Corona update - regional aid

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Also, at regional level it was decided to support specific businesses in the context of the fight against corona crisis. 

"I have to stop my activities or interrupt them; I suffer a decrease of turnover, of clientele, or of the number of my orders because of the measures following the corona crisis. 

What are the regional authorities doing for businesses?

1. Premiums for businesses that are forced to close

"As a business, am I entitled to any form of compensation?"

1.1. The Flemish Corona "nuisance" premium

The Flemish Region pays a premium to businesses that have to close down completely or only during the weekends because of government measures.

Businesses that have to close down completely (e.g. cafés and restaurants) receive a premium of € 4,000 for the first 21 days. Thereafter, they receive € 160 for each additional day of closure.

Businesses that have to close only at weekends receive a premium of € 2,000 for the first 21 days and thereafter € 160 for each additional day of closure.

The "nuisance" premium is only granted to businesses or self-employed persons who are physically located in the Flemish Region.

Who is eligible?

  • Self-employed persons as a main occupation;
  • Self-employed persons, as their secondary occupation, who, because of the amount of their professional income, have to pay social security contributions similar to those of self-employed persons as a main capacity;
  • Businesses with active partners or with at least one person registered as full time with the NSSO;
  • NPO’s if they employ at least one person registered as full-time with the NSSO. 

The CBE must mention those businesses as being active. Other businesses mentioned as non-active are excluded (e.g. bankrupt enterprises).

Attention! the premium will not per granted for each branch but merely for the entire business. 

Entrepreneurs in the hotel and catering sector can receive a premium per operation, provided that they have at least 1 full-time employee per such operation.

The application must be submitted to VLAIO within 30 calendar days from the day the mandatory closure period starts, at the latest on 5 May 2020.

VLAIO launched a tool for applying for the "nuisance" premium, which can be found at www.vlaio.be/coronahinderpremie.

1.2. The Walloon premium of € 5,000 or € 2,500

The Walloon Government grants € 5,000 to businesses that are forced to close down as a result of government measures and that belong to one of the following sectors: 

  • Horeca;
  • Housing;
  • Travel agencies, tour operators, reservation services and related activities;
  • Retail.

An amount of € 2,500 will be granted to those businesses that do not have to close down completely but have to adapt their opening hours.

The application procedure still remains to be determined and the first applications will only be possible as from 27 March 2020.

1.3. The Brussels single premium of € 4,000 or € 2,000

Businesses that are forced to close down as a result of government measures and that are active in one of the following activity sectors will receive a one-off premium of € 4,000: 

  • Horeca;
  • Travel agencies, tour operators, reservation services and related activities;
  • Retail excluding grocery stores, night stores, pet food stores, pharmacies, newsagents, petrol stations and fuel suppliers;
  • Recreational and sporting activities;
  • Hairdressers. 

For more information or apply for the premium, click here (D) (F).

2. The compensatory premium

2.1 in the Flemish Region

This compensatory premium has been introduced for companies which are not entitled to the nuisance premium (because they have not been forced to close down) but whose turnover has fallen sharply as a result of the coronavirus measures.

This compensatory premium amounts to

  • € 3. 000 for self-employed persons in a main or a complementary capacity (with a professional income of at least € 13,993.78 in 2019; and
  • € 1,500 for self-employed persons in a complementary capacity whose professional income in 2019 is between € 6,996.89 and € 13,993.78 and who do not carry out a salaried activity amounting to 80% or more of a full-time job.

This premium is subject to a number of conditions:

  • The decrease in turnover must be at least 60% during the period from 14 March 2020 to 30 April 2020 compared to the same period in 2019;
  • This decrease must result from a reduction in services; the date of invoicing is in principle irrelevant;
  • Start-ups, which started their activity before 12 March 2020, will also be entitled to the premium if they have a 60% decrease in turnover compared to their financial plan;
  • Each company may be entitled to a maximum of 5 premiums if there are several active business locations in the Flemish Region.

The following companies may be entitled:

  • Self-employed persons in a principal or complementary capacity:
    A self-employed person in a complementary capacity is considered to be a self-employed person in a principal capacity if his professional income in 2019 amounts to at least € 13,993.78.
    A self-employed person is considered to be a complementary self-employed person if his professional income in 2019 is between € 6,996.89 and € 13,993.78 and if he does not carry out a salaried activity amounting to 80% or more of a full-time job.
  • The company with legal personality under private law and the foreign company with equivalent status that employs at least one full-time equivalent active partner or a full-time equivalent staff member registered with the NSSO;
  • The association carrying on an economic activity that employs at least one full-time equivalent staff member registered with the NSSO.

Only the following activities are eligible for the compensatory premium (the NACE codes are mentioned in the decree):

  • the events sector and other companies indirectly affected by closures and cancellations as a result of the coronavirus measures;
  • the (para)medical professions and technical inspection which are only allowed to carry out urgent interventions;
  • service providers who can only carry out urgent interventions or whose premises have been closed down as a result of the coronavirus measures;
  • companies that provide essential services.

Companies that are not on this list, but that are subject to substantial operating restrictions due to the coronavirus measures, may also benefit from this compensatory premium.  

Holding companies, patrimonial companies, head office activities as well as companies in which the managing director is linked, as director, partner or manager, to another company which has received the compensation premium and to which they provide business support services, are not eligible for the premium.

The 60% reduction in turnover must be demonstrated by a declaration on honour to VLAIO.

2.2 The Brussels-Capital Region

The government of the Brussels-Capital Region has also decided to introduce a compensatory premium of

  • € 2,000 to support entrepreneurs and micro-enterprises (between 0 and 5 FTEs) experiencing a significant drop in activity as a result of the corona crisis measures;
  • € 3,000 to all operators of taxis and hire cars with drivers. 

The arrangements for granting this compensatory premium are currently being defined.

3. Guarantees to facilitate business loans

"What about my current loans? Can I obtain additional loans"?

2.1. Flemish extension of the "crisis guarantee"

Those businesses that cannot obtain financing because they are not able to provide sufficient guarantees can have up to 75 % of their commitments covered by the Flemish Government in return for a single premium. The extension in the context of the corona crisis includes existing non-bank debts (for up to 12 months) of businesses and self-employed persons. However, the financing of such outstanding debt can only be guaranteed for a maximum period of three months.

The premium for the "crisis guarantee" is reduced and amounts to only 0.25% instead of 0.5%. This measure adds to the existing guarantees for investment credits and working capital. In addition, the existing scheme already allows to extend loans under the guarantee or to request a deferral of payments. 

Anyone who wants to make use of the financing based on the corona guarantee system should contact a bank or a leasing company.

This scheme applies until the end of 2020.

2.2 Wallonia: loans granted by Walloon financial institutions to be freezed + granting of guarantees 

In addition to the freezing of loans granted by Walloon financial institutions, such as SRIW, SOGEPA GROUP, SOWALFIN, investments, guarantees will be strenghtened in order to facilitate access to loans.

SOWALFIN will provide guarantees on existing credit agreements granted by banks. SOGEPA will facilitate access to credit by strengthening guarantees, and by doubling the loans granted by the banks.

2.3. The Brussels-Capital Region: public guarantees for bank loans to seriously affected businesses via the Brussels Guarantee Fund

In addition, finance&invest.brussels will grant low bearing interest loans to businesses active in the horeca sector (with more than 50 employees) and to the main suppliers of the horeca. finance&invest.brussels will also grant a moratorium on the payment of the principal amount of the loans it has granted to the businesses active in the sectors concerned.

4. The Brussels-Capital Region - taxi sector and hotel sector

"I belong to the taxi or hotel sector in Brussels ... What is planned?"

As far as hotels are concerned, the Brussels Region is abolishing the payment of the city tax for the first semester of 2020. 

4.1 Tourist accommodation tax

In the Brussels-Capital Region a tax is payable on tourist accommodation establishments for occupancy period of an accommodation. The tax is calculated per tourist unit and per number of nights this unit is occupied.

A tourist accommodation is defined as “any accommodation offered to tourists for one or more nights on a regular or occasional basis and against payment of a fee”. This tax is also payable for Airbnb rentals.

A tourist is defined as "any person who, in the course of his private or professional activities, stays for at least one night in another environment without establishing his residence there and without intending (at the start of the stay) to stay there continuously for more than 90 days".

A basic amount of € 0,0892 is due per unit and per night for a "normal" accommodation. For camping sites this basic amount is € 0.0669 per accommodation unit. Again, the amount is due per night. If a maximum of 5 units of accommodation are offered to tourists in the property in which the operator is domiciled, then the rate which is applicable on camping sites applies.

When multiple accommodation units form a whole intended to be rented in their entirety, all these units of accommodation are irrefutably presumed to be occupied by the tourists as whole.

4.2 By whom to pay?

The tax is payable by the operator of the concerned tourist accommodation, namely any natural or legal person operating a tourist accommodation establishment or on whose behalf such an establishment is operated.

Thus, for each stay offered to a 'tourist', a tax is payable by the operator, who (usually) charges this tax to the tourist.

4.3 Aid measure

The Brussels Government has decided that the regional tax on the establishment of tourist accommodation is not due for the accommodation occupation by tourists during the period from 1 January 2020 to 30 June 2020.

For this period, no declaration of occupancy, nor corrections or automatic enrolments will be necessary. Prepayments for the planned period do not have to be made either.

In short, for the first half of 2020, the operator does not have to pay a tourist accommodation tax. 

The Brussels Government is aware that the current crisis is hitting tourist accommodation very hard and that aid measures are necessary to prevent an economic disaster. 

Despite the fact that we welcome this aid measure, the question arises as to whether it is sufficiently far-reaching, since the tax is only due per occupied accommodation. In particular, the tourist accommodation sector has come to a standstill because of the health crisis, and if there is no occupancy, no tax is due even without this measure.

The Brussels Government has already tried to partially find a solution for this issue by implementing the exemption from 1 January 2020, i.e. for the lockdown, and (at least today) until 30 June 2020. However, unfortunately this measure is insufficient to lift this severely affected sector out of the economic crisis.

5. The Brussels-Capital Region: suspension of fines related to the LEZ (Low Emission Zone)

Fines are suspended to the first day following the end date of the federal government's response to the Corona crisis. The suspension applies to vehicles that are subject to the low emission rules as of 2018. This means that the original date of 1 April 2020 is no longer applicable. 

6. The Flemish government - relaxation of the conditions for VLAIO subsidies

The beneficiary of one of the grants listed below may, in concertation with VLAIO, obtain a relaxation of the time limits that it must respect in the context of the grants listed below : 

  • Baekeland mandates;
  • Ecology bonus+;
  • ICON: Demand-driven collaborative research grants;
  • Innovation Mandates (IM);
  • Research Project;
  • Development Project;
  • Extended Reality (XR) project call;
  • Strategic Environmental Support (STRES);
  • Strategic Transformation Support (STS);
  • ICON Thematic Projects.

7. The Flemish government - deferral of property tax

In order to prevent businesses from experiencing liquidity problems, the Flemish government has decided to send the property tax assessment in September 2020. 

8. Deferral of the annual circulation tax

8.1 The Flemish Government 

The Flemish tax authorities will grant a 4-month deferral of the annual circulation tax to businesses.

The tax assessments will be sent as from 26 March and will provide for a payment period of 6 months instead of 2 months. The 6-month payment period also applies to assessments that have already been sent, and that have set the 2-month payment period. 

No late payment interest will therefore be charged. 

8.2 The Brussels-Capital Region

The Brussels-Capital Government has decided to extend the deadline for payment of the circulation tax and tax on putting into circulation by 2 months.

Brussels residents and businesses will have 4 months in which to pay the circulation tax and, where applicable, the tax on putting into circulation.

This extension will apply to declarations sent up at the latest on 30 September 2020.

9. The Flemish Government - Inheritance and registration tax

Extension of the period for complying with the obligations regarding inheritance and registration tax

The Flemish tax authorities provide for a "tolerance period" of up to two months after the end of the period of the enhanced corona measures, as these measures are considered to be a situation of force majeure.

During this tolerance period, no tax increase will be imposed as a result of exceeding the initial deadlines.

10. Several municipalities suspend their taxes

Several municipalities have decided to suspend municipal taxes, in particular for companies. In this respect, please consult the website of your municipality to determine whether or not you can qualify for such suspension regime.

Information about support from the Federal Government by clicking here.

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