There has been a shake-up to the Belgian tax shelter - one intended to squeeze out the “middlemen” perceived to have abused the system.
The new rules were introduced at the beginning of the year.
Under the revised system, producers are now required to apply for a government license.
“It is not a heavy procedure but the purpose of having a license is that it can be revoked in case of abuse of the system,” said Eyeworks’ Peter Bouckaert, president of the Flanders Film Producers Association.
The new system, operational since January 1st 2015, no longer features the loan, the equity part and the put option. Instead, there is now a Tax Shelter certificate. Investors are offered a tax exemption based on qualifying audiovisual expenditure in Belgium.
Under the old system, 80% of tax shelter financing was raised in the last two months of the year. The aim now is that the financing will be raised in a “more balanced way throughout the year”.
“The system has become more transparent for the investor. Basically, there are no longer rights involved. There are no longer investors acquiring rights,” Bouckaert told Screen.
“The investor gets a fiscal advantage that is immediate, transparent and very attractive.”
The changes, Bouckaert suggested, should not affect “genuine” production companies using the tax shelter to finance their productions. He also predicted that banks, among them BNP Paribas Fortis and Belfius, will now become more active in film financing. “The product is less complex. It is more transparent, easier to bring to investors.”
The new system should also prove more attractive to smaller investors. “There will be a decrease in total volume of money that comes from investors,” Bouckaert acknowledged, “but there will be an increase in money available for production.”
Bouckaert welcomed the introduction of the new Netherlands Film Production Incentive scheme - an incentive which some observers predicted might take production away from Belgium.
“It (the Dutch system) has not weakened the (Belgian) tax shelter. It has made it more sustainable,” Bouckaert added.
Recent films that have used the Belgian tax shelter system include Tuesday’s Tale by Ben Stassen and Kidnapping Mr. Heineken.