Out of 5,000 establishments in Belgium’s hotel, bar and restaurant sector monitored in 2017, 12% had not activated their mandatory black boxes, while a second, unregistered, black box was discovered in 5.77% of them, the Finance Department confirmed on Thursday. “We continue to check and sanction,” a spokesman of the department said in response to criticism from the Belgian Restaurants Association (BRA) published in La Libre Belgique.
The association had accused the Government of “a huge lack of political courage” on the black box issue. According to the BRA’s Miguel Van Keirsbilck, two years after the system was introduced, close to 80% of restaurants in the country are equipped with black boxes, but not all have been connected.
Businesses in Belgium that sell food and beverages must be equipped with a device, known as a black box, that records the transactions they conduct.
“As far as we know, and according to the results of the checks, half of the restaurant owners are not playing along,” which causes unfair competition, Van Keirsbilck says. Only on-the-spot checks can determine whether the boxes are correctly connected.
This information has been confirmed by the Finance Department, which stresses, however, that checks are conducted systematically. “We have instruments that verify whether a box has been connected, then we go to the site and check,” the spokesman said. “The federal public service also conducts such checks, based on risk analyses.”
This is also the case with restaurants that do not yet have black boxes even though their turnover justifies their use. During the checks, three-quarters of these establishments were found not to be compliant in 2017.
The BRA has also criticized the federal government for accepting the old VAT slips as expense claims. However, the Finance Department spokesman said: “We cannot eliminate them since not all the restaurants are obliged to install the black boxes.”