Six out of ten Belgian entrepreneurs paid invoices late

Reading time: 5 minutes | Written by Shirley Chih | June 20, 2024

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Brussels, June 20, 2024 – 59.6% of Belgian businesses did not pay their invoices on time in Q4 2023. This is according to data from data processing expert Altares Dun & Bradstreet. Belgium ranks last among all late payers in Northern Europe. Northern European countries where businesses process invoices on time include Denmark (94.2%), Poland (82.7%), and Russia (79.1%).

Paying invoices on time remains a challenge for Belgian companies. Six out of ten businesses paid their invoices late during the last quarter of 2023, with 2.3% even exceeding the 90-day term. During Q4 2022, this number was still at 1.6%. With 59.6% of late payments, Belgium is the slowest payer in Northern Europe.

The best-performing students in the class are in Denmark, where only 5.8% of businesses paid their debts after the due date in Q4 2023. The next best is Poland, with 17.3%.

Largest companies are the slowest payers

The size of Belgian companies also affects their payment behavior. Micro-enterprises lead when it comes to paying incoming invoices on time. However, there is a declining trend in the number of these businesses settling their invoices promptly. While the percentage dropped from 46.9% in Q4 2021 to 45.2% in Q4 2022, it further decreased to 41.7% last year. For large Belgian companies, this percentage stands at 14.6%, which is the lowest in Northern Europe for this group.

“Large Belgian companies most frequently struggle with payment deadlines, and a significant turnaround is not immediately expected. However, it is important to emphasize that they do not necessarily pay extremely late. For instance, we see that 0% of large companies exceed the payment term by more than 90 days,” says Barry de Goeij, Senior Data Scientist at Altares Dun & Bradstreet.

Most overdue payments in the transport sector

The payment trends of Q4 2023 also varied by sector. The agricultural sector leads with 47.6% of companies settling their invoices within the payment term. The financial sector follows in second place with 45.7%, and the services sector in Belgium is close behind at 45.2%. In the transport and distribution sector, only 31.7% of the invoices were paid on time.

When looking at the significant late payers, those who pay more than 90 days late, we see a remarkable evolution. In the retail sector, 4.4% of companies pay more than 90 days late, an increase of 1.9% compared to 2022. The construction sector also saw an increase in late payers. In 2023, 2.3% of construction companies paid more than 90 days late, an increase of 0.6% compared to the previous year.

Barry de Goeij concludes: “Belgium continues to pay structurally late and ranks at the bottom compared to other Northern European countries. Large companies, in particular, struggle with payment deadlines. In the retail and construction sectors, we see an increase in the percentage of companies that pay more than 90 days late. In the construction sector, this is mainly due to the decreasing number of building permits. In the retail sector, the primary cause is high inflation, which results in reduced consumer spending.”

View the full report here.

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Shirley Chih

Marketing & Communications Officer

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