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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

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.

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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By Glenn Vaughan, CEO of the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium

When finding your way in a new country, it is not always easy to get access to the right financial information. In Belgium, that is especially noticeable. It may be the language barrier- while most of us speak one of the official languages we might not feel confident that we will grasp the little important details that enable us to make a major financial decision. Belgium also has its own administrative system which can make things more difficult to understand. Our members face the same problems as other expats so we have good reason to want to help.

So, for a third successive year, we have invited a number of experts to come and share their knowledge and experience on all sorts of financial issues for expatriates living in Belgium. In a recent radio interview with Radio X, I was discussing our Expat Financial Affairs event which will take place on 3 October. The goal is to cover all the major financial decisions which people need to deal with on a day-to-day basis. We know that these are not always simple topics to navigate through for an expat, and expert advice is essential. From pensions, investments and planning for retirement, to information on schools and education, buying a house or a car; Expat Financial Affairs helps you bridge that gap in a way that it is simple and easy.

Luckily, we have a lot of the member companies that can provide expert advice and are used to dealing with people from many different countries. Naturally, they know what information will be useful and what you need to focus on, but they also understand the issues you might not think to ask about.

We want to make sure that the event helps you start thinking about things that you might not have done before. You can expect practical answers to what is relevant to you from people who understand your needs and can answer your questions. In October, Expat Financial Affairs will give you an opportunity to raise all those questions.

If you would like to hear more about why we’re organising Expat Financial Affairs and how the event can be useful to you, tune into this recording of my recent interview with Radio X, where in the coming weeks you’ll also be able to hear from some of the expert advisers who will be with us at the event.

If you would like to get 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 already 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.

Eric Laurent

By Eric Laurent, Tax adviser at ERYV. 

It’s that time of the year again, where you have to collect your paperwork and start filling in THAT form, which will probably come with some apprehension as you have heard that this year 70 new codes have been added to the form while about 30 have been taken out.

Do not worry about the new items!

New code format: among the first four digits of a code, the first digit indicates to which partner the code applies: “1xxx-…” for the first partner and “2xxx-…” for the second partner. Since the 6th State reform transferring some tax competencies from the Federal to the Regional level, codes starting with 1 and 2 are reserved for the two partners for Federal tax matters and codes starting with 3 and 4 are reserved for the two partners for Regional tax matters

Happily, you don’t need to worry about calculations or the processing of the tax assessment, these are still managed by the Federal tax administration, no changes from that point of view.

One main new item is in relation to the tax reduction for own dwelling  (see tax reduction linked to mortgage interest payment  and capital redemption). This tax reduction now depends on the regional level and is done within a specific framework. In this context, «own dwelling» means the home you are living in personally and which you are the owner of. Filling information correctly either under the section related to your own dwelling (cadre / vak IX B.) and the one related to other dwellings (cadre / vak IX C.) could be complex and may require some reading (or the help of a tax professional). In the event of having made a mortgage loan after 01/01/2005 for the purchase of a flat or a house in which you are now living, there is no change compared with last year(but in cadre / vak IX B.) .

Foreign income and foreign bank accounts:

As a Belgian tax resident, you have to declare in Belgium your worldwide income (whatever the category of income: remuneration or pension, real estate, financial or other). The use of tax treaties will avoid double taxation in a lot of cases.

We are in a time where tax transparency and exchange of information between tax administrations is becoming the norm. The Belgian tax administration probably already asked you in previous years if you had a bank account abroad, if you had taken a foreign life insurance or if you are the founder of a “legal construction” or the effective beneficiary of income from this legal construction.  A rough definition of an eligible legal construction is a structure where you have transferred assets without any value in return or that is located in a low or no tax country (a list has been drafted by the Belgian tax administration). It can include, amongst others, foreign trusts or fiduciary structures. From 2015, it should be subject to the transparency tax (also called the “Cayman tax”).

The tax administration now requests the confirmation in your tax return that you have reported your foreign bank accounts to the Central Contact Point with the National Bank of Belgium. This can be done by downloading, signing, and sending a form back to the CCP, or by using the online tool of the Central Contact Point. It can also be done by a tax professional if he has got the mandate to do it. The definition of foreign bank accounts is quite large: it includes normal banks and saving accounts, but also investments accounts (e.g. in bonds or shares).

What’s your deadline for filing in the form?

If you file the paper return, the deadline is Tuesday, June 30th, 2015.

If you are using the electronic filing the deadline is Wednesday, July 15th, 2015. Remember to prepare your Belgian ID card and to have your pin code ready.

If you’re late, you can have it done through an accountant or a tax adviser, in which case the deadline is Thursday October 29th, 2015.

Good luck!

Are you an expatriate in Belgium? When finding your way in a new country, it is not always easy to get access to the right information about personal finance, tax and estate planning. The British Chamber’s Expat Financial Affairs exhibition offers plenty of short and informative presentations providing practical information about living in Belgium and how to handle your money. 

Claire Trotel from Snow Hill Legal, Christopher Thubron and Steve Wheeler from Moore Stephens and Marc Quaghebeur from De Broeck Van Laere & Partners, joined us for a seminar to demystify the necessity of a will. Not because they want part of your money, but because dying in Belgium could be a very costly experience for your heirs.

The intro of the seminar already indicated that the speakers would be demonstrating that Belgium is a good country to live in (a thing you probably all know), but due to inheritance tax could be a very expensive country to die in if you have a domicile in Belgium and in the U.K.

I learned that in the UK domicile and residence is not the same if you talk about inheritance. Contrary to residence, the place where you live most of the time, domicile of origin in the U.K. is a concept that stays with you even if you have lived in Belgium for a long time. If you plan on retiring outside the UK, you have to give up your domicile in the U.K. to avoid massive double inheritance taxation. Although I try to explain it in a very simplified way, this is actually specialist material and you should consult a specialist if you’re an expat in Belgium and you plan on staying here for ever.

If you are from the UK (or from anywhere elsewhere in the world), it seems very wise to me not only to consult a specialist who understands your “origin” situation, but also to consult a Belgian specialist as you will find out that inheritance law can be very different from country to country and this might actually result in having to draft not one will that covers all your assets but a will in each country where you have assets may be helpful.

Nobody plans on dying tomorrow, but if you are well prepared the exercise will not be as painful for those you leave behind and they will have something to take with them and not having to pay it all back to various governments…

As usual on this sort of subject, during the networking cocktail a lot of questions popped-up and were answered by our speakers and I am sure all present realised that being informed about these matters is key.

I would like to thank Claire, Steve, Christopher and Marc for clarifying the matters to us as brief and concisely as possible.

Furthermore I like to thank Moore Stephens FS (Brussels) for sponsoring this seminar.

Looking forward to meeting you all again at a future seminar

Best,

Petra

Topic of the discussion: Something you have to do before you die

Speakers: Christopher Thubron, Partner – Moore Stephens

                   – Marc Quaghebeur, Partner – De Broeck Van Laere & Partners

                   – Claire Trotel, Solicitor – Snow Hill Legal

                   – Steve Wheeler, Associate – Moore Stephens

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