The digital sector unsuccessfully opposed the copyright reform project. Web coders will lose out as the federal government tightens the screws, but they’re not the only ones: architects, lawyers, artists and independent journalists could lose big. The situation is so alarming for freelance journalists that the Association of Professional Journalists (AJP) fears the departure of many freelancers from the profession.
An ultra-advantageous tax niche
Historically, the copyright system should allow the creator of a work to be compensated for the exploitation of his work by a third party. Therefore, the system is mainly aimed at artists. But over the years, more and more professions have been able to justify, with the agreement of the financial administration, that their production is also art.
And looking closely at the system, we understand why. The scheme allows 50% of the revenue charged to a customer to be tax exempt. So, on an invoice of €1000: 50% is declared as fees and subject to social contributions and taxes, and the remaining 50% is taxed only at 7.5%… the rest (92.5%) is from the net .
The Minister of Finance, Vincent Van Peteghem, wants to reframe this tax niche. “108 million copyrighted in 2013, up from 450 million today“, he said. A lot of money is lost in social security contributions and a good portion of taxes.”Today’s system is very broad. And I fail to explain why a worker can get 92.5% net of an income when one has to pay his social contributions and taxes to have a net 50% of his total.“
60% of freelance journalists charge less than €2,000 gross
The system was used by freelance journalists to keep their heads above water. Because, as Martine Simonis, secretary of the Association of Professional Journalists points out, “Journalists’ fees are often decided by the media, not the freelancers. The consequence of this is that many have not been increased for several years, neither by revaluation, nor by indexation. Some older people have the same rates as 20 years ago. Today, 60% of freelancers earn less than €2,000 net.“
Thanks to the copyright system, the freelance journalist who currently declares 50% of the copyright earns a net of 1550€. But if he has to reduce the copyright to 30%, as stipulated in the reform project, his net will drop to €1,450 net. The freelance journalist will lose €100 net.
“To increase the tax burden on a sector that is so dangerous and difficult, for us it is not decent“, said Martine Simonis.”We already have journalists telling us “if passed, I will leave the profession“. This is worrying for the profession, for the quality of information and ultimately for the public.“
Increase freelance rates: the Loch ness monster.
The Minister of Finance tries to ensure: the proposal will be progressive. Journalists, like other professions penalized by this reform, will still be able to declare 50% of the copyright in 2023, 40% in 2024 and finally 30% in 2025. And he slipped another possible solution : “maybe by then it is possible to negotiate with the publishers?“He talks here about negotiating an increase in freelance rates with the media that employs these freelance journalists. A solution that makes Martine Simonis laugh a little: “we have tried to negotiate with publishers for years! Freelancers have been asking for better pay for years, with no success so far.“Some sort of Loch ness monster: everyone talks about it but no one has seen it.
And for good reason, the economic situation is not necessarily very good in the journalistic environment, stuck between a decrease in newspaper sales and advertising revenues and an increase in the price of paper and the indexation that will be applied to salaries journalist That is why Martine Simonis said that the only solution is to block this reform when it goes through the parliament, to avoid leaving many professionals in the sector. “Many independent journalists conduct investigations, providing original, quality, in-depth work. And if they are struggling to make ends meet now, they will move to higher paying professions where their talent will be recognized.“