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Belgium awarded “Very Best Practice of e-Government in Europe Today” label

Minister of Finance Didier Reynders announced another new e-government measure, this time to allow companies to fill in their monthly or quarterly VAT returns on-line. The new scheme was launched on 11 February, the day that the INTERVAT web site became operational. The project represents a further important step in the development of fully electronic government services, a policy actively encouraged by the European Union. In fact, the Union was so pleased with the INTERVAT initiative that it promptly awarded the Belgian administration its “Very Best Practice of e-Government in Europe Today” label.

No special software is required to make use of the INTERVAT system: every transaction can be carried out on-line, accessed via an applet that operates in a standard web-browser. Ease of access is an important objective for all e-government programmes, according to the Ministry. This also explains why there is no need to pre-register before using INTERVAT: the idea is to keep the threshold as low as possible.

For safety reasons the system makes use of digital certificates, to prevent unauthorised persons submitting false returns. To obtain such a certificate, company directors will have to make a brief excursion into the “real” world, to pick up their digital signature from one of the authorised certificating agencies. At the moment, there are just two such agencies: Belgacom’s E-Trust and Globalsign. Moreover, the certification service is not free.

Be that as it may, digital certificates are destined to play an increasingly important role in all our futures, according to a spokesman for Minister Reynders. “Similar rules and requirements will apply in many other fields, such as the submission of electronic forms and the general exchange of information within the wider framework of the e-government network”.

The MOF is convinced that the use of INTERVAT can offer considerable benefits. Companies will no longer need to send off forms by post and receipt is also acknowledged electronically. Above all, the fact that the return can be completed right up to the very last moment will be a big plus for busy company managers.

Reported by
11 February 2002

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