NDM pleads for abolition company car and mobility premium of €400 for every Belgian

In its Memorandum 2024, a series of recommendations ahead of next year’s elections, Network Sustainable Mobility (Netwerk Duurzame Mobiliteit, NDM) advocates the abolition of the company car and the introduction of an annual ‘proximity budget’ of 400 euros for every Belgian.

“As long as the company car is in front of the door, you are not going to think about sustainable mobility,” says Miguel Vertriest, policy adviser of NDM, an umbrella organization of mobility associations. “We want people to travel fewer kilometers by car and use more alternatives, such as cycling or public transport.”

Three key measures

Sustainable Mobility Network is the umbrella organization of mobility associations Autodelen.net, Bond Beter Leefmilieu, Fietsersbond, Mobiel 21, Impact, Trage Wegen, TreinTramBus, and the Voetgangersbeweging (Pedestrians organization). Together, these organizations are pushing for a social transition to sustainable mobility.

To achieve a trend break, the mobility umbrella pushes forward three key measures in Memorandum 24: invest in people, not asphalt, a smart mileage charge, and a ‘proximity budget’ for all.

€4,7 billion annually to company cars

The latter thus embraces an annual deposit of 400 euros into the account of each Belgian. “With that money, people can buy an annual subscription to public transport company De Lijn or ease housing costs (closer to work) a bit,” Vertriest says. “There is no control whether people spend that money only on sustainable mobility. Compare it to a basic income: you could also buy shoes with it.”

According to Vertriest, that budget exists but is spent entirely on company cars. Research by the newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws in 2018 shows that €4,7 billion are spent annually on company cars. The so-called proximity budget should completely replace the company car system.

“We want to get rid of an anti-social narrative in which the government subsidizes employees and employers to pollute. Abolishing company cars and introducing a proximity budget will lead to redistribution. People and families in transportation poverty will have a budget they can use for their mobility needs,” says the umbrella organization.

120 policy recommendations

The proximity budget is thus one of the memorandum’s three key measures. Smart mileage charging and a shift from investment in additional road infrastructure to investing in a quality bicycle route network and expanding public transport and shared mobility offerings is also something Network Sustainable Mobility wants to put on the agenda.

In addition, NDM has formulated more than 120 concrete policy recommendations for the next legislature. These proposals include, for example, reducing the VAT rate for shared cars (from 21% to 6%), banning night flights for Brussels Airport, making 100 kph the new speed limit on Belgian highways, and developing long-distance train connections.

Criticism from Touring

“Our ambition is to enter into debate with political parties and ensure that they adopt our proposals in the run-up to the elections,” says Miguel Vertriest. “We hope that through our ideas, politicians will realize that we need major changes on the road to sustainable mobility.”

In a reaction, mobility organization and motorists’ interest group Touring denounces the condemnation of the company car in Network Sustainable Mobility’s proposal. “Presenting the lower charges companies pay on a company car as a subsidy is unfair. Of the billions of euros that motorists bring into the state each year, 3,2 billion euros come from company cars. It is the government’s fault, which makes wages impossibly dear, causing companies to take advantage of more tax-friendly options for work relief. Moreover, company cars are the guarantee of greening the fleet.”

However, in 2017, European officials advised the Belgian government to tax the use of a company car more heavily and use the proceeds to reduce labor costs.

The European study estimated that the Belgian state loses some €3,75 billion a year due to the systems of tax-advantaged company cars. Of this, 2 billion comes from missed personal taxes and 1,75 billion from missed social security contributions. The authors said that money could be put to better use, for example, to reduce personal income tax rates further.

According to the newspaper De Tijd, which relied on the new emissions values, the greening of the car fleet also reduces average emissions for both gasoline and diesel cars by about 10%, sharply increasing the taxable benefit in kind for company cars.


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