Help! I received a tax return from the Belgian taxman…

Pensioner under the sun

I live in Cyprus and I just received a tax return from the Belgian tax authorities that must be filed by 3 December.
My husband worked in Belgium years ago, I never lived there. He died seven years ago; I now receive a widow’s pension. I never received an income tax return – and neither did he, as far as a remember.
Why do I receive an income tax return now? And why such a short deadline?

This is indeed, the first time/year that the Belgian tax authorities have sent out tax returns to pensioners living outside Belgium.

If you receive a pension from Belgium, either a state pension or a private pension (from a pension fund), that pension is – in principle – liable to tax in Belgium. If tax is due, the organisation paying out the pension withholds tax, unless the pension is too low (i.e. under the personal allowance of €8,860 in 2019, €8,990 in 2020). However, it is only if you have more than 75% of your income from Belgium.

When you are a taxpayer living in Belgium, you must file an income tax return in which you declare the pension as well as any other income you have in Belgium. The tax authorities can then calculate if you have to pay more tax.

That does not change when you live outside Belgium.

If you receive a state pension or a private pension from Belgium, that pension is still liable to tax in Belgium … in principle.

Indeed, there may be a double tax treaty between Belgium and your country of residence. If there is no double tax treaty, then income tax will be due in Belgium.

If there is a double tax treaty, that usually says whether Belgian tax is due on the pension or not. We would need to look at the text of the treaty.

Generally speaking, the pensions office knows whether there is a double tax treaty, and it withholds tax at source if Belgian tax is due and if the pension is high enough to pay income tax. Of course, the pensions’ office can only calculate that on the basis of the pension they are paying. They do not know if you receive other pensions or other income that is liable to tax in Belgium.

That can only be determined through your tax return.

In the past, the Belgian tax authorities did not send out income tax returns ; they relied on the pensioner to apply for, and file, a Belgian income tax return.

Some pensioners did, most did not.

This year, the Belgian tax authorities have taken another approach and sent out tax returns to pensioners living outside Belgium.  They know your address because the Belgian pensions office has given them that information together with the amount of the pension and the tax withheld.

They sent the tax returns to all pensioners.

This is very annoying for tax advisers who, in the past, received the tax returns on behalf of their clients.  The tax returns are now sent to the clients’ home addresses in Sweden, the UK, Jersey, Gibraltar, France, Spain, …  The clients need to send the tax returns back to their advisers and that wastes time.

And the deadline is 3 December. 

In principle, the tax authorities must give you at least five weeks to file your income tax return. It seems that they have sent out the tax returns too late to give you five weeks

What’s more, the Belgian tax authorities cannot even confirm to which taxpayers they have sent tax returns.

Update (27 November 2020): the deadline has just been extended to 15 January.

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Comments 4

  1. Pingback: Confused UK retirees … | taxation.be

  2. We arrived in November 2020. We just gave state pensions from NL and UK and a civil servant pension from NL. Do we put them all in 1228 in one total amount ? Do I put in civil pension amount net?? And also put it net in C?
    We have dividend from foreign bank account but total less than 800 per person. Same with bank interest.
    I take it I don’t need to fill in anything in form?

    Thank you for your answers.

    1. Post

      The civil servant pension is to be declared net of NL tax.
      And then you put the total for NL and UK in C for the exemption.
      See https://www.taxation.be/2021-tax-return-box-v-pensions/
      As for dividends, if they are less than 800 per person, you do not need to report them.
      You do not need to report interest if it was paid by a bank within the EEA (the United Kingdom is not in the EEA anymore. See https://www.taxation.be/2021-tax-return-box-vii-investment-income/

  3. My father is in receipt of a belgium pension from a number of years ago working in Belgium approx £40 a month. He is a Uk resident but neither can read or speak Flemish/French or German and so finding the process difficult. Would you happen to know if a form is required to confirm the Beligum pension as it is only a small amount that he receives – any advice welcome

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