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Belgian income tax: The Bulletin's fully updated guide to filing your 2022 return
Many of us have gone back to work with no desire to be back full time. We all have more or less enjoyed working from home and the government is trying to make life a bit easier with some tax measures.
Every year you would think there is a competition on: how may tax codes are there in the tax form. It’s official: 839, a record. That's 10 more than last year and that is due to the Olympic and Paralympic Games with special codes for the athletes who won premiums, or for those early adopters who installed a charging station for their Teslas.
It sounds worse than it is. Some 40% of all the taxpayers fill out less than ten codes. For 80%, 20 codes are more than enough. Only 0.01%, not even 1,000 taxpayers, fill out more than 60 codes. That can be because they are a married couple with two or more jobs, investments in different products, several properties and different types of tax breaks.
30 June is the deadline for filing paper tax returns. If you file online, you have another two weeks, until 15 July.
Yes, it's tax return time again.
Whether you are new to Belgium or have been filing your tax return here for years, you may have some questions. We will address some of these questions and we will address some other questions you didn't know you had.
If this is the first time …
If you are new to Belgium, or if this is the first time you must file a tax return, these are a few of the things you need to know.
The first time you receive a tax return, it comes in a brown envelope with a paper tax return but you will be encouraged to access your online tax return (tax-on-web) and activate you online mailbox “my e-box” for all correspondence with the tax authorities. That is where you will find your tax bill.
Nine out of 10 taxpayers already file online, and the number of people who prefer to file paper tax returns is dwindling. The taxman is really pushing taxpayers into the digital age and once you file online, he assumes that you want to do so again and again, and will not send you a paper form any more. Moreover, if the taxman has all the information, he may send you a Proposal of Taxation.
In Belgium, married couples and registered partners file jointly but the tax is calculated separately for each. The tax due by both is added up and the tax bill shows one amount to be paid or refunded.
In your tax return, you declare your income. You don't report your wealth (there is some form of wealth tax). If you have overseas bank accounts or insurance policies, all you do is tick a box in your tax return and confirm that you have reported the accounts to the Belgian National Bank. You don't have to give any information about those but the taxman probably already has information already.
You don't have to calculate the tax yourself and you don't have to pay the tax immediately or enclose a cheque. This is because most tax is deducted at source; your employer pays your salary net of social security and income tax. And if you receive a pension, tax is already deducted as well. If you are encouraged to pay the tax during the year.
The tax withheld at source will normally cover the tax due. However, you still have to declare all your income, and the tax bill will show whether you get a tax refund. That may be the case if
- you have a mortgage,
- you pay a cleaner or helper with titres services / dienstencheques
- you have made some donations to charity
- you pay alimony or child support,
- you pay for childcare,
- you pay premiums for legal expenses insurance.
- or you put some money aside for pension saving,
And if you have any savings, the bank deducts the tax "at source"; you don't have to declare the dividends or interest. However, if you have savings with an overseas bank abroad, you must report the income.
If you file in time, the tax bill will be sent to you a few months later, at the latest on 30 June 2023. You have two months to pay the bill; if the bill shows a reimbursement, that will come two months later as well.
If you want to calculate how much tax you will have to pay, you can calculate the tax anonymously on Taxcalc.
Taxes in corona times
Covid-19 has changed certain rules and habits.
You can get help to complete your tax return but only over the phone or you can make an appointment at their offices for help. It is only if they cannot help you over the phone that they will meet you in person.
You may have been forced to work from home and your employer paid you a tax-free allowance of €129.48 (and even €144.31 between April 2021 and September 2021) for working at home, plus €20 (for the use of your own PC) and €20 for the use of your internet connection at home.
If you have been furloughed, you risk having a bad surprise. The tax authorities have withheld tax at source on your unemployment benefit at 15%; you risk having a big tax bill.
Workers who are working in a neighbouring country are normally paying tax there. However, when you work from home, you pay tax here for the days you work at home. The Belgian tax authorities have accepted that the lockdown due to Covid-19 is a case of ‘force majeure’. As you cannot travel to work, Belgium has agreed with Germany, Luxembourg, France and the Netherlands that the days worked in Belgium during 2021 do not count as days in Belgium. This has been extended until 30 June 2022.
Self-employed workers could request a one-year deferral of the payment of their social security contributions for 2021. They could also request a reduction of the quarterly social security contributions if they think that they will be earning substantially less. However, deferral does not mean a waiver; the social security contributions will have to be paid.
More from our 2022 income tax guide
- When do I need to file my Belgian income tax return?
- Online or on paper?
- Filing online
- Understanding the paper tax return
- Checklist: What documents do you need?
- The return in detail
- Belgian income tax: There's nowhere to hide
- A guide to cross-border taxation
- Belgian income tax returns for families
- Help! Where to get assistance with your tax return
- Understanding your Belgian income tax bill
- How do I appeal?
- This guide was written by Marc Quaghebeur, an international tax lawyer at Cabinet DAVID. It is a general introduction based on current understanding of the law. It is not to be taken as a suitable alternative for individual advice. If you have a question, you can contact him by clicking on his name.