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One of the British Chamber’s task forces is the Tax, Finance and Legal (TFL) task force. Its members include representatives of large to medium size accounting and tax firms, law firms, and some of the largest banks.

The Tax, Finance and Legal task force delivers regular seminars on practical tax, financial, economic and legal issues and updates for (international) businesses operating in Belgium.  These seminars offer British Chamber members the opportunity to showcase their expertise to a wide network of business professionals. Seminars hosted in 2018 included:

 

  • Politics and economics collide: Looming crisis or myth? – An informative presentation outlining how political developments such as Trump’s policies and Brexit will impact business operations and opportunities in Belgium, UK and broadly in Europe.P1010244.JPG
  • Masterclass in cross-border estate planning – At this event we heard how to plan your estate like an expert, and how you can save on Belgian and overseas inheritap1010376nce tax.
  • Are you or your employees working in different countries? Here is what you need to know – For anyone who frequently operates in multiple countries, or manages employees who do so, this seminar gave advice on the best solutions for any tax, social security and labour law issues they might face

 

 

 

 

 

The Tax, Finance & Legal task force also oversees the chamber’s annual Expat Financial Affairs conference, allowing expats to listen to informative presentations on investments, pensions, self-employment and estate planning, and mingle with fellow expats over food and drinks.

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Although of course Brexit and facilitating business with the UK are an important part of our agenda, the TFL activities are still aimed at a much larger group of international companies and expats in Belgium.

Since we want to focus on topics that are of interest to our members, please let the TFL task force know about any tax, finance or legal topic you would like to see covered. Or if you would like to get actively involved in an event, please propose topics you would be interested in driving by contacting the team

 

We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Marc Verbeek, Tax Partner, Crowe Spark & Chair, Tax, Finance and Legal Task Force

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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

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.

This week, our team spoke to Karelle Lambert – Senior Area Director for Europe at AWEX; the Wallonia Export & Investment Agency.

What are the top-4 questions companies looking to do business in Belgium should be asking?

 1. Why Belgium?

Belgium offers a market of 10 million consumers but our country should be considered as a launching platform for your export activities in Continental Europe.  Indeed, within 4 hour truck drive, you may reach 60 million consumers with a high purchasing power.

Belgium is a perfect assessment market. Belgium is often used a test market by large companies, such as Coca Cola or H&M, to test new products.   Considered as neutral, Belgium is the perfect location to reach European key markets.

2. What is the corporate tax level?

Nominative corporate tax level in Belgium is 33,99%.  However, due to numerous tax incentive measures, the average effective corporate tax level is  26,3%.

3. What is the availability and cost of real estate and labour force?

Belgium benefits from a cost-effective office and industrial areas market.  Belgium offers among the lowest prices in real estate in Europe.  The same trend applies for industrial building as well as for equipped greenfield lands in economic parks.  Availability of office, existing facilities and large greenfield plots is high in Belgium.

Prime education and the use of languages makes Belgium the perfect place to develop your international activities. Belgian universities and management schools, among the top worldwide ranking, offer high quality graduates on the market.

The Belgian Government has taken several measures in order to stimulate business environment:

The Tax Shift Law provides for a decrease of the employer social security contributions from 33% to 25%. Eurostat statistics already show that Belgium has a substantially lower rise of salary costs than the other countries.

As of the 1st of January 2016, the current reduction in social contributions related to first hirings were increased in two ways:

  • full exemption from employers’ contributions for the first hiring, unlimited in duration;
  • reduction in contributions for the six first hirings.

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

The business environment in Wallonia is enhanced through the new Marshall Plan 4.0 aiming at:

  • Considering Human capital as an asset and strengthening links between training and education,
  • Supporting the industry development, in a technological proactive perspective, including ever more and better SME’s,
  • Considering our territory as an essential resource for our economic development,
  • Supporting energy efficiency,
  • Supporting the digital innovation, integrating this new dimension within social and industrial practices.

Wallonia decided to strengthen its industrial policy and economic development through a clustering approach.  The Competitiveness clusters confirm the willingness to turn Wallonia into a competitive industrial area on a world-wide scale.  The clusters cover areas such as Transport & Logistics, Aeronautics & Aerospace, Sustainable & Eco construction, Green technologies, Energy & Sustainable development, Health & Biotech, Agro-food industry, ICT, Mechanical Engineering, Plastics processing, Digital industry.

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

Wallonia Export & Investment is the governmental organization taking care of Foreign Investors and we assure you of our total commitment to help you in your enquiries and steps to set up or develop in Belgium – Wallonia.  We may help you on different aspects including the search of real estate, information on the cash grants available in the Region, availability and costs of personnel, etc.  In short, investment and R&D grants, attractive fiscal measures, employment incentives are all available.  At any time, we may organize visits locally and have you meet key partners for your project. All our services are free of charge and treated confidentially.

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

Our Tax, Finance & Legal Task Force is in search of a new chair. The task force consists of experts from member companies – in the fields of tax, finance, and legal matters – and aims to help chamber members understand the practical issues of doing business in Belgium, including new regulatory developments.

As our President Thomas Spiller highlighted a few weeks ago, the benefits of sitting in a leadership role outside of your organisation are multiple and potentially highly impactful; not only will it increase visibility for your company, it will also raise your personal profile and extend your network even further. As the chair of the Tax, Finance & Legal Task Force, which plans 8-10 seminars per year, you have a substantial direct influence when it comes to shaping the chamber’s programme of business events. Furthermore, you will have a seat on the chamber’s Business Development Committee where the high-level planning of 40-50 chamber events takes place annually.

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Under the steady stewardship of incumbent chair Marc Quaghebeur (De Broeck Van Laere & Partners), the task force has consistently delivered high-quality seminars on a variety of practical aspects of doing business in Belgium. Recent seminar topics have included ‘Antitrust law for trade associations’, ‘International mobility’, ‘Commercial real estate’, ‘Pensions for the self-employed, ‘Data protection law’, ‘Belgian tax shift and international exchange of information’, ‘Managing a flexible workforce’, and ‘Brexit: what would it mean for my business?’ Furthermore, the task force launched the Expat Financial Affairs exhibition, now in its fourth annual edition, as a new flagship event for the British Chamber.

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The task force consists of experts from member companies in the fields of tax, finance, and legal matters – current members represented include: De Boeck Van Laere & Partners, The Fry Group Belgium, BDO, ING, White & Case, Eryv, PwC, BNP Paribas Fortis, Santa Fe Relocation Services, and Claeys & Engels.

Applications will close on 24 June, so if you think this role might be the next leadership step for you, please do get in touch with me at glenn@britishchamber.be for an informal conversation about the chair role and the selection process.

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The British Chamber is this year proud to be supporting 4 different charitable organisations in Belgium this year through our affiliation with the Brussels British Community Association. In February, we introduced you to CHS and this time Chairman David Humphreys introduces the British Charitable Fund.

The British Charitable Fund (BCF) was founded in 1815 on the initiative of the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo. Its goal then was to help wounded British soldiers, and their dependents, who stayed on in Belgium after the battle.

Over 200 years later, the BCF continues to work to help any needy person with a British connection who is resident in Belgium. There are few rules on who can benefit from our help, but in practice applicants must be British nationals or their dependents, and must have exhausted the normal means of support from family and state agencies.

Enquiries for help come in from young and old, long term residents or short term visitors – rich and poor alike! Even today, despite the best efforts of many agencies, there are gaps in the provision of social help that can uniquely affect foreigners in Belgium. The variety of problems encountered by the BCF is vast, but typically can range from loneliness, ill health and/or financial issues. All of these problems can be exacerbated by language difficulties and the absence of close family.

We are non-denominational and non-judgmental, and of course all enquiries are treated with the utmost confidentiality.

The BCF remains the only tax-registered charity providing for the needs of the British community in Belgium. We are staffed purely by volunteers and have minimal running costs. We receive no financial support from government agencies and rely purely on donations. All donations over 40 euros are tax-deductible in Belgium.

We are currently helping a number of beneficiaries, including victims of recent events, but feel there may be many more people in Belgium living in difficult circumstances whom we may also be able to help.

If you know of someone who needs help, or if you would like to make a donation, we can be contacted by telephone 02 767 47 26, by email bcf.info@telenet.be, or via our web-site http://www.bcfund.be

Since the terror threat in Brussels, leading to the subsequent lock-down which then inspired Mr Trump to dub the city a ‘hellhole’, not to mention last week’s EU reform negotiations and the tabloid media storm that ensued: It’s fair to say that Belgium and Brussels has had it’s fair share of attention this winter, and it’s been all but rosy. We’ll be setting all that straight this week though as Glenn, our CEO, tells us it’s really not all that bad.

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Belgium is a valuable market and an attractive place to invest, and do business. With only 11 million people it’s roughly equal with China as a market for British exports and an ideal launch pad to the rest of the EU.

The security emergency at the end of 2015 gave us all a reminder that there are real threats to the prosperity and security that most Europeans take as normal. Even Belgium is not immune. That’s why I have been keen to work with our friends at AmCham Belgium and the Belgium Japan Association to make sure that business in our own countries, and worldwide, are well informed about the situation here. Tomorrow, we’ll published an open letter, with the support of 13 other national chambers of commerce in Belgium, highlighting the continued attractiveness of Belgium.

The importance of business between Belgium and Britain is no flash in the pan. The British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium was founded here in 1898 and bilateral business continues to grow. To see that, you only have to look at the successful British and Belgian companies (large and small) recognised in our Golden Bridge Export Awards in recent times.

British investment, and that of the wider international business community, makes a big contribution to jobs and prosperity. With their many nationalities, the British Chamber’s member companies are a great representation of that international business community, directly employing more than 120,000 people here.

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While we all want and expect emerging economies to become more important trading partners in the future, Europe will continue to be hugely important to Britain for a very long time. To illustrate the point, Belgium recently jumped back above China (if only temporarily) as Britain’s 6th largest export market.

Since just Belgium on its own is so important to the UK, it’s no surprise that a clear majority of our members worry that leaving the EU would be bad for the British economy. Our job here in Brussels is to provide a platform that ensures our members understand the debate and its implications, and can plan how they will respond.

We’re planning an active programme of events over the period up to the referendum and plenty of opportunities for members to share their views with, and learn from, their peers.

Keep an eye out this week for a full press release!

 

CHS logoThe British Chamber is hosting the 3rd edition of the Great Brussels Charity Bake Off this March. This year, we’ll be raising money for Community Help Service. Take a look at what services they can offer to you, from their Chairman, Geoff Brown

Community Help Service (CHS) is a non-profit organisation that provides information, support and mental health services to anyone in Belgium who needs help and prefers to speak English, regardless of nationality and circumstances. It was set up in 1971 to provide help to people from the expatriate community, mainly those with English as their mother tongue. Brussels has changed considerably since then and many of those now supported by CHS are not native English speakers.

The services offered by CHS are:

Helpline: This is an anonymous, confidential, 24/7 telephone service in English, for children, adolescents and adults. It is oper

ated by volunteers (who are trained, supported and supervised by professionals) who can provide general information, support and help in a crisis. During 2015, the Helpline received more than 3,400 calls.

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Mental Health Centre:

A professional team of clinical psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists offers confidential support and professional services. In addition to English, individual members of the Clinical Team work in Catalan, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Romanian and Spanish. The team deals with a wide range of problems, such as:

– Children’s learning and behavioural difficulties
– Parenting issues
– Drug and alcohol addiction
– Depression and anxiety
– Acute distress and behavioural change
– Couple and family difficulties
– Bereavement
– Sexual problems
– Burnout

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The team also offers psycho-educational evaluations for children, highly valued by the international schools in Brussels and Luxembourg. Starting in 2016, these evaluations are available in French and German as well as in English.

Different parameters may be considered in determining the cost of counselling. No-one is turned away for lack of funds.

More than 700 new clients contacted the Mental Health Centre in 2015, representing almost 40 nationalities.

Since 2013, CHS has been working with Castle Craig Hospital, a Scotland-based addiction treatment centre.

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The CHS office, operated by volunteers, is open from 10.00 to 16.00 on Monday to Friday (10.00 to 13.00 during July and August). Therapists work outside these hours, offering appointments during evenings and on Saturdays.

Unlike the 3 Belgian national language helplines which are subsidised by their respective regional authorities, CHS receives no subsidy for its services to the English speaking community. While contributions from the Clinical Team significantly finance the Mental Health Centre running costs, CHS therefore relies on income from community associations, sponsorship and donations, the annual calendar and fund-raising events to finance its Helpline and to break even.

If you would like further information e.g. with regard to becoming a volunteer or providing financial or other support, please contact CHS at the address, e-mail or telephone number mentioned below. Alternatively, the upcoming 2016 Great Brussels Charity Bake-off on 22 February and 21 March will be raising money for CHS.

CHS Mental Health Centre                                                            CHS Helpline
Avenue des Phalènes 26                                                               Telephone: 02.648.40.14
1000 Brussels
Telephone: 02.647.67.80
E-mail: chs@chsbelgium.org
Website: www.chs-belgium.org

If you want to compete in this year’s bake-off, there’s still time! Click here to register

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