Coronacrisis: important issues for family businesses

The coronavirus is becoming an increasing burden on Dutch employers, including family businesses. To prevent the disease from spreading further, more and more entrepreneurs in the Netherlands are taking measures. For most employers, the RIVM’s instructions are guidelines. On 12 March 2020, the Cabinet announced additional measures to help employers at risk of being confronted with problems.

On 17 March 2020, the Cabinet announced an additional set of measures in a new letter sent to the House of Representatives. What consequences does the coronavirus have for your (family) business?

FISCAL AND FINANCIAL MEASURES

Because of the current situation, there is a chance that your business will see a significant reduction in the number of orders. The Cabinet has taken a number of measures to protect and compensate employers.

Important examples include:

  • The introduction of a fiscal corona reserve in the corporate income tax makes it possible to offset expected losses for 2020 against the result for 2019 at an accelerated pace. The corona reserve may not exceed the profit of 2019. All conditions of this regulation will be published in a decision shortly. We will inform you as soon as more is known about this.
  • The implementation of the Bill 'Excessive Borrowing with Own Company’ will be postponed for one year until January 1, 2023. As a result of the Excessive Borrowing with Own Company, business owners cannot borrow more than  500,000 euros from their own company without being confronted with taxation. Due to the corona crisis, the government does not want to impose these financial restrictions on entrepreneurs for the time being.
  • In order to ensure employers can overcome liquidity problems, they can submit a request to the Dutch Tax Administration [Belastingdienst] for an extraordinary deferment of payment of income tax, corporate income tax, sales tax and wage tax. This request must be submitted after receiving the (additional) tax assessment. The Tax Administration will grant deferment of payment if the request is motivated in writing, indicating that the coronacrisis caused payment issues. As soon as the Tax Administration receives the request, they will suspend the collection. Individual assessment of the request will take place at a later stage. Within four weeks of the request, a statement by a third-party expert must be submitted to the Tax Administration. To make this process as simple as possible, they are still assessing how to implement this. It is therefore expected that this (request) process may still change.
  • In addition, entrepreneurs now pay tax on the basis of a provisional assessment of income tax or corporation tax. Entrepreneurs who expect lower profits due to the coronavirus can apply for a reduction in the provisional tax assessment, so that they immediately start paying less tax.
  • If an assessment is not paid on time, 4% collection interest must usually be paid, counting from the moment the payment term has expired. In order to facilitate business owners' applications for easy deferment of payment, the Cabinet will temporarily reduce the collection interest rate from 4% to 0.01% for all tax debts from 23 March 2020.
  • The percentage of tax interest will also be temporarily reduced to 0.01% for all taxes for which tax interest is payable (currently 8% for corporate income tax and 4% for other taxes). This reduction will take effect from 1 June 2020 for all taxes, except for income tax. For income tax, the reduction will take effect from 1 July 2020.
  • (Family) business may run into liquidity problems as a result of the coronavirus. Banks and other financiers can help businesses by temporarily providing a bridging loan or increasing the credit line.
  • In the case of a silent conversion of a privately held company into a BV and a silent return from a BV, time limits apply for the retrospective performance of these transactions. The same applies to tax facilities of corporate mergers, legal mergers and split-off. The current special circumstances might mean that these deadlines are or will not be met. The term may now be extended by three months when the term expires in the period from 1 March 2020 to 31 May 2020

LESS WORK / NOODFONDS OVERBRUGGING WERKGELEGENHEID (NOW; EMERGENCY EMPLOYMENT BRIDGING FUND)

As an employer, you may have less work for your employees because, for example, the supply of products or turnover stagnates. It depends on the employment contracts and the conditions included in them whether you can send your employees home if there is no work or less work.

The short-time working scheme (Wtv; Werktijdverkorting) has been discontinued as a 'corona measure'. It is therefore no longer possible to submit Wtv applications. Consultations are currently being held with the UWV on the implementation of the new scheme; no applications can be submitted yet.

The main features of this scheme are as follows:

  • The applicant expects at least 20% loss of turnover;
  • With the application, the employer commits himself in advance to the obligation not to apply for dismissal for his employees for commercial reasons during the period for which the compensation is received.
  • The application is valid for a period of three months, which may be extended once for a further three months (further conditions may be attached to the extension);
  • The scheme relates to decreases in turnover as from 1 March 2020;
  • The employer pays the wages to the employee and receives a compensation for the wage costs; the amount depends on the drop in turnover and is a maximum of 90% of the wage bill. Below are a few examples of how the relationship between the decrease in turnover and the level of compensation works out:
    • If 100% of the turnover is lost, the compensation amounts to 90% of the wage bill of an employer;
    • If 50% of the turnover is lost, the compensation amounts to 45% of the wage bill of an employer;
    • If 25% of the turnover is lost, the compensation amounts to 22.5% of the employer's wage bill;
    • On the basis of your application, the UWV will provide an advance payment equal to 80% of the expected compensation;
    • The actual decrease in turnover is subsequently determined;
    • An auditor's report is required for applications over and above an amount to be determined later;
    • The final determination of the compensation is subject to an adjustment where there has been a reduction in the wage bill (this may lead to the obligation to reimburse);

One of the most important conditions for the NOW applications is that, as an employer, you may not apply for dismissal on commercial grounds for employees during the period that you receive the compensation from the UWV. In addition, in principle you will receive compensation from the UWV for three months; this period can be extended once by three months. Our (payroll) specialists can of course tell you more about the exact requirements for the NOW. As soon as it is known how the applications can be submitted, we will of course be able to assist you.

DELIVERIES AND SERVICES FROM AND TO INFECTED AREAS

The coronavirus may make it impossible for certain (contractual) agreements to be honoured. The supply and purchase contracts of your family business continue as usual. It is therefore important to check the general terms and conditions for provisions relating to liability and force majeure situations. Who bears the risk for late or cancelled deliveries and purchases? Under what conditions can force majeure be invoked? In addition to the legal side of the contracts, it is always wise to inform your customers about the expected delay in good time. This avoids unpleasant discussions afterwards.

For future contracts or renewals of contracts (if adaptation of the conditions is possible), it is advisable to take into account the influence of unforeseen circumstances such as the coronavirus. You can include a force majeure clause and cost-sharing provisions.

In addition, your own staff may travel to or from infected areas. As an employer, you have an obligation to create a safe working environment for your employees. It will have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis whether and which (appropriate) measures need to be taken. For example, an entry and exit ban currently in force in several countries, and perhaps to be extended, should be taken into account.

INTERNAL MEASURES

In addition to the external possibilities, it is also important to look at what can and must be done within the company. Of course, cost awareness will have to be raised and it will have to be investigated which contracts (e.g. hired staff) could possibly be (temporarily) scaled down. Above all, however, it is also important to get a good picture of the current financial situation in the short term and to pay extra attention to liquidity planning, taking into account different scenarios. This information is important in order to be able to determine the right steps and is often also necessary in order to be able to claim facilities from the government and/or the bank.

Once the most important emergency measures have been taken, it is then important to look ahead strategically quickly. Should there perhaps be a change of course?

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Additional measures will most likely follow, of which we will of course keep you informed. Would you like to know more about what the coronavirus means for the continuity of your business? Or would you like advice on the measures you need to take or help with applying for the permit to reduce working hours? Please contact Remco Schoonderwoerd, Partner and Sector Leader Privately Owned Business, by e-mail or by phone: +31 (0)88 277 16 45 or Dounia Tmim, by e-mail or by phone: +31 (0)88 277 18 95. They would be happy to assist you!