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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.

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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.

Britcham_Financial_Event_2014 (286 of 382)Banner 5As one of our presenters at this year’s Expat Financial Affairs, Tim Carnewal of Berquin Notaries took the time to take part in a radio interview to tell us about what a notary does and how they can help you as an expat living in Brussels. He also tells us about the insights he’ll be offering during his session at the event on October 3rd. Listen to the full interview at Radio X

Some people might not be as familiar with what you do because it is not a role that is as common in every country. So specifically in Belgium, when might you need to see or want to see a notary?

You’re absolutely right, our profession was not invented but institutionalised by Napoleon, and the Belgian legislature gives us quite an important role. We assist our clients in civil law matters, real estate transactions, for example, when somebody moves into Belgium and wants to purchase a house in Brussels, Flanders or the Walloon region, he will mandatorily have to pass before a notary who will then pass the transfer deed.

We also intervene in donations, wills and marriage contracts; all contracts which are mandatorily passed before a notary. Aside from that, we also intervene in company law and the constitution of company law, modification of articles of association, restructuring of companies, mergers and demergers. These all must be overseen by a notary. We are there to see that the agreements are in perfect equilibrium and when they are not, we have to inform and advise are clients saying that clause X or Y is not in equilibrium that they should be careful signing that agreement or that contract for instance.

And this must be especially important if you don’t necessarily speak the national languages of Belgium. If you’re an English speaker moving here and buying a house there must be a potential for a lot of misunderstanding and that is where you come in?

Absolutely! Another thing is that the Belgian fiscal authorities are not very flexible from a languages perspective because deeds have to be registered at a register office who can only accept deeds that have been drawn up in Dutch, German or French; our official languages. This of course means that a lot of expat clients who don’t understand those languages, sign contracts in a language that they don’t really understand. Our role is to intervene and explain to our clients exactly what they are signing and hopefully they can trust that what we tell them is correct and that we direct them on the right course

In the example of buying a house, when should you seek advice from a notary? At the very beginning of a process? How long does it take for you guys to sort everything out?

When buying a house, in most cases, 2 steps are taken: we have the signing of the Compromis de Vente which is a private sales agreement and must occur within a maximum period of 4 months, the deal has to be signed in front of a notary. What we like to do is advise our clients from the beginning onwards. This being from when our clients sign the Compromis de Vente. In most cases the notary prepares the Compromis, sometimes a Realtor does it but in most cases a notary does it to ensure that everything is legally correct. Why do we feel that it is important that we intervene from the beginning? Of course, both parties are bound from the day that they sign the Compromis de Vente so if we do not intervene when this is signed and for instance clients contact us just to sign the deal, it may be too late because legislation has not been respected and our client may get in trouble, which is why we like to be by the side of our client from the start of the purchasing process.

Another important element of a notary’s work is on the issue of inheritance:

The European Commission and European Parliament adopted an inheritance regulation in 2012 and the regulation came into force on August 17th 2015. This is a very important regulation as it harmonises everything to do with inheritance law. For example, before the inheritance regulations we had our international private law code in Belgium. Part of this, for example, said that all immovable property was to be controlled by the state in which it was situated. This meant that if an Englishman dies in Belgium, has a bank account in Belgium and a house in Bristol. The bank account would in that case be ruled under Belgian law and the real estate would be ruled by UK law. This can turn out to be quite a complicated situation.

The EU wanted unity on inheritance. As another example, if a Dutchman dies in Belgium and has real estate in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, because of the lack of unity in this case, everything will fall under the hat of Belgian law. Why? Because the inheritance legislation says that the state in which the deceased will decide which law is applicable to his situation.

One small remark: the inheritance laws were adopted by every EU member state with the exception of Denmark, Ireland and the UK. That means that for a Brit dying in Belgium, all rules will be applicable, which is a pity but that’s the way it is.

What will you be discussing during your session at Expat Financial Affairs?

I’ll try to explain further about the EU regulations as there a lot of aspects I have not discussed, I will also point out some fiscal aspects which are important as in Belgium there are certain gift taxes and inheritance taxes, which can be quite a sensitive issue. I will also explain how making some civil choices, or bad civil choices, can sometimes give a nasty fiscal downside so I will be trying to offer some tips and tricks about that!

If people would like to get in touch with you for help with buying house or help with writing there will, how do they get in contact with you to talk about that?

The federation of Belgian notaries has a website you can access: http://www.notaris.be/ or https://www.notaire.be/ (In Dutch and French respectively). On that website you can search for your local commune and the website will show the names of the notaries in your commune.

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.

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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. 

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