A 21% value-added tax (VAT) will not be applied to free legal assistance before the 1st of July 2018, the Society of French- and German-speaking Bars in Belgium, OBFG, stated on Tuesday. This is the third time that the measure, which was to have been adopted on the 1st of April 2017, has been postponed.The VAT was to have been applied to free legal aid from the 1st of January 2018 prior to the latest postponement, which has been welcomed by the new head of the OBFG, Alexandre Gillain. However, he said it was still too early to cry victory.
“We do not know if the postponement of the VAT also applies to primary legal assistance, since the decision of the Finance Department only applies to free services provided by lawyers within the framework of legal aid.” Moreover, while the measure has been postponed to July 2018, it has, however, not been abandoned, Gillain noted.
A budgetary reinforcement has been found for compensating layers who provide free legal assistance, with a unit amounting to 26.01 euros. Gillain fears, however, that the Fund for Financing Secondary Legal Assistance, where this budgetary reinforcement is coming from, has been used “against every logic” to cover previous services, since it relates to claims submitted in 2015-2016.
“Why should we be the only profession that does not know the value per hour of the work we provide?” the president of the OBFG said, adding that the VAT should be scrapped and the unit kept at a fixed value. Free legal assistance has not been free from the 1st of September 2016.