Federal measures for life sciences companies

1. Recognition of the life sciences sector as a key sector providing essential services.

On 18 March 2020, the chemical, plastics and life sciences sector was officially recognised by the federal government (by ministerial decree) as a key sector providing essential services to society and necessary for the socio-economic functioning of the country. For life sciences (pharma, biotech), this therefore concerns companies in the joint committees 200 and 207 (publication MB in the Belgian Official Gazette here).

The government has decided that these companies, regardless of their size, can continue their activities. However, companies are asked to apply the system of teleworking and the rules of social distancing to the maximum extent possible. The general hygiene measures must also be strictly adhered to. In concrete terms, recognition as a crucial sector with essential services means that there is an exception to the rules of social distancing for these companies if they cannot always be guaranteed.

2. Bridge loans and temporary deferral of repayment of loans to banks

The scheme is important for companies that are in financial difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak. There are two main parts: a six-month deferral of payment to banks and the option of obtaining a bridging loan for 12 months.
You can find more information here: Charter for deferral of corporate loans

3. Fiscal measures

In addition to the following fiscal support measures, the federal government has taken additional measures to create additional financial breathing space for businesses and entrepreneurs:

  • Postponement of filing corporate income tax and corporate income tax until midnight on Thursday, April 30, 2020 for returns with the deadline of March 16

  • Postponement for submitting the VAT returns

  • Automatic postponement with two months of payment for VAT and withholding tax without having to pay fines or interest

  • Automatic granting of an additional period of 2 months on top of the normal payment term for the payment of corporate tax and corporate income tax and without charging default interest

Read more at: https://financien.belgium.be/nl/Actueel/18-03-2020-coronavirus-bijkomende-steunmaatregelen

In addition, companies affected by the spread of the coronavirus can apply to the Federal Public Service Finance for support measures. Enterprises must be able to demonstrate that they are actually affected by the spread of the coronavirus (drop in turnover, fewer orders/assignments, etc.). Aid measures are not valid in cases where a firm has structural payment difficulties independent of COVID-19.

  • What debts?
    - withholding tax
    - VAT
    - personal income tax
    - corporate income tax
    - legal entity tax

  • What measures?
    - repayment plan
    - exemption from interest on arrears
    - remission of fines for non-payment

  • Deadline: application to be submitted by 30 June 2020

4. Measures regarding payment of social security contributions (NSSO)

Employers who are experiencing difficulties in paying their employer's social security contributions due to the coronavirus can apply to the NSSO for amicable instalments for the first and second quarter of 2020.

  • What measures?
    Payment plan on the basis of monthly instalments. In this way, you avoid recovery by means of a court order and, if necessary, legal costs. If the plan is adhered to, economic activities can continue normally. Payment difficulties due to the corona virus are accepted as grounds for the application.

5. Introduction of temporary unemployment

Introduction of a temporary unemployment scheme due to the spread of the Covid-19 (corona virus).

From March 13 (and retroactive to that date), temporary unemployment due to the coronavirus is in all cases considered to be temporary unemployment due to force majeure. This temporary unemployment will be automatically granted. This means that the company does not have to be accountable to claim it.

The procedures for introducing temporary unemployment are thus greatly simplified, both for employers and employees. Read more at: https://www.rva.be/nl/nieuws/tijdelijke-werkloosheid-ten-gevolge-van-hetuitbreken-van-het-coronavirus-covid-19-vereenvoudiging-van-de-procedure

  • Measure:
    In case of temporary unemployment, workers receive an amount equal to 65% of their average wage (limited to EUR 2,754.76 per month). Until June 30, 2020, the amount will be increased to 70% of the limited average salary. 26,75% withholding tax is withheld from temporary unemployment benefits.

  • Procedure:
    The RVA (National Employment Office) must be informed of the force majeure as soon as possible by the company or the Social Secretariat (as mandatary).
    Procedure and documents can be found here:
    https://www.rva.be/nl/documentatie/infoblad/e1-0