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When the government plays Easter bunny
 
On Good Friday, 29 March 2013, the federal government reached an agreement on the new fiscal measures needed to balance the budget for 2013.

Eye-catching novelties are the new withholding tax for liquidations and a reduced withholding tax rate for SMEs, as well as a serious increase of the registration on long term leases and leaseholds.

Liquidations become more expensive

When a company is wound up withholding tax is due on the liquidation surplus, that is everything that is paid out over the company's share capital. During the last budget rounds the withholding tax had been uniformly raised to 25%, but the rate of withholding tax on liquidation surpluses had been spared. As of 1 October 2014 the rate will be raised to 25% just like for the ordinary dividends. This rate also applies when a company redeems its own shares.

The government hopes that over the next 18 months shareholders will take the opportunity to wind up companies at the reduced rate of 10%, which will help the treasury. Indirectly, shareholders can continue to enjoy the reduced rate if they convert taxed reserves into the company's share capital.

Measures to strengthen equity

In order to encourage SMEs to strengthen their equity, a reduced withholding tax rate is introduced for dividends distributed by an SME for new shares. During the first two years, the rate will be maintained at 25%; as of the third year after the issuance of the shares, the rate will be reduced to 20%. As of the fourth year, the withholding tax on dividends will be only 15%. The rate of 15% will be final. It shall also apply to dividends paid out after four years, even if the company grows and does not qualify as an SME anymore or when it is wound up.

New shares are shares subscribed with new capital, in cash, starting in 2013. The shares must be nominative and kept without interruption throughout the whole period of three or four years by the shareholder who made the contribution.

Until 30 September 2014, companies can also strengthen their equity by incorporating taxed reserves taxed into the capital. A 10% tax will be due (the current rate for liquidation surpluses). Because these reserves will then be share capital, they can later be distributed tax free, but only after five years. If the company reduces its capital before the five years, withholding tax will be due at 15%, 10% as of the third year, and 5% as of the fourth year following the incorporation.

A new anti-abuse provision for the notional interest deduction

A company can have a double tax advantage by a combined application of the notional interest deduction and the participation exemption (the Belgian 95% dividend received deduction). Dividends from shares held as “investment” may be eligible for the dividends received deduction, and are included in the company's taxable base for 5%. These shares are not excluded from the basis for calculating the notional interest deduction.

Henceforth the shares held as “investments” must be excluded for the calculation of the deduction for risk capital (notional interest deduction) if the dividends from those shares are eligible for the dividends received deduction. The dividends received deduction will be applied by priority; it is only when the shares do not meet the requirements for the dividends received deduction that they are included in the basis for calculating the notional interest deduction.

Other measures

The general fixed registration tax is doubled from 25 to 50 €, e.g. for the registration of a will or marriage contract.

The registration fee for the establishment or transfer of a long term lease or a lease hold is raised from 0.2% to 2% (0.5% for non-profit organizations).

Excise duties on tobacco will be increased as well.




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