HSBC Treasury Management Profiles 2018 -

Current section, Introduction

Introduction

Belgium is among the top 25 most competitive nations, according to the Institute for Management Development, and is ranked 17th according to the World Economic Forum. Its central European position has made it an ideal location for multinationals to establish their headquarters and has made it a hub for exports (which account for 70 per cent of GDP) and the movement of goods (its port infrastructure is rated the second best in Europe, according to the European Commission, second only to the Netherlands). The country’s open economy, highly-skilled and multilingual workforce and solid transport infrastructure has also traditionally made it a destination for high levels of foreign direct investment (FDI); in 2016, FDI inflows reached USD33.1 billion. However, in a move to make the country a more attractive and competitive place to do business, the government has approved a raft of reforms, including reducing the corporate tax rate to 25 per cent by 2020 (from its current rate of 33.99 per cent), and legislating for greater labour flexibility. The country was hit hard by the global economic crisis of 2008 and while the economy is recovering, growth has been subdued, with average GDP growth of 1.2 per cent since 2010. In Q2 2017, year-on-year growth measured 1.5 per cent.

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Legal and regulatory

  • Foreign exchange and domestic currency (EUR) accounts can be held by residents both domestically and abroad. Resident domestic currency accounts are convertible into foreign currency
  • Non-resident bank accounts are permitted in both foreign and domestic currency. Non-resident domestic currency accounts can be held abroad and are convertible into foreign currency
  • A representative sample of approximately 11,760 resident companies is required to complete surveys on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis for balance of payment purposes

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Taxation

  • Resident companies are taxed on their worldwide income
  • Non-resident companies are taxed on Belgian-sourced income only
  • The standard rate of corporate taxation is 33 per cent
  • A withholding tax rate of 30 per cent is applicable on dividends, interest and royalties, where no exemption or reduced rate applies

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Payment instruments and systems

  • Credit transfers are used for both high-value corporate and low-value retail payment transactions. Cheques, typically used for one-off, high-value payments, are in terminal decline. Payment card use, particularly of debit cards, is rising; payment card transactions accounted for 47 per cent of the volume of all cashless payments in 2015. Mobile wallet payment schemes are increasingly popular
  • Belgium operates two national payment systems: TARGET2-BE, an RTGS system, and CEC CSM (for SEPA and low-value retail payment instruments). SEPA.EU, a clearing and settlement mechanism for the Single Euro Payment Area, was launched in November 2016. SEPA.EU will host STET’s Instant Payments CSM

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Cash management

  • Domestic and cross-border notional pooling and cash concentration is permitted between resident and non-resident companies
  • Automated collection methods are used by the majority of medium-sized and large businesses
  • Belgium’s notional interest deduction regime ensures that the country remains a tax-advantageous location for multinational groups to manage their finances

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Electronic banking

  • The national electronic banking standard, ISABEL, is used by commercial banks. Large companies can also use SWIFT for Corporates
  • All commercial banks provide internet and mobile banking services. ISABEL has developed a number of online facilities
  • There are more than 11 million internet banking subscriptions and 3.1 million mobile banking subscriptions in Belgium

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Sources:

  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • National Bank of Belgium
  • Institute for Management Development: IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2016
  • World Economic Forum: Global Competitiveness Report 2016–2017
  • UNCTAD world Investment Report 2017
  • Febelfin.

The materials contained on this page were assembled in April 2017 (unless otherwise dated).

 

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