You will have come across income tax and social security, having paid it on your earnings and on the income from your investments. If you have bought property, you will have paid registration tax. For estate planning purposes you may want to understand gift tax and inheritance tax.
Belgian taxes can be quite high. Saying that Belgium is a tax haven sounds cynical. However it can be for those that already have assets. There is no wealth tax and there is no capital gains tax, that is if you are careful to avoid the pitfalls.
Belgium can be a good place to take up your pension as well, without any limitations.
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The Belgian expatriate tax regime for non-Belgian executives
Non-Belgian executives who are seconded to come and work in Belgium for a period of time can have the benefit of a special tax regime that is comparable to the Dutch 30 % regime. The special tax regime is based on a Practice Note of 8 August 1983. If they meet the conditions, they can be treated as non-residents in Belgium if their employer’s application is accepted. They must work for a multinational group or a research centre, the executives must not have Belgian nationality, they must have special knowledge or experience, be seconded to Belgium for a period of time and keep the centre of their personal and economic interests outside Belgium.
The benefits of the expatriate tax regime are that they are treated as non-residents and only taxed on their Belgian-source income.
This means - in the first place - that the Belgian acknowledge that their employer can pay them tax free allowances to cover the additional expenses incurred as a direct result of their secondment to Belgium. These allowances include a cost of living allowance, a housing allowance and a tax equalisation allowance. If calculated in accordance with a specific practice note, these allowances are not taxable for the 'expatriate' employee, if they do not exceed € 11,250 (€ 29,750 for executives working for R&D and coordination centers) ; there is no limitation for school fees for children in primary and secondary education.
Moreover, these executives are not taxed on the part of their remuneration that relates to work outside Belgium. E.g. if they travel (for work) for 30 % of their time, they are only taxed on 70 % of their remuneration.
Finally, as they are considered non-residents, they are not taxed on any income from investments.
The social security authorities used to take the position that only the tax free allowances were exempt from social security. However, they have recently relented to make Belgium and the expatriate tax regime more attractive. They have agreed that the employer can gross up the tax free allowance with the travel percentage (30 % in the example above), as long as these grossed up allowances did not exceed € 29,750.
A couple of examples may help clarify this.
If an employee received tax exempt allowances for € 6,000, only these € 6,000 were exempt of (employer’s and employee’s) social security contributions. Now, the employer can calculate the exemption as € 6,000 / (100-30) = € 8,751.
A colleague who has tax exempt allowances for € 10,000 but travels outside Belgium for 70 %; will benefit from in exemption of € 10,000 / (100-70) will not be exempted on € 33,333 but on € 29,750 as this is the overall limit.
This new position will have retroactive effect until the beginning of the year.