Since today you can declare your overseas bank accounts online with the Central Point of Contact National Bank of Belgium.
Belgium has banking secrecy rules that prevented the tax administration from asking banks for information about Belgian taxpayers. In 2011, Parliament made it easier for the taxman to set these rules aside in certain situations (see below, What is left of the banking secrecy?)
However, it was not easy for the tax man to find out where the taxpayer had a bank account ; he had to go on a fishing trip around the banks. To make it easier for the taxman, a register of banks and bank accounts is set up with the National Bank.
Instead of giving the task of maintaining a register of all accounts held by Belgian taxpayers to the tax administration, it was decided to entrust this task to the National Bank of Belgium, which established a “central point of contact”.
Belgian accounts are reported directly by the banks themselves. Every year before 31 March, Belgian banks, i.e. banks, exchange, credit and savings institutions, report to the central point of contact the identity of their customers and the numbers of their accounts and contracts. Banks began this process in 2014 for accounts that existed during the years 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Normally, your bank will have informed you that it has communicated the information.
Because overseas banks could not be obliged to report overseas accounts, taxpayers must declare them themselves. Since this year, you must declare the foreign bank accounts that you had during the past year. In addition, this year you must also declare accounts you had in any of the years 2011, 2012 or 2013.
If you have confirmed in your income tax return that you had an overseas bank account, the tax office will send at the latest in June an invitation to declare these accounts to the central point of contact.
Since today, May 26, 2015, you can declare these accounts online on the website of the site of the central point of contact. Access is secured by your electronic identity card (eID) ; it is identical to that used for Tax-on-web. The application is available every day of the week and Saturday from 7 am to 24h, and on Sundays from 12:30 to 24h. You will also find an explanation of the technical aspects technical aspects for using your eID and reporting your overseas accounts electronically.
You can also make this declaration in writing with the standard form that you can download here ; you can also request it by email addressed to [email protected] or in a letter addressed to the following address.
National Bank of Belgium
Point de contact central
Boulevard de Berlaimont, 14
You can complete this form by computer before printing it, or you can complete it by hand before returning it to the address above.
You can ask your accountant, tax adviser or lawyer to file the form for you.
For the year 2014, you must file the return at the latest together with your tax return. For the years 2011 to 2013, you will have two months from the time you receive the invitation from the tax administration.
And your income tax return ?
In your income tax return, you still have to declare that you have overseas accounts, but now you have to answer “yes” to the question whether you have reported these accounts to the National Bank of Belgium.
What information does the National Bank have?
Holders or joint holders of Belgian and overseas accounts are identified by their name and number in the national register (in the format YYMMDD-000-00). The accounts are identified by their account number (IBAN) and the name of the bank, the country and the BIC (Bank Identifier Code or SWIFT code) or by the address of the branch if the bank does not have a BIC.
The National Bank does not receive any information about the money on your account (e.g. the balance on the account or transfers made). Furthermore, the register does not have the names of the beneficial owners of accounts held by companies, only the identity of the holder and number of the account held by a Belgian resident with a Belgian bank.
The Belgian banks must also report the contracts (loans) they have with each customer at any time during the year, be it a mortgage, an instalment sales agreement, a lease, a loan, a credit facility or an agreement for services and/or investment activities, …
They must also report the list of accounts of which a foreign customer was the holder or co-holder at any time of year, or even the Belgian accounts of Belgian and foreign legal entities.
What does the National Bank do?
The central contact point sends a confirmation of receipt of the return ; in the case of an online declaration, an electronic confirmation is sent and in the case of a paper declaration, it is mailed within thirty days.
The National Bank only verifies that banks comply with all the technical instructions they have given them, and they verify the check number for information that has such a check number (IBAN account, tax identification number, and BCE number for legal entities).
The National Bank does not correct the data sent to the central contact point. If the taxpayer discovers a mistake, he should contact his bank to rectify it.
The information is kept for up to eight years after the end of the last calendar year with respect to which the customer-related data and/or his accounts were reported. After eight years, the data are deleted.
What is left of the banking secrecy?
The banking secrecy rules are not protected by the criminal code, but by a rule in the income tax code that forbids the tax administration from collecting information from the banks. This banking secrecy is upheld to a certain level because the database of bank accounts is not maintained by the tax authorities, but by the National Bank.
During tax audits, the tax man will not have automatic access to the National Bank’s database. He may question the central point of contact if he has “indications of fraud” or when he intends to assess the tax based on “of signs or indications of higher means” that is to say based on the taxpayer’s spending or investments. The taxman must first send a letter to the taxpayer requesting the bank data and it is only if he does not get the information that he may request the information from the bank. The taxpayer will then be able to go to court to dispute the taxman’s right.
The tax authorities may also request this information when it receives a request for information from the tax office of another country. However, in that case, the taxpayer receives no prior request for information or notification.
When attempting to collect taxes that have been assessed, the tax administration can also contact the central point of contact to obtain a list of all bank accounts held by a Belgian taxpayer, without any conditions. It is to be noted that when the tax collector has that information, he can pass that on to his colleagues who audit the tax payer, and they can also put them into a database that the tax administration may set up.
How does the tax administration consult the database?
Only tax officials, who are entitled to do so, can consult the central contact point. The Ministry of Finance handles the authentication, authorization and traceability of access to its system via its ‘Identity and Access Management’ system.
Any request for information must be submitted to the National Bank. It must identify the taxpayer as closely as possible and the years for which the information is requested.
The National Bank carries out the search, through members of its staff that are duly authorized by the Executive Committee. The data provided by the National Bank can only be used to determine the amount of taxable income of the taxpayer, or to establish the customer’s financial situation to ensure the collection of taxes.