The Belgian federal authorities launched a first series of measures to address the COVID-19 outbreak on 6 March 2020. Several other administrative and legislative measures followed.
Information on social security is available on the website of the Belgian social security authorities in Dutch and French.
The regional authorities have also announced certain measures. Hereafter we provide you with a summary of the relevant measures.
Businesses are (automatically) granted the following temporary extensions of the deadline to file tax returns and pay taxes:
Support for tax debts
Businesses can ask for support from the tax authorities regarding their tax debts. This support covers:
Specifically, this support can be requested for the following tax debts.
When are businesses eligible for support?
Businesses are only eligible for support if they are adversely affected by the Coronavirus crisis and if they are able to substantiate that (e.g. a drop in turnover, a serious drop in orders and/or reservations, a result of a domino-effect within a group, etc.). Businesses are not eligible for support if they are already facing structural payment difficulties.
Support is also conditional upon compliance with the timely filing of tax returns (with the given extensions). Support will be withdrawn if a collective insolvency procedure (e.g. bankruptcy) arises.
How to obtain support from the tax authorities
An application must be filed for each tax debt separately through the following form.
This application must be filed at the moment of receipt of the tax assessment or payment notice. The competent regional collection office (“regionaal invorderingscentrum/centre regional de recouvrement”) serves as the single point of contact. The support measures have been extended until 31 March 2021.
On 29 March 2020, a general quick VAT refund mechanism was set up for all VAT taxpayers filing monthly VAT returns (incl. VAT taxpayers who do not have a monthly refund license), but this mechanism is no longer available to ‘common’ VAT taxpayers. Only starters and VAT taxpayers with a monthly refund license may benefit from a quick refund mechanism on the condition that they file the VAT return on time (exceptionally in May, this filing deadline was 24 May 2020, instead of 20 May 2020).
Under the general quick VAT refund mechanism, the VAT credit was refunded under the following conditions:
The other basic conditions to obtain a VAT refund remained applicable: (i) minimum amount of 245 Euro; (ii) all returns of the current year were filed; (iii) the VAT authorities know the VAT taxpayer’s bank account number; and (iv) no legal constrains apply with respect to the repayment (e.g. seizure).
A repayment based on the quick refund mechanism should have been made at the latest on 30 April 2020 (instead of a repayment on 29 May 2020 for starters and VAT taxpayers with a monthly refund license, or on 30 June 2020 for all other VAT taxpayers filing monthly VAT returns). The VAT credit remains, however, available for compensation with other outstanding debts (if any) and the actual refund can be subject to a VAT refund audit.
The quick VAT refund mechanism did not impact the possibility to submit the other monthly VAT returns of February 2020 (i.e. those without a VAT credit or those for which no refund is requested) on time by 6 April 2020.
Other tax measures
The amount is limited by a double ceiling - the accounting loss of income year 2020 and an absolute maximum of 20 Mio EUR.
However, equity and employment must be maintained:
- The reconstruction reserve is taxable when there is a capital reduction, dividend distribution or liquidation;
- An employment condition also applies: the personnel cost for income year 2020 and the 3 following years should equal at least 85 % of the personnel cost paid in 2019. If not, (a part of) the reconstruction reserve will become taxable.
Companies that have a direct participation in companies located in tax havens or that make payments to tax havens that cannot be economically or financially justified, will be excluded from the regime.
*Companies with a closing date between 1 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 can opt to apply this measure for the financial year closing in 2021 instead of 2020.
The percentage of the increase and the due dates do not change.
Temporary tax reliefs are provided with respect to qualifying donations. Qualifying donations include (i) medical aid devices and their auxiliary parts as defined in the Royal Decree of 18 March 1999; as well as (ii) protective gear and clothing for care providers and patients.
Medicines are excluded from the scope of the tax reliefs.
Qualifying beneficiaries include:
(i) governmental institutions and other public bodies that have a role in the redistribution of the goods;
(ii) hospitals and care institutions providing VAT-exempt health care services, institutions providing VAT exempt care services to elderly, children or disabled, as well as institutions providing school and university education;
(iii) humanitarian charitable institutions; and
(iv) institutions approved by the Customs and Excise Authorities to import certain goods into Belgium with exemption from VAT and customs duty based on the decision of the European Commission (2020/491) of 3 April 2020. These institutions may only use the goods for the purposes of making them available free of charge to persons affected by the COVID-19 disease or to persons involved in the fight against the COVID-19 disease.
The tax reliefs apply to donations made in the period between 1 March 2020 and 31 December 2020. Accordingly, businesses are not required to pay VAT on the qualifying donations. At the same time, the costs incurred in relation to the donated products are tax deductible for corporate (business) income tax purposes. Additionally, for personal income tax purposes, a temporary tax credit is available for the in-kind donation of medical products to hospitals with a value of at least Euro 40. The tax credit amounts to 60% of the actual value of the donation in-kind, with a maximum of 20% of net income, applicable to donations in 2020.
Similar tax relief is provided for donations of desktop computers, laptops and tablets to schools and universities in Belgium. The relief applies to both new and used computers. Mobile phones (smartphones) and other tools of communication are excluded.
By Circular 2020/C/54 of 17 April 2020, a temporary VAT exemption is provided for the importation of goods that: (i) are declared for consumption in Belgium by governmental institutions or other charitable institutions as admitted by the Minister of Finance; and (ii) are intended for consumption in Belgium in the fight against the COVID-19 disease.
This VAT measure is based on the decisions of the European Commission (2020/491) of 3 April 2020 and (2020/1573) of 28 October 2020 and applies until 30 April 2021.. A similar measure applies also for customs duties. The conditions for the application of the customs duty exemption apply mutatis mutandis for the application of the above VAT exemption. For more background information, see:
An extension is granted for the deadline to pay social security contributions for the first and second quarter of 2020 until 15 December 2020. The extension is automatically granted to businesses which have been forced to close.
Companies in affected sectors will receive a compensation for the social security contributions due for the third quarter of 2020.
Businesses can also request a payment plan for their social contributions which are due for 2020. This plan allows for payment to be spread over a maximum of 24 months.
Businesses must file a specific application form wherein they must provide evidence of the financial impact of the crisis on their business. The form can be found here.
Businesses can also invoke temporary unemployment as a result of “overmacht/force majeure”. This possibility can be widely applied as from 13 March 2020. Employees will benefit from a temporary increase of their allowance in the event of temporary unemployment. The “RVA/ONEM” will bear an amount of 5,63 EUR/day of unemployment. All allowances would be paid out in April. If not, an advance of 1.450 EUR will be paid.
On 20 March 2020, the Belgian social security authorities published an update of their quarterly instructions, specifically with respect to the COVID-19 measures.
Particularly interesting is the confirmation that a possible supplementary pay of the employer, in addition to the temporary unemployment allowance foreseen by the Federal authorities and the RVA/ONEM, can be allocated to the employee with exemption from Belgian social security provided that the eventual total net pay (allowance + supplement) will not be higher than the regular net salary should the employee have worked.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact your social law team.
Measures for the self-employed
The self-employed can also benefit from support regarding their social security contributions in the form of a reduction, delay or exemption of payment. If you are obliged to interrupt or stop your activity because of the crisis you can apply for a replacement income.
Self-employed should contact their social security fund:
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact your social law team.
For information on the EU aspects of social security, please consult our overview page on social, people and immigration aspects or contact us.
The European Commission offered guidance to economic operators on practical solutions given by the legal framework, in order to ensure a uniform application of the Union Customs Code (UCC) and provided for an overview (excel file) of specific measures which have been implemented by Member States, including Belgium. However, we advise you to consult the national websites for the latest updates. Please check the EU's guidance on customs issues related to the COVID-19 emergency.
The practical solutions concern the following topics:
Measures taken by the Belgian customs and excise authorities
As a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Belgian customs and excise authorities are no longer able to receive visitors at their information centers. To ensure the continuity of administration and to support businesses in these turbulent times, the following actions and measures have been taken:
For general information, a dedicated website on ‘Corona – Information and measures’ is launched in Dutch, French and German. The website contains a section with frequently asked questions on customs and excise duties (FAQ-COVID 19) as well as information on temporary measures taken with regard to customs and excise duties. The links are available below.
For tailored information, a single point of contact, firstname.lastname@example.org, is launched where businesses can raise concrete questions on the implications of the COVID-19 outbreak for customs and excise duties.
Measures related to customs duties
Measures related to excise duties
The following exceptional and temporary measures have been taken with regard to disinfectants: