Belgium is known to the world as the country of choice for its quality of life and high level of prosperity. Located in the heart of Europe, surrounded by the cities of Paris, London, Amsterdam, Bonn and Luxembourg, Brussels (capital of Belgium) has a lot to offer. A high degree of prosperity also has a back side. Indeed, this prosperity has to be financed. It is not for nothing that Belgium has a high tax rate.
One of the sectors Belgium is renowned for is healthcare. Combined with its far-reaching digitalisation and automation, the population can “almost” freely call upon a healthcare sector that is reaching peak levels in terms of infrastructure, knowledge, skills and available specialists.
Pfizer, by the way, was one of the first and the best vaccines against Covid-19 to be released on the market in Belgium. The pharmaceutical and biotech industry is at the top of the world rankings in health care. Specialists from all over the world come to Belgium to complete their training, where they are provided with the necessary infrastructure. The University of Leuven, together with highly specialised professors, realised several remote transplants through robotisation and digitalisation. A first for Belgium. But culture and sport also have their place. Just think of tennis, football, basketball, athletics and cycling, where we are always at the top. This is only possible because of the excellent organisation, support and financing of this sector.
Success costs money
But success costs money. For years, Belgian politics was concerned with cleaning up public finances, particularly when
it was found the government was running 2.3% deficit of the gross national product (GNP). Then there was Covid-19. This has partly paralysed the country, severely damaging the economy and with serious consequences for our society and also for our certified accountancy firm.
But we were among the lucky ones. Our sector was considered an economic necessity, so we assisted our clients during the crisis. Our government, too, played Father Christmas and supported many companies through premiums, subsidies, support and funding for the unemployment that was unseen and that had to relieve companies of the social costs that the government was taking on. We, as certified public accountants, had to assist the companies, our clients, in realising all these interventions during the period of the pandemic. Businesses had to close according to the government, but fixed costs remained, so we had to find financing solutions so companies could finance this bridge. Financial institutions did not want to
finance sick companies, so we were called upon to draw up business plans and financial plans to restart after Covid-19 was contained. This pandemic has brought Belgium to a deficit of 35 billion euros or 10% of our GNP. It will take several generations to pay this off. Just think of the post-war situation after the Second World War. And we had just digested a financial crisis.
Government tax reforms
The government introduced many reforms to the tax system a few years ago. It rewrote numerous economic and social
laws to reduce tax and social pressure and rewrote numerous company laws to meet the needs of the more modern society. Digitisation and automation has also been heavily implemented in our office. Communication with the government is now completely digital. All document flows between companies and the government are almost entirely digital, and Europe is adding to that with its Peppol network, a platform where the government and companies exchange documents. The banks have also abandoned the paper shop and even the public now communicates with these institutions via Apps’ on iPhone and Android.
Our office Comptafid -Benelux NV is flooded with new initiatives by entrepreneurs in Antwerp as well as Brussels who have the courage and the willpower to start a business. Not only new ideas, but also new projects, renewals of existing operations and with such a fantastic willpower that our economy will certainly boom in the coming months, i.e. bring it back to at least the level it was at two years ago.
As a result, we, as certified accountants, have to guide all these initiatives. This includes relooking at financial planning, the new laws on companies and associations, the administrative steps for hiring personnel, introducing them to banks for the presentation and defence of their business plans and for obtaining the necessary financing. We have to make sure the shareholders find their way back to their invested capital in the most taxfriendly way and also that directors find their compensation for the hard work and obtain a living wage in the most optimal way.
But foreign companies are also interested in us. The diversity of our population, their available budget and their diversity in culture and craftsmanship is an excellent basis for foreign companies to test and improve their products. We are there as a certified accountancy firm to guide these foreign companies in the complexity of the Belgian and regional laws. Knowledge of Dutch, French, English, German, Italian and Arabic is present in our office.