by Luc Dhont, Chair of AmCham Belgium's Legal & Taxation Committee
In March 2020, when the lockdown was announced in Belgium, it became very clear that immediate action would be required to limit the devastating consequences of COVID-19 on the economy. Belgian policymakers reacted accordingly and pulled out the fiscal weapon, which in this case looked more like a bazooka given the scope of the measures announced. Plans to guarantee and maximize the liquidity of businesses were very quickly implemented by the Belgian authorities via, amongst others, a postponement of payment deadlines of wage withholding tax, VAT and real estate tax. This was quite a relief for businesses, especially in light of the budget deficit challenges already existing before the crisis and the lack of a stable, new government after the May 2019 elections.
In the early days of the lockdown, the AmCham Belgium Legal & Taxation Committee (LTC) and its Subcommittees brainstormed about potential measures to ensure business continuity and minimize the impact of the crisis on the Belgian economy. Our proposals focussed on short-term measures for businesses materially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak with the aim of keeping cash in otherwise healthy companies. As tax experts (as well as tax authorities) were locked in their home offices, delays were requested for the reporting and payment of all types of taxes, at both regional and federal levels, and opportunities were identified to reduce the administrative burden and red tape.
It is clear that the COVID-19 crisis can only be combatted through collaboration between different stakeholders in society. With regard to fiscal measures, based on the work done by the LTC, AmCham Belgium joined forces with other professional organizations and many major consultancies to form the ‘’Unified Tax Alliance for a Successful Recovery’’. Speaking with one voice on behalf of the business community in a constructive and transparent manner with policymakers is much stronger than a “cavalier seul’’ attitude. It has been unprecedented for so many stakeholders, often representing different types of businesses, to join forces to issue a first batch of recommendations in early April. This effort is continued and should soon lead to additional suggestions. Our focus is mainly to safeguard the solvency of Belgian-based businesses, avoid adverse effects on so-called cross-border workers, reduce the VAT costs for health institutions and all other Belgian companies, and also just to ensure companies will be able to continue their business without barriers.
As we believe a good crisis should never be wasted, we will also propose permanent measures to strengthen the Belgian economy and make Belgium a more competitive place to invest and do business.
AmCham Belgium’s Legal & Taxation Committee is committed to further supporting the Chamber’s members, but it can only act if the concerns of business are known. Our experts in the Legal and in the Corporate Tax, VAT, Customs, Employee Tax and Regional Tax Subcommittees are eager to receive feedback from you on the main challenges your business is facing. You can share your concerns by contacting David Gaier, Public Affairs Officer at email@example.com
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