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Belgian income tax: The Bulletin's fully updated guide to filing your 2023 return
It is tax return time again. Whether you are new to Belgium or have been filing your tax return here for years, you may have some questions. We will address some of these questions and some other questions you didn't know you had.
There are a few important changes this year. You have less time to file, you may see changes in the way the income is reported and watch out if you (accidentally) activated your eBox.
On MyMinFin, you can already file your tax return for your 2022 income. Don’t hurry, there are some pitfalls.
One of the new features is that the tax return is now gender neutral. In the past, the left column was for the man, the right for the woman. From now on, the left column is always for the oldest partner, the right column for the youngest ; that was already the case for same sex couples. The tax administration explained that “the old arrangement did no longer correspond to the social trends". That is certainly going to confuse a lot of people.
Filing your tax return with an accountant or a tax adviser does not give you an extension until 18 October anymore. The deadline is the same for all: 15 July 2023 online, but on paper only until 30 June 2023.
Only self-employed or taxpayers with overseas professional income (including pensions) will get an automatic extension until 18 October 2023 to file via their accountant or a tax adviser.
Although the taxman says he will be flexible on the shortened deadline, just be careful not to file late. Even if you do not get fined, a late tax return can give the taxman an extra year to come back on your tax return.
For those who prefer filing on paper, the returns to be completed or the Tax Proposal to be checked are sent out in the last week of April. These normally arrive in your mailbox before the end of May. If you have not received a paper tax letter by June, you can check on 02 572 57 57.
However, you may not receive a tax return anymore if you activated your e-Box to request a covid certificate, apply for the job bonus. The taxman assumes you have gone digital and want to file online. You will not receive a paper tax return or a paper Tax Proposal any more.
For many the tax return in the letterbox was a useful reminder and most are not accustomed to the e-Box yet.
Post Covid, many of us have gone back to work with no desire to be back full time. We all have more or less enjoyed working from home and the government has tried to make life a bit easier with some tax measures.
Every year you would think there is a competition on: how many tax codes there are in the tax form. It’s official: 839, a record. 10 more than last year and that is due to the Olympic and Paralympic Games with special codes for the athletes who won premiums, or for those early adopters who installed a charging station for their Teslas.
It sounds worse than it is. 40% of all the taxpayers fill out less than ten codes. For 80% 20 codes are more than enough. Only 0.01%, not even 1.000 taxpayers, fill out more than 60 codes. That can be because they are a married couple with two or more jobs, investments in different products, several properties and different types of tax breaks.
30 June is the deadline for filing paper tax returns. If you file online, you have another two weeks, until 15 July. As of this year, only taxpayers who file “complex tax returns” will have until 18 October to file online, by themselves or through their accountant. A tax return is complex when the taxpayers have income as self-employed or company directors, overseas earnings or pensions, or because they pay their spouse or civil partner a salary.
Whether you are new to Belgium or have been filing your tax return here for years, you may have some questions. We will address some of these questions and we will address some other questions you didn't know you had.
If this is the first time …
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 a brown envelope with a paper tax return but you will be encouraged to access your online tax return (tax-on-web) and activate you online mailbox “my e-box” for all correspondence with the tax authorities. That is where you will find your tax bill.
Nine out of 10 taxpayers already file online, and the number of people who prefer to file paper tax returns is dwindling. The taxman is really pushing taxpayers into the digital age and once you file online, he assumes that you want to do so again and again, and will not send you a paper form any more. Moreover, if the taxman has all the information, he may send you a Proposal of Taxation.
In Belgium, married couples and registered partners file jointly but the tax is calculated separately for each. The tax due by both is added up and the tax bill shows one amount to be paid or refunded.
In your tax return, you declare your income. You don't report your wealth (there is some form of wealth tax). If you have overseas bank accounts or insurance policies, all you do is tick a box in your tax return and confirm that you have reported the accounts to the Belgian National Bank. You don't have to give any information about those but the taxman probably already has the information.
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 of social security and income tax. And if you receive a pension, tax is already deducted as well. If not, you are encouraged to pay the tax during the year.
The tax withheld at source will normally cover the tax due. However, you still have to declare all your income, and the tax bill will show whether you get a tax refund. That may be the case if:
you have a mortgage,
you pay a cleaner or helper with titres services / dienstencheques
you have made some donations to charity
you pay alimony or child support,
you pay for childcare,
you pay premiums for legal expenses insurance.
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 2024. 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 2023 income tax guide
- When do I need to file my Belgian income tax return?
- Online or on paper?
- Filing online
- Understanding the paper tax return
- Checklist: What documents do you need?
- The return in detail
- Belgian income tax: There's nowhere to hide
- A guide to cross-border taxation
- Belgian income tax returns for families
- Help! Where to get assistance with your tax return
- Understanding your Belgian income tax bill
- How do I appeal?
- This guide was written by Marc Quaghebeur, an international tax lawyer 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. If you have a question, you can contact him by clicking on his name.