Fintech Market Overview

This article does not constitute legal advice.

Fintech in Belgium


Fintech regulations are primarily derived from European initiatives, such as:

  • Directive (EU) 2015/2366 of 25 November 2015 on payment services in the internal market (PSD II)
  • Directive (EU) 2015/849 of 20 May 2015 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing (AMLD)
  • Directive 2014/65/EU of 15 May 2014 on markets in financial instruments (MiFID II)
  • the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 1

Stakeholders in the fintech industry have previously made a case for setting up a sandbox in Belgium that is similar to the one existing in the UK. Despite this, financial regulators remain aware of fintech as an important area to monitor. The current regulatory framework has been identified as being pivotal to ensure innovation while keeping safety within the sector. In light of this, they established a joint Fintech Contact Point, acting as an access point for businesses seeking information about securing licenses for novel products and services like robo-advice, crowdfunding or cryptocurrencies. Since its launch in 2016, it has generated a high number of inquiries regarding these topics.2

FinTech Belgium, a community of financial professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors, fosters and promotes the fintech sector. In addition to promoting the Belgian fintech sector in Belgium and abroad, FinTech Belgium also seeks to establish a dialogue with financial regulators and organizes fintech-related conferences and seminars on a regular basis.3

The Belgian tax law does not provide specific tax incentives for fintech companies. However, there are several general tax incentives that are beneficial to them.1

Companies in Belgium are taxed at a rate of 25% on corporate income. With the innovation income deduction, Belgian companies can deduct 85 percent of their net income derived from qualified intellectual property, thus reducing their effective tax rate to 3.75 percent. A software product (original creation or derived work that meets a certain originality threshold) that has not generated income before 1 July 2016 may qualify. In practice, it is advisable to request a binding opinion from the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (Belspo) about whether the software qualifies. The innovation income deduction is based on a nexus approach; in other words, the deduction is only available to the extent that the company has itself incurred qualifying research and development (R&D) expenses that have given rise to the income derived from the software.1

Companies are obligated to withhold tax on their employees' salaries and submit it to the Treasury as an advance payment of said individuals' income taxes. Belgium offers partial relief for certain companies in this regard, hoping to give them a cash flow boost. Micro and small businesses that are less than 48 months old are exempt from transmitting 10 or 20 percent of the withheld taxes, respectively, as long as they abide by the Belgian Act of 5 December 1968 concerning collective bargaining agreements.1

'Micro' companies do not exceed more than one of the following criteria:

  • balance sheet: less than €350,000
  • yearly turnover (excluding VAT): less than €700,000
  • average number of employees on a yearly basis equal to or fewer than 10 1

'Small' companies don't exceed more than one of the following criteria:

  • balance sheet: less than €4.5 million
  • yearly turnover (excluding VAT): less than €9 million
  • average number of employees on a yearly basis equal to or fewer than 50 1

On remunerations paid to researchers holding certain academic degrees, companies involved in R&D can claim a partial exemption of 80 percent of the withholding tax. Certain academic degrees may qualify for this exemption. It is advisable to request a binding opinion from Belspo regarding the qualification of the R&D programme, as Belspo must be notified of the R&D programme.1

Investing in R&D in Belgium can result in a tax credit of 25%. The invested amount is the value of newly purchased or manufactured tangible or intangible assets used for R&D.1

The supervision of financial markets and institutions in Belgium takes the form of a twin peaks model, which has two autonomous supervisors: the National Bank of Belgium (NBB) and the Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA). The NBB is responsible for examining individual financial establishments at both a macro- and micro-level, whilst FSMA looks after the accuracy of financial processes, candour and legality, in addition to scrutinising any unauthorised offerings of products or services. Besides this, some Belgian banks are also subject to the watchful eye of the European Central Bank.1

Belgian regulatory law does not provide for a special fintech licence. However, depending on their intended operations and activities, they may be subject to regular financial regulations. A large selection of activities come under EU rules, for example offering banking services, investment advice, currency exchange services; as well as payment services, digital currency issuances, mortgage and consumer loans; insurance dealings and retirement plans. Circulars from the NBB and FSMA affect regulated entities in this area.1

Fintech companies are generally not subject to special regulatory restrictions on marketing their services, so long as the activities or products being advertised do not constitute financial instruments or securities. An Information Obligations Decree may be applicable if regulated activities or products are promoted. Advertising without a valid licence is prohibited, and separate rules apply for solicitation in Belgium. To ensure compliance with pertinent regulations, it is prudent that fintech firms investigate the specific restrictions that apply to their particular use case.1

In June 2016, the FSMA launched a FinTech Contact Point as a way to create new business models within the fintech world. This portal allows entrepreneurs to learn more about financial regulations, ask questions and enables the FSMA to track industry developments. It proved effective enough such that in April 2017, the FSMA joined forces with the NBB to form one unified contact point. Now, fintech actors can easily reach out without needing to identify which supervisor they should contact first. All inquiries on subjects like cryptocurrencies, robo-advice, crowdfunding and price comparison are managed by both teams. Since its launch over two years ago, a noticeable amount of entrepreneurs have contacted them for advice and information.2

Crowdfunding in Belgium

Fintech in other countries

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Belgian Fintech Lawyers

Viacheslav Losev

Viacheslav Losev

Legal support for FinTech and Blockchain projects

Silvia Calls

Silvia Calls

We work for international SMEs, startups and Telco's

Kristina Berkes

Kristina Berkes

Participation as a lawyer at investment venture funds, leading venture M&A deals in IT, supporting iGaming and business assets

  1. https://thelawreviews.co.uk/title/the-financial-technology-law-review/belgium
  2. http://www.fsma.be/en/fintech-contact-point
  3. https://fintechbelgium.be/
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