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Preparing for Brexit 

It is less than 5 months until Brexit and the Article 50 deadline on 29 March 2019, and whilst rumours abound of deals, unfortunately – from a business perspective – the spectre of a non-orderly withdrawal outcome remains fully in view. With a few exceptions, it is a wide and deep business consensus that such a no-deal outcome would be an extremely disruptive negative outcome for economic operators on both sides of the Channel. It’s worth repeating – from a business perspective – no deal is the worst deal for everyone.

If there is no withdrawal deal, one might hope there will be side deals covering key issues such as aviation or data, but this cannot be guaranteed, particularly if negotiations break down badly. Consequences will be unpredictable, both politically and economically.

Irrespective of that, we can expect significant disruption at all UK/EU borders – notably with France, Belgium, the Netherlands and in main airports. This is a simple function of the UK leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market without a ready replacement legal framework and with the systems developed to take over.

The situation of the Irish Border in the case of no deal is also unclear – both sides have committed to no ‘hard border’, though both sides may have legal obligations under both EU law in the case of Ireland, and under the WTO in the case of the UK to undertake customs and regulatory checks. Once the UK has left the EU Customs Union and Single Market, there will have to be checks and formalities for goods, the only question is where these checks will take place and exactly what formalities will be applicable.

Preparedness notices from both the EU and the UK Government have flagged the respective legal provisions at the moment of the UK leaving the EU, but do not give a clear roadmap for affected businesses in the case of a collapse of the withdrawal negotiations or a non-ratification by the respective parliaments.

At a minimum, companies should be looking at the potential impact on their supply chains of a potential raising of regulatory and customs barriers, possible queues on both sides of the border as new systems and formalities are introduced, as well as the possible restriction of freedom of movement for staff. On a sector by sector basis, the cessation of regulatory arrangement and licensing may also create new barriers to market.

The British Chamber of Commerce | EU & Belgium will stay close to the UK Government, the EU institutions and the Belgian Authorities during this challenging period. We are the go to organisation that authorities are asking for feedback from on business concerns. Get in touch, use our platform and share your concerns, specific or otherwise so that we can get them to the right people.

Matt Hinde, Fleishman Hillard, and Morten Petersen, EPPA, Co-Chairs of the Future Relations Committee

If you have more questions about the prospect of a no deal Brexit, you can find more information on our website page – What to do if there is no deal?

Our next Brexit event – Brexit and Future Relations – An Update on the Irish Perspective – will take place on the 20th November. You can find more information on our website.

 

 

This blog post was written by Marc Verbeek.

Marc Verbeek

Marc Verbeek is a Tax Partner currently working for Crowe Horwath Vanhuynegem Associates in Belgium, prior to this he worked at the Belgian Ministry of Finance, before moving on to spend 26 years with BDO. Marc is a certified tax consultant. His expertise includes (international) corporate tax advice, international employment tax, corporate tax compliance, rulings and litigation.

One of the biggest changes to the way UK companies interact with HMRC, the UK tax authority, is coming into effect from 1 April 2019. Making Tax Digital (MTD) is HMRC’s initiative to bring technology and tax together, allowing HMRC to become a “world leading, digital tax authority.”

What does it mean?
The changes will mean that all UK VAT registered organisations with a turnover above the UK VAT registration threshold (£85.000) will have to:
• keep, and be able to provide, their UK VAT records digitally.
• submit their UK VAT data to HMRC through compatible software, not through the HMRC online portal.
HMRC will no longer allow UK VAT return figures to be manually entered in the HMRC online portal when submitting the UK VAT return. Instead, you will need to have software capable of doing this for you.

Will I be affected?
Any business registered for UK VAT as their turnover has exceeded the UK VAT registration threshold will be affected. Of those, some already have a digital mechanism to transpose the figures from the UK VAT return workings to a submission, however the majority do not. According to figures from the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the leading professional body in the UK for tax advisers, 87% of UK VAT taxable persons will have to take action as a result of the new rules. The only exemptions will be for religious reasons or in the event of insolvency procedures.

What about international businesses?
Of particular interest to Belgian businesses will be that almost everyone who is UK VAT registered will have to comply with the MTD rules; being established overseas or submitting UK VAT returns outside of the UK will not result in an exemption from MTD requirements.
In addition, it may be a greater challenge to overseas organisations to comply with MTD for UK VAT as their UK activities are likely to be a single part of a larger international activity. This could also be the case for UK organisations who are part of international groups required by their overseas head offices to operate specific accounting or reporting processes and software.
As a result, if your organisation is currently manually entering the UK VAT return figures on HMRC’s portal, MTD will present a significant change to your current UK VAT processes.

What are the main requirements?
HMRC’s intention is that software will be used to maintain the relevant digital records, calculate the UK VAT return figures and to submit the return electronically. This is to be done using functional compatible software.
This software should also act as a digital ‘bridge’ between the UK taxpayer and HMRC’s systems. It will no longer be acceptable for an organisation to manually transpose figures when submitting their UK VAT returns.

When does this take effect?
HMRC has indicated there will be a “soft landing” period between April 2019 and April 2020 without application of financial penalties for record-keeping failures. This is to assist organisations by allowing extra time to update their systems to be fully compliant. There will however, have to be a digital link from the outset between the spreadsheet and the linking software that submits the UK VAT return digitally.
MTD as it currently stands is likely to just be the start of the road; it is intended to be introduced for UK Income Taxes in April 2020 and it is not unreasonable to expect that the scope of what information and data is available electronically for HMRC to access remotely will only get broader. As a result, even with a soft landing period, companies need to proactively take steps to ensure they remain compliant.

What software should I use?
HMRC has stated that it will not be providing software for organisations to use, and currently they have not yet informed taxpayers as to commercial software suppliers who will be providing the “functional compatible software”. Commercial software providers are developing solutions and some organisations will have sufficient in-house IT capability to build their own.
“Functional compatible software” is a software program or set of compatible software programs that must be able to:
• record and preserve electronic records in an electronic form for up to six years
• create a UK VAT return from the digital records
• provide to HMRC information and returns from the electronic records in an electronic form and by using an Application Programme Interface (API) to link to HMRC’s systems
• receive information from HMRC.
There “must be a digital link” between all software used by the organisation for its UK VAT compliance. Examples are given in HMRC’s guidance and a very common one, likely to be familiar to a large number of organisations, is the situation where to prepare the UK VAT return the taxpayer:
– maintains its sales and purchases data in an accounting system
– downloads this data into a spreadsheet for manual manipulation
– manually enters the figures into HMRC’s website for submission.
Under the new rules, the links between the two software programs (accounting system and spreadsheet software) must be digital.

What now?
Although the implementation date is in 2019, like all technology projects, there is a lead time in making the necessary changes to be able to successfully implement the measures needed to comply with the new rules.

Organisations affected by MTD need to consider a strategy for the immediate requirements to be ready for the April 2019 launch date and also give thought as to whether these preparations should include a readiness for a likely future expansion of the MTD requirements, be it for additional UK VAT data or for other UK taxes such as Income Tax.

golden bridge smaller banner for website

Gain visibility and recognition for excellence in trade and export by applying for the Golden Bridge Trade and Investment Awards.

What is the Golden Bridge Trade and Export Awards?

The 2017 Golden Bridge Trade and Investment Awards present an exciting opportunity for UK companies trading or investing in Belgium, and Belgian and Luxembourgian companies trading or investing in the UK to showcase their bilateral success to an international jury and celebrate their achievements during an exclusive ceremony hosted by the British Ambassador to Belgium, Alison Rose at the British Residence in Brussels, at the heart of Europe.

The Golden Bridge Awards is co-organised by the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain.

Fun fact: Belgium was the 7th largest export market to the UK and the UK was the 12th largest export market to Belgium last year.

Why should you apply?

Expand your international network, gain business and political expertise, receive recognition for your achievements.

The Golden Bridge Award opens doors to an international network and the connections businesses need to succeed both at home and abroad. Our international panel of judges from the business community are also affiliated with regional trade and investment bodies as well as embassies from the UK, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Winning a Golden Bridge Award will solidify your credibility on any of the three markets and will reinforce your pivotal role  in the economic relationship between Belgium, the U.K. and Luxembourg.

Previous winners of the Best Newcomer category, Orega, shared that the recognition for their export credentials gave them even greater visibility.

“It has sent the right message to our business partners based in Belgium. The award delivers to our potential customers a strong message, as we were new comers on the market.”
-Orega, Golden Bridge Best Newcomer Winner 2016

The award made a positive impression on their business partners with their improved credibility.

Bel’Export, 2016 winner of the Golden Bridge Award for UK business to Belgium, shared that the Golden Bridge award raised their company profile internationally as well as at home.

“As company you gain visibility, in – and outside the UK. It is a recognition for doing a good job.”

-Bel’Export, Golden Bridge Winner 2016

What will you win?

The winners of the Global Bridge award will receive:

  • Visibility at the awards event itself.
  • A one-year free membership* of the British Chamber. If you qualify under our SME criteria, you receive free  membership already if you are shortlisted as a finalist.
  • Participation in our Golden Bridge Awards Winners’ Day programme in Brussels in January 2018 to celebrate your success.
  • Your company featured in the British Chamber’s annual publications and in articles on our social media channels.

Apply now! The final registration deadline is 30th September!
Do you want to be a Golden Bridge Awards partner? Check the Golden Bridge Trade & Investment Award page on our website for more information or contact Alexandra Trandafir at alexandra@britishchamber.be.

 The Gala Dinner for the Golden Bridge Awards will take place on Wednesday 22nd November 2017 at The British Ambassador’s Residence in Brussels. The applicants will be shortlisted based on their financial performance, their innovation and strategy abroad, and their motivation for entering the awards.

*regular membership

Accreditation logo - option 2

The British Chamber of Commerce works with a broad range of Accredited Service Providers to bring you the best professional advice for international businesses who are in or entering the Belgian market. This series aims to give you a bit of an insight into these companies; showcasing how they can help you develop your business. British Chamber members can book a free first consultation with any of our expert advisors.

We’ve been speaking to BNP Paribas Fortis on what they think the biggest issues are for business when joining the Belgian market.

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Which 3 questions should companies looking to do business in Belgium ask themselves?

You cannot enter a market without thoroughly analysing it first and having a clear idea of its main players and competitors. Which leads us quite nicely to the first question: What does my target market look like, and what are my market timing, KPIs and objectives going to be? Once you have answered this rather basic but essential question, you will need to determine how you are going to enter the market. Will you set out on your own, or do you appeal to a specialized partner to help you access the market more efficiently and reduce your time-to-market? Finally, you need to determine where in Belgium you will set up your business. Many factors will influence this decision, such as the exact nature of your activities, what federal or regional incentives may apply to your company, the need for logistical and transport hubs, the need to find qualified personnel, etc. And once again, it is important to decide in advance if you will make this choice alone or in concert with a partner familiar with local regulation, culture, business habits and recruitment.

What is one emerging trend in the business/regulatory environment which you would advise companies in or entering Belgium to be particularly proactive about?

Efforts continue apace to encourage entrepreneurship and attract foreign investors or companies. This is done in various ways, for instance by reducing or streamlining regulation, installing specific and advantageous tax systems, providing well-situated infrastructure and office space, investing in high-quality and internationally-oriented education, etc. All of these measures are intended to make it easier for your company to enter the Belgian market, but it will take some time and research to familiarize yourself with them.

Additionally, a great many aids and grants are available from federal and local authorities. We advise you to contact one of the dedicated investment agencies, such as the Brussels Enterprise Agency (BEA), Flanders Investment & Trade or the Office for Foreign Investors (OFI) in Wallonia , who will be more than happy to tell you which aids or incentives apply to your company.

Why is it important for new entrants in Belgium to speak with you

Most importantly, for a seamless continuation of service.  Thanks to BNP Paribas Fortis being part of a global group, both your mother company and your Belgian activities can work with a single bank and enjoy the same service offer. Put more concretely, your relationship manager in Belgium will be in contact with the British BNP Paribas team, allowing for a better understanding of your specific needs, central reporting and an effective service level.

Through us, you also have access to an extensive offering of digital banking services and innovative solutions covering all your banking and financing needs, including international cash management, global trade solutions, factoring, fleet management, expat services, etc. Wherever you decide to establish your subsidiary in Belgium, you will receive a dedicated relationship manager from a central corporate bankers team in Brussels or from one of 16 local business centres.

Last but not least, we are quite experienced in servicing Belgian subsidiaries of foreign groups, which explains why over 3,300 foreign groups have chosen us as their bank in Belgium.

If you’d like to organise a meeting with any of our Accredited Service Providers, or are interested in becoming one, get in touch with James Pearson – our Business & Trade Executive at james.pearson@britishchamber.be

Olivier & Mandy

2015 was a busy year for the Business Development Committee! Our Chair, Olivier Van Horenbeeck tells us what’s next for 2016 and how they plan to build on a great 2015.

To write that the chamber’s Business Development Committee grew and developed immensely in 2015 would be an understatement. The group successfully delivered 40 events in 2015, compared to 12 Business and Trade events the year before. So to give you a preview of what’s in store for members of the chamber in 2016, it only makes sense to first take a look at what went on in 2015.

The past year saw the introduction of three brand new initiatives under the Business Development Committee: Diversity Dialogues, Business Trainings, and the Strategic Business series, each of which are being continued and developed further in 2016.

Our Strategic Business Themes offers high-level briefings and debates on topics such as innovation in high value manufacturing, the development of future cities, the rising inequality in Europe, the advancements of the digital economy, and the implications of the upcoming UK referendum on business. We also revisited these topics during our first annual London Visit, where we met Lord Mandelson and Kenneth Clarke amongst many other key influencers and decision-makers on the UK’s political and commercial scene. Make sure you don’t miss the second edition this year!

Peter Mandelson

The Strategic Business Themes perfectly complements our ongoing Ambassador Hosts series, where we in 2015 had the pleasure of hearing from regional Minister Presidents Magnette and Bourgeois, respectively, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Jan Jambon. With the outstanding support of Ambassador Rose continuing in 2016, we are expecting to welcome further high-level Belgian decision-makers to the chamber, and a date for Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters has already been confirmed.

The Business Trainings were introduced as a programme of interactive half-day courses with clear learning objectives, covering various soft and hard skills topics under leadership development, business administration, and communication skills. The initiative, led by Maria Laptev, and its ‘by members, for members’ approach has been very well received, and with an already full schedule lined up for this spring semester, we are now planning ahead for the autumn calendar.

Andriani Ferti

Diversity Dialogues was launched in October at a very well-attended discussion and networking session, and with the feedback from that gathering we now have a framework for a first full year of Diversity Dialogues, with an event expected to take place at least once a quarter. Read more here from Rosie Halfhead, Chair of our Diversity Dialogues Working Group, about what’s in the making.

There were many new Business & Trade initiatives in 2015, but also a consistent delivery of high-quality seminars by our existing Tax, Finance & Legal Task Force under the chairmanship of Marc Quaghebeur. In 2016, you can look forward to sessions on the practical business implications of new legislation such as the Belgian tax shift, data privacy law, social security reductions, pensions for the self-employed, and much more. We are also looking at offering a 4th edition of our annual Expat Financial Affairs conference, this time in a slightly revamped format.

EFA

Last, but certainly not least, we are looking to further boost the chamber’s Trade & Investment activities, which are supported by Glynis Whiting. These include our existing Accredited Service Providers programme and annual Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards, as well as new initiatives to facilitate bilateral trade and be the essential support network for UK exporters and investors into Belgium. We will also look to link some of our activities across the Business & Trade streams more closely with each other, for instance by combining our 2nd annual London Visit with the Golden Bridge Awards Gala in November.

As Chair of the Business Development Committee, I am looking very much forward to continuing all our great work in the year to come, and I hope to meet you and your colleagues at our upcoming events.

Thank you to James Pearson from the British Chamber team for contributing to this article.

Golden Bridge

The 19th edition of the prestigious Golden Bridge Trade& Export Awards for outstanding achievements in exporting between the UK and the Belux has been won by Soudal NV from Belgium and Ignition from the UK. The Awards were presented by the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce (BLCC) and the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium. Awards were also won by export newcomer SYX Automations and by NMC, Projective and RWS.

This year, Soudal NV received the coveted Golden Bridge Export Award handed over by H.E. Mr Guy Trouveroy, Ambassador of Belgium to the Court of St James’s, during a glamorous gala ceremony in central London on 26 November. Soudal is Europe`s leading independent manufacturer focused on sealants, PU Foams and adhesives. Operative in four continents and 44 subsidiaries worldwide, Soudal remains a family owned company established in 1966.

Ignition won the award for British companies from Wim Eraly,Senior General Manager at KBC Bank. Ignition delivers bespoke online training solutions to some of the most successful companies in the world, including Toyota Europe, L’Oréal, and Yamaha. From their strategic hub in Belgium,Ignition have grown their international business development and results immensely and highly impressively in recent years.

Best newcomer

The award of Best Newcomer was handed out to Syx AutomationsNV. The Jury were impressed with how Syx Automations has been able to convince major UK attractions to choose their software solution over British competitors. Prestigious projects include the Shard and the National Maritime Museum. Syx Automations received its award from Glenn Vaughan, Chief Executive of the British Chamber in Belgium. Syx Automations is active in the field of leisure management software for the leisure market such as zoos, museums and theatres. Furthermore, they have headquarters in Ypres (BE) and offices in Nijkerk (NL), London (UK) and Ahmedabad (India).

Best small & medium-sized enterprises

Awards were also handed out to three successfully exportingSmall & Medium Entreprises: NMC, Projective and RWS.

NMC is a company founded in 1950 and active in the development, production and marketing of synthetic foams. Mr Jean-Claude Kugener, Deputy Head of Mission at the Luxembourg Embassy in London handed over the award of best Belgian medium-sized enterprise because the company has succeeded in a very conservative market place and has been able to increase market share further by selling directly to the end user via the internet. NMC Group realizes an annual turnover of 200 million Euros.

RWS Group received its best British medium-sized award from Thomas Spiller, Chairman of the British Chamber in Belgium. RWS is the world’s leading provider of excellent translation and language support. Eclipse Translations is a dedicated provider of translation and interpreting services and forms part of the RWS Group Commercial Translation Division. RWS Group was recognised by the Jury for their ability to successfully adapt to the Belgian market characteristics and grow their business consistently in an intensely competitive market.

Projective, set up in 2006 in Belgium, won the best small-sized company award. In less than ten years, the company has grown to a team of more than 90 project managers with local offices in Brussels, London and The Hague. Their prize was handed over by Carole van Eyll, Deputy for Economic Affairs at the Belgian Embassy. Given their consistent growth and on going development in London, the financial centre of Europe and even the world, the Jury were delighted to present Projective with this award.

“High-quality participants”

BLCC Chairman Michel Vanhoonacker said: “Even in its 19th year, the Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards, has lost nothing of its sparkle, attracting the best of the best in exporting between Belgium,Luxembourg and the UK. The UK and the Belux region are very important trading partners for each other, something which never hits the headlines sadly enough.Our combined trade exceeded that compared with of many of the newer, ‘trendy’markets such as China or India.”

See all the photos from last night’s Gala here!

Password: GB15

 

Golden Bridge

With the announcement of this year’s Golden Bridge awards fast approaching, we’re providing a last look at the candidates before the awards ceremony in London next week. The awards recognise the achievements of companies making the successful leap from the UK to the Belgian market and from the Belgium and Luxembourg markets to the UK.

Can you tell us a little bit about what Syx Automation does?

Syx Automations delivers innovative high-end software solutions to the leisure industry. We provide the leisure market with cost-effective, integrated products that will help improve the  business operations and the guest experience. In addition to the ReCreateX software platform Syx Automations also offers access control systems, kiosks, mobile applications and IT infrastructure.

ReCreateX is available as client-server application, as well as in the cloud.

What has been your marketing strategy in the UK over the last couple of years?

We’ve been working on building brand awareness through our participation at different exhibitions aimed at the leisure industry, Media campaigns, and by promoting cooperation with first pilot clients

Why are you applying for the Golden Bridge Awards, and why do you think you should win?

As a BLCC partner since the start of our Ltd company in the UK we look at the Golden Bridge Award as a confirmation of our success in the UK market and as a recognition for all our work done so far.

As a small West Flemish SME we mainly based our UK ambition on gut feeling. We do not have the enterprise budgets for large scale market research. Growing naturally (not through M&A) takes time.

Time in which we have invested money, and will continue to do so. As we are mainly focused on the governmental tender based markets, sales processes tend to take several years (RFI / PQQ / TENDER)

Until now we succeeded in our plans. With only a handful of full time employees we managed to convince international leisure organizations such as The London Shard and Dreamland Margate, as well as large local governments (Norfolk County Council and Argyll and Bute CC)  and museums as the Royal Greenwich Maritime Museums and the Horniman museum.

Join us at the 2015 Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards to celebrate the best of Belgian, Luxembourg and British business. The awards, now in their 19th year, aim to promote trade between the UK and the Belux countries, and to promote the best and brightest in this dynamic and growing market. The awards will be hosted at a gala dinner in London on 26 November at the BLCC Clubhouse Ballroom. You can register for the event here! Don’t forget that for those travelling to London from the continent, an exclusive Eurostar discount is available. Please contact events@blcc.co.uk for details of how to book.

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