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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

It’s obvious that young people are the one’s with the highest stake in the debate over the future of Europe. BNG Chair Amelie Coulet argues that to engage the younger generation in the UK, referendum campaigns need to be more positive.

Last week, I spoke to an event organized by the Young Professionals Network of the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe (COBCOE) in London about “Brexit: what would it mean for young professionals?”. It was a great opportunity to show the multinational perspective of the BNG group (Brussels New Generation) on this important issue: what would Brexit actually mean for all the young working Europeans, many of whom have studied, lived and worked in more than one EU member state or may be currently working in a country that is not their own.

Since the start of the campaign, we have heard the views of many politicians and business leaders both in the UK and outside. However, it is the younger generation who will be living with the consequences of the Referendum, no matter the outcome. Yet, current polls show that young people below 35 years old do not share the same views than the older demographic. A recent poll found that 25% of 18- to 34-year-olds would vote to leave the EU compared to 46% of those aged 55 or older, with the age group in between remaining relatively neutral. But more importantly, the younger generations are also much less likely to vote: this British Election Study poll shows that more than 22-23% of 18- to 34-year-olds would not vote while they are less than 8% among the 56 to 65 age group.

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There are many interpretations as to why a generation who would rather keep things the way they currently are, would take the risk of letting other voters with opposite views take control of the debate? Bad timing of the Referendum has been pointed out as one of them (end of year exams, summer holidays, etc.). From our perspective as young professionals, we believe that our generation does not share the same view of the EU than those who remember the UK before it joined in 1973. Young professionals are more mobile and ‘pan-European’: they have long taken advantage of Erasmus programmes, the rise of low-cost airlines in a free movement area, or the growing cross-border job opportunities offered by international corporations. They do not see the EU in terms of costs vs. benefits but more as something they have always lived with, whether they agree with all its policies or not, or whether they found it to be a successful or a dysfunctional project. This ‘sense of normality’ may be one of the reasons why they feel less strongly about the issue than those aged 55 or older.

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Negative campaigning is also the dominant trend at the moment: from being overtaken by migrants if the UK stays, to the collapse of the entire British economy if they leave, it is difficult to find positive arguments coming out of the ‘IN’ or ‘OUT’ campaigns. Yet ‘Project Fear’ will not work with young people on the long-term. As the Scotland experience has taught us, if it may work to keep the status quo on the short-term, it won’t convince voters that they have made a conscious choice nor will it close the debate: following the Referendum on Scotland’s independence, SNP recorded a historic landslide general election victory and the idea of Scotland leaving the UK has resurfaced facing the possibility of a ‘Brexit’.

Both sides of the campaign need to better inform and involve younger people in the debate, not scare them off. The younger generation, and particularly the young professionals, also need to make their voice heard. For that, it is everyone’s role and responsibility to encourage young people to take part in a campaign that will strongly impact their future.

The Referendum will be held during the 2016 Glastonbury music festival: its organisers have quickly reacted to inform their audience about how they can vote while still enjoying the festival. We should all do the same with all our young British friends and colleagues.

 

Last week’s European Council Summit sparked a lot of media attention for the chamber. We’ve put the pick together here so you can catch any of the TV, radio and newspaper interviews from the week.

On Thursday, on the bill with former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, CEO Glenn Vaughan was interviewed live on euronews

 

Vice-President Tom Parker also spoke to RTBF on Sunday morning, you can listen here:

 

 

Tom also appeared on Sunday night’s televised news, you can watch that here (from 23 mins)

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President Thomas Spiller was also quoted in The Bulletin, warning of the negative impact drawn out negotiations can have on business

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Tom Parker speaks to Share Radio on the EU reforms and June’s Referendum from the Brussels perspective!

Glenn Vaughan was also interviewed on Estonian National Television, EER.

EU Committee chair James Stevens was also quoted in a recent article in Politico

 

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

Britcham_Financial_Event_2014 (347 of 382)Our latest EFA Expert to speak to Radio X this week was Dirk Buyens from our hosts Vlerick Business School. Dirk will be presenting a session on career planning for expats and emphasising the importance of maintaining and developing your network.

EFA takes place at Vlerick business school this Saturday from 10:30 until 16:30 it’s a 1 day free event where you can get useful information on all things finance whether that’s pensions, inheritance investment or tax. There’s also a session on how to further your career! So Dirk, what will you be talking about during your session at Expat Financial Affairs?

I will be talking about career management for sure but largely on the self-management side of careers. I realise that many of the people coming will be expats; people living abroad, not living in their home country and I’ll be talking a little bit about the dynamics of a career. That’s what I’ll be talking about.

What’s the careers market like in Brussels? Is it quite buoyant and mobile?

I think you have to distinguish between the internal and external job market. What I mean by the internal job market is that within a company, you might see people moving and you see a lot of opportunities within an organisation; unless of course you’re talking about companies that are being restructured or need to squeeze on their numbers, in which case it is a bit different.

Next to that, we have the external market, where we see that since the 2008 crisis that there is a tendency towards not moving so early as people want to stay on the safe side. That is the difference on the labour market, especially when you’re talking about the higher profile organisations.

And does the same go for expats? Are there any difficulties that are maybe unique for expats?

Being an expat living in Brussels means you get to know more people on the one hand, yet depending on where you’re next move may be, it might be difficult to get into the right network. What I will talk about will be the career triangle or self-management triangle. It’s about what can I do, what are my strengths? What do I want to do, what are my values? But the third thing is what is my network, what sort of network do I have? Making people realise that if you want to go somewhere, you need to develop your network in that direction. It could be for some people in Brussels, national/international depending where you want to go. For others, they may want to go somewhere else and work out a network in that place which could be more complex. Because what you quite often see is that expats aren’t so strong on maintaining and developing their network in their home country, simply because they just aren’t there.

The idea of Vlerick is that all of our post graduate degrees including all our Masters and MBA degrees are all in English, most of what we organise in Brussels is also done in English but of course you also have to serve your local community and we do that on our campuses in Leuven and Ghent. Most of the programmes we have, and this also true for the shorter programmes, we have programmes like people-manager and our masterclasses, these are all organised in English.

If you would like to receive personalised expert advice on a variety of areas relevant to your big life decisions as an expat in Belgium, please visit our Expat Financial Affairs website and register to join us on the 3rd of October at Vlerick Business School, Brussels. Sign up now, and we will keep you updated on the event programme as it gets published and help you prepare for your visit in the best way possible.

Richard Corliss (high res)Banner1This week, our guest blogger is Richard Corliss who is currently working in European Government Relations and Public Policy at Shire Belgium. Richard is a member of the Council of the British Chamber, former head of the Brussels New Generation Network and an EFA veteran! He’s written to tell you exactly why you should head down to Vlerick Business School on October 3rd for Expat Financial Affairs 2015 and how it has benefited him during his time in Brussels.

“Why prepare at all?” you say. You’re only in Belgium for six months, after all. Or maybe a year. Two at the most… Like many young professionals, I came to Brussels for a six-month internship, and more than ten years later I am still living, working and enjoying life in Belgium.

Having attended and having benefited from the first two editions of Expat Financial Affairs, I’m glad to share why I think you should attend the third edition on Saturday 3 October 2015. While the event will benefit expats of all ages, I think it’s particularly important for younger professionals to participate.

Firstly, you’re probably going to stay in Belgium longer than you expect and it’s tempting to tell yourself that you’ll sort out your financial affairs when you move back home; a potential risk for your financial health. Secondly, when you do need financial advice and services, for many of us there are language and cultural barriers, and trusted advisors such as family and friends upon whom we’ve relied upon in the past can be far away and may not understand the system in Belgium.

I’ve learned that to prepare your financial future, you have to make a little effort. It sounds obvious doesn’t it? But it’s easy to postpone important decisions around your pension, house buying and your mortgage, investing and saving. And you don’t know what you don’t know. As an employee, you’re likely to be taxed heavily in Belgium (unless you’re an EU official of course), so it’s especially important that you look after your hard-earned once the state has taken its considerable bite. There are advantages, benefits and incentives in Belgium, but only if you know how they work.

Getting in touch with, and building relationships with trusted advisors can alleviate these barriers to financial health and the stress that surrounds important decisions around your finances. Networking with fellow expats who have similar or related financial questions can be both reassuring and informative. This is why the British Chamber set up Expat Financial Affairs.

It’s an informal, relaxed forum in which to meet leading Belgium providers who are willing to share their time and expertise with you. You can also choose from a number of simultaneous sessions to learn about the issues that matter to you.

I hear you. Terms like ‘financial preparedness’ would have struggled to get me to invest a Saturday afternoon in my 20s. But invest you should. And to help you make the right decision, Expat Financial Affairs welcomes registrants to a fun networking drink after the sessions.

Come and take a mindful moment with us to think about your future and your finances and get up to speed with the latest developments in the company of like-minded expats. You owe it to your future self. I look forward to seeing you there.

If you would like to receive personalised expert advice on a variety of areas relevant to your big life decisions as an expat in Belgium, please visit our Expat Financial Affairs website and register to join us on the 3rd of October at Vlerick Business School, Brussels. Sign up now, and we will keep you updated on the event programme as it gets published and help you prepare for your visit in the best way possible.

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ERYV is a family business working in accountancy and tax and have been operating in the Belgian market for over 30 years! Eric Laurent is a Partner at ERYV, specialising in international income. He took time out of his schedule recently to talk to Radio X about why expats living and working Brussels need to hear what he has to say at Expat Financial Affairs 2015!

Why should someone come to EFA and why should they attend your session?

When you are working, or residing, in Belgium you have to file a Belgian tax return. The principal in international taxation is that you have to declare you’re worldwide income in the country you are residing in. So if you are an expat, it is likely that you have some kind of foreign income; perhaps from interest earned from a savings account or rental income.

You have to report this information in your tax return, but don’t worry you won’t be charged twice! There are certain taxation treaties in place that prevent you from being charged twice but this depends on the type of income for example, or the bilateral tax treaty between Belgium and another country and these can perhaps influence the tax process.

It is interesting that you raise the issue of residence as there are different statuses: for example one can work in Belgium but not be a resident or one can be an official resident. What are the differences in terms of taxation?

In Belgium, for individuals, you can file a resident tax return or a non-resident tax return. Regarding the resident tax return: as you are residing in Belgium you must declare your worldwide income. This applies even if you are working outside of Belgium, maybe you have had your contract terminated, maybe you have changed jobs or maybe you have retired, you are still a Belgian resident and have to go through the same process.

Then we come to the non-resident. There are several sub-categories; there are those who are in Belgium under the special taxation laws for foreign executives, a very special category, there are also those who don’t live in Belgium but do source there main income there. In addition there is a third category for those that fall neither into the resident or non-resident category. These are the people that either work for the commission or another EU institution or someone working for an IGO like NATO or for a foreign embassy for example.

I suppose what could potentially complicate things even more is if you are in a couple and one of you works for an EU institution and the other doesn‘t. I believe the Belgian law will not then recognise you as a couple!

Let’s say in most cases, yes!

Obviously things do depend a lot on individual circumstances and this is why it is so important to get tailored advice.

Absolutely, yes.

Are there any things that have changed since last year’s event in terms of international taxation?

You know, tax is an ever changing subject. If you are a Belgian resident; you have to declare your worldwide income, it is interesting that there is a trend with Belgian tax administration to try and catch all kinds of income and so people try to hide it. This makes it difficult for the tax authorities to track. So basically they are trying to make an inventory, unofficially of course, of all your assets. They want to know if you have a bank account abroad, life insurance or abroad or are you a beneficiary of an overseas trust.

On that last item: since 2015, under the name of legal constructions including trust foundations and all kinds of things like that, there will be what’s called the Cayman Tax. This means that these legal constructions will be transparent from a tax point of view, despite the purpose of the construction. That means that any income that is received from this construction should be received directly by the founder or the beneficiary. So for example, if a trust is receiving dividends from an investment the trust has made and if you are the Belgian beneficiary of that trust then you will have to declare these dividends in your individual tax return. Not all trusts will be considered but I will speak in more detail about this during the event.

And even if you don’t own a trust in the Cayman Islands, even an ordinary individual with an overseas bank accounts needs to provide details. So if you have a current account or a savings account in the UK for example, the Belgian authorities need to know about that.

Yes, for sure. Especially if the account owner is earning interest. With the EU saving directive, there is an exchange of information between the source country and any other EU country from which the account owner is receiving interest for assessment purposes.

It’s a complicated subject and one which we will be hearing more about from Eric at Expat Financial Affairs on 3rd October!

If you would like to receive personalised expert advice on a variety of areas relevant to your big life decisions as an expat in Belgium, please visit our Expat Financial Affairs website and register to join us on the 3rd of October at Vlerick Business School, Brussels. Sign up now, and we will keep you updated on the event programme as it gets published and help you prepare for your visit in the best way possible.

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