Belgium has introduced emergency financial concessions to help companies survive the current downturn, offering businesses extra time to repay loans and meet tax obligations.
The government and banks have agreed to postpone repayments of existing credit lines until September 30, according to a document the Antwerp World Diamond Centre distributed Friday. The state will also guarantee additional credit lines of up to a year with annual interest capped at 1.25%, applicable to loans from all Belgian and foreign banks active in the country.
Separately, businesses that can show they have suffered because of the coronavirus will be able to set up a plan for repayment of levies such as the so-called Carat Tax on diamond revenues, as well as value-added tax (VAT) and other duties.
Companies will have until April 30 to file tax returns for corporate income tax, including the Carat Tax, instead of March 16. The government has also extended deadlines for filing VAT returns and paying taxes that are due in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, employers will be able to place workers on temporary unemployment, enabling them to avoid paying salaries without having to lay off staff entirely. The employees will receive social benefits from Belgium’s National Employment Office.
ABN Amro, a major lender to the Antwerp diamond sector, announced its own measures to helps clients, offering automatic six-month deferrals of repayments until September for all commercial clients with a credit facility of up to EUR 2.5 million ($2.8 million). Customers must opt out if they prefer not to be included in the program, the Dutch bank said March 19.
“The coronavirus will inevitably lead to a difficult period for our clients — businesses, self-employed people and retail clients,” said Kees van Dijkhuizen, CEO of ABN Amro. “Where possible, we want to offer fast support. This will give these clients extra scope now and the chance later to get back on their feet quickly.”
Image: The Port House, Antwerp. (Shutterstock)