The European Commission has asked Belgium and France to abolish the corporate tax exemptions granted to their ports, so as to align their tax regime with EU state aid rules.
In Belgium, a number of sea and inland waterway ports, notably the ports of Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Charleroi, Ghent, Liège, Namur and Ostend, as well as along the canals in Hainaut Province and Flanders, are exempt under Belgian law from the general corporate income tax regime.
These ports are subject to a different tax regime, with a different taxable base and tax rates, resulting in an overall lower level of taxation for Belgian ports as compared to other companies in Belgium.
Most French ports, notably the 11 “grands ports maritimes” of Bordeaux, Dunkerque, La Rochelle, Le Havre, Marseille, Nantes-Saint-Nazaire, Rouen, Guadeloupe, Guyane, Martinique and Réunion, as well as the Port autonome de Paris, and ports operated by chambers of industry and commerce, are fully exempt from corporate income tax under French law.
The Commission said it considers that the corporate tax exemptions granted to Belgian and French ports “provide them with a selective advantage, in breach of EU state aid rules.”
Belgium and France now have until the end of 2017 to take the necessary steps to remove the tax exemption in order to ensure that all ports are subject to the same corporate taxation rules as other companies from January 1, 2018.