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2019 Tax Return : if this is your first time …

If you are new to Belgium, or if this is the first time you have to 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 the form of a brown envelope with a tax return and a form to prepare the tax return guide (see p. 10).

You can file a paper tax return or online. Four out of five taxpayers file online, and the number of people who prefer to file paper tax returns is dwindling. Please note that once you file online, the tax authorities assume that you will want to do so again and they will not send you a paper form anymore.

In Belgium married couples and registered partners file jointly but they are taxed separately on the same tax bill (see p. 3).

In your tax return, you declare your income. You don’t report your wealth. If you have overseas bank accounts or insurance policies, all you do is tick a box. You don’t have to give any information about those (see p. 24) but that does not mean that the taxman doesn’t have any information at all (see p. 31).

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 social security and income tax. And if you receive a pension, tax is already deducted as well.

The tax withheld at source will normally cover the tax. However, you still have to declare all your income, and the tax bill will show whether you get any tax back. That may be the case if

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 2020. 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.

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Comments 10

  1. Hi team!

    I moved to Belgium in October 2018 and started to work in November 2018. My registration process was long (Brussels 1000) and I only got my e-card a couple of weeks ago.
    Until now I still didn’t receive any the taxes information at my address. The deadline do fill the tax return is almost there and I don’t know what am I suppose to do. Can you help me to understand what are the services I must contact?

    Thank you!
    Joana

    1. Post
      Author

      Dear Ms Silva,

      The reason why you did not receive a tax return is that you were not registered with the commune yet on 1 January.
      The Belgian tax authorities receive the list of Belgian residents on 1 January and send their tax returns to the people on that list.
      If you have not received a tax return, I would suggest that you call the contact centre at 02 572 57 57.
      They will be able to tell you which is your tax office …

      Best regards,

      Marc Quaghebeur

  2. Dear Marc,

    I am an Indian citizen and my wife lived with me in Belgium till 2016. But, she moved to Germany 3 years back for work, and still works there. Till last year her name was there in my tax statements, but now my tax statement indicates me as “feitelijk gescheiden”. As non-EU citizens, we cannot get dual residenceships, so she is now resident only in Germany (which is required for working in Germany) and I am resident only in Belgium (same required here). I wonder is that is the correct category in the tax statement for this situation or some other category should apply in this case?
    Please let me know if you know. Many thanks!

    Best regards,
    Ashish Kumar

    1. Post
      Author

      Dear Mr Kumar,

      When you lived with your wife in Belgium, you were taxed as a married couple.

      You write that your wife moved to Germany three years ago to work and that she still works there. I assume that you are still a couple and that you meet up regularly in Belgium and/or in Germany.

      From what I read, I understand that as a non-EU citizen, she had to get a German work permit to work in Germany and that that came with a residence permit. Therefore, she is now living and working in Germany and she is only liable to income tax in Germany.

      I am not sure that she had to give up her Belgian residence (which was based either on a Belgian work permit or on being married to you) just to go and work in Germany. She has the right to live in Belgium because she is married to you and she could have kept her Belgian residence. If she has a work permit to work in Germany, she could actually work in Germany and be a non-resident there (and a resident in Belgium). That would not have made much difference for her: she would have to pay full German income tax in Germany as she is working there, and be assimilated to a German resident. If she were still a Belgian resident, she would have had to file an income tax return in Belgium but she would not pay tax here as she has no taxable income in Belgium.

      I assume that she handed in her Belgian id card in 2018 (or that it expired in 2018). In any event, until 1 January 2018, her name was in the population registers and therefore, she received joint tax return with you.

      Since she “left”, you are living alone and although you are married, you are de facto separated (“feitelijk gescheiden”). That does indeed appear to be the correct way of declaring your income on your tax return.

      Best regards,

      Marc Quaghebeur

  3. You understood the situation correctly and the explanation is very clear. Thanks very much! It was very helpful to me.
    As I understand, although we cannot do anything about it now, she should have kept the Belgian residence permit to let us bridge the taxes. Without that now I must pay tax in Belgium as a separated, despite the extra costs due to the double household in different countries.

    1. Post
      Author

      Dear Mr Kumar,

      Thank you for this reply.
      Whether you are taxed as married or separated will not make any difference. The tax is calculated on your income alone. There are no real advantages – tax wise – in being married (or in a registered partnership), unless your spouse (or partner) has no income. In that case, part of your income is taxed in your spouse’s name as if she had earned it. However, your wife is earning an income in Germany.
      The only tax saving I could anticipate is that if your spouse is resident in Belgium and working in Germany, she could deduct certain costs related to a double household, see e.g. : https://lifeinduesseldorf.com/deductible-work-expenses/
      In Belgium, you personally do not have any extra costs resulting from a double household.
      Your wife would have to declare her gross remuneration minus her(allowed) costs of a double household (and pay less tax in Germany). In Belgium she would have to declare the gross income minus her (allowed) costs of a double household minus … the German tax, and as explained before, that German income would not be taxed but would have an impact on the Belgian tax on any other income (if any) that is taxable in Belgium.
      I trust that this answers all your questions and that you will not hesitate to contact me should you have any further questions.
      Best regards,
      Marc Quaghebeur

  4. Post
    Author

    Dear Mr Kumar,

    Thank you for this reply.
    Whether you are taxed as married or separated will not make any difference. The tax is calculated on your income alone. There are no real advantages – tax wise – in being married (or in a registered partnership), unless your spouse (or partner) has no income. In that case, part of your income is taxed in your spouse’s name as if she had earned it. However, your wife is earning an income in Germany.
    The only tax saving I could anticipate is that if your spouse is resident in Belgium and working in Germany, she could deduct certain costs related to a double household, see e.g. : https://lifeinduesseldorf.com/deductible-work-expenses/
    In Belgium, you personally do not have any extra costs resulting from a double household.
    Your wife would have to declare her gross remuneration minus her(allowed) costs of a double household (and pay less tax in Germany). In Belgium she would have to declare the gross income minus her (allowed) costs of a double household minus … the German tax, and as explained before, that German income would not be taxed but would have an impact on the Belgian tax on any other income (if any) that is taxable in Belgium.
    I trust that this answers all your questions and that you will not hesitate to contact me should you have any further questions.
    Best regards,
    Marc Quaghebeur

    1. Dear Marc,

      Indeed very helpful and clear answers. Thank you so much.

      Best regards,
      Ashish

  5. Dear Marc,

    I have been reading and enjoyed your articles about Belgian taxes from The Bulletin e-newsletter.

    From one of the articles, https://www.thebulletin.be/belgian-income-tax-theres-nowhere-hide, it was mentioned that if a Belgian lives abroad then the tax situation for him/her is changing? Is that true under the Global FACTA? I have dual nationality, American and Belgian. I left Belgium in 2003 and am registered with the Belgian Consulate in Los Angeles. As I am living and working in the US, I pay US (Federal and State of California) taxes. Now with Global FACTA or has Belgium changed its tax laws to Belgians living abroad/do I need to file a June 2020 Belgian tax form on my US income? I asked the Belgian Consulate in Los Angeles and they told me to call the Belgian Ministry of Finance or an international CPA. I know there is a US-Belgian Income Tax convention regarding double taxation which states one pays income tax where one resides. Is that still true? Also does the US IRS report my yearly income to the Belgian government regarding the taxes I pay so I do not have to file a Belgian yearly tax as I do with the US IRS? Even when living in Belgium for 10 years and paying Belgian tax, I had to file with the US IRS every year.

    Secondly, I was told before I left Belgium that as I paid into the Belgian pension system and when I retire, long in the future, I can chose to receive those 10 years I paid into the Belgian system wired into my bank account in the US or I can have it converted to the US Social Security Administration (SSA) and that pension accounted by the US SSA and I receive my social security from the US and not from Belgium as there is a pension treaty between the US and Belgium. Is this still the case? Please clarify this for me.

    Lastly, I have a Merrill Lynch IRA retirement account which I fund for my retirement. Merrill Lynch under US law files any disbursements to the US IRS and I count that as income on my yearly US IRS tax and pay taxes on that. Does this incur any tax on my part to the Belgian tax authorities?

    Thank you for your clarifications. I want to be in compliance and not receive a Belgian brown tax envelop in California.

    Best regards,
    Kerry L. Bonner

    1. Post
      Author

      Dear Kerry,

      Thank you for your kind comments.

      When a Belgian national and resident of Belgium lives in Belgium, she is liable to income tax on her worldwide income. If she has income from another country that may be liable to income tax there as well. The double tax treaty between Belgium and that country then determine which country can tax and which country must give an exemption or a tax credit (that is a deduction for the overseas tax).

      When she moves to the US, she is only liable to income tax in Belgium on her income from Belgian sources, that is rent from a property in Belgium, salary paid by a Belgian employer or a Belgian pension.

      In other words, if you have no property in Belgium and you do not have any income from Belgium, you have no tax obligations here. If you do, you will have to file an income tax return as a non-resident.

      Unlike the US, Belgium does not tax its citizens on their worldwide income. This is why you had to file a Belgian and a US income tax return for all your income when you were living in Belgium.

      “Global FATCA” (i.e. “CRS” for “common reporting standard” does not apply between Belgium and the US, but FATCA does, FATCA does not impose any new tax obligations.  It obliges banks in Belgium to report bank accounts held by American citizens and income on those bank accounts to the IRS, and it obliges banks in the US to report bank accounts held by Belgian residents and income on those bank accounts to the Belgian tax authorities. Basically, FATCA is there to make sure you do not forget to report any overseas bank accounts.

      In conclusion,

      1. The law has not changed: the taxman only has more information.
      1. Belgium only charges tax on residents or on non-residents with income or property in Belgium. 
      1. There is a double tax treaty between Belgium and the US to avoid, or rather, mitigate double taxation. 
      1. Belgium will not get any information about your US bank accounts, but the IRS may receive information about any bank accounts in Belgium if you have any. 
      1. The IRS does not inform the Belgian tax authorities about any income US resident Belgian citizens have in the US.

      As for your pension, you can claim a Belgian pension when you reach retirement age. You will receive that pension in the US after deduction of Belgian tax (article 18 § 2 of the double tax treaty). There is indeed an agreement on social security between Belgium and the US, a so-called Totalization Agreement.

      Whether you can transfer your Belgian pension to US social security, I would doubt that, but there is a rule about using Belgian credits for your US social security pension. Please contact your local U.S. Social Security office to get confirmation.

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