Country Focus: Belgium
Banking crisis affects Tax Shelter financing
by Aurore Engelen
08/07/2009 - On Monday, ING bank, a subsidiary of international group ING, ceased all its Tax Shelter activities. It was, however, the first major Belgian bank to offer its services as part of the Tax Shelter system, and was also the Belgian bank least affected by last summer’s financial crisis.
The bank, which is proud to have supported almost 60 Belgian productions since the creation of the system in 2007, has announced that, as part of its “back-to-basics” strategy, it prefers to refocus on its primary activities. All prior obligations will, of course, be honoured, so this shouldn’t cause any funding problems.
The Tax Shelter accounted for almost €60m in investment in 2008, for around 40 films supported. The system is relatively straightforward and involves a tax deduction: for every €100 invested, €150 can be deducted. For producers, one part of the money received takes the form of a loan, and the other an investment.
This announcement is bad news for auteur cinema, and for the diversity of Belgian films in general, even though professional associations claim to be confident. In fact, ING had set itself the target, in consultation with the profession, of supporting all types of project, from documentaries to debut works, and more commercial films.
Recently, films as eclectic as Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier’s A Town Called Panic [trailer, film focus] and Philippe Van Leeuw’s Rwanda, Le Jour où Dieu Est Parti en Voyage (“Rwanda, the Day God Went Away”) were part-financed by the funds raised by ING.
For their part, other banks have reaffirmed their commitment to the system. A few weeks ago, Fortis Film Fund launched a call for projects, and Dexia has confirmed its intention of joining the sector, alongside Casa Kafka (subsidiary of RTBF).
While the former is encouraging its investors to back a “mixed bag” of films, promising high return, the latter is set to focus on Belgian initiatives and talents.