Global Employer Services Newsletter March 2020

Measures being implemented in relation to COVID-19

Below is the latest from the Belgian authorities (as of 18 March 2020) on measures being implemented in relation to COVID-19.

1. Employment related measures

Belgian employers impacted by the COVID19 virus may opt for an unemployment regime for its staff with the Belgian State Employment Service (‘Rijksdienst Voor Arbeidsvoorziening’ or ‘RVA’).

There are 2 possible regimes for the impacted staff, depending on the reason behind the requested unemployment.

  1. Temporary unemployment due to force majeure

For staff who are unable to work as a direct consequence of the governmental measures to close companies and cancel events, the employer can opt for ‘temporary unemployment due to force majeure’.

  • Full unemployment as well as a partial unemployment combined with partial employment are possible;
  • An unemployment application can run until 3 April 2020. This is the current end date of the governmental measures, but can of course be extended;
  • For the days of unemployment staff will be entitled to an unemployment allowance granted by the RVA. This allowance is temporarily (currently until 30 June 2020) increased to 70% (instead of 65%) of their average gross salary (capped at EUR 2,754.76);
  • Allowance subject to 26.75% social security contribution
  • The employer who invokes force majeure must submit an electronic declaration to the RVA office of the place of business as soon as possible. They must mention 'CORONAVIRUS' as a reason for force majeure.
  1. Temporary unemployment due to lack of work for economic reasons 

Companies might also be impacted in terms of a decrease in their customer base, production, turnover or orders. If such impact is not a direct consequence of the governmental measures as set out above, a company can opt for temporary unemployment for its white-collar workers for economic reasons.

The employee receives an allowance of the RVA. Until 30 June 2020 the allowance is temporarily 70% (instead of 65%) of their average gross salary, capped at EUR 2,754.76 (see above).

In case of economic unemployment for employees the company will need to be recognised by the Minister of Employment as a company in difficulties, by following the recognition procedure. During this procedure the employer can request for temporary unemployment due to force majeure if it can prove that it filed a recognition application for a company in difficulty. A copy of the recognition application with the Minister of Employment needs to be provided to the RVA.

  1. Payment plan for social security contributions

Companies with employees having difficulties paying their employer contributions due to COVID-19 can request a monthly payment plan for the social security contributions due for the first and second quarter of 2020.  This is an online application. 

2. Tax related measures

Payment of professional withholding taxes (on employee salaries)

Automatic extensions

Payment monthly professional WHT return February 2020, deadline extended until 13 May 2020 (initially 13 March 2020)

Payment monthly professional WHT return March 2020, deadline extended until 15 June 2020

Payment monthly professional WHT return 1st Quarter 2020, deadline extended until 15 June 2020

Also, the payment of tax assessments related to corporate income tax is extended for 2 months for assessments as of 12 March 2020.

Request for extension

In addition, there is the possibility of requesting a payment plan for professional withholding taxes. When granted, the approval of the payment plan automatically also entails a guaranteed release of late payment interests and a guarantee that no fines for late payment will be imposed.

The company requesting the payment plan should be able to prove that there is indeed damage caused by COVID-19. Companies having structural payment problems are excluded from this measure.

The request should be filed for every debt separately upon receipt of a payment notice and before 30 June 2020. The request should be made through a standard form available on the tax authorities’ website, and can be filed through physical mail or email.

Peter Wuyts