Today’s Headlines – Tuesday 30th April

HIGHEST INCOME TAX IN THE EU

The implicit income tax rate paid by Belgians in 2011 was the highest in the whole of the European Union.

That’s according to a study by the EU’s statistical unit Eurostat.

Increases to taxes on consumption (for example excise duties) that have come about as a result of the economic crisis mean that the percentage of GDP that ends up with the exchequer is continuing to rise.

However, the Eurostat report shows that the lion’s share of tax revenue still come from income tax.

CHEAPER ENERGY FOR THOSE WHO CAN’T PAY

The Federal Economy Minister Johan Vande Lanotte has said that in future, those that have been unable to pay their energy bills will be able to enjoy a special lower tariff for their gas and electricity.

Currently customers that have been dropped by their energy provider for not having paid bills have to buy their power from the grid operator.

The prices charged by the grid operators are higher than by the energy providers. This doesn’t make paying off the arrears any easier.

Mr Vande Lanotte now wants to reform the system for those that are unable to pay their energy bills. The tariffs charged by the grid operator will be reduced to just over the average amount charge by the energy supply companies.

FORTIS SOLD FOR PROFIT

Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN) and Texas- based Lone Star Funds will pay 6.7 billion euros for the assets of Royal Park Investments SA, a vehicle set up to manage toxic assets of failed Belgian bank Fortis.

Belgium, one of the vehicle’s shareholders, will get 1 billion euros in cash from the sale, reducing government debt by more than 0.2 percent of gross domestic product

Ageas, the insurer formerly known as Fortis, will receive 1.04 billion euros, it said in a separate statement.

Royal Park Investments was set up in May 2009 by Fortis, the Belgian government and French bank BNP Paribas SA (BNP) as a special purpose vehicle to manage a pool of distressed debt securities.

The shareholders contributed 1.7 billion euros in equity at the time. That amount had increased to a net asset value of 2.3 billion euros, Royal Park Investments said today.

Fortis, once Belgium’s biggest financial-services company, became a casualty of the 2008 financial turmoil after pouring 24.2 billion euros into purchasing the assets of ABN Amro Holding NV a year earlier, just as the U.S. subprime-mortgage market collapsed and lending dried up.

BELGIUM’S FIRST TWITTER MILLIONAIRE

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard has become the first Belgian to have more than one million followers on the social networking site Twitter.

The 22-year-old winger now has 1,003,000 followers, more than 240,000 more than another famous Belgian football export, the Manchester city captain Vincent Kompany (760,000).

Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen lags further behind still with 430,000 followers on twitter. Evertons Marouane Fellaini has 195,000 followers on Twitter.

Other famous Belgians such as the former tennis player Kim Clijsters (242,000 followers) and the Permanent Chairman of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy (113,000 followers).

Radio X presenter Ian Beddow is currently just behind on 10.

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