Measures taken at federal level
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:
- The payment of income taxes related to AY 2019 and established as from 12 March 2020 is automatically extended by 2 months.
- The due date for filing corporate tax returns related to assessment year 2020 (for companies ending their financial year on 31 December 2019 or later) is 7 months as from the end of their financial year.
- VAT-taxable persons that file quarterly or monthly VAT returns were not required to pay the “December advance deposit” (decembervoorschot / acompte en décembre ) in 2020. The December advance deposit would normally be payable by 24 December 2020 and would amount to the VAT due for the fourth quarter of 2020 for filers of quarterly VAT returns, or to the VAT due for December 2020 for filers of monthly VAT returns. The requirement normally also applies to VAT taxable persons that apply the presumptive lump sum regime.
- For July 2020, the following deadlines applied:
- the deadlines for filing VAT returns and intra-Community statements were extended to 10 September 2020 (initial deadline: 20 August 2020). The extension did not apply to VAT taxpayers with a monthly refund license and to starters benefitting from the quick refund mechanism;
- in case the VAT return contained a refundable VAT credit, the deadline for filing the VAT return was 24 Augustus 2020;
- the payment deadline for July was not extended and remained 20 August 2020. Late payment interest is not chargeable if the amount of VAT payable (i.e. box 71 of VAT return) does not exceed EUR 125.000, subject to further conditions;
- the deadline extensions did not apply to filings and payments under the ‘Mini One Stop Shop’ (MOSS).
- For June/Q2 2020, the following deadlines applied:
- the deadlines for filing VAT returns and intra-Community statements were extended to 10 August 2020 (initial deadline: 20 July 2020). The extension did not apply to VAT taxpayers with a monthly refund license and to starters benefitting from the quick refund mechanism;
- in case the VAT return contained a refundable VAT credit, the deadline for filing the VAT return was 24 July 2020;
- the payment deadline for June/Q2 2020 was not extended and remained 20 July 2020. Late payment interest is not chargeable if the amount of VAT payable (i.e. box 71 of VAT return) does not exceed EUR 125.000, subject to further conditions;
- the deadline extensions do not apply to filings and payments under the ‘Mini One Stop Shop’ (MOSS).
- For May 2020, the deadlines for filing VAT returns and intra-Community statements were not extended and the normal filing and payment deadlines appled. This meant that:
- The VAT return and intra-Community statement for May had to be filed by 20 June 2020; and
- The VAT due for May had to be paid by 20 June 2020. Consequently, the payment deadline for May was before the payment deadline for April.
- The above deadlines applied also to VAT taxpayers with a monthly refund license as well as to starters benefitting from the quick refund mechanism.
- In case VAT taxable activities have been terminated after 30 April 2020, the sales listing must be submitted within three months after the termination of these activities.
- For April, the deadlines for filing VAT returns and intra-Community statements were extended to 5 June 2020. The payment deadline for April was extended to 20 July 2020.
- For February and March/Q1 2020, the deadlines for filing VAT returns and intra-Community statements were extended to 6 April and 7 May 2020, respectively. Notwithstanding the extension for March, the tax authorities clarified that the VAT return had to be filed by 3 May 2020 in case the VAT return contained a refundable VAT credit for which a refund was requested.
- The deadline for paying VAT with regard to the special VAT return nr. 629 of Q1 2020 was extended to 20 June 2020 (initial deadline was 20 April 2020). This extension did not affect the filing deadline of 20 April 2020.
- The deadline for filing the annual sales listing was extended to 30 April 2020.
Support for tax debts
Businesses can ask for support from the tax authorities regarding their tax debts. This support covers:
- a payment plan,
- an exemption from late payment interest,
- a waiver of fines for non-payment.
Specifically, this support can be requested for the following tax debts.
- Corporate Income Tax and Income Tax on Legal Entities;
- Value Added Tax;
- Wage Withholding Tax;
- Personal Income Tax.
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:
- For all monthly filers who want to benefit from the quick refund mechanism (i.e. starters, filers with a monthly refund license and all other filers) the deadline for filing the VAT return for the month of February was extended to 3 April 2020;
- This VAT return is submitted via Intervat;
- The refund is only granted if the box “Request refund” (i.e. ‘Aanvraag terugbetaling / Demande de restitution’) is ticked. The VAT taxpayer could file a corrective VAT return via Intervat to modify their option for VAT refund by 3 April 2020.
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
- Loss carry-back: businesses, subject to limitations and conditions, have the possibility to carry-back the estimated loss of financial year 2020 and impute it on the taxable profit of the previous financial year 2019 (closing between 13 March 2019 and 31 July 2020). The carry-back, which technically works through a temporary exempt reserve, can be applied for income year 2019 and will be added back to the taxable income of the following income year, 2020. Some anti-abuse measures have also been included.
- Equity reconstruction reserve: companies will be able to exempt part of their profit for the taxable periods 2021, 2022 and 2023 (linked to assessment years 2022, 2023 and 2024) by recording that profit on an exempt ‘reconstruction reserve’.
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.
- Companies will benefit from an increased bonification for prepayments made during Q3 (6,75% instead of 6%) and Q4 (5,25% instead of 4,50%) for financial years closing between 30 September 2020 and 31 January 2021 provided:
- there is no dividend distribution, capital reduction or repurchase of shares between 12 March 2020 and the end of the financial year;
- no variable remuneration has been paid between 12 March and the end of the taxable period; and
- the taxpayer, between 12 March 2020 and the end of the taxable period, holds no direct participation in or makes no payments exceeding 100.000 EUR to a company located in a tax haven (unless the payments were made in the context of real and genuine transactions resulting from legitimate financial or economic needs).
The percentage of the increase and the due dates do not change.
- The ruling commission introduced a special ‘fast track’ procedure for the home work allowance of 126,94 EUR (129,48 EUR as from 1 April 2020). All employees working at home due to special Corona measures will be entitled to the maximum amount of 126,94 EUR without a distinction in function categories. The new home work allowance will replace the current ‘office’ allowance if applicable. The ruling can be obtained in a few days, following a special procedure.
- A circular letter (NL/FR) confirms that the COVID-19 is an exceptional and specific circumstance which justifies the exemption of write-downs on commercial receivables held on companies that show a delay in payment of the receivables, resulting directly or indirectly from actions taken by the federal government.
- For the purpose of the earnings stripping rules, specific payment modalities granted for loans concluded before 17 June 2016 must not, under certain conditions, be considered as a fundamental change. Such loans will still qualify for the grandfathering regime and thus fall outside the scope of the earnings stripping rules.
- Tax reliefs for donations:
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.
- VAT exemption for the importation of goods in the fight against the COVID-19 disease:
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:
- The reduced VAT rate of 6% applies to the supply, intra-Community acquisition and import of mouth masks and hydroalcoholic gels until 31 March 2021. Initially, this measure applied in the period between 4 May and 31 December 2020, but its application was extended to the period between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2021. Additionally, the reduced VAT rate of 0% applies to the supply, intra-Community acquisition and import of COVID-19 vaccines and medical aid devices for in-vitro diagnostics of this disease, as well as to services closely related to these vaccines and devices, in the period between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2022.
- The scope of application of the reduced VAT rate of 6% for the demolition and reconstruction of real estate is broadened for the period between 1 January 2021 until 31 December 2022.
- A temporary exemption is granted for overtime pay in critical sectors. An exemption also applies to company surcharge or additional allowance in case of restart of work with previous employer. Certain compensation for student labor will not be considered as means of existence. Some allowances for temporary unemployment will only be subject to a wage withholding tax rate of 15%.
- For the purpose of the tax reduction for child care: some days where child care was paid for, but no effective child care occurred, will be considered as qualifying days of actual child care.
- An extension of certain due dates and an increase of exempt amounts is temporarily granted regarding the tax shelter for audiovisual work and podium work, as well as the possibility to change the eligible works in the framework agreement and the temporary extension of the scope of podium works to livestreams.
- The due date for paying the company contribution was postponed from 30 June to 31 December 2020.
- An extension is granted on the due date of the payment of annual insurance tax.
- Tax relief is granted in the field of registration duties (e.g. notary proxy, conversion of mortgage mandate, etc.).
- Restaurant and catering services are subject to the reduced VAT rate of 6 percent in the period between 8 June 2020 and 31 December 2020. This temporary VAT rate reduction does not apply to the serving of beers with an effective alcohol by volume rate in excess of 0.5 percent and other beverages with an effective alcohol by volume rate in excess of 1.2 percent. The measure pertains to all permanent or temporary establishments that perform restaurant- or catering services. It also applies when only beverages are served without food (if combined with sufficient relevant ancillary services) in any possible drinking establishment (e.g. cafes, taverns).
- Employers, which had to resort to temporary unemployment, can benefit from a partial exemption of payment of wage withholding tax for 3 months.
- The validity of some meal, sport/culture and eco vouchers is extended.
- Employers can grant a consumption voucher of 300 EUR to their employees which they can use for the purchase of goods and services in heavily impacted sectors such as horeca, culture etc. The voucher is 100% deductible and tax-free.
- Reception costs: 100% deduction between 8 June and 31 December 2020
- Investment deduction: increase of rate from 8 to 25% for investments between 12 March and 31 December 2020 (only for small companies) and carry-forward of unused investment deduction possible for two years (instead of one year) for investments in 2019-2021
- Tax reduction for acquisition of new shares of small companies of which the turnover dropped by more than 30% between 14 March and 30 April 2020
Social security measures
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.
Customs and excise duty measures
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:
- Import of medical equipment from non-EU countries
- Exemption from customs duties and VAT on protective equipment, testing kits or medical devices (such as ventilators) used in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The exemption was granted initially for a period of six months (i.e. 30 January 2020 – 31 July 2020), but this period has been was extended until 31 October 2020. Click here to find out more.
- E-commerce – waiver empowerment for customs representatives
- Customs decisions
- Only new applications for decisions, if essential.
- Extension of time-limit (120 days) for taking customs decisions/granting authorizations.
- Customs Debts and Guarantees
- Impossibility to extend the 3 years period for notifying the customs debt
- Payment facilities: The legislative framework of the UCC does not offer at present a legal basis to provide for a general deferral of the time limits for payment of customs duties or a suspension of recoveries of those duties, due to this crisis. However, the UCC already offers certain flexibility in regard to the suspension of payments of debts on a case -by -case basis. Member States may use all legal means to apply flexibility, up to the limits allowed, during this crisis (cfr. instalment plan).
- Exceeding time-limits guarantees not possible, but temporary admission of items for disaster relief becomes duty-free (guarantee waiver)
- Use of digital signature for the purpose of undertaking.
- Entry of goods
- Facilities for medical, surgical and laboratory equipment for emergency treatments.
- Encouraging economic operators to use the transit procedure, TIR or pre-lodged customs declarations to speed up border crossing and optimize customs controls.
- Facilitation for the import of human organs and bone marrow destined for transplant in the EU.
- Origin of goods
- Facilitation regarding submission of proof of preferential origin.
- Customs procedures
- Economic operators may invoke force majeure if goods stay longer than 90 days in temporary storage.
- Possibility to use designated places for temporary storage of goods.
- Possibility to use simplified declarations without prior authorization.
- Extension of the deadline for submitting the supplementary declaration might be justified.
- Presentation of goods at approved places encouraged.
- Longer period to amend customs declarations.
- Possibility to place goods under transit without presenting them at a customs office and receiving goods at an authorized place.
- Possible extension of time-limits to present goods at the customs office and to send control results (see below communication).
- Alternative identification measures to sealing.
- The time-limit to send the control results may be extended up to six days in exceptional cases such as the particular circumstances of the outbreak of COVID-19.
- Transit (Security) Accompanying Document may be provided/accepted in an electronic format.
- Possibility to use the TIR procedure on paper only.
- Possibility to submit copies of supporting documents provided the original copy remains available.
- Special procedures
- Use of temporary admission procedure with total duty relief for all goods to counter the disaster.
- Possibility to extend the limit for re-exporting goods under temporary admission.
- Use of inward processing where usual forms of handling are allowed.
- Exit of goods
- The specific type of “ship supplies” is exempted from the export restrictions on personal protective equipment.
- Possibility to delay the invalidation of the (re-)export declarations.
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.
- NL: Douane, corona informatie en maatregelen
- FR: Douanes, corona informations et mesures
- DE: Zoll, corona informationen und maßnahmen
For tailored information, a single point of contact, email@example.com, is launched where businesses can raise concrete questions on the implications of the COVID-19 outbreak for customs and excise duties.
- NL: Douane, bijkomende coronavragen
- FR: Douanes, toutes vos questions sur le corona
- DE: Zoll, ihre fragen zum coronavirus
Measures related to customs duties
- Under certain conditions, donations of personal protective equipment to the medical sector are eligible for import duty relief. Belgian Customs published a guidance document outlining the use of a specifically created EORI-number.
- Economic operators are allowed to temporarily submit paper-based certificates and licenses to the competent customs office digitally, even if write-offs are required. In case of compliance, the corresponding customs declaration shall be accepted. The economic operator needs to provide a statement to self-archive the original forms of these documents. Certain paper-based documents, which travel along with the goods upon export, such as EUR.1 and A.TR certificates and T2L declarations, still need to be handed over to Customs for endorsement. In such cases, the economic operator should make an appointment with the competent customs office first.
- The customs authorities allow all authorization holders for inward processing, customs warehousing and temporary storage facilities or approved/designated places to apply by e-mail to the issuing customs authorities to extend their authorization with other storage facilities, provided that these storage facilities are located in Belgium and are used exclusively for the storage of non-EU goods that have not yet been assigned a final customs-approved treatment or use. Due to exceptional circumstances, the extension shall be granted without any prior customs audit.
- Economic operators, upon importation, are temporarily allowed, under certain conditions, to hand over certificates of origin in a digital form.
- Economic operators may apply, under certain conditions, for an approved exporter authorization to prove the preferential origin upon exporting goods. Subsequently, the customs authorities shall grant a temporary approved exporter authorization without any prior customs audit.
- As of 26 May 2020, the export authorization scheme for PPE ceases to apply. Accordingly, the export of PPE is no longer subject to an export authorization.
- The European Commission has published an FAQ relating to the requirements for the export of personal protective equipment. Click here to consult the EU Regulation.
- Economic operators can only obtain a E705 form on-line for the registration of motor vehicles purchased abroad via MyMinfin.
- The procedure for endorsing 136F documents for diplomatic and consular missions and international organizations in Belgium has been changed.
- Labelling under customs control of mouth masks imported via Bierset and Zaventem airports: there is a possibility for customs representatives to request a special control deferral procedure for coronavirus response actions via electronic form 28F.
- The European Commission provides new practical advice on the application of the guidelines on border management in order to keep intra-Community transport of goods going during the current pandemic.
- The authorized consignee (NCTS) may exceptionally exceed the time limit for notification to the customs office of destination. Note that the notification must be made at the latest on the third day following the date on which the unloading permission was received.
- Economic operators wishing to export medicines outside the European Economic Area have the obligation to pre-notify the FAGG (Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products)
- Practical guidelines were published for state agencies, humanitarian aid organizations and charitable or philanthropic organizations which might benefit from an import duty relief and VAT exemption on importation for goods needed to combat the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak: Finances Belgium customs. On 11 May 2020, the procedure has been slightly adapted and now requires the setting-up of two undertakings to benefit from this exemption/relief.
- As from 19 May 2020, an additional national code will be mandatory for the import and export of mouth masks. This code must be indicated in box 33, 5th subdivision of the SAD. Click here for an overview of the codes.
- Similarly, as from 2 July 2020, an additional national code will also be mandatory for the import of test kits. This code must be indicated in box 33, 5th subdivision of the SAD. Click here for an overview of the codes.
- The FPS Economy has published an FAQ relating to "comfort masks".
Measures related to excise duties
The following exceptional and temporary measures have been taken with regard to disinfectants:
- The excise authorities allow pharmacists, without the proper excise authorization, to manufacture disinfectants provided that they keep records;
- The excise authorities expanded the list of allowed denaturants for the manufacture of biocidal products and disinfectants;
- The excise authorities allow all authorized warehouse keepers to produce denatured ethyl alcohol, although only to the extent that it is used to ensure the production of biocidal products or disinfectants intended for the medical sector;
- The excise authorities provide guidance to manufacturers (excise warehouse keepers or pharmacies) of various types of sanitizers to benefit from an excise duty exemption.
- The excise authorities have extended the payment terms for both holders and non-holders of a credit account regarding excise duties and waste packaging tax on alcohol, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and VAT.
- A repayment of excise duties is provided for already delivered beer which has become unsellable.