Overview of aid measures for businesses: Federal Government

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Hanne Baeyens

Associate

Updated on Tuesday 22 April 2020 - 1pm 

1. Temporary coronavirus unemployment regime based on force majeure:

The Federal Government decided on Friday 20 March 2020 to implement a temporary coronavirus unemployment regime based on force majeure. If an employer is faced with temporary unemployment due to the coronavirus breakout, then this is automatically considered as force majeure. The“RVA” / “Onem” has also simplified the administrative procedure. This exceptional regime applies until 31 May 2020 (for the time being, but could be extended). More practical information can be found in our Q&A.

2. Employer and employee social security contributions:

  • Postponement of social security contribution payments

The following 3 categories of employers can postpone the payment of both employer and employee social security contributions for Q1 and Q2 2020 until 15 December 2020:

    • Companies affected by a closure ordered by the State (e.g. the hospitality (catering), recreation, culture and sports sectors)

      → automatic postponement
    • Companies that are closed because:
      • they are unable to comply with the social distancing measures (i.e. 1.5 metres of distance between each person), or
      • they have decided themselves to close down completely for a reason other than not being able to respect the social distancing measures (e.g. because they have had to cease their production/sales as a result of the closure of suppliers/customers)

        ‘Complete closure' means that production and sales have ceased, but does not prevent a limited number of employees from working within the company for reasons of safety, administration, necessary maintenance, etc.

        → postponement on the basis of a ‘declaration of honour’.

    • Companies that do not close but see their economic acitivity significantly reduced for Q2 2020, i.e.:
      • a reduction of at least 65% of the turnover of Q2 2020 compared to the turnover of Q2 2019 or Q1 2020 (as evidenced by the VAT returns); and/or
      • areduction in the wage bill declared to the National Social Security Office for Q2 2020 by at least 65% compared to Q2 2019 or Q1 2020.

        → postponement on the basis of a ‘declaration of honour’.

 

This ‘declaration of honour’ can be found on the NSSO’s website (in Dutch or French) and must be submitted via a web application on the NSSO’s website for which you must have a secure access.

However, the obligation to submit the NSSO declaration within the normal deadlines remains in force.

More information can be found here (in Dutch) or here (in French).

  • Social security contributions instalment plan

Companies that are economically demonstrably affected by the Covid-19 virus and therefore are having difficulties paying their social security contributions, can request the National Social Security Office for an instalment plan for the first two quarters of 2020. This will allow companies to pay the social security contributions in monthly instalments over a period of a maximum of 24 months. The NSSO can exempt the employer from the payment of surcharges and interest for late payments provided that all social security contributions have been paid.

Such an application is made by means of an online application form (in Dutch or French).

3. Tax measures:

Companies and self-employed persons that can demonstrate that they are economically affected by the coronavirus outbreak can benefit from a repayment plan in the fields of personal, corporate and legal person income tax, VAT and withholding tax, without any fines or interest on late payment.

Applications must be submitted by 30 June 2020 using the form available on the FPS FINANCE’s website. One application may be submitted per debt, which applies to all measures at the time of receipt of a notice of assessment or payment.

For a self-employed person, a reduction in advance payments may also be requested.

It is allowed to submit corporate, legal person and non-residents tax declarations until 30 April 2020. Deferment of submission of VAT declarations is also provided for.

An automatic deferment of two months is granted for the payment of VAT and withholding tax to all companies, without conditions, penalties or interest on late payment.

Also for the payment of personal, corporate and legal person income tax, an additional period of 2 months will automatically be granted without charging late payment interest.

More information (in Dutch or French) can be found on the FPS Finance website.

Finally, all those submitting VAT monthly returns - including those who do not have a monthly refund authorisation and who are not considered to be a 'starter' either - will, under certain conditions, be able to benefit from an accelerated refund of the VAT credit on their current account. More details are available here (in Dutch) or here (in French).

4. Measures for self-employed persons:

  • Replacement income (Bridging credit):

Self-employed persons who are confronted with a partial or complete closure ordered by the State or self-employed persons who have/had to interrupt their activity in March and/or April 2020 for at least 7 consecutive calendar days in each of these months as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, are entitled to a replacement income (bridging credit) for the months of March and April 2020.

Self-employed persons in a secondary occupation who owe provisional contributions that are at least equal to the minimum contributions for self-employed persons in their main occupation can also benefit from this measure.

The monthly payment amounts to € 1,291.69 (without a family charge) or € 1,614.10 (with a family charge)

More details are available here.

  • Measures relating to the payment of social security contributions

For the first two quarters of 2020 (Q1 and Q2 2020), the payment of social security contributions can be postponed by one year.

This means that the contributions for the first quarter of 2020 must be paid before 31 March 2021 and the contributions for the second quarter of 2020 before 30 June 2021.

To benefit from this measure, an application can be submitted until 15 June 2020 to the self-employed person’s social insurance fund.

In addition, self-employed persons can, as before, request a reduction (when their professional income is below one of the legal thresholds) or even for an exemption (when they are in 'financial difficulties') from payment of the social security contributions.

Finally, the social security fund will no longer send reminders or enforce orders for unpaid social security contributions until further notice.

5. Banking support: Affected SME’s and self-employed persons can benefit from a deferral of payment regarding existing credits until 30 September 2020, without extra cost. In addition, they can also benefit from a new guarantee scheme for credits opened before 30 September 2020 with a maximum duration of 12 months and for a maximum credit amount of € 50 million per undertaking.

6. Service providers to whom Federal public procurement contracts have been awarded do not receive fines for delays in the execution of these contracts if they are affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. In addition, the authorities undertake to speed up the payment deadline for these contracts.

7. As far as the travel sector is concerned, in the event of the cancellation of a package holiday, a voucher of equal value, valid for at least one year, will be granted.

8. As far as the hospitality sector is concerned, there will be flexibility in the application of "take away" (tax and FASFC – with no new licence required for restaurants). Brasseries, in turn, will not be penalised in the event of under-consumption.

9. As far as the events sector is concerned, purchased tickets are still valid if the event is postponed. If the consumer is unable to attend the event, then sufficient time is provided for making the refund.

9. As far as the agricultural and horticultural sector is concerned, the period of seasonal work will be doubled.

Do not hesitate to contact Hanne Baeyens or Isabelle Timmerman for further information.

The above information is merely intended as comment on relevant issues of Belgian law and is not intended as legal advice. Before taking action or relying on the comments and the information given, please seek specific advice on the matters that are of concern to you.

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