Share article:

    Opposition grows to extension of use of service cheques

    © Marie Griffiths/Wikimedia
    © Marie Griffiths/Wikimedia

    A government plan to allow those working part-time or retired persons to earn up to €500 a month without paying tax is gathering opposition, with an appeal by the farmer’s union Boerenbond this week to the Constitutional Court. The union is worried that gardening work carried out by part-timers will represent a form of unfair competition for professional gardening workers. The appeal is based on the constitutional principle of equality under the law.

    The new law was approved on Friday by the federal parliament. It allows tax-free earnings of up to €500 a month for anyone working 80% of full-time, the retired and certain types of unemployed people. The work permitted is restricted, but includes work with volunteer organisations as well as simple DIY tasks around the home, such as gardening and simple repairs.

    The farmers’ union is particularly bothered by the gardening exception, which places amateurs with time on their hands in direct competition with professionals represented by the union. In particular, professionals are required to carry insurance against any damage caused to a customer’s property. “Will this sort of handyman also be required to be insured?” asked a spokesperson for Boerenbond.

    Meanwhile Unizo, which represents the self-employed, joined with two sector organisations to fight a government proposal to allow certain domestic gardening and home-repair tasks to be paid for with service cheques, currently restricted to certain tasks such as home-cleaning and ironing.

    The trio – Unizo, Nelectra and Bouwunie – claim that while companies involved in the sector are being heavily taxed, in the name of social charges, the government’s plan will mean that amateurs can work tax-free to the tune of €6,000 a year, thus presenting professional businesses – and employers – face to face with what they called “unfair competition”.

    The government’s measure, meanwhile, still has to pass the scrutiny of the Council of State, which can take account of constitutional and other considerations, and demand the removal of the law or, as the case may be, amendments.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times