In the tourism sector, it is time to review this millefeuille of outdated, incomprehensible and discriminatory municipal taxes

Among the municipal taxes specific to the Tourism sector, there has been a so-called “shows and entertainment” tax since the 19th century, which directly affects the ticket sales of tourist companies.

When the regional authorities are challenged on the subject, they invariably answer you “this is not our responsibility, it is a prerogative of the municipal power”.

We should therefore not be surprised at the great disparities existing in municipal taxation in terms of Tourism. The municipal authority is free to place the tax cursor where it sees fit.

For example, the municipality of Dour, which hosts the eponymous festival, does not tax the show or the entertainment when we are at the heart of the subject.

In Dinant, a private tourist enterprise, not subsidized like the citadel of Dinant, is subject to an annual municipal tax of 6% (after deduction of VAT but before corporation tax).

In the 2000s, following a badly put together municipal regulation which was contested and won by the company in court, it benefited from a significant reimbursement plus legal interest. These sums were immediately reinvested in the waterproofing of the roofs (+/- 2000 m2) subsequently allowing a considerable redevelopment of the interior spaces.

Thanks to this, among the many castles and fortresses in Wallonia, the citadel of Dinant welcomed 300,000 visitors in 2022, becoming the most visited historic site in the south of the country.

Like what a policy, voluntary or not, leading to tax relief can prove to be more promising in the long term for the flagship activity of a city.

A concern for fairness

It is logical that a company, exercising its activity on the public domain, pays a tax for the occupation of the communal space, just as a tenant pays a rent to his lessor for the occupation of a property whatever be it. By way of example, we can cite a HORECA establishment which pays a fee for having received authorization to install a terrace on the communal domain and to carry out all or part of its operation there.

On the other hand, what can justify a municipality imposing additional taxation on a tourist company carrying out its activities on its property simply because it belongs to the tourism sector?

It should also be noted that in the same municipality, other companies not belonging to this sector are only liable for ordinary taxes.

Tourism, a harmful sector?

Note that it is only the company practicing receptive tourism that is overtaxed in this way, because the one which, like a tour operator, sends hundreds, even thousands of nationals to destinations near or far, this one is in no way concerned, it falls within the framework of any normal company.

And yet, the first acts as an “exporter at home” bringing in foreign currencies, the other brings purchasing power out of the country.

Understand who can!

Unfair tax practice

The province of Namur, which benefits from a high concentration of tourist SMEs/VSEs in the Walloon Region, sees incomprehensible disparities in terms of municipal taxes on Tourism.

Insofar as some consider – and can justify – the relevance of having to overtax this sector, then the least we could do would be to establish an identical and fair tax for all companies; this would be levied by the region and poured into a common pot to be redistributed on an objective basis to all the municipalities recognized as linked to tourism.

Moreover, and proof to the contrary, if there is a regional Ministry of Tourism, it is because this sector is recognized as being economically buoyant.

Since the introduction of the municipal entertainment tax, well over a century ago, and whose initial objective was to levy a tax on the activities of showmen without a fixed address, the world has rotated, settings changed; it is time to review this millefeuille of old-fashioned, incomprehensible and discriminatory taxes.

If it cannot intervene directly in municipal taxation, the regional power retains a faculty of instigation, recommendation and harmonization which it would do well to exercise in this matter.

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