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Belgian income tax: The Bulletin's fully updated guide to filing your 2020 return

21:58 14/06/2020

In these Covid-19 times, many of us are still trying to work from home while educating our children. The government is trying to make life a bit easier with some tax measures.

Even the taxmen and women have been confined at home and non-essential tax audits have been put on hold. However, they had some work-from-home experience as the tax administration has been experimenting with teleworking for some years now. This is why the tax returns have already dropped in our letterboxes and we do not get an extension to file our tax returns. 30 June is the deadline for filing paper tax returns. If you file online, you have another two weeks, until 16 July.

Paying tax in corona times

Covid-19 has changed certain rules and habits. You cannot visit the tax office to get help to complete your tax return, that has to be done over the phone.

You may have been forced to work from home and your employer can pay you a tax free allowance of €126.94 for working at home, plus €20 (for the use of your own PC) and €20 for the use of your internet connection at home.

Workers who are working in a neighbouring country are normally paying tax there. However, when you work from home, you pay tax here for the days you work at home. The Belgian tax authorities have accepted that the lockdown due to Covid-19 is a case of ‘force majeure’. As you cannot travel to wprl, Belgium has agreed with GermanyLuxembourgFrance and the Netherlands that for the period of the lock down – from the middle of March to the end of May or June – the days worked in Belgium do not count as days in Belgium. 

Self-employed workers may request a one-year deferral of the payment of their social security contributions for the first two quarters of 2020. They can also request a reduction of the quarterly social security contributions if they think that they will be earning substantially less.

In general, there are extensions for filing VAT returns and for paying income tax, VAT and social security bills for employers. Tax audits have been put on hold.

As notaries’ offices are closed, the deadlines for filing inheritance tax returns and for signing notarial deeds for the purchase of houses are extended by at least two months. It is now possible to give a digital power of attorney to one of the notary’s employees.

If this is the first time …

Whether you are new to Belgium or have been filing your tax return here for years, you may have several questions. We will address some of these questions and we will address some other questions you didn't know you had.

If you are new to Belgium, or if this is the first time you must 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.

You can file a paper tax return or you can file online. Four out of five taxpayers are already filing online, and fewer and fewer people prefer to file paper tax returns 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.

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, but that does not mean that the taxman doesn’t have any information at all.

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

  • you have a mortgage,
  • you pay a cleaner or helper with titres services / diensten­cheques
  • you have made some gifts,
  • you pay alimony or child support,
  • you pay childcare,
  •  or you put some money aside for pension saving.

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 2021. 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

More from our 2020 income tax guide

  1. When do I need to file my Belgian income tax return?
  2. Online or on paper?
  3. Filing online
  4. Understanding the paper tax return
  5. Checklist: What documents do you need?
  6. The return in detail
  7. Belgian income tax: There's nowhere to hide
  8. A guide to cross-border taxation
  9. Belgian income tax returns for families
  10. Help! Where to get assistance with your tax return
  11. Understanding your Belgian income tax bill
  12. How do I appeal?
  • This guide was written by Marc Quaghebeur, an international tax lawyer and partner at Cabinet DAVID. It is a general introduction based on current understanding of the law. It is not to be taken as a suitable alternative for individual advice.
Written by Marc Quaghebeur

Comments

RobG

This is very informative. Thank you. I am trying to get a copy of my form 281.11 or 281.15 for tax year 2018. Can someone tell me where I can find this information? Thank you.

Jul 9, 2019 16:24
KK2

"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, but that does not mean that the taxman doesn’t have any information at all."

This is dangerously inaccurate, you absolutely have to declare each one of them to the Banque nationale de Belgique.

May 26, 2020 15:19
MQ

Thank you, but the information is correct as a first introduction to the tax return. The full explanation can be found under "The return in detail" and "XIV. Overseas bank accounts and insurance"

May 27, 2020 19:48
MQ

The fiche 281.11 is issued by the Belgian Pensions Department.
The fiche 281.15 is issued by the bank or insurance company where you have your pension savings plan.
If you access your tax box online, the information will already be in your online tax return

May 27, 2020 19:52
MM20

Thank you for the guide. Does anyone know the code in the tax declaration form for honorarium type payments received (as a guest speaker at a university)? In Box IV of the form, is the amount supposed to appear under letter O (when received from outside Belgium)? Thanks for any info in advance.

Jul 15, 2020 00:07
pankaj

This is really helpful. However i can't find one thing here. What if i forgot to file my Income tax returns and both deadline (for paper and online) have already been crossed.
What is the process now to still file the Income tax returns (with penalty ofcourse) ?

Sep 17, 2020 10:13