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European Commission Approves Extension of Belgian Scheme Exempting Seafarer Employers from Social Security Contributions — Orbitax Tax News & Alerts

The European Commission has announced its decision to approve the extension of the Belgian scheme exempting seafarer employers from social security contributions to 31 December 2032.


State aid: Commission approves prolongation of Belgian scheme to exempt seafarer employers from social security contributions

The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, the prolongation of a Belgian scheme exempting employers of certain seafarers from the payment of social security contributions. The aim of the scheme is to increase the attractiveness for shipping companies to employ seafarers, thereby enhancing the competitiveness and the expertise of the shipping sector. The measure was originally approved by the Commission in June 2007 (NN 132/2000 and NN 73/2003), prolonged in 2015 (SA.38336), and is set to expire on 31 December 2022. Belgium notified the prolongation of the scheme until 31 December 2032 with a budget increase of approximately €11.7 million per year, bringing the overall budget to €450 million.

Under the scheme, the aid takes the form of an exemption for employers from the payment of social security contributions. This exemption applies with respect to seafarers working on board eligible merchant vessels and liable to social security contributions in a Member State. The Commission assessed the scheme under the EU State aid rules, and in particular under Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Guidelines on State aid to maritime transport. The Commission found that the scheme continues to be necessary and appropriate to promote the attractiveness of the employment of seafarers in Belgium and enhancing the competitiveness of Belgian ship operators. Furthermore, the Commission concluded that the measure continues to be proportionate, as it is limited to the minimum necessary, and to have a limited impact on competition and trade between Member States. On this basis, the Commission found that the prolongation of the scheme is in line EU State aid rules.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under case number SA.103643 in the State aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. (For more information: Arianna Podesta – Tel.: +32 229 87024; Nina Ferreira - Tel.: +32 229 98163)