Belgium approves film tax shelter

Scheme to boost local pics, co-production

BRUSSELS — Belgium’s long-awaited audiovisual tax shelter was finally approved by the government over the weekend, paving the way for its launch later this year.

The final hurdle for the measure, first mooted 20 years ago, is the approval of the European Commission.

“We’re not expecting that to pose a problem,” said local producer Patrick Quinet, head of the Francophone Film Producers Union (UPFF), which was instrumental in negotiations. “We hope to have it by the end of the year. That means the tax shelter could be applied in 2003 on 2002 profits. From November, December onwards we could start looking for investors.”

As well as boosting the production of Belgian films, the measure is expected to encourage foreign players to make co-production deals with local companies. “It’s particularly interesting for the French, for example,” said producer Willy Perelsztejn, president of Belgium’s director and producers body ARPF.

Under the scheme, Belgian companies outside the audiovisual sector can claim 150% tax relief on the sum they invest in a feature. The investment can be made either directly or as a loan. Up to 40% of the total investment can be covered by a loan.

The maximum amount of corporation tax a company can offset through the scheme is e750,000 ($745,000), so the maximum possible investment per fiscal year is $497,000.

Under the scheme, 150% of the amount invested in a project must be spent in Belgium. Also, the amount invested through the tax shelter cannot exceed 50% of the project’s budget.

UPFF and ARPF are in talks with Belgium’s banks about the possibility of the banks acting as intermediaries in the scheme. The Flanders Intl. Film Festival in Ghent will run information sessions for the new scheme for Benelux and other foreign producers from Oct. 11-13.

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