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18 ways that daily life in Belgium will change in 2018

01:00 01/01/2018
Tax, transport, keeping cats or enjoying a beer... 1 January brings a whole range of changes affecting residents in Belgium

Work/business

Employees working for a Belgian company - and taxed in Belgium - should see their monthly take-home pay increase by up to €45 as part of the ongoing "tax shift" fiscal reform introduced last year. About 400,000 staff whose pay is automatically adjusted each year in line with inflation will see a 1.83% pay rise from January - the biggest increase since 2013.

Corporation tax for Belgian companies is cut from 33% to 29%, with a new rate of 20% for small firms employing fewer than 50 staff. The reduced rates apply to the company's first €100,000 of profit.

The concept of "flexi-jobs" is extended from the hospitality industry to retail. The move will make it easier for employers to take on part-time and seasonal work, with an exemption on paying social charges.

New measures aimed at stopping discrimination by recruiters enter force. Workplace inspectors will send fake CVs in response to job ads to see how employers respond to applicants from different backgrounds.

The provisional social charges paid by self-employed people on a quarterly basis will be adapted to better reflect actual incomes. There will now be six different income thresholds, with different payment rates for each. Self-employed workers can ask their social security provider to bill them for the lowest threshold in the first quarter of 2018. Meanwhile, self-employed workers will become eligible for sick pay after two weeks of illness - instead of a month.

Money

The tax-free allowance on interest from Belgian regulated savings accounts is halved from €1,880 to €940. If you earn more than €940 a year in interest, you'll be taxed on it at 15%.

Belgium's Royal Mint closed for good on New Year's Eve. Production of Belgian coins has been outsourced to a external contractor.

Transport

The whole Brussels region becomes a low-emissions zone, with a ban on the oldest diesel cars (pre-1997) and on-the-spot fines of up to €350. The restrictions will be gradually extended to other categories of vehicle until 2025, with 90 cameras set up around the region to scan number plates. Read more about the measures here.

The driving theory test in Wallonia becomes tougher from today - with changes to the practical exam due in July. Candiates will face more questions on analysing dangers and what to do in an accident. Getting some answers wrong (running a red light, doing a U-turn on a motorway) will lead to an automatic fail.

Housing

The Brussels region has adopted new regulations aimed at making the city's rental market more transparent, including better protection for tenants. Read more about the changes here.

Daily life

GPs can increase their fees by 1.5% should they wish - meaning they can now bill up to €25.42 for a consultation.

All green binbags for garden waste sold from 1 January must be bio-degradable. Their price remains fixed at €3 for a pack of 15 60-litre bags.

All cat owners in the Brussels region must have their animals sterilised before they reach six months old. The only exception is for registered breeders.

New regulations governing premium-rate phone numbers (starting with 070 or 090) come into force, making it easier for consumers to contest an amount on their phone bill, alert phone operators to scams and seek a refund.

Drinking an AB InBev beer - such as Leffe, Jupiler or Stella Artois - will cost you on average 3% more. The Belgian mega-brewer says the price rise is necessary to fund investments, including greener transport and increased production capacity for its zero-alcohol range.

The television licence is scrapped in Wallonia.

Books published in France can no longer be sold at an inflated price in French-speaking Belgium. The new rule applies to French-language books only, whose cover price cannot be more than 5% higher during the first two years on sale. Magazines and newspapers are not covered.

And finally...

Bulgarians in Brussels have cause to celebrate as their country takes on the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time, from now until the end of June.