The tax market in Belgium has settled down after a couple of bumpy years with dynamic international changes. Although this year has seen few domestic changes to the climate, the international tax environment continues to cause uncertainty among taxpayers. A taxpayer said: "Because of the ever-growing complexity of tax matters, especially in a cross-border setting, it is important to be able to rely on a partner who thinks along from a deep understanding of what your business looks like and what solutions are needed."
In light of international debates such as the OECD's BEPS Project, state aid disputes at EU level and the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive (ATAD), the Belgian authorities are modifying their approach to keep up with the changing environment.
The tax administration is becoming increasingly aggressive and auditing companies more thoroughly. Advisers reported that the tax fraud unit is often engaged in audits related to complex structures. "Due to ambiguity in the tax codes and divergent case law, there is some uncertainty about the investigative powers that tax authorities have when they 'dawn raid' a company for tax audit purposes," said Wim Panis, head of tax at Stibbe. "We have an increasing amount of clients asking us for assistance during such dawn raids since the authorities seem to be more willing to exploit these ambiguities."
Belgium is slower than its neighbours in starting the BEPS implementation, advisers reported. Although few BEPS action points have been implemented into legislation, including country-by-country (CbC) reporting and further TP documentation requirements, the Belgian Minister of Finance did announce the further measures to combat tax fraud, with increased audits, e-auditing and data mining among these measures.
"BEPS has a major influence on the tax market as it now requires the full attention from the enterprises and of the tax lawyers. From the enterprises' side, there is a real concern to be compliant on time," said Astrid Pieron, head of tax at Mayer Brown.
"For the tax advisers, they are closely following up the developments to advise their clients on time so that they can adapt their tax and transfer pricing policies to the new tax environment," she added.
The EU's ATAD will be effective from January 1 2019, as the ECOFIN Council reached an agreement on the directive on June 21 2016. It was thought Belgium would object due to concerns that the directive would hinder the EU's competitiveness and hit small, open economies, such as Belgium, but the country ultimately agreed to implement the ATAD. "This shows that all those initiatives are becoming reality in the near future," said Alain Huyghe, head of tax at Baker & McKenzie.
In January this year, the EU Commission ruled the Belgian excess profit rulings system constituted state aid. Huyghe said: "While Belgium has reasonable arguments to defend that its excess profit rulings do not constitute state aid that has to be recovered from the beneficiaries of such rulings, and there is therefore a reasonable chance that those arguments are accepted by the EU courts, a lot of damage has been done in the meantime since the action of the EU Commission is not good for Belgium's image as an interesting and stable jurisdiction for foreign investors."
AB Taxand Belgium
Van Putlei 1
Tel: +32 (3) 238.92.91
Fax: +32 (3) 238.46.49
AB Taxand BVBA
Tour & Taxis – Havenlaan 86C b113A
Tel: +32 2 787 91 11
Fax: +32 2 787 91 20
Taxand in Belgium is exclusively, Taxand Belgium. With more than 400 tax partners and over 2,000 advisors in nearly 50 countries, we are the largest independent tax organisation worldwide. Taxand Belgium was awarded "Best Newcomer" in the year 2011.
We provide high quality, integrated tax advice to a variety of clients, including multinationals, listed companies, large private entities and also high-net-worth individuals. Our clients are in a wide range of industry sectors, such as real estate, consumer business, energy & utilities and pharmaceuticals. Our specialisation is in international tax, real estate services, mergers & acquisitions and estate planning for high net worth individuals. Moreover, we have a dedicated VAT team that provides specialised VAT advice, as well as VAT compliance services.
Our independence allows our advisors to focus on providing tax advice without the distraction and bureaucratic burden of supporting an audit practice or conducting time-consuming conflict evaluations. This enables us to deliver quality tax advice, globally.
Luc Jouk (Antwerp)
T. + 32 3 238 92 91
Geert De Neef (Brussels)
T. + 32 2 787 91 11
Country Tax Leader
Tel: + 32 2 600 68 51
Indirect Tax VAT
Tel: +32 2 600 66 49
Customs & Global Trade
Tel: +32 2 600 66 06
Global Business Tax
Pascal Van Hove
Tel: +32 2 600 67 70
Global Employer Services
Tel: + 32 2 600 69 80
Global Tax Center Europe
Christophe De Waele
Tel: +32 2 600 65 62
Tel: +32 2 600 69 27
R&D and Government Services
Tel: +32 2 600 67 21
Mergers & Acquisitions
Tel: +32 2 600 66 92
Ernst & Young & Partners BBVBA
De Kleetlaan 2
Tel: +32 2 774 9111
Country Tax Leader
Tel: +32 2 774 9349
Law Leader, HVG advocaten-avocats
Tel: + 32 2 774 9834
Business Tax Services
Steven J. Claes
Tel: +32 2 774 9420
Global Compliance and Reporting Leader
Tel: +32 2 774 9830
People Advisory Services
Tel: +32 2 774 9264
Tel: +32 2 774 6158
International Tax Services
Tel: +32 2 774 9349
Nick van Gils
Tel: +32 2 774 9523
Tel: +32 2 774 9349
Managing Partner Laga
Tel: + 32 2 800 70 11
Tel: +32 2 800 70 11
Tel: +32 2 800 71 48
Tel: +32 2 800 70 72
Luc De Broe
Tel: +32 2 800 70 10
Tel: +32 56 59 43 41
Employment, pensions & benefits
Tel: + 32 2 800 71 42
Laga also provides services in:
+32 2 743 4337
+32 2 743 4366
+32 2 743 4387
+32 2 743 4303
Loyens & Loeff is an independent full service law firm, specialised in integrated legal and tax advice. We have a 100-year track record of international (corporate) tax planning with more than 350 top tax specialists, international tax lawyers and 500 corporate/regulatory lawyers working from our offices in all major financial centres.
We understand that multinational businesses and cross border investors are increasingly faced with a multitude of international developments that impact their decision making, raising questions about how to structure future projects and transactions. In these complex, constantly evolving situations, we offer pragmatic advice and tailor-made solutions.
Our Tax practice covers all areas of tax law and is integrated with our other practices such as Corporate M&A, Real Estate, Investment Management/Funds, Private Equity, Banking & Finance, Capital Markets, Private Client, Employment, Commercial Litigation and Energy.
Areas of tax include tax optimisation, tax compliance, transfer pricing, tax assurance, estate planning, employment tax, European tax, accounting standards and financial reporting, financing and venture capital, holding structures, international and national tax planning, corporate restructuring, rulings, tax litigation, VAT, customs and excess, and international trade.
|Corporate Income Tax||33.99%||A|
|Capital Gains Tax||0%||0.412%||25.75%||33.99|
|Net Operating Losses (years)|
|Royalties from, for example, patents, know-how||0%||15%||27%|
|Branch Remittance Tax||0%|
A Surcharge of 3% on income tax makes effective corporate tax rate 33.99%.
Withholding tax note: Standard rate of 27%, however several exemptions and reductions exist.
Source: AB Taxand, Taxand Belgium
Geert De Neef is the co-founder and head of tax at Taxand Belgium and one of nine partners within the large team of tax professionals. De Neef's key practice areas are corporate company restructuring and the structuring of real estate transactions. The team assists clients from a wide range of industries and specialises in international tax, corporate tax, real estate, indirect tax, estate planning and M&As.
The firm's activity over the past year includes a €23 million ($26 million) tax dispute on repayment of withholding taxes and a €7 million ($7.8 million) restructuring deal of a real estate portfolio in which the firm applied for a VAT unity between companies with different VAT profiles.
Other significant members of the team include Luc Jouk, who has more than 20 years of experience in advising clients in corporate taxes, M&A and restructuring and Frédéric Kransfeld, who focuses on corporate tax and advising wealthy individuals.
The tax team at Allen & Overy is supervised by partner Patrick Smet and the team specialises in M&A, standalone tax work, litigation and management. Tax investigations have recently become the most important focus area of the team and it has represented large companies in relation to the LuxLeaks investigation undertaken by the Belgian tax fraud squad, and in state aid investigations by the European Commission. Drawing on experience, the firm advises clients on how to manage tax risks and reputation.
Smet specialises in M&A, financial tax, incentives, dispute resolutions and tax risk management. The team consists of one partner, one counsel and five other tax professionals. Another important member of the team is Stéphanie Houx, who is well known for her expertise in VAT.
This year, a team from the firm worked on a €25 billion ($28 billion) cross-border merger between Ahold and Delhaize. The team included Smet, Isabelle Panis, Evylyne Gallant and Godfried Kinnegim.
Baker & McKenzie's main focus is to advise multinationals and Belgian companies on domestic and international tax planning, with a focus on inbound and outbound planning strategies, M&A, transfer pricing, equity, corporate finance and fund structuring transactions. The team of three partners and six other tax professionals is headed by Alain Huyghe, who has been with the firm for 30 years. His focus areas include tax implications of acquisitions, transfer pricing, corporate restructurings and specific tax issues for insurance companies.
The team benefits from a global network of around 800 tax professionals in more than 40 countries. This means the team can assist clients with the challenges and opportunities they may face in practically any region.
In the past year, the tax team assisted a major Belgian financial institution with a complex deal proposal for a cross-border acquisition with a total value of €185 million ($207 million). The team was required to take the complex tax environment into account, including the constraints and rules of the five countries involved.
Clients say the firm's ability to combine a business-oriented approach with a thorough knowledge of the tax market provides an excellent experience.
The niche tax, audit, accountancy and bookkeeping firm Baker Tilly Belgium offers specialist corporate finance and consultancy services. It has offices in Aaist, Berlare, Brussels, Gent and Liege and consist of many tax professionals with a wealth of knowledge in company and group financing structures, investment projects, real estate, R&D ventures and succession. A key corporate tax partner is Marc De Munter. He has experience in taxes on movable and immovable property. M&A and reorganisations, financing structures and international tax law.
The team benefits from the global Baker Tilly network which has 150 member firms in 120 countries.
Recently promoted partner Alexandre Ooms leads the tax team at international law firm Clifford Chance's office in Brussels. The team provides its clients with a wide range of services including advice on banking and finance taxes, capital markets and structured debts, corporate, M&A and joint venture tax, VAT, transfer pricing, restructuring and real estate tax.
The tax practice has a strong focus on real estate and the tax implications of M&A, finance and capital markets. Ooms provides clients with innovative advice on corporate and international tax matters, including real estate tax issues and fund structuring.
Another key team member is Pierre-Olivier van Caubergh, who has a wealth of experience in investment funds and private equity taxation, as well as employee and management benefits, and real estate tax matters.
Former head of tax Thierry Blockerye recently retired from the firm.
Victor Dauginet is the founding partner of tax law firm Dauginet and has technical expertise in tax litigation. The team consists of lawyers with years of experience offering assessment and advice related to tax disputes. Dauginet founded the firm in 1986 and uses his experience and knowledge as a former member of the Belgian tax administration to bring insight to the practice while maintaining a respectable relationship with the authorities.
The firm also covers other tax matters, including international corporate tax and tax planning. Dick Van Belle is one of the professionals specialising in this area, and litigates for and advises clients in corporate tax, VAT, customs and personal income taxation.
Tom Declercq is the new head of tax at Deloitte as of June 2016. He succeeds Piet Vandendriessche as managing partner, leading the tax and legal services department, a team of 41 partners and 488 tax professionals. Declercq has more than 20 years of experience in Belgian and international taxation and social security planning.
The firm offers a full range of tax services with emphasis on advising large multinational clients and has a focus on technology advancements outside of traditional tax services. The team works across all areas of tax and works closely with the Belgian law firm Laga in the fields of employment law, corporate law, M&A, banking and finance, commercial law, intellectual property, private equity, dispute resolution, fraud and white collar crime, insolvency and reorganisation, real estate, public law, administrative law, environmental law, and tax litigation.
Deloitte Belgium has strengthened its practice in the past year with numerous new hires including senior managers Benoît Rousseau, Eric Ghenne, Sabrina Otten, Aiki Kuldkepp, Mária Takács, Lieven Hendrickx, and Patrick Callahan. The firm boasts one of the biggest accounting departments in the country.
Deloitte is highly recommended by its clients for both corporate income tax and transfer pricing (TP) advisory. One client said: "Our experience with them has been positive as they are knowledgeable not only on tax matters themselves but also on the specific tax and TP aspects of our business. Deloitte is also very proactive and innovative."
Dumon, Sablon & Vanheeswijck specialises in tax law as well as business and estate law. It offers a standard assortment of tax services including tax procedure, income tax, VAT and other indirect taxes, estate planning, corporate restructuring, international tax law and criminal tax law.
Johan Dumon co-founded the firm along with Luc Vanheeswijck and Stefan Sablon. He focuses on income tax, estate planning and corporate reorganisations. Both Vanheeswijck and Sablon focus on tax procedure, money laundering and criminal tax law, as well as income tax and estate planning.
Patrick Hofströssler is the managing partner of Eubelius. His niche taxation focus areas are real estate transactions and family enterprises, and he has extensive knowledge in litigation, contract law, construction law, administrative law and estate law. He works closely with Wouter Claes, a partner who advises large- and medium-sized companies on a wide range of tax issues including M&A, inbound and outbound investment, withholding taxes, real estate taxes and tax dispute resolution.
The tax team focuses on litigation and advice and covers a number of niche areas such as real estate transactions, public entities and employee benefits.
EY's tax practice offers a full suite of tax services with expertise in the financial services, manufacturing, energy, consumer products and IT industries. Herwig Joosten leads the tax group and specialises in international taxation and transfer pricing. The team assists clients in corporate tax, human capital, indirect, international and transaction tax. It consists of about 350 professionals and is a member of the international EY network which operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.
Axel Haelterman is the head of tax at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which is well-known for supporting national and multinational clients on transactions, litigation, tax planning, and policy inquiries worldwide. The firm also provides strategic support, and solves problems while ensuring clients are prepared for the changes to the tax environment.
Haelterman is a 'tax star' in Belgium and is often praised by his peers. His expertise covers financial institutions and products, employee benefits, corporate finance, M&A transactions and litigation. He is regularly consulted by the Belgian Parliament on a variety of issues and is commonly involved in new tax bill planning and drafting processes, acting as a technical adviser.
The firm often works alongside or as second opinion for the Big 4. The firm also does a lot of work in banking, equity markets and derivatives.
Jones Day's tax team is headed by Howard Liebman, who specialises in international tax and corporate structuring. He coordinates both the corporate and tax sides of transactional M&A, joint ventures and restructurings. Liebman is also president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Belgium.
The firm offers expertise through its team members, including counsel Werner Heyvaert and associate Valérie Oyen. Heyvaert focuses on the tax aspects of domestic and international transactions and has more than 20 years of experience in the field. Oyen advises multinational companies, banks, investment funds and institutions on international and corporate tax issues.
Managing partner Koen Maerevoet leads the tax team at KPMG Belgium, which is one of the largest tax departments in an accounting firm in the country. The team offers a full suite of tax services and invests in tax technology, developing tools for tax reporting and returns.
Maerevoet has more than 20 years of experience dealing with tax matters and shows extensive knowledge and expertise in various sectors, including real estate, international and corporate tax and national and international tax.
Danny Stas heads the tax team at Laga, one of Belgium's leading law practices. It offers extensive experience within the field of tax services, including private tax, corporate tax, customs, indirect tax, and criminal tax. The team specialises in tax advice, reorganisations, deal structuring, and negotiation of tax rulings. Stas' key focus area is VAT, specifically within real estate matters and financial transactions. He is working to build a VAT-specialised team within Laga.
The team consists of more than 50 tax lawyers, including 12 partners. In October 2015, the firm negotiated various rulings on the reclaim of VAT on bad debts by a third party on behalf of an international financial institution.
This year the team expanded with the addition of several new hires, including senior manager Filip Smet who focuses on private client litigation, regularly assisting clients in the non-profit or public sectors facing tax audits. Another significant partner is Luc De Broe who is the head of the tax litigation team within the firm and an expert in international and Belgian tax.
Jean-Michel Degée is the new head of tax at Liedekerke succeeding Daniel Garabedian. Garabedian is still an active member of the team and is a member of the Permanent Scientific Committee of the International Fiscal Association (IFA). The team consists of seven partners and 15 other tax professionals and provides clients with the full scope of services, including M&A, financial services, corporate tax, VAT and transfer pricing. Degée joined the firm in 1998 and was made partner 10 years later.
The team is skilled in both advisory work and litigation, including legislation drafting. Significant members of the team include Simone Nudelholc, who is a counsel admitted to the bar of the Belgian Court of Cassation, Laurence Pinte, previous vice-president of the Belgian branch of the IFA, and Edordo Traversa, a member of the IFA's executive committee.
In the past year, the team assisted a US-listed group with an industrial activity in Belgium with the post-acquisition corporate and tax reorganisation and integration of a €1 billion ($1.1 billion) Belgian industrial player.
The firm's tax group was founded in 1965 by John Kirkpatrick and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. Kirkpatrick passed away shortly before his 81st birthday in August 2015, leaving one of the largest law firms in Belgium as part of his legacy.
Linklaters' Belgian office provides clients with a wide-range of tax services and thorough cross-border tax services through tax structuring expertise and innovative advisory skills. The team is led by Henk Vanhulle, who is the managing partner of the international law firm's practice in Brussels. He specialises in corporate tax, particularly international tax planning, corporate finance, capital markets and M&A.
Other key partners include Ico Onkelinx, who specialises in international tax, corporate tax, tax litigation, M&A, transfer pricing and taxation of individuals, and Nicolas Lippens, who joined the firm as a managing associate in 2007 and has expertise in Belgian and international tax.
Litigation is another key area for the contentious tax team and the firm benefits from the international network of more than 120 tax experts.
The Loyens & Loeff tax team in Belgium consists of nine full-time partners and 22 other tax specialists. The team, headed by partner Enrico Schoonvliet, offers the full scope of tax compliance, consulting and litigation. The professionals' expertise includes European tax law, financing and venture capital, holding structures, international and national tax planning, reorganisation of structures, rulings and accounting law.
Schoonvliet has years of experience in a broad range of international tax matters and domestic tax-related issues, including financing structures, transfer pricing, restructuring, holdings, investment management and private equity. The firm is known for its high quality services, especially in fiscal advice, tax planning and litigation. This year, the firm added four new associates to the team.
In 2015, Loyens & Loeff assisted a major multinational group with the restructuring of outstanding intra-group debt totalling around €450 million ($503 million). The firm is highly praised by clients and peers. One client said: "I am very satisfied by the service provision rendered by Loyens in Belgium. I am used to working with Xavier Clarebout on tax restructuring, negotiation with tax administration and M&A tax analysis."
The general tax practice is divided into six practice groups: tax controversy and litigation, transfer pricing, VAT, customs and international trade, family-owned business and private wealth, accounting standards and financial reporting and compensation and benefits.
Mayer Brown's Belgian tax team is headed by Astrid Pieron, who has more than 30 years of experience in international taxation. The team consists of six dedicated professionals, including two partners, and has extensive experience advising in the manufacturing, pharmaceutical, hospital and leisure, finance and private equity industries.
The small but focused team are representing a firm in its VAT litigation and have assisted clients on a number of restructurings in the past year. Other key members of the team are partner Charles-Albert Helleputte and associate Dina Scornos. Helleputte, who was promoted to partner in January, focuses on corporate tax and restructuring and has expertise in banking and finance law as well as data protection matters. Scornos joined Mayer Brown in 2013.
The firm was recommended by clients for high-level transactions. One client said: "Mayer Brown's approach is very professional and detailed."
NautaDutilh's Belgium tax team is led by Pascal Faes who has extensive experience across all areas of tax law, including litigation and transactional work with particular focus on tax structuring and planning. The firm offers a full range of services including VAT, customs and excise. The tax practice assists multinational clients on international tax planning issues and uses a multidisciplinary approach, working closely with the firm's other practices, such as the banking and finance teams.
The tax department at PwC Belgium is overseen by Axel Smits, who is managing partner of the tax and legal practice and a prominent member of the PwC global tax leadership. The accounting firm has a strong tax practice that covers traditional corporate and international tax services, as well as tax compliance and advice, tax accounting, VAT and dispute resolution, and customs and excise.
Smits joined PwC in 1990 and specialises in substance-based planning, IP rights and the telecommunications and IT industries. He also has specific expertise in intellectual property rights and has more than 20 years of experience advising multinational clients on inbound and outbound tax planning transactions.
Stibbe's tax team in Brussels consists of three partners and eight other tax professionals. Wim Panis is at the forefront of the practice which covers all tax matters including M&A transactions, financial services, litigation and transfer pricing.
Panis specialises in corporate tax, international tax planning, VAT and litigation. He has been with the firm since 2002 and has extensive experience in construction and real estate transactions, the tax aspects of public entities, tax issues for the energy and utilities sector and e-commerce taxation.
He works closely with fellow partner Xavier Gillot who heads the transfer pricing team and has been practising law for around 15 years. Gillot practises all areas of tax including income tax, transfer pricing, reorganisations and acquisitions. He is also active in litigation, representing multinationals and leading financial institutions. This year, the firm saw an increase in litigation activity and Panis handled a landmark VAT case against the Belgian state before the European Court of Justice.
One client said: "Stibbe Brussels is a very professionally organised law firm, where the high quality of service provided is very important."
Tiberghien specialises in tax and estate planning and is an independent tax law firm with offices in Brussels and Antwerp. The firm consists of highly-specialised tax professionals with years of experience advising on international and domestic tax matters. Partner Robby Ackermans, who has been with the firm for 20 years, has extensive knowledge in international taxation law, litigation and is specialised in death duties and tax-inspired migration into and from Belgium.
Nick Boonen has been a partner at the firm since 2015 and his key practice areas include general tax law and restructuring small and medium sized enterprises. Another experienced partner is Gerd Goyvaerts, who joined the firm in 1996. His key practice areas include professional and private estate taxation, tax planning, death duties and estate planning.
The team offers advice on the full scope of tax disputes and assist clients during tax audits and when negotiating with the tax authorities.
|Tier 1- Belgium|
|Tier 2- Belgium|
|Baker & McKenzie|
|Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer|
|Loyens & Loeff|
|Tier 3- Belgium|
|AB Taxand Belgium|
|Allen & Overy|
|Tier 4- Belgium|
|Baker Tilly Belgium|
|Dumon, Sablon & Vanheeswijck|