Services: Commission refers Belgium to the Court of Justice of the EU due to restrictions on accountants

 The European Commission has decided to refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the EU on the grounds that its restrictions on accountants offering services in related disciplines are incompatible with the Services Directive (Directive 2006/113/EC).

Belgian legislation does not allow an accountant to provide services as a real-estate agent or insurance broker, or to perform financial activities. The Commission considers that this prohibition is not in line with the Services Directive (Article 25 on multidisciplinary activities) and believes that there are less restrictive means to secure independence, impartiality and professional ethics.

Excessive constraints on service providers can unnecessarily prevent qualified candidates from accessing jobs, be it in cross-border situations or domestically. Removing the restrictions on services that can be provided by accountants could lead to improving consumer choice, lower prices and help create new jobs for qualified candidates in the sector.

The Commission has previously asked a number of Member States to adapt their rules prohibiting multidisciplinary practices in June 2015 and November 2016. Regarding Belgium specifically, the Commission requested the national authorities to remedy the breach of EU law in a reasoned opinion in November 2016. As the Belgian authorities maintained their position, the Commission decided to refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Background

Article 25 of the Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC) requires Member States to ensure that providers are not made subject to requirements which oblige them to exercise a given specific activity exclusively or which restrict different activities from being exercised jointly or in partnership.

However, the Belgian legislation does not allow an accountant to provide services as a real estate agent or insurance broker, nor perform financial activities. All other activities (crafts, agricultural activities, etc.) are also forbidden (unless these are needed to support the primary service or activity, do not jeopardise independence and do not create a conflict of interest).

 

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