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Country Rankings - Belgium

  • Apr 03, 2018   Belgium: gambles

    Companies in the remote gambling sector aren't exactly having a happy time of it either, as they face an increasingly dangerous tax and regulatory minefield in the jurisdictions in which they operate, especially in Europe. Two recent cases highlight how the European market has become something of a lottery for the remote gambling sector. The first was in Germany, where a recent court decision appeared to all but slam the door on e-gaming and gambling firms, but, with this ruling apparently contradicting earlier jurisprudence, including from the EU courts, this situation is far from clear. The other was in Belgium, where remote gambling firms won a major tax victory after legislation that imposed value-added tax on the supply of e-gaming services, while leaving the legacy gambling sector exempt from VAT, was annulled. Culturally, some countries, including in Europe, have been hostile to the gambling industry, and governments have seen it as their role to protect vulnerable citizens against the scourge of gambling addiction. However, just as it has done with most other areas of life, the borderless world of the internet has come along and completely changed the game. And governments have reasoned that it is probably better to open up to the gambling industry and keep a firm eye on it through regulation, rather than turn a blind eye to those gambling and gaming on their home computers. Despite these contradictory developments, we are nevertheless witnessing a trend of "liberalization" in the gambling markets, as legislatures pass laws allowing foreign providers to compete with domestic counterparts and lifting bans on e-gaming. However, as we know, the word "liberal" has become increasingly flexible in its meaning. And in the context of the gambling industry, "liberalization" usually means "regulation." And for many governments, there is to be no regulation without taxation. The price it seems for access to the internet connections of country's citizenry is tax. And the industry is often heard to bemoan how these taxes often make their businesses uneconomic. Poland, for example, introduced a 12 percent tax on the turnover (not profit) of sports betting operations as part of a new regulatory framework, then sat by and watched as an exodus of bookmakers became a stampede. With rumblings of discontent in the industry over the Dutch Government's new gambling regulations, which will impose a 29 percent tax on gross gaming revenue in July, I'm willing to wager that gambling firms won't exactly be falling over themselves to enter the Dutch market. Nevertheless, for the remote gambling firms, the penalties for defying regulations or prohibitions on gambling can be severe in many jurisdictions, not to mention the reputational damage a company may suffer from having its name dragged through the mud by the authorities. Anybody who's been to Las Vegas knows that the house never loses. Perhaps the world of tax is the exception.
    Source: https://www.tax-news.com/news/Belgian_Court_Annuls_Online_Gaming_VAT____76639.html

  • Jan 16, 2018   Belgium: consensus

    Coalitions have their merits. However, some people argue that they are a recipe for legislative gridlock, and tend to serve up imperfect compromises to pressing problems. It's true that coalitions can often lead to political stalemates, but some would argue that it is better that a government does nothing, rather than do a succession of things very badly, as those with huge parliamentary majorities, or with a lack of democratic accountability, are sometimes apt to do. We've seen in recent weeks that, in the area of taxation at least, coalitions can get a surprising amount of work done. Just look at the Netherlands; despite a dizzying array of parties competing for power, and an alphabet soup of party acronyms on any given governing ticket, significant tax reforms have been legislated for, including a corporate tax cut. Ditto Belgium, where the legislature recently signed off major tax changes.
    Source: https://www.tax-news.com/news/Belgium_Enacts_Corporate_Tax_Reform____76123.html

  • Nov 07, 2017   Belgium: muscles in Brussels

    Elsewhere, while the United States embarks on its tax reform trek, further evidence emerged recently that the world is engaged in the corporate tax cut race. As the US finally begins its attempt to shed the highest-corporate-tax-in-the-OECD tag, Japan, the previous holder of this dubious honor, is considering corporate tax cuts for companies that give their workers a pay rise. Even Belgium, another country that seemed like it had bought a life-membership to the over-30 percent corporate tax club is at it, having recently included a substantial corporate tax cut in its program for government. It certainly feels like the corporate tax cut bug is catching, and politicians in Belgium must have been aware of what the Joneses across the fence in France and the Netherlands were up to when this decision was made. Indeed, it seems that 30 percent is the new benchmark above which corporate tax is considered too uncompetitive. It used to be that a corporate tax rate below 40 percent was considered competitive, at least among the wealthy industrialized nations. However, 30 percent is seemingly the new 40 percent in the corporate tax stakes.
    Source: https://www.tax-news.com/news/Belgium_To_Bring_Down_Corporate_Tax_Rate____75633.html

  • Oct 31, 2016   Belgium: Wal-loony

    When you think about it, perhaps the most surprising thing about Wallonia's part in delaying the eagerly anticipated free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada (CETA) is that something similar hasn't happened before. The EU has negotiated several complex trade agreements in its history, so it makes you wonder why the Walloons and their French-speaking regional allies chose this moment to make their voices heard. Whatever the reason, it doesn't bode well for future trade negotiations involving the EU, as European Council President Donald Tusk has already warned. As if getting a consensus among 28 countries wasn't difficult enough, the EU will cease to function at all if the EU's sub-national governments insist on having a say on things as well. If I was a member of the UK's Brexit negotiating team (assuming there is one), I'd be very worried indeed by this development. But how realistic is it that Brexit negotiations will be completed in the two years permitted by Article 50 anyway? FTAs are rarely completed so briskly. The CETA negotiations took five years to complete. The EU's FTA with Vietnam well over three years, and its FTA with Singapore four-and-a-half. It's almost impossible to predict what the outcome of Brexit will be, or how long things will take to resolve. But whatever happens, there's bound to be more surprises along the way.
    Source: http://www.tax-news.com/news/Belgium_Negotiates_CanadaEU_FTA_Compromise____72601.html

  • Jun 14, 2016   Belgium: sees sense

    At least one tax rise that the UK won't have to suffer is the EU financial transactions tax (FTT), which looks like it will be given its last rites in the next couple of weeks. But the UK should count itself lucky that the remaining member states still backing the idea can't agree on the tax's details, because UK financial institutions would have been paying a fair chunk of it without seeing a penny of the estimated EUR35bn in total FTT revenues, regardless of whether it is in the FTT zone, or even the EU. This is because the Commission's draft proposal was based on the principles of issuance and residence – in other words, tax liability hinged more on where a financial instrument was issued rather than traded – giving the FTT wide extra-territorial reach. With this is one of the issues the FTT group are currently grappling with, along with some basic parameters like tax rates and scope, it seems highly unlikely a final version will be agreed by the mid-2016 deadline it has set itself. Just as well. The tax is intended to reflect a fair contribution from the financial industry for its role in the financial crisis. But there must be better ways of doing it than disrupting financial markets, especially at such an economically uncertain time. So I award Belgium an encomium for reportedly turning its back on the FTT in May, possibly delivering the tax a decisive blow in the process.
    Source: http://www.tax-news.com/news/Time_Running_Out_For_EU_FTT_Deal____71376.html

  • Feb 01, 2016   Belgium: sees sense

    Belgium has had a bit of a bad rap recently, having been very publicly rebuked by the European Commission for allowing some multinationals to pay not very much tax. So I think it could do with a bit of a pick-me-up. So Belgium, here's an encomium for finally coming to your senses and recognizing the flaws in the insane EU financial transactions tax proposal. When you think about it, the very reason why we're having the debate about corporate tax avoidance is because of the bankers. When everything was going swimmingly, in the Halcyon days before the financial crisis, fewer people seemed to care how much tax big companies were paying, or, to be more accurate, the media wasn't that interested in the subject so people didn't read or hear about it as much. Now, it sticks in the throats of many that ordinary taxpayers are paying to clean up the mess the bankers left behind. And I'm in agreement with the view that the banking industry, and key figures within it, haven't been sufficiently punished for past mistakes. Supposedly, the FTT is meant as a sort of compensation scheme – a small tax on the greedy world of finance, to be passed on to needy European governments. But it may well cause a whole load of collateral economic damage to achieve this. Surely the FTT coalition is now on its last legs? Estonia couldn't bring itself to endorse the loose agreement struck by the participating member states in December, and Slovenia's involvement is somewhat uncertain after it appeared to reject an earlier agreement in 2015. If Belgium goes, perhaps the whole shoddy structure will come crashing down. Now that I'm looking forward to seeing.
    Source: http://www.tax-news.com/news/Belgium_Airs_Doubts_About_EU_Financial_Transactions_Tax____70257.html

  • Oct 02, 2014   Belgium: patience is a virtue

    I understand that "virtual" currencies may be the future, but I don't really understand Bitcoin. The trouble is, these things are invariably created by techies, and as a consequence only those steeped in techie-dom fully understand them. For starters, why have Bitcoin's creators felt the need to cultivate such an air of mystique about the thing? Bitcoin was supposedly developed by somebody called Satoshi Nakamoto, who apparently also only exists in virtual form. But then how do you make what is essentially a string of binary numbers glamorous? Anyway, despite its lack of controls and a fluctuating value that would give even the most hardened Wall Street pit trader palpitations, Bitcoin seems to have arrived and tax authorities are starting to notice. Unfortunately, or perhaps, for its users, fortunately, nobody agrees what Bitcoin actually is. How do you tax something that doesn't exist in a conventional sense? Is it money, or is it an asset? It's an important distinction, because its tax treatment could differ widely depending on the answer. What's more, value-added tax and other consumption taxes come into play in countries that apply them. Belgium appears to have made a very sensible decision by waiting for the European Court of Justice to decide how virtual currencies should be taxed. But other countries aren't so patient. Deeming Bitcoin a "unit of account," Germany applies VAT to transactions undertaken in this form. The UK previously considered bitcoins as "taxable vouchers" but changed its mind earlier this year and has taken a position similar to Germany's. However, Bulgaria, another EU member state, treats bitcoins as a "financial asset." And the US IRS has decided to treat bitcoins as "property" rather than currency. Using Bitcoin seems a risky enough business as it is, without the added trapdoors of inconsistent and uncertain tax treatment. I'm sticking to the more familiar electronic currency. You know, the sort you can transfer between bank accounts on opposite sides of the Earth, or which allows you to pay for things via a computer. It's called money.
    Source: http://www.tax-news.com/news/Belgium_Says_Bitcoin_VAT_Exempt_For_Now____65939.html

  • Aug 14, 2014   Belgium: over taxed

    Spare a thought, however, for Belgium's oppressed taxpayers, who currently carry the largest tax burden in Europe according to a recent study – and that's up against some pretty stiff competition. The Brussels-based Institut Économique Molinari found that most Europeans celebrate "Tax Freedom Day" – the notional day when taxpayers' income stops funding state expenditure – in June, reflecting the fact that European governments generally take about half their citizens' income in tax. It's a shock, but not a surprise given that western and northern Europe in particular has long been the most highly-taxed place on earth. It was slightly disturbing to learn though that Belgians had to continue effectively working for the government until August 6. That's just over seven-twelfths of the year, or just shy of 60 percent. It's difficult to know whether Belgians are getting value for money here. Clearly there has been heavy investment by the state in transport infrastructure because apparently Belgium's road network is one of the densest in the world. But get in a car in Belgium and drive no more than an hour or so in any direction and you'll arrive somewhere else. At least this gives Belgians the ability to escape I suppose. The irony is that sometimes you don't even get a government at all for your money in Belgium. Following elections in 2010, it took 589 days for a government to be formed, largely as a result of deep divisions between groups representing the Flemish-speaking north and the French-speaking south. And now it's happening again. Following elections on May 25, Belgium has drifted ungoverned, with few signs of a consensus breaking out anytime soon. Governments – who needs them!
    Source: www.tax-news.com/news/Study_Compares_Tax_Freedom_Day_Across_The_EU____65421.html

  • Feb 27, 2014   Belgium: socializing

    It's reassuring to know that the Benelux countries are going to fight against the exploitation of workers by unscrupulous Chinese gang-masters. Well, that wasn't exactly what they said: the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg agreed to fight against social dumping, among other woes besetting honest working folk. This is the heartland of the EU's social partners zone, in which sound economic principles are tossed out of the window in an attempt to insulate workers against the rigours of competition. The C-word, which never should be spoken in the halls of EU governance. So what is social dumping? Like dumping in trade relations, it refers to an attempt to win by using your natural advantages in order to gain economic benefit. You come from a poor country, and you're prepared to work for less in order to feed your children back at home? That's social dumping. You place a contract with a cheap shoe manufacturer in Vietman which has the effect of putting Liege leather workers on the dole? That's social dumping (by you) as well as trade dumping (by the Vietnamese). You get the picture; and notice that both types of "dumping" actually have the effect of benefiting the consumer. The right way to deal with "dumping" is to help the threatened workers to adapt and improve, to become more competitive in other words, rather than to protect them with this farrago of mealy-mouthed and economically illiterate propaganda. But the "social partners" are deaf to such advice. Sadly, they will continue to destroy their childrens' future prospects with their well-meant but wrong-headed gibberish.
    Source: www.tax-news.com/news/Benelux_Ministers_Vow_To_Combat_Social_Dumping____63748.html

  • Dec 30, 2013   Belgium: soaking householders

    It's Christmas week, isn't it, so obviously lots of governments will be making goodwill gestures to their stressed-out, over-taxed citizens, to show how grateful they are for the tax money that pays for their big, black cars, the trips to G3, G5, G8, G20, G30 junkets in beautiful places with long-legged personal assistants and the rest. Well, let's see: Mexico is increasing the scope of VAT and has gone back on some promised tax reductions; Max Baucus wants to reduce energy tax incentives (increase taxes, in other words and am I seeing things, or does he have a double who's going to be the Ambassador to China – that definitely proves that the President has gone off the TPP); community taxes are increasing right across Belgium; and France (that traditional home of Christmas bonhomie) is going to scale back the increases it is planning to the electricity contribution (but not for households), after the politician piloting the latest Finance Bill through parliament admitted that the rises were "brutal." So, a savage sovereign Bah, Humbug is what we're going to get. Well, politicians know all about humbug, I suppose.
    Source: http://www.tax-news.com/news/Communal_Taxes_Soar_In_Belgian_Capital____63085.html

  • Nov 28, 2013   Belgium: is costly

    A year ago, we were spellbound by the proposed expatriation to Belgium of would-be French tax exiles Gérard Depardieu (Obelix) and Bernard Arnault (10th richest man in the world). Both changed their minds early in 2013 (Obelix went to Russia and Arnault stayed in France). Now we know why: according to a recent report by PwC and the World Bank Group, Belgium comes 161st of 189 countries ranked by tax burden. Enterprises in Belgium pay 57.5 percent of income in tax, while individuals pay 50.3 percent of their income. And it's not even warm. The Eurocrats based in Brussels don't pay tax, of course, and their wonderful canteens are subsidized; but you can't lay that at Belgium's door. I already wasn't thinking of going to live in Belgium; now I'll definitely stick to Hastings. You can get very passable moules and frittes in the Belgian restaurant opposite our office.
    Source: www.tax-news.com/news/PwC_Exposes_Belgiums_High_Corporate_Tax_Burden____62791.html

  • Sep 26, 2013   Belgium: lets them eat cake

    As is the case in most weeks, we look in vain to reward a country which has reduced taxes; so we will have to settle this week for Belgium, which has at least decided not to go ahead with a mooted "fat" tax on sugary drinks. Such taxes have been popular in recent years with debt-ridden governments across the world looking for "friendly" taxes. As with green taxes, finance ministers don't give a jot for the moral dimension of "sin," or "fat" taxes. All they care about is plucking the goose with a minimum of hissing, and if they can hide behind a smokescreen of pretended concern for your health and welfare, then so much the better. It's not quite clear why the Belgian Government has backed off its fat tax. It seems to have been persuaded by local industry not to go ahead, and that may be because, as a small, land-locked country, it is more than usually vulnerable to "grey" imports: a high proportion of Belgians are in a position to shop abroad and collect their month's worth of low-taxed alcohol, tobacco and Fantas from a friendly supermarket alongside a gas station just over the border. The Government says it will try to persuade drinks manufacturers to use less sugar. Good luck with that!
    Source: Belgian_Institute_Slams_UTurn_On_Soft_Drinks_Tax____62097.html

  • Jul 11, 2013   Belgium: and austerity

    Another (neighbouring) country which is using the word "savings" to cover extensive tax increases is Belgium. They talk about reducing the costs of the State apparatus, and that would be good, if true, but there are no specifics, no forced 10 percent cuts in departmental budgets as has happened across the Channel in the UK. What is sure is that lawyers will become subject to VAT (how did they escape in the first place?), bank taxes will rise, alcohol and tobacco will cost more (of course, leading to even more smuggling), but worst of all is the imposition of a minimum tax on corporations which pay dividends. There are few details in what has been published so far, but that would seem to mean a withholding tax or what used to be called "advance corporation tax" in the UK. How that will square with the EU's Parent/Subsidiary Directive (which exempts dividend payments from tax) and tax treaties remains to be seen. Sounds as if the European Court of Justice will be busy! One of the generalizations that resulted from my education at the hands of some rather extreme characters – prejudices, many people would call them, but they have stood me in good stead – is to be wary of men who wear bow ties, which is the case of the Belgian Prime Minister. Of course, I am wary of all men, but I do stand an extra foot away if he has a bow tie. Belgium is currently under the EU's "excessive deficit" procedure, which leaves it with no choice but to trim its budget; but with a tax to GDP ratio of more than 47 percent in 2012 (second highest in the Union after Denmark) it would do better to make some real savings instead of going on about "fairness" and bashing business.
    Source: www.lowtax.net/asp/story/front/French_Local_Advertising_Tax_Tariffs_Rise_In_2014____61295.html

  • May 02, 2013   Belgium: in the doldrums

    Belgium is copy-catting HMRC, gloating over the 11,000 fines and tax penalties it has slapped on late payers this year. The country is suffering from low growth and all the other European diseases, but doesn't seem to have learned the hard realities of taxation any better than the French or the Italians. At least the British have reduced the rates of both corporate and individual tax this year. Belgium has the second highest tax take of any European country, at 46.7 percent. The current austerity package has introduced new revenue-raising measures equalling about 0.4 percent of GDP, and the Finance Minister has bravely said that he will cut the costs of civil service staff by 0.5 percent; it's not easy to get at the figures, but that seems to equate to less than 0.1 percent of GDP. So he is getting 80 percent of fiscal adjustment from taxpayers and only 20% from savings. That's pathetic, as well as being probably unmeasureable. A good swipe from a certain lady's handbag is what is needed. In another recent piece of bad news for Belgium it transpired that Bernard Arnault has withdrawn his request for Belgian citizenship; his French tax payments are not disclosed, but surely that must mean many millions of Euros won't now be coming Belgium's way. In all fairness we must record that Belgium has the best beer in Europe, and you can eat just as well in Brussels as in Paris at half the cost.
    Source: www.lowtax.net/asp/story/front/Belgiums_Geens_Rules_Out_Further_Tax_Rises____60569.html

  • Apr 18, 2013   Belgium: mistreat China

    One country which is conspicuous by its absence from the TPP talks is of course China. Although there are ongoing negotiations between the Middle Kingdom and various other countries, and China has FTAs with a scattering of other countries, notably including ASEAN and New Zealand, on the whole it is lagging. And it considers itself as an injured party in trade affairs, complaining this week about the level of "dumping" and "counter-vailing" measures it is subject to, particular emanating from the USA. A lot of the problem revolves around the designation of China as a "non-market economy" (NME). For anyone who, like me, finds it extraordinary that China should still be regarded as an NME, a word of explanation is in order: an NME is a country in which the State subsidizes enterprises or indulges in other non-market behaviour, despite WTO rules against it. So, an NME is allowed to cheat, if you will; but the other side of the coin is that for an aggrieved counter-party, the burden of proof is lower in anti-dumping proceedings. China's accession agreement to the WTO allows it to retain NME status only until 2015; but the change is not in China's gift, and both the USA and the EU persist in regarding China as an NME, despite frequent requests from China for them to treat it as a market economy.
    Source: www.lowtax.net/asp/story/front/China_Sees_Itself_Subject_To_Increasing_Trade_Friction____60398.html

  • Feb 14, 2013   Belgium: extracts more than teeth

    Does anyone remember Belgian dentists? Back in the early days of eurobonds (sovereign or, later on, corporate bond issues which deserted New York for London when they lost their tax-exempt status) the typical bondholder was referred to as a Belgian dentist. I never knew quite why: did Belgians evade their taxes more than say the French or the Spanish? My ex-husband's French father used to drive across the border to Switzerland with bags of louis d'or in the trunk, and he used to pack out the soles of his shoes with 500 franc notes when he came to England. Those were the days! They may be coming back, so don't laugh. Anyway, for now, Belgians are not having a happy time; the average single employee pays a whopping 57% of earnings in tax and social security. It's true that there are corporate loopholes for international companies, as recently demonstrated by Bernard Arnault's escape from France, but you can imagine that your Belgian dentist may not be very happy if you offer to pay your (extremely high) bill with a check or a credit card. And now the government (yes, they finally have one after doing without for a year or two) is going to increase taxes still further. And they're going after the dentists, too.
    Source: http://www.lowtax.net/asp/story/front/Belgium_Eyes_Further_Fiscal_Austerity____59635.html

  • Dec 31, 2012   Belgium: doesn't shine

    It seems rather perverse to criticize Belgium for being over-taxed just a week after several famous Frenchmen went there to escape high taxes at home. But standing next to a baddie doesn't automatically make you a goodie, and Belgium's proud announcement this week that it managed to increase tax revenues to 51.5% of national revenue in 2012 (how do they know, anyway, on the 20th of December?) earns them my final kick in the pants for the year. No country should take more than half its citizens' income; in fact, 30% would be a reasonable limit. If I was Mistress of the Universe (and lots of people would tremble at that prospect) I would make it a rule. Really, when you stand back a bit, all of Europe's woes stem from over-spending, over-taxing and over-borrowing, to finance electoral pork of one kind or another. Not to try to open up a doctrinal sermon on the adjournment, I have to point out that 100 years ago in the UK, for instance, government spending represented about 12% of national income, and (excluding war-time peaks) didn't reach 30% until the 1940s. Of course some increase, some redistribution was a necessary thing to counter poverty and ill-health, but the juggernaut of government spending has done nothing but increase over that 100 years, with just a very minor retrenchment under such people as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, which has quickly been overwhelmed by the tidal wave of "entitlement." Any 18th or 19th century economic commentator would not regard the OECD members' public spending policies as different in kind from those of the Soviet Union, and would consider that we are all barking mad to think that we can have healthy economies when we owe more than our annual income and have to give half of that to the Moloch that rules us. One day there will come a change, but I fear that I shall never see it.
    Source: http://www.lowtax.net/asp/story/front/Belgian_Deficit_Falls_As_Tax_Revenues_Reach_New_Levels____58815.html

  • Aug 23, 2012   Belgium: still has dentists, but is it a country?

    Belgium is a puzzle. As a country, it defies rule number one, which is that language = country. You can have multiple countries with one language, but you can't have one country with multiple languages. Dialects, OK, but not languages. So, French and Dutch (they call it Flemish) doesn't go. Arguably, it is only EU glue which has kept the improbable animal in one piece over the last fifty years, and a good part of that glue is Brussels, the EU's capital, which is also economically crucial to Belgium. Whether the country's cultural complication has got anything to do with its awful tax system is hard to say, but it certainly is a fact that tax levels are very high. According to a Molinari Institute report, it costs an employer EUR2.45 to put one euro in a worker's pocket. The real reason is probably that the eurotrash (EU officials and their hangers-on) don't pay tax, so someone else has to pay it for them, being the downtrodden Belgian worker. Not to forget Belgian dentists, however, who were the prototypical investors in Eurobonds before they became another kind of eurotrash. I didn't need to go to a Belgian dentist while I was in Brussels, so I can't tell you whether they ask for cash or not, but I can guess.
    Source: http://www.lowtax.net/asp/story/front/Belgian_Labour_Taxes_Highest_In_Europe____56862.html


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