Belgian ports lose case at the European Court and will have to pay millions in corporation tax

A ruling by the European Court means that ports in Belgium will no longer be exempt from corporation tax. The European Court ruled that the exemption is tantamount to illegal state support. The exemption pre-dates the setting up of the European Union. The then Belgian government granted the ports of Antwerp, Ghent, Ostend, Zeebrugge, Brussels, Charleroi, Liège and Namur from paying corporation tax. However, they will now have to pay the tax that is set at 33%.   

Europe believed that the exemption was a form of illegal state subsidy for the ports and two years ago the European Commission demanded that it be stopped. The ports took the case to the European Court as scrapping the exemption would mean them being poorer to the tune of millions of euro.   

However, the court has ruled against them, backing the European Commission’s assertion that ports should be considered to be businesses and treated accordingly.    

Port of Antwerp says that ruling is “regrettable”

In an initial reaction to the European Court’s ruling the Port of Antwerp’s spokesman Gert Ickx told VRT News “Port of Antwerp tried to convince the court that it doesn’t function like typical company that in the main is involved in economic activity with profit as its main goal. Port of Antwerp wishes to above all offer added value and create work for the companies situated at the port. The Port of Antwerp’s profits are invested to a maximum in the port, its infrastructure and mobility and sustainable energy projects that benefit society”.   

Previously The Netherlands was also forced to scrap its corporation tax exemption for sea ports. A number of Dutch ports went to the European Court when they found out that Belgian, French and German ports were also benefiting for state support in one form or another.     

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