5. Belgium

In 2018, SMEs dominated the business enterprise landscape in Belgium, accounting for 99.85% of all firms.

The outstanding stock of SME loans expanded by 2% in 2020, 3.6 percentage points down from its growth rate of the previous year. SME interest rates continued to decrease and averaged 1.55% in 2020. The interest rate spread between loans charged to large enterprises and loans charged to SMEs was 15 basis points in 2020.

Survey data illustrates that lending conditions eased between 2013 and 2015 and remained relatively stable until the end of 2018. A deterioration of credit conditions has been reported since the fourth quarter of 2018, through the end of 2020.

After having expanded moderately in 2019 (+5.17%), leasing volumes receded by 8.14% in 2020. Overall, factoring continues to be widely used by Belgian companies. However, this source of financing stands out in 2020 and shows a downward trend for the first time since 2007, decreasing by 3.66% during the year. Factoring has an average growth rate of 6.85 over the period 2015-2020 and contributed to almost 18% of GDP in 2020, as opposed to only 6.3% of GDP in 2008.

Venture and growth capital investments continue to show considerable variations due to the small number of deals completed every year. Total venture and growth capital investments were stable in 2020, after having increased by 44% in 2019.

Average payment delays for business to business transactions decreased steadily during the last ten years, dropping from a 17-day average in 2009 to a 3-day average in 2020.

The number of registered failures dropped to 7 203 (-32%) in 2020. This figure is much lower than usual and can be explained by the moratorium on bankruptcies introduced in Belgium in the context of the Covid-19 crisis.

Policy initiatives to ease SMEs’ access to finance are taken both at the federal and regional levels. Policy measures in 2020 were primarily aimed at protecting healthy businesses in the context of the covid-19 crisis. In the framework of the Flemish recovery plan, PMV (the Flemish investment body) is reinforcing its investments in companies through loans, capital and guarantees. The Brussels-Capital Region is offering companies a low-interest loan to support all sectors affected by the crisis. With the Covid-19 crisis and the partial or full closure of a number of businesses, the Walloon Government has decided from March 2020 to support SMEs and self-employed in sectors affected by the crisis through a lump sum compensation. An additional compensation based on the loss of turnover has been introduced since September 2020.

At the federal level, the government introduced a debt moratorium on corporate loans and activated a EUR 50 billion new guarantee for all new loans until 31 December 2020. A second guarantee scheme, which only applies to SMEs for loans taken before end-June 2021, was also activated.

In 2018, SMEs dominated the business enterprise landscape in Belgium, accounting for 99.85% of all firms. Micro-enterprises with up to 9 employees constituted 94.98% of all firms, while large enterprises with over 250 employees accounted for only 0.15% of Belgian businesses.

SME statistics on lending consider non-financial corporations that filed annual accounts at least once in the last 60 months, i.e. corporations for which size related variables are available. Non-financial corporations are classified on the basis of their annual accounts as follows:

  • Small companies: those having deposited an abbreviated or a micro model.

  • Medium-sized companies: those having deposited a full model, but whose turnover does not exceed EUR 45 000 000 over two consecutive years.

  • Large companies: those having filed a full model and having a turnover of more than EUR 45 000 000 for two consecutive years.

Outstanding business loans to SMEs increased by a cumulative 42,3% over 2010-2020. However, lending to SMEs declined slightly in 2013 and fell 8% in 2014. From 2015 to 2020, outstanding loans to SMEs expanded 27.9% to EUR 133.6 billion. Finally, the growth of this credit category amounts in 2020 to 2% compared to the previous year. The slowdown of the upward trend can be notably explained by the global economic context in connection with the health crisis.

Developments in outstanding loans to enterprises follow a similar trend than those in total outstanding loans to SMEs, except for 2016, when growth in total outstanding loans dipped by 0.75% before bouncing back 6.2% in 2017. Outstanding loans to enterprises totals 195.204 billion in 2020. At 68.43% in 2020, the share of SME loans in total outstanding loans is the highest since 2007. On average, this indicator amounts to 65% over the whole reference period (2007-2020).

The average interest rate granted to SMEs has decreased for nearly ten years. In 2020, the average SME interest rate was 1.55%, down from 5.7% in 2008. Although interest rates charged to small firms remain systematically higher than rates charged to large corporations, the spread between SMEs and large corporation rates has steadily declined. In 2008, the interest rate spread was 65 basis points compared to 15 basis points in 2020.

In its quarterly Bank Lending Survey, the European Central Bank summarises changes in loan requirements from the main financial institutions. The survey highlights a general tightening of lending conditions in 2008-09, as well as in 2012. Credit conditions eased throughout the Euro area, and especially in Belgium from 2013 to 2018. However, a gradual deterioration in credit conditions has been reported from the fourth quarter of 2018 until the end of 2020.

The health crisis has also had an impact on the evolution of leasing and factoring figures.

Leasing and factoring are two substantial sources of funding for Belgian enterprises. Total leasing production reached EUR 4 856 million in 2008, corresponding to 8.5% of gross fixed capital formation. After a 22.7% decrease in 2009 to EUR 3 756.4 million, total leasing production gradually recovered to EUR 4 800 million in 2015 and grew by another 25% to EUR 6 009 million before receding to EUR 5 800 million in 2017 (-3.49% year-on-year). After a cumulative increase of 10% in the following two years, total leasing production declined to EUR 5863 million in 2020 (-8,14% year-on-year) and contributed to 8.2% of gross fixed capital formation.

Factoring turnover grew consistently and more than tripled during the reference period (2008-2020). Factoring turnover totalled 81 716 million in 2020 (-3.7% year-on-year). Factoring has continued to contribute to GDP, accounting for 18.11% of GDP in 2020, against only 6.4% of GDP in 2008.

In Belgium, venture capital and its various sub-segments display significant variation on a yearly basis. This volatility can be explained, among other factors, by the limited number of registered transactions for this type of financing. As such, venture capital is highly sensitive to extreme swings.

Total investments in venture and growth capital is stable year-on-year and totalled EUR 1 208.1 million in 2020. This investment value was above the average annual investment level of EUR 662.75 million for the reference period. Venture and growth capital can be divided into several sub-segments, according to the stage of development of companies receiving investments.

  • Seed capital investments (which are generally considered to be the first capital investments into companies) came to a stop in 2015, with no registered transactions. Seed capital investments recovered in 2016 and increased sharply in 2017 before receding to EUR 19.98 million in 2020 (-13,8% year-on-year). As recent trends indicate, seed capital is subject to the largest annual variations in venture capital. During the reference period, the average total investments in seed capital amounted to approximately EUR 12.78 million per year.

  • Start-up capital investments increased sharply by 44.3% in 2019, reaching EUR 289.14 million before receding 32.74% to 194.47 million in 2020. The average total investment in start-up capital during the reference period was EUR 100.83 million per year.

  • Later-stage financing increased sharply (297% y-o-y) in 2020, amounting to EUR 163.7 million at year-end. The average total investment in later stage financing was about EUR 64.95 million per year for the reference period.

  • Growth capital amounted to EUR 451.8 million in 2020, representing a 9.66 % decrease compared to 2019. The annual average total investment in this category was EUR 305.62 million per year for the period under review.

Total private equity decreased by 13.5% in 2020 and amounted to EUR 1 523.15 million. The annual average total investment in private equity was EUR 1 326.27 million per year for the period under review.

The chart displayed above reveals a sectoral breakdown of venture capital and total private equity in Belgium. Venture capital activity in Belgium is mainly focused on biotech and healthcare and to a lesser extent the ICT and Chemicals and materials sectors. The biotech sector captured 52.1% of venture capital investments in 2020, which amount to EUR 197.047 million, the ICT sector represents 15.7% or EUR 59.5 million of venture capital investments and the Chemicals and materials sector represent 15.1% or EUR 57.125 million. It is worth noting that this amount also corresponds to the total amount of private equity investments for this last sector in 2020. No buyout or growth capital investment where registered for the Chemical and materials sector in 2020.

The other sectors benefiting from venture capital investments are, in decreasing order: financial and insurance activities (4.8%), consumer goods and services (2.6%), business products and services (2.1%), agriculture (2.1%) and real estate (2.1%).

The ICT sector stands out when considering the total amount of private equity investments. This sector attracts 42.6% of all private equity in 2020, which amounts to EUR 649.3 million.

Among the other sectors attracting a substantial part of all private equity funds we find the biotech and healthcare sector with a share of 18.3% (EUR 278.23 million), consumer goods and services with 15.4% (EUR 234 million), business products and services with 11.4% (EUR 173.6 million) and energy and environment 1.9% (EUR 28.26 million).

Intrum Justitia publishes an annual survey aimed at assessing payment delays in Europe. Average payment delays in Belgium for the B2B segment were 3 days in 2020. This is a considerable improvement over the past 10 years. Between 2009 and 2020, the average payment period was estimated at 12.9 days.

The number of bankruptcies increased steadily over the 2008-13 period, after which the trend reversed between 2014 and 2016. From 2017 to 2019 the number of bankruptcies increased gradually (approximately 15.5% over three years) to 10 598 in 2019.

The total number of bankruptcies amounted to 7 203 in 2020 (-32% y-o-y). This figure is much lower than usual and can be explained by the moratorium on bankruptcies introduced in Belgium in the context of the Covid-19 crisis.

Belgium introduced in April 2020 a moratorium on bankruptcies for businesses severely affected by the crisis, but which had been in good health up to 18 March. It protected them against foreclosures, and from being declared bankrupt at the request of their debtors, although this could still occur at the request of the Attorney General or of the debtors themselves. The moratorium on bankruptcies ended on 1st February 2021.

Developments in SME bankruptcies, or bankruptcies of enterprises with less than 50 employees, follow a similar trend and amounted to 7 176 bankruptcies in 2020 (-32% y-o-y).

Public initiatives in the field of SME finance translate into federal and regional programmes. Guarantee programmes protect the collateral pledged by entrepreneurs and SMEs. They also provide a safety net for bankers willing to accept loan applications from borrowers deemed to have insufficient collateral for traditional loans, which is typically one of the main reasons underlying credit denials.

Following the regionalization of the "Fonds de participation" on 1 July 2014, the administration of loans and public guarantees is being dealt with by the regions. The criteria for granting loans and guarantees are likely to diverge depending on regional priorities.

In EUR Million

Flemish Region

In the framework of the Flemish recovery plan “Vlaamse veerkracht” ParticipatieMaatschappij Vlaanderen (PMV) (the Flemish investment body) is reinforcing its investments in companies through loans, capital and guarantees:

  • The Flemish government has provided an additional budget of EUR 250 million for subordinated loans for start-ups & scale-ups on the one hand and SMEs on the other hand (the so-called “Corona-leningen”(Corona loans)). The loans have a term of 3 years. The focus is on start-up companies and scale-ups, as well as mature companies that are temporarily in difficulty due to the corona crisis. Applications for these subordinated loans have to be submitted before the 15th of October 2021. Only intrinsically healthy and viable Flemish SMEs that are or will be in financial distress as a result of the outbreak of the Corona virus and the safety measures are eligible for this loan. The terms & conditions of the loan differ according to the target group.

  • The capacity of Gigarant (the guarantee scheme for amount higher than EUR 1.5 million) will double to EUR 3 billion and EUR 100 million will be available for the extension of the existing PMV/z guarantee scheme (for amounts up to EUR 1.5 million)

  • Creation of a “Welvaartsfonds” (prosperity fund): PMV will cooperate with a consortium of strong financial partners on this fund. The fund will be set up as a market-based initiative. The Flemish government provides the fund with an initial capital of EUR 240 million, while EUR 260 million will be invested by private partners. The fund will be launched in different phases. In the first phase, a consortium of strong partners will be gathered. In the second and third phase - starting in the second quarter of 2021 - the fund will be legally established and scaled up. From then on, it will be possible for institutional investors (phase 2) and private savers (phase 3) to co-invest. The fund will support promising innovative companies that are struggling with a financing problem. It will focus on three types of financing that can strengthen the balance sheet of companies and improve their solvency position: capital, quasi-capital and subordinated loans. The ticket size can vary from EUR 1.25 to 50 million. Companies in all sectors and at all stages are eligible. Nevertheless, the fund will rather focus on companies that are making the transition to a sustainable and ethical business.

  • Extension of the “Winwinlening” (win-win loan) and introduction of the “Vriendenaandeel” (Friends’ share):

With the “Winwinlening”, the Flemish government has been encouraging private individuals to grant a subordinated loan to self-employed and SMEs since 2006. Investors receive an annual tax benefit of 2.5 percent on the outstanding capital and are reimbursed 30 percent of the amount owed if the borrower is unable to repay. At the beginning of October 2020, the “Winwinlening” was expanded. Since then, individuals can lend up to EUR 75 000 instead of EUR 50 000 to SMEs and can choose the term of the loan between 5 and 10 years instead of 8 years. SMEs can borrow up to EUR 300 000 instead of EUR 200 000 through this mechanism. Lenders who grant these loans during the crisis period (after 15 March 2020 and up to 31 December 2021) also benefit from an increased one-off tax credit of 40%.

With 4 166 files, representing a loan amount of more than 100 million euros, the “Winwinlening” never had such a success as in 2020. Since the expansion there has obviously been an increased interest in this instrument.

  • As of mid-February 2021, a private person can invest in an SME through what we call the the “Vriendenaandeel” (Friends’ share). The “Friends shareholder” can invest up to EUR 75 000 and receives a tax benefit of 2.5% for up to 5 years. The company can thus acquire capital of up to EUR 300 000. As a private individual, you can also combine the “Friends' share” with a “Winwinlening”, but the combination of both is limited to EUR 75 000.

  • LRM (the Limburg investment company) also supports affected companies with financial advice and customisation

The flemish agency for innovation and economy (VLAIO) also supports entrepreneurs and enterprises during this crisis among others through advice, guidance, grants, but also by offering loans:

  • From the 31st of May 2021 entrepreneurs can apply for a “heropstartlening” (restart loan). This loan allows entrepreneurs who need to purchase goods, such as retailers and hotel and restaurant owners who are in real need of liquidity, to take out a loan to finance the purchase of goods, stocks and other restart costs. The loan is granted for two or three years at an annual interest rate of 1 percent. The size of the restart loan shall be limited to 25 per cent of the booked purchases of goods in the reference year 2019.

The term of the loan is limited to 24 months for loans up to EUR 50 000. For loans above EUR 50 000 the term is 36 months. Quarterly repayments in equal instalments are made after an exempt period of 12 months from the date of the loan agreement. The restart loan has a minimum amount of EUR 10 000 and a maximum amount of EUR 750 000. A maximum of two loans can be granted to an aid applicant. For loans up to EUR 50 000, 80% of the amount on the accepted invoices submitted is accepted as a loan. For loans above EUR 50 000, 50% of the amount on the accepted invoices is accepted as a loan for the part of the loan exceeding EUR 50 000. Applications for this loan can be submitted until the 1st of August 2021. Only companies that were intrinsically healthy before the crisis (situation 31/12/2019) are eligible.

  • Handelshuurlening:

Because of the corona measures, some companies were forced to close their doors. Due to the accompanying liquidity problems, many companies have difficulties paying the commercial property lease. In order to support these companies, the system of “handelshuurlening” was created. The “handelshuurlening” is based on a voluntary agreement between the tenant and the owner of the property whereby the owner waives one or two months' rent and the Flemish government then advances a number of months' rent by means of a loan to the tenant (via PMV/z-Leningen). The payment is made directly to the owner of the property. Applications for the “handelshuurlening” are possible until the 30th of June 2021.

For the abovementioned loans VLAIO is working together with PMV. The applications have to be submitted to VLAIO but the agreements are drawn up by PMV (/Z).

Brussels-Capital Region

  • Soft loans (“Prêts à taux d’intérêts modérés” - Covid-19 health crisis)

Start Date: 11 June 2020 - End date: 28 February 2022

Financing terms: Minimum amount of EUR 75 000 and maximum of EUR 600 000. Interest rates applied between 2% and 6%. The beneficiary is required to repay the loan within a maximum of five years.

Eligibility: Companies must have at least 10 full-time equivalent employees (initially 50 and then modified). The units of establishment for which the company benefits from the loan are located in the Brussels-Capital Region. The applicant must be negatively and significantly affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Initially, the applicant belonging to the HoReCA sector and HoReCa suppliers but later extended to all sectors.

  • Commercial rent loans (“Prêts sur le loyer commercial” - Covid-19 health crisis)

Start date: 25 January 2020 – End date 31 December 2022

Financing terms: maximum EUR 75 000 commercial rent loans for all leased commercial properties. The annual interest rate is fixed at 2%.

Programme terms: The lessor of the building in which the business is located agrees to waive completely 1, 2, 3 or 4 months' rent (including charges) and accepts that the payment of 1, 2, 3 or 4 other months' rent (including charges) be covered by a loan from the Brussels-Capital Region.

Eligibility: Companies that rent a commercial building located in the Brussels-Capital Region

Walloon region

  • Covid compensation (Indemnités Covid)

Start date: 20 March 2020

With the Covid19 crisis and the partial or full closure of a number of businesses, the Walloon Government has decided from March 2020 to support SMEs and self-employed in sectors affected by the crisis, through a lump sum compensation (initially from EUR 2 500 to EUR 5 000). The list of eligible sectors has been progressively extended. An additional compensation based on the loss of turnover has been introduced since September 2020. Companies can introduce their request on a single platform : https://indemnitecovid.wallonie.be


Company totally closed or at a standstill due to national decisions, or that substantially interrupted their activity, or that had to change its closing days without being closed all week; for the latest compensation, based on a minimum loss of 50% of the turnover between 2019 and 2020.

Financing terms:

Lump sum between EUR 1 500 and EUR 5 000 and compensation from EUR 2 250 to EUR 300 000 corresponding to 15% or 30% of the turnover for companies having lost at least 50% of their turnover.

173 618 companies have benefited from EUR 526 million by 31 December 2020.

  • « Propulsion » subordinated loan (Prêt subordonné « Propulsion »)

Start Date: 25 February 2021

The Walloon Government set up the “Propulsion” subordinated loan : this new loan of up to EUR 1 million in conjunction with a bank loan of the same amount, will strengthen the financial structure of Walloon SMEs impacted by the crisis and thus contribute to improve their solvency. This subordinated loan has the following main characteristics : be in conjunction with a bank loan, of an amount equivalent to the amount of the bank credit and of a minimum of EUR 50 000 and a maximum of EUR 1 000 000 with a fixed rate of 2.5% per year, and of a duration equivalent to that of the bank loan with a maximum of 10 years, including a deductible of minimum 6 months and maximum 2 years. No guarantee required, neither from the entrepreneur nor from the bank. SOWALFIN benefits for this product from the support of Europe (European Investment Fund - EIF) which guarantees each loan up to 70%, up to an envelope of EUR 100 million over the year 2021.


  • “Ricochet-recovery” loan

Start Date: May 2020

The “ricochet-recovery” loan aims at strengthening the cash flow of self-employed and small businesses affected by the crisis in order to enable them to maintain and relaunch their activity. It is a product combining a guarantee on a bank loan and a subordinated loan at a rate of 0% complementary to the bank's loan. The maximum that can be borrowed amounts to EUR 100 000, with the bank intervening up to a maximum of EUR 50 000 and SOWALFIN up to EUR 50 000. SOWALFIN's guarantee on this loan is at 75%. The capital can be deducted up to a maximum of 2 years. The "Ricochet-recovery" loan can be used to enhance a moratorium granted by the bank. SOWALFIN can intervene in conjunction with a bank moratorium of at least 6 months, by granting an additional subordinated loan of up to EUR 50 000.


  • “Helping hand” loan (prêt « Coup de Pouce »)

Start date: 2016, update in 2021

Launched as a pilot in 2016, the “prêt coup de pouce” is a tax mechanism that provides benefits for private citizens investing in new and growing companies. In return, they receive a tax benefit in the form of an annual tax credit amounting to 4% for the first four years, then 2.5% for any subsequent years. It initially aims to facilitate funding from friends and family members of aspiring entrepreneurs who are, in most cases, the main source of initial financing for start-ups. Due to its success the mechanism was prolonged in 2018 and in 2019, the scope was expanded from companies of max. 5 years to any type of companies.

In 2021, in order to provide a response to the insufficient level of equity capital in SMEs and to support the redeployment of Wallonia, the Minister of Economy has decided to completely overhaul the "Helping Hand" loan to make it even more attractive, for both lenders and beneficiaries. The ceilings have been increased (EUR 250 000 per borrower, EUR100 000 per lender), duration of the loan may be 4, 6, 8 or 10 years. Two options are now available : either to repay the entire capital in one go at the end of the loan term, or to choose an amortizing loan with quarterly, half-yearly or annual capital repayments (as desired) over the term; early repayment is now also accepted. The scheme provides for a 30% repayment guarantee from the Region. This loan can now be completed with a subordinated loan from SOWALFIN of an identical amount and duration.


  • W.IN.G (Wallonia Innovation and Growth)

Start Date: 2015 (update of the scope in 2020 with deeptech)

W.IN.G (Wallonia Innovation and Growth) is the Walloon investment fund for digital start-ups, launched in 2015 in the framework of the Digital Wallonia strategy. Managed by the Wallonia Regional Society for Investment (SRIW), the W.IN.G fund has a total budget of EUR 60 million and aims to invest in innovative digital start-ups with a high potential. In 2020, W.IN.G. has added a new dimension to its field of activity. Indeed, in addition to financing projects of digital start-ups and scale-ups, it now provides a support to "deep tech" projects facing higher technological, commercial and financial constraints. W.IN.G can provide a funding of EUR 50 000 at pre-seed phase in the form of a convertible loan. During the development phase, W.IN.G can provide up to EUR 500 000, under the condition that a private investor provides the same amount.

Federal Government

On a federal level, the government, the Belgian financial sector and the National Bank of Belgium have come to an agreement to temporary support enterprises based on two pillars and a deferral of payment of social contributions and corporate tax.

  1. 1. Debt Moratorium on corporate Loans

First, the federal government imposed a debt moratorium on corporate loans, which consists in a postponement of capital repayments. Specifically, this means that the financial sector is committed to give enterprises with difficulties paying their debts as a result of the COVID-19 crisis a delay for these capital payments. Interest on these loans is still due. This arrangement applies for all non-financial enterprises, SMEs, self-employed persons and non-profit organizations who are located in Belgium and are considered healthy.

All credits with a fixed repayment plan, all overdrafts and all fixed advance payments are eligible for the debt moratorium. The delay of payments initially lasted for six months, if the request predated 30 April 2020 or until 31 October 2020 (this date was fixed, even if the request was from before 30 April 2020 and therefore the duration was less than six months). No administration costs can be applied for the use of the debt moratorium.

The debt moratorium initially lasted until 31 October, as stated above, but was expanded in due to the continuous consequences of the pandemic crisis: the delay of capital repayments can now be invoked until 30 June 2021. The period of delay may however not exceed a total of 9 months. Moreover, only credits granted before 1 April 2020 are eligible for the extended program. The application for the delay needs to be done at least 10 days before due date and before 31 March 2021.

The debt moratorium was extended a second time. This extension gives the opportunity to “healthy” firms to exceed the total of 9 months of capital repayments as a maximum, while the final request date remains the same as before: 30 June 2021.

1.1 Eligibility requirements

The moratorium applies to all non-financial enterprises, SMEs, self-employed persons and non-profit organizations. Therefore, there is no difference between SMEs and larger enterprises for the debt moratorium.

Firms need to meet three conditions to fall under the scope of the debt moratorium:

  • the firm has fulfilled all its contractual credit duties in the last 12 months before 31 January 2020 and there is no active credit restructuring

  • the firm has no or less than 30 days backlog on her current credits, taxes or social security contributions on respectively 1 February and 29 February 2020

  • the firm is impacted by the crisis: the activity or turnover has decreased, has applied to temporary unemployment (both partially or full), or had to close because of governments measures.

To be eligible for the second expansion of the moratorium (and thus to exceed the total of 9 months of capital payment deferral), firms need to meet even more rigid conditions. Firms who have a negative equity at the end of 2019 and comply with at least one of the next conditions, are considered unhealthy (and therefore excluded from the charter 3 moratorium):

    • the firm had a backlog on its current credits, taxes or social security contributions;

    • the firm has not fulfilled her contractual credit duties in the last 12 months before 31 August 2020 or is not in an active credit restructuring;

    • the firm has suffered losses in 2019;

    • the firm equity is negative when the application was made and does not have the resources to strengthen the capital position in the short term.

  1. 2. Federal Guarantee scheme

Aside from the debt moratorium, the federal government activated two guarantee schemes for new credits, refinancing credits excluded.

A first guarantee scheme, in total EUR 50 billion, applies to credits issued by banks until 31 December 2020 to all viable non-financial enterprises, SMEs, self-employed persons and non-profit organizations with a maximal duration of twelve months. The initial end date was 30 September, but this was prolonged until 31 December 2020.

The second guarantee scheme only applies for credits issued by banks to non-financial SMEs. The initial scheme was for credits granted before 31 December 2020 and with a duration of 12 to 36 months. The guarantee scheme can now be applied on credits issued before 30 June 2021 and with a duration of twelve months to five years, instead of the initial maximum of 36 months.

Whereas the first guarantee scheme may be used by almost all types of enterprises, without any distinction between SMEs and larger firms, the second guarantee scheme can only be used on new credits of SMEs (and not for large firms).

2.1 Eligibility requirements

The guarantee schemes set up by the Belgian federal government come also with conditions. If a firm wants to make use of the first guarantee scheme, the firm has to:

  • have no backlog or a backlog of maximum 30 days on respectively 1 February 2020 or 29 February 2020 on its current credits, taxes or social security contributions.

  • have no active credit restructuring ongoing on 31 January 2020 and

  • be not a “firm in difficulties” as defined by the European Commission in regulation 651/2014.

  • All SMEs (large firms are excluded) are eligible for the second guarantee scheme, except:

    • SMEs subject to collective insolvency procedures;

    • firms who had received rescue aid which isn’t refunded;

    • firms who have received restructuring aid and there is still restructuring ongoing;

    • medium enterprises, according to the EU-definition, who are so-called “firms in difficulties”;

    • patrimonial corporations;

    • management corporations;

    • government entities;

    • financial counterparties;

    • natural or legal persons who grant credits as his only or primarily activity within his professional activity;

Deferral of payments of social contributions and corporate taxes

A third federal measure to strengthen the liquidity of enterprises is a deferral of payment of social contributions and corporate taxes. This is applied for all businesses that were affected by the lockdown, without any distinction between SMEs and larger firms.

  1. 3. Tax shelter corona

The federal government has implemented measures encouraging investments, specifically designed for SMEs. This federal initiative does not directly invest in the economy but makes investing in enterprises more appealing. These measures include a new system of tax incentive where there is a tax cut for the acquisition of shares in SMEs incurring a decline in turnover of minimum 30% due to the pandemic.

The amount eligible for the reduction is limited to a maximum of EUR 100 000 and the tax reduction amounts to 20% of the funds contributed, after deduction of any related costs. The maximum amount eligible for SMEs is EUR 250 000.


BLV-ABL – Association belge de Leasing, Annual Report 2020, p. 33, 42


ECB, ECB Statistical Data Warehouse, Safe Survey


EU Federation – Factoring and Commercial Finance, EUF Statistics, 28 may 2020


FPS Economy, Statistics Belgium, BeStat


Intrum Justicia, European Payment Report 2020, p.36


Invest Europe, European Private Equity Activity Data 2020


National Bank of Belgium, National Bank of Belgium Online Statistics, Central Corporate Credit Register


National Bank of Belgium, National Bank of Belgium Online Statistics, Monthly Business Survey


OECD (2015), Entrepreneurship at a Glance 2017, OECD Publishing, Paris,


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