Incentives for start-ups: expansion and diversification of crowdfunding

In April 2015, the government presented a tax shelter plan for the digital economy.

The final tax shelter plan provides that investments in new shares of start-ups will, if certain conditions are met, be eligible for a tax relief of 30% (SME) or 45% (micro company). The investment can be done directly, or indirectly through a crowdfunding platform or public start-up fund. The investor is required to hold the shares at least 4 years.

The limits provided for in the initial plan have been increased substantially. An investor can invest annually maximum up to 100,000 EUR and 30% of the capital of the start-up . If the 30% threshold is exceeded, the tax relief is limited to investment representing the 30% capital.

The final plan also provide for an exemption of interest withholding tax on qualifying loans to start-ups via a crowdfunding platform (maximum 9,965 EUR per year and per taxpayer).

However, the plan has not been as successful as hoped. Hence, the government has prepared a draft bill to enlarge the scope of investment instruments which could benefit from the tax relief.

In addition to a public starter funds (and a private collective investment company), as of assessment year 2017, the incentives will, also be available for special investment companies, not being collective investment companies, which sole purpose is to invest in specific start-ups at the request of the investors.

However, for this type of investments, the intervention of a regulated crowdfunding platform is required.

In addition, the draft bill clarifies that :

  • issuers of certificates, representing shares of start-ups, are deemed to be special investment companies;
  • only contributions in cash are eligible for a tax relief; and
  • only loans to companies will be eligible for a tax relief.

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