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    Listing the various coronavirus regulations and measures

    Can you keep track of it all?

    Last year, the coronavirus has drastically changed the world around us, including the world of business. Lots of regulations and measures have been published, extended or adjusted. Perhaps you cannot see the wood for the trees anymore. It would be a shame if you let any regulation or measure pertaining to your situation go unused simply because you are not aware of it. We have therefore listed the most important ones for you in this article.

    A lot has already been written about the regulation regarding the eligibility for a fixed travel allowance. Although the initial plan was to end this temporary regulation as of April 1, the end date has once again been changed, this time to June 1, 2021. This means that until June 1, there are no consequences for an employee’s fixed travel allowance if commuting habits have changed as a result of working from home more often due to the coronavirus measures. In other words, the allowance may still be based on the employee’s original commuting habits. It will remain untaxed as regulated by law, even if the employee in question works from home and hence does not (regularly) commute to work anymore. The only condition is that the employee had to be eligible for a fixed travel allowance before March 13, 2020.

    Vrije ruimte

    In order to help employers deal with any financial problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the outgoing cabinet of the Dutch government has increased the ‘vrije ruimte’ (the budget for tax-free allowances and benefits) for 2021. This budget is now the sum of 3% of the portion of the wage bill up to € 400,000 and 1.18% of the remainder of the wage bill. The 3% used to be only 1.7%. The increase was also temporarily in effect in 2020. The extra in budget is meant to give employers more room for allowances, reimbursements and provisions for their employees, for instance to facilitate working from home. Just like last year, the increase in the ‘vrije ruimte’ will be included in the Tax Plan and the regulation must be approved by both houses of parliament.

    Identity

    The government has mandated employers to have their employees work from home as much as possible; and if not possible, to have them work at least 1.5 meters apart. Having employees work from home may give rise to problems with respect to your payroll tax administration. As a result, you may not be able to meet all legal requirements for this administration. Belastingdienst (the Dutch revenue service) has stated that a failure to meet such requirements will temporarily not have any consequences. Still, you must make sure to have your administration back in order (i.e. meeting all legal requirements) as soon as this is possible again. This temporary relaxation of the rules will be in effect until at least June 30, 2021. An example for illustration: you are not able to verify the identity of a new employee through an original identity document – such as a passport or ID card – because the employee is working from home. Normally, this situation would require you to apply the ‘anoniementarief’ (anonymous rate) of 52% to the calculation of the employee’s wage tax and national insurance contributions. However, the temporary relaxation of the rules means that this is currently not required, provided that you will verify the employee’s identity correctly once this is possible again.

    Overtime

    Since the ‘Wet arbeidsmarkt in balans’ (Labor Market in Balance Act), abbreviated as WAB, has gone into effect, you must retroactively pay a higher WW premium (unemployment insurance premium) if an employee with a contract of fewer than 35 hours on average per week works more than 30% overtime during a calendar year. This is the case if the employee in question is paid 30% more in wages than for the number of hours stated in the contract. For example, if an employee has a contract of 20 hours per week, but has worked and is paid for on average 32 hours per week. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, this rule can have unintended consequences for industries which currently require employees to work a lot over overtime, such as the healthcare industry. In order to avert such unintended consequences, the rule has been temporarily adjusted for 2020 and 2021. This means that in the aforementioned situation, you do not have to retroactively pay a higher WW premium – regardless of the industry in which your organization is operative.

    Context

    Keep the insurance administration up-to-date and file tax return on time

    Even during the coronavirus pandemic it is important to file your payroll tax returns on time. Amongst other things, UWV (the National Institute for Employees’ Insurance and Regulations) needs the information provided through these tax returns to correctly process and pay NOW subsidies. If UWV has the most up-to-date information from your payroll tax return in its insurance administration, the institute is able to more quickly determine what you are entitled to. The same can be said for employees working from home or who are on sick leave. In other words, file your payroll tax returns on time. If your organization is in such financial trouble you are not able to pay taxes at the moment, you can request Belastingdienst for a deferment of payment under exceptional circumstances.

    Request
    If the situation has it that you are really not able to file your payroll tax returns on time at all, you can request Belastingdienst to defer the deadline on which the tax return is due. Send a written request to: Belastingdienst, Postbus 8738, 4820 AD Breda.

    Deferment of payment

    As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, until June 30, 2021 you can request Belastingdienst for a deferment of payment under exceptional circumstances (‘bijzonder uitstel van betaling’ in Dutch). The deferment applies to e.g. payroll tax and healthcare insurance contributions. When granted for the first time, you will be given a deferment of three months. If you have already been granted a deferment before and you have trouble to pay any outstanding tax payments within the required time, you can request an extension. The same deadline of June 30, 2021 applies to any requests for an extension. Visit www.belastingdienst.nl/bijzonderuitstel to request a deferment of payment under exceptional circumstances or an extension of such a deferment.
    As of July 1, 2021, it will thus no longer be possible to request a deferment of payment under exceptional circumstances. Tax due thereafter must be paid on time as regulated by law. If your organization has been granted a deferment of payment, you must start paying any outstanding tax payments on October 1, 2021. You will have at most 36 months to complete the payments, i.e. until October 1, 2024.

    Excess amount

    Contractors or organizations which deploy, lend or second employees and make use of a so-called ‘g-rekening’ (an escrow account usable only to pay payroll tax for temporarily hired/deployed staff) can file a request to have the balance on the account become available for other transactions as well. Normally, this would mean only the excess amount on the escrow account – i.e. the amount not reserved for the payment of due payroll tax (or VAT) – will become available for this purpose. However, in response to the financial problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the tax authorities will temporarily also make any amount reserved for due payroll tax (or VAT) available for other transactions under the condition that a deferment of payment under special circumstances (see previous section) has been granted for the payment of this payroll tax (or VAT). Having the balance on the ‘g-rekening’ available for other transactions will be permitted until January 1, 2023.

    Permission

    In the 2021 payroll tax returns, a lower customary salary may be declared for directors & majority shareholders (‘directeur en grootaandeelhouder’ or ‘DGA’ in Dutch) who have a dramatic decline in their organization’s revenue. Permission by Belastingdienst is not required for this. The following calculation must then be used to establish the salary in 2021:

    customary salary = A x B/C

    where A is the customary salary used in 2019; B the revenue (exclusive of VAT) expected for 2021; and C the revenue (exclusive of VAT) of 2019. The following conditions apply:

    • the expected decline in revenue for 2021 as compared to 2019 must be 30% or more;
    • if the director & majority shareholder has been paid more in salary than the salary established by the calculation above, the higher salary must be declared in the payroll tax returns;
    • the dividend or the current account debt between the director & majority shareholder and the organization in question may not increase any further as a result of the lower customary salary;
    • the ‘pure’ revenue must be used in the calculation: i.e. the effect of any exceptional circumstances, such as strikes, formations, mergers, splits and special results, should not be taken into account.

    Whose taxes?

    Because cross-border employees are now told to work from home, complications can arise with respect to taxation: as a result, there may be a change as to the country which is allowed to impose taxes, which can affect the employee’s net wages. In order to avert such complications, the Netherlands has entered into agreements with both Belgium and Germany regulating that days worked from home are to be regarded as days worked under normal circumstance. For example, if an employee is working from home in the Netherlands but would work in Germany under normal circumstances, the days worked from home in the Netherlands are thus to be regarded as days worked in Germany. Initially, these agreements were planned to be in effect from March 11, 2020 through May 31, 2020. However, the duration of the agreement with Germany has since been automatically extended by one month each time and this will continue so until either the Netherlands or Germany ends the agreement. The agreement with Belgium states that an extension of the duration must be explicitly agreed upon. Thus far, both countries have formally agreed to an extension until June 2021.

    Context

    Coronavirus measures

    By now, you are probably familiar with the NOW and TVL schemes. On www.tinyurl.com/NOW-overzicht, an extensive overview published by UWV (the National Institute for Employees’ Insurance and Regulations) of the various deadlines for the application for NOW subsidy can be found (in Dutch). Information in English can be found on www.business.gov.nl/subsidy/corona-crisis-temporary-emergency-measure-now. On www.rendement.nl/ondernemersagenda, you can find an overview of the upcoming deadlines for various coronavirus measures (in Dutch). Here you can e.g. find that the period of application for TVL subsidy for the first quarter of 2021 has been extended from April 30, 2021 through May 18, 2021. Information in English can be found on https://business.gov.nl/subsidy/corona-reimbursement-fixed-costs-smes.

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