzana.net. For other questions, you can contact your Cash Management Officer at any time.
*XML Solver is a tool developed and managed exclusively by AZZANA Consulting SPRL. If you would like to use this service, you need to register directly with AZZANA Consulting SPRL. No BNP Paribas Group entity is responsible for XML Solver and its related services. Any questions in relation to the tool and its associated services must be sent directly to AZZANA Consulting SPRL.
News

30.10.2018

Third quarter 2018 results BNP Paribas

WB_News_Results_BNP_Q3_2018_enJean-Laurent Bonnafé, Chief Executive Officer BNP Paribas: “BNP Paribas delivered this quarter a good level of income, at 2.1 billion euros. The Group’s business continues to grow in a contrasted context of economic growth in Europe. Despite a still unfavourable market context in Europe, the revenues of the operating divisions increase slightly, driven by the specialised businesses.”

 

For more information, click here.
News

17.10.2018

The FPS Economy tells you all about the Brexit

The impact of the Brexit on the business of companies is still uncertain. That is why the FPS Economy introduces an information portal, including a ‘Brexit Impact Scan’. This scan helps to map out the possible consequences of the Brexit on the activities of an enterprise.

News

11.10.2018

Tax pre-payments even more important as of 2018

Bear in mind that companies that don’t pay enough of their tax in advance now face larger surcharges.

As of 2018 (for the tax year 2019), you will have to pay a higher surcharge if your corporation tax pre-payments aren’t large enough. Companies that didn’t previously pay much attention to pre-payments during the course of the tax year are strongly advised to do so in future. Nothing has changed for self-employed people subject to personal taxation.

From 2018 onwards, it’s particularly important to make your tax pre-payments

The surcharges imposed in the event of insufficient pre-payments have been calculated for years based on ECB interest rates. But this reference rate has been less than 1% in recent years, obliging the government to set higher surcharges by Royal Decree.

It was decided at the end of 2016 that a permanent solution was needed, and so new legislation was passed, which comes into effect as of the 2018 tax year (i.e. for all financial years commencing 1 January 2017).

Since then, the reference rate has been set at a minimum of 1%. Under the ‘Summer Agreement’ approved at the end of 2017, the rate was further increased to 3% in the case of corporation tax. The reference rates are multiplied by 2.25 to arrive at the final surcharge applied to the amount of tax payable. In specific terms, this means that as of the 2019 tax year (financial years commencing 1 January 2018), the surcharge imposed on non-payment or underpayment of advance corporation tax has tripled from 2.25% to 6.75% of the tax liability. The same applies for subsequent years, when the surcharge will be at least 6.75%.

The ‘Summer Agreement’ also scraps the so-called ‘de minimis’ rule in relation to corporation tax, which means the surcharge will also apply if it is less than 0.50% of the tax liability or less than EUR 50.

The government aims in this way to encourage more companies to make tax pre-payments (in good time) in periods of low interest rates.

The benefits of pre-payments

Companies are not obliged to make pre-payments. The advantage of doing so is that the surcharge described above can be reduced or avoided. Businesses do not, however, qualify for the kind of tax benefit available to private individuals, which means there is nothing to be gained by making an unnecessarily high pre-payment.

A cut-off date for the pre-payments is set for each quarter throughout the financial year. The earlier in the financial year that you make a pre-payment, the more any eventual surcharge is reduced. Due to the increase in the reference interest rate, these reductions have also been tripled.

In specific terms, a company whose financial year coincides with the calendar year and which...

  • made a pre-payment before 10/04/2018 (first quarter), receives a 9% reduction
  • made a pre-payment before 10/07/2018 (second quarter), receives a 7.5% reduction
  • made a pre-payment before 10/10/2018 (third quarter), receives a 6% reduction
  • makes a pre-payment before 20/12/2018 (fourth quarter), receives a 4.5% reduction

... calculated in each case on the amount of the pre-payment for that quarter.

The cut-off dates for companies whose financial year does not coincide with the calendar year fall on the tenth day of the fourth, seventh and tenth month and on the twentieth day of the final month of the financial year. Specific rules are provided for companies with a financial year of more or less than twelve months.

The new rules mean that a surcharge for the tax year 2019 can be avoided if 75% of the tax liability is paid during the first quarter or 90% of the tax liability is paid during the second quarter. If pre-payments are only made in the third and/or fourth quarter, more than 100% of the tax liability must be paid to avoid an increase.

For self-employed people subject to personal taxation (such as a manager or company director), similar rules apply as for companies, although the rates have not been increased in this case (surcharge of 2.25%, reductions of 3%, 2.5%, 2% or 1.5%). The ‘de minimis’ rule also continues to apply and the calculation of the potential surcharge only differs by a few percentage points. What’s more, an additional tax benefit or rebate is granted in the case of personal taxation on pre-payments that exceed the amount required to avoid a tax surcharge. This benefit is calculated quarterly at half the percentages set out above.

How much tax is it best to pre-pay?

  • You are free to choose the amount. But you should bear in mind that if you wait until the third or fourth quarter, you will have to pay over 100% of the tax liability in advance.
  • Check your income from the previous financial year and take account of any changes in your business activities, investments or turnover. Be sure to consult your accountant or visit the official government website (FR/NL).
  • Try as much as possible – especially in the case of corporation tax – to limit your pre-payments to the amount needed to avoid the surcharge. If you make an excessively high pre-payment, you’re effectively providing the state with an interest-free loan.
  • If you realise towards the end of the financial year that you have made more profit than anticipated, you can still make an extra pre-payment up to the twentieth day of the final month of the financial year.
  • Also consider the special credit formula offered by the bank to cover your tax pre-payments. The interest on loans of this kind is tax-deductible as a business expense, although the main reason for choosing a solution like this is the improved cashflow management it provides.

More info L’Echo 14/08/2018 or De Tijd 14/08/2018)

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