Belgium

Last modification: 18 Apr 18
Introduction: 

Company cars are (partly) fiscally deductible, making the country a fertile breeding ground for company vehicles. For employers, company cars are a handy way of giving the employees an extra form of payment and simultaneously solving their mobility problems. 68% of the Belgian employees use a company car for commuting. 

Chapter 1: Economic and business environment

Demographics

 11.3 million (6.5 Flanders, 3.6 Wallonia, 1.2 Brussels)

Capital

Brussels

Major cities

Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Liège, Bruges, Namur, Leuven

Languages

Dutch, French, German

GDP

420 bn EUR, 37.200 EUR pro capita

Unemployment rate

7.6% (2017)

Main industries

Engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum

Currency

EUR

Interest rate

ECB interest rate 0.00 % (2017)
Long-term interest rate 0.75% (2017)

Political key info

The Politics of Belgium takes place in a framework of a federal, representative democratic, constitutional monarchy. Federal legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament. The federation is made up of (language-based) communities (The Flemish, the French and German speaking community) and (territorial) regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels).

Current federal governement is a centre-right coalition formed by Liberals (MR&OpenVLD), christian democrats (CD&V) and Flemish Regionalists (N-VA).

Comptence for income taxes and VAT is situated on federal level, as well as the National Railway and some elements of traffic law and law enforcement. Regional governements are responsible for road- and registration taxes as well as road safety, most of traffic law, public transportation and mobility infrastructure  (other than trains)

Inflation

2.3% (2017)

Chapter 2 : Automotive market, segments & sales

Total Car park

5.mn Passenger Cars, 750k LCVs, 160k Trucks (2017)

New vehicle registrations (Cars, LCV, Trucks)

(2016)
540k Passenger Cars, 68k LCVs, 8.5k Trucks

Top 5 brands (total market)

1. Renault (35,119)
2. Volkswagen (32,962)
3. BMW (25,594)
4. Peugeot (24,861)
5. Opel (24,613)

Source: Febiac Dpt. Data Services Total 2016

Model preference top 5 (total market)

1. Volkswagen Golf
2. Renault Clio
3. Hyundai Tucson
4. Renault Captur
5. FIat 500
(2017)

Used car market/renewal cycle

700.000 registrations of passenger cars per year

Chapter 3: Company car market

Total Fleet Park (company cars)/Fleet penetration in total fleet sales

 1.2 Million vehicles (2017)

Evolution fleet sales (last 5 years)

+31%

Top 5 fleet brands (fleet market)

1.BMW
2. Renault
3. Audi
4. VW
5. Mercedes
(2017)

Fleet Model preference top 5 (fleet market)

1. Audi A4
2. Renault (Grand) Scenic
3. Mercedes C-class
4. BMW 3-series
5. Peugeot 308

(2017)

Chapter 4: Taxation & legislation

4.1 Car registration

Car registrations in Belgium are personal, a change of licence plate (reregistration) is necessary when a car changes registrar. One can reuse a licence plate for a next vehicle registration.
In order to register a car, the registrar (private or moral person) needs to be a Belgian resident.
Registration is not valid as proof of ownership of the vehicle.
A licence plate comes with a 2-fold certificate of registration, one to be kept in the car and one at home, both of them are required in order to sell the vehicle.
Car manufacturers will provide a document with a new vehicle, to be completed by the insurance company and the licence plate holder to be, which is then sent to the DIV (Federal service for Mobility) who will deliver the licence plate and the 2-fold certificate of registration the next day by postal service.

Operational leasing companies will typically register a vehicle on their own name, financial leasing companies have lessees take care of registration themselves.

New passenger cars do not need to pass technical inspection for the first 4 years (except when a towing bar is installed), after which it is required every 2 years. Commercial vehicles need to pass technical inspection every year. If they are used for remunarated transport of persons (taxi, bus,…) they need to undergo inspection every 6 months.
Personalised licence plates (at least 1, at most 8 positions) are possible for a one-off extra cost of 1.000 EUR.
Delivery of a new licence plate costs 30 EUR.  

4.2 Car Taxation

A one-off car registration tax is applicable on all passenger cars. LCVs and trucks are excempt from this tax. The tax differs by Region.
For private persons and companies based in Wallonia or Brussels and for leasing and rental companies based in any region, the tax is calculated on the horsepower, cylinder capacity and the vehicle's age, ranging between a minimum of €61.50 to a maximum of €4,957.

For physical persons, not companies, in Wallonia, an "ecomalus" is added for cars emitting more than 146 g of CO2. The supplementary amount to be paid on top of the car registration tax varies between €100 and €2,500.

In Flanders the registration tax is based on environmental criteria (mainly CO2), fuel type and age of the vehicle, ranging between a minimum of €0 to a maximum of €10,728.65.

4.3 Motor vehicle tax

A yearly road tax is applicable to all cars and LCVs. For private persons and companies based in Wallonia or Brussels and for leasing and rental companies based in any region, the tax is calculated on the horsepower, cylinder capacity of the vehicle.
In Flanders this registration tax is based on environmental criteria.
Trucks (>3,5T) pay a tax per kilometer on the main roads, a toll charging system, differntiated by the maximum load of the vehicle, is in place, electronically monitored.

4.4 Direct taxation – taxable persons

Physical persons are subject to the personal income tax which in Belgium is about 50% of the revenue. Self-employed are subject to the personal income tax when they do not have a company.

Companies are subject to a corporate tax of 33.99% of the profit, with exceptions for SMEs and other specific situations. The disallowed expenses on car-related costs are taxed at this percentage.

Employees who use their company car for personal purposes, are taxed for that benefit in kind.

The yearly taxable amount is defined by the fiscal list price of the car (VAT included), its CO2-emissions and its age. The minimum percentage of the list price to be taken into account is 4%, the maximum 18%, with a minimum yearly taxable amount of €1,310. The taxation is usually deducted at the source, by the employer. Self-employed people, who pay for their car with their own means, are not taxed on a benefit in kind for the car they pay themselves.

Every year, the amount resulting for the formula and starting at 100% for a new car, is lowered by 6%, until the car is in its sixt year, when the minimum of 70% of the original list price is reached.

The formula for the Belgian BIK on company cars for 2018:

Diesel

BIK = Fiscal List Price x (5.5 +0.1 x (CO2-emissions - 86) /100 x 6/7 x age percentage

Petrol

BIK = Fiscal List Price x (5.5 +0.1 x (CO2-emissions - 105) /100 x 6/7 x age percentage

Minimum percentage 4%, maximum percentage 18%

Minimum for 2018: €1,310.

4.5 VAT

A VAT of 21% is applicable on all goods and services related to vehicles, apart from the insurance where a non-deductible insurance tax applies (27%).
The VAT is deductible on professionally used vehicles, up to 100% for LCVs and trucks, limited to an absolute maximum of 50% for pasenger cars if the professional use can be effectively proven to that level, if not a flat VAT deductibility of 35% applies.

4.6 Accounting

Vehicles (and equipment/accessories) are depreciated for their economic lifetime, typically for passenger cars 4-5 years, for LCVs and trucks this may be longer.
Al other costs related to the vehicle use are taken into cost base of the current accounting year.
Vehicles in short or long term rental (operating lease) are not accounted for as assets and the rental costs are taken into the cost base of the current accounting year.
Financial leases are to be depreciated as if it were owend assets. Depreciation is being determined by the economic liftetime, and is usually 4 to 5 years for passenger cars.

Financial Renting (a leasing formula with a 16% or higher residual value), is not depreciated as if it was an owned asset, but is taken into the cost base as is the case for short or long term rental contracts.

Chapter 5: Car policies

A well-structured car policy is an absolute necessity for fleet managers in Belgium, given the fact that more than in other countries, a lot of Belgian employees have benefit cars, that are attributed solely as a means of income, in order for the employers to be able to attract the right profile for the job or evade the high fiscal burden on classic salary. For example, in Belgium almost no IT consultant or financial manager has to do without a company car, even if they don’t really need one for their professional activities. The other category of company vehicles, the so-called tool cars, are meant for sales reps, technical support teams, merchandisers and the like. Most of them also can be used for private purposes, as do the benefit cars.

A company car only forms a part of the salary package if private usage of it is allowed. In that case, the employee is taxed on the benefit in kind the car represents. There are no exact figures on the number of company cars in Belgium that can be used for private purposes, but Belgian car federation Febiac estimates that 90% of leased cars and 50 to 70% of all other cars registered to companies can also be used privately.

The importance of a genuine, elaborate car policy is key. Without it, employers and employees have difficulty determining what to do in case of traffic fines, accidents, function change, resignation or dismissal and so on. Belgian car policies include the rules of engagement relative to the company’s car and LCV fleet. They list and explain the criteria for the attribution of a car, what to do in case of (long) absence, the rules in relation to private and corporate use of the car, the use of a fuel card (is it allowed to fill up during weekends or abroad for example), what to do in case of mechanical breakdown or an accident (call the hotline of the leasing company, not the dealership nor the assistance provided by the carmaker), the choice of brands, models, engine types, accessories and optional equipment, what to do in case of fines and so on.

Legally binding or not?

In what way such a car policy is legally binding for the employee? The car policy can be a part of the employment contract. That is the case when the employer asks the employee to sign it or when it is referred to in the contract. In that case, the only way to modify it is by mutual agreement between the parties. On the other hand, it is possible to see the car policy as a single sided document in which the employer instructs the employee with regards to the dos and don’ts. It is perfectly legal for the employer to do so based on his authority as an employer. In this case, the approval of the employee is not required to change the rules of the game.

Even if it is possible to change the rules in the policy (with or without the employees’ consent), the document delivers a certain assurance to both parties and guarantees a clear and consistent treatment of the matter, reducing possible disputes to a minimum

Chapter 6: Funding methods

Overview of penetration of funding methods (buy or lease statement)  
Type of suppliers (captive versus multibrand, international versus local…)  
6.1 Outright purchase:  
Definition The company buys the vehicle using it's own funding or a bank loan. The ownership is immediate, the owner has to activate the asset and writes it off over time.
Pros and cons Immediate ownership and hassle-free buying are pros, the loss of available working capital and increase in debt are cons, as is the lack of risk-outsourcing.
Economic & legal ownership The company is the legal and economical owner.
Business practices Outright purchase is not common for larger fleets.
6.2 Renting (Finance lease):  
Definition

A financial leasing agreement whereby the lessor transfers to a lessee for a specific period the right to use a vehicle in exchange for a payment or set of payments. The ultimite goal is buying the lease object. 

A finance leasing contract is subject to special legislation that does not necessarily apply to full service leasing. 

A finance leasing contract provides an option to buy the vehicle with a maximum of 15% of the capital invested. In that case, the lessee is obligated to depreciate the asset in his books.

A second formula, called financial renting, is basically the same, but uses a purchase option of more than 15% which allows the lessee to keep the asset outside his balance sheet, and allows the montly payments to be simply booked as expenses.

Pros and cons The fact that the company's cash reserve remains untouched is a clear pro, the fact that a financial lease (<15% purchase option) increases the company's financial debts is a con, which can be avoided by opting for financial renting (>15% purchase option). Services can be included.
Economic & legal ownership The lessor has the legal property of the object during the lease term. The lessee has the economic ownerhip. 
Business practices Financial Renting and Leasing are often used by SME owners who tend to acquire the asset after the leasing period.
6.3 Full service leasing (operational leasing)  
Definition

A full service leasing agreement is a funding method for the use of a vehicle for a certain period. That period does not have to match the economic life of the car. The lessor carries the economic and operational risk (residual value, maintenance and repairs...). The lessee has no purchase option at the end of the contract. 

In general the leasing company provides additional services such as maintenance, repairs, replacement car, roadside assistance and insurance... 

Pros and cons Total outsourcing makes it easy to estimate TCO and avoid risks. Given the fact that Full service leasing is off-balance, it has no impact on the financial parametres of the company. A con is the fact that there is no purchase option and that the formula often seems to be expensive, because of the services included.
Economic & legal ownership The lessor has the legal and economic ownership of the vehicle.
Business practices Full service leasing is the youngest but now the most successful funding method for companies in Belgium. It became increasingly popular in the 1980s.
6.4 Fleet Management  
Definition The externalisation of the management of a company car fleet. Providers such as Fleet Logistics, ERCG and Dragintra offer this service in Belgium. Belgium also has fleet management software providers such as XPOFleet and Chevin Fleet Solutions.
Pros and cons Pro: no own personnel needed, a specialist approach Con: extra cost for the company
Economic & legal ownership see funding methods
Business practices External Fleet Management is only used for large car fleets in Belgium.
6.5 Short term rental  
Definition

Traditionally, short term rental means the rental of cars or other vehicles for a period of one day to a maximum of one year.

It is usually an all-in formula that includes the assistance, maintenance and tyre wear, the mandatory liability insurance. 

Contracts shorter than 1 month usually include an unlimited mileage.

Pros and cons The flexibility and rapidness of the solution are pros, the cost is a con.
Economic & legal ownership The rental company is the legal and economic owner of the vehicle.
Business practices Mostly used for temporary replacement in case of maintenance and repair or breakdown, or awaiting the delivery of a newly ordered vehicle.
6.6 Other funding methods  
Novated lease  
Private lease  

Chapter 7: Fuel

Fuel type segmentation

Fuel price evolution

  01/01/2012 01/01/2013 01/01/2014 01/01/2015 01/01/2016 01/01/2017 01/01/2018
Diesel 1.4 1.5 1.4 1.2 1.1 1.3 1.392
Petrol 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.3 1.3 1.4 1.403

Source: Petrolfed, maximum prices.

Fuel infrastructure

In 2016, Belgium had around 3,109 fuel stations. 

Source: Petrolfed

Fuel card solutions

Multibrand providers such as Network Fuel Card and Fleetpass as well as almost all fuel companies and even mobility service and assistance providers such as VAB and Touring provide fuel cards to Belgian (fleet) customers.
 

Chapter 8 : TCO components

The Total Cost of Ownership for Belgian fleet vehicles consists of the usual elements, but some are specific for the Belgian situation (X).

  • monthly financing
  • interest cost
  • road tax
  • registration tax
  • maintenance and repairs
  • tyres
  • roadside assistance
  • insurance and all risk cover
  • fuel (1)
  • non-deductible VAT (in relation to the professional use) (2)
  • taxation on disallowed expenses (3)
  • taxation on 17% or 40% or the BIK (4)
  • solidarity contribution (CO2 based) (5)
  • fleet management costs
  • car parking, car wash, ...

(1) The deductibility of the fuel cost is fixed at 75% for 2018 and 2019. From 2020 onwards, the deduction will be equal to the general deductibility of the car, depending on the CO2-emissions.

(2) Of the 21% of VAT paid, a maximum of 50% can be deducted, see Chapter 4.5: VAT

(3) The deductibility of car costs is determined by the CO2-emissions of the vehicle, with a minimum of 50% and a maximum of 100% (and 120% for zero-emission vehicles). The percentages remain unchanged for 2018 and 2019 but will be changed from 2020 onwards.

(4) Employers have to add a percentage of the employees' BIK to the disallowed expenses for the vehicle. When the employee has to pay for his own fuel, the percentage is 17%, when the employer pays the fuel, 40% of the yearly BIK has to be added to the disallowed expenses.

(5) For company cars that can be used by employees for private purposes, the employer has to pay a contribution to Belgian social security, depending on the CO2-emissions of the vehicle. This amount varies, but can never be lower than €26.47 monthly (2018). 

Chapter 9: Safety, insurance and telematics

Safety:

Due to Belgian ribbon development housing and dense population, (heavy) traffic often passes through city centres. This increases the risk of accidents. The lack maintenance of a considerable part of Belgian public roads, also leads to a higher than desired accident rate. In 2017, on Belgian public roads, 620 fatalities were to be deplored (483 immediate demises and 137 people who deceased within 30 days from the accident). That figure lies 17 casualties below the 2016 result, but it will be difficult for the authorities to reach the goal (set in 2011) of no more than 420 traffic deaths by 2020. In order to further enhance road traffic safety the government announced more severe sentencing for recidivists and alcohol behind the wheel. The authorities mainly focus on alcohol and speed as elements to be constrained when in relation to road traffic. As such, and mainly in Flanders, a ever growing network of trajectory controlled portions of roads is deployed.

Regionally, there are remarkable differences. In the French speaking part of the country, Wallonia, the number of fatalities is stable since 2014, but 305 fatalities (within 30 days from the actual accident) are far from the objective of 200 casualties by 2020. In the Dutch speaking part, Flanders (Flemish Region), the last years saw a decline in fatalities, with 290 people deceased in traffic in 2017, taking into consideration the same objective of maximum 200 victims by 2020.    

Apart from the number of fatalities, the number of people that were injured in traffic accidents is also declining in Belgium. In 2017, there were 48.227 people wounded, 6 per cent less than in 2016.

Source: VIAS Institute & Knack Magazine

The Belgian speed limits are as follows:

  • 50 km/h (31 mph) within built-up areas;
  • 70 km/h (43 mph) outside built-up areas in the Flemish region;
  • 90 km/h (56 mph) outside built-up areas in the Wallonia region and the Brussels Capital region;
  • 120 km/h (75 mph) on roads with at least two two-lane roadways separated by a median, and on freeways.
  •  

Insurance :

Third Party Liabilty : In Belgium, every vehicle that is allowed into traffic, must be insured for third party liability (Responsabilité Civile / Burgerlijke Aansprakelijkheid), covering any damage (material or physical) inflicted to third parties by the driver that is responsible for the accident. The proof of the insurance is given by a Green Card, a paper that the insurer provides to the owner and that has to be kept in the car and presented to the authorities whenever asked for. Like in other European nations, a no-claims bonus scheme is the norm. Anyone who has a previous no-claim record can use it to lower his insurance premium.  

Driver Insurance: Usually, and certainly in B2B-use, a supplementary driver insurance is taken to cover the driver when he or she is the cause of the accident. This is because in the Belgian car insurance world it is the car and not the driver which is insured. This means that anyone can drive a car if he or she is in possession of the correct drivers licence, but if one wants cover for injury sustained by the driver, additional coverage is advised.  

Fully or Part Comprehensive Cover: For new cars, although not legally obliged, most owners opt for Fully Comprehensive coverage, which provides for most eventualities including vandalism, fire, theft, or damage resulting from a collision, for at least two to four years. There is also a Part Comprehensive cover, which usually covers fire, theft and windscreen damage and is of course more economical as for what the yearly premium is concerned. 
Within the Fully Comprehensive Coverage, there usually is an excess payable by the insured for each claim, varying with the value of the car and the commercial specificiations of the insurance contract.  

In case of an accident, the respective parties will have to fill in an accident report form, that must also be kept in the car.

 

Chapter 10: Environment

Trends in taxation, legislation and city restrictions (CO2, diesel… )

The city centers of Antwerp and Brussels have set up “low emission zones” to ban non-environmentally friendly vehicles.

As is the case in most European countries, thee purchase of diesel cars is being discouraged by higher taxes on diesel engine powered vehicles, although for high annual mileage (25.000 – 30.000 km or plus per annum) diesel remains the fuel of choice due to the lower consumption figures. Belgian Diesel and Petrol prices in Belgium are to be as good as equal for the first time in 2018, after many years of clear price advantages for diesel.

While in 2012, petrol cars only accounted for 29,9 per cent of Belgian car registrations, that figure had risen to 44,4 per cent in 2016. Clearly, it is the diesel market share that decreased, from 68,9 per cent in 2012 to 51,8 per cent in 2016. The tendency towards a further decline of diesel market share is clearly present for 2017 and 2018, with 2017 as the first year to see more petrol (263.693) than diesel (253.322) cars registered. (source: Febiac)

CO2 figures

In 2016, the total emission of greenhouse gases in Belgium equalled 117,8 Mt CO2-equivalents, which is 19,2 per cent under the 1990 figure which serves as reference for the Kyoto protocol. The emissions of CO2, closely linked to the energy consumption that is influenced by climatological circumstances has increased by 0,2 per cent compared to 2015 and decreased by 16,4 per cent compared to 1990. (source: klimaat.be)

In 2016, the Belgian average CO2 emission of newly sold cars was 115,9 grams/kilometre, which is slightly better than the European average of 118,1 grams/kilometre. (source: ACEA)

Green vehicles (new powertrains)

In 2017, 2713 fully electric cars were registered in Belgium. That is less than half a per cent of total Belgian car sales but 32% over the 2016 figure (2055 cars). Hybrids are much more popular, with 24.157 registrations in 2017 (23.357 petrol hybrids and 800 diesel hybrids) or two third more than in 2016.

Chapter 11: Mobility

A growing amount of people are questioning company cars. Because of the increasing number of environment and mobility problems, some people are now suggesting to use sustainable alternatives instead. Preferably an employer should have a multimodal mobility budget, allowing him/her to spend it on a vast range of transport means.

The Flemish Social Environment Association (Bond Beter Leefmilieu) and Mobiel 21 (in cooperation with other Flemish sustainable mobility organisations Traject,Arbeid & Milieu and the stakeholders) elaborated further on this idea. They did some research to find out if people are open to this new concept and how these alternatives would influence the mobility budget in Belgium.

Source: http://www.mobiel21.be/en/content/mobility-budget-alternatives-company-cars

From 2018 on, the Belgian government put in place a "mobility allowance" in a "cash for car scheme", aiming to reduce the number of company cars offered to employees and thus reduce traffic congestion. Employees that hand in their company car receive an alternative monthly allowance that is taxed as was the company car (advantageously compared to classic salary).There is, however, no obligation whatsoever to use the allowance for alternative means of transport. This means -critcs say- that people that make use of the mobility allowance can simply buy a (second hand) car with that money, and still participate to traffic congestion. In order for the mobility allowance to be put in place, the employee as well as the employer must approve. As the project is newly put in place for 2018, no figures are known yet. 

 

Chapter 12: Key trends to watch