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Belgian income tax return: Online or on paper?

21:00 05/05/2018

What are the advantages of filing online?

  1. First of all, you have more time to file, until 12 July.
  2. It is more user-friendly than completing the paper form. You work on a traditional tax return where you see clearly what you are doing. If you file on paper you have to make a draft first and then copy the codes and numbers on a form that will be scanned.
  3. Tax-on-web also shows you the codes you completed last year.
  4. The online form is pre-completed with the information that the tax authorities have received from your employer, the pensions office, banks, etc. You just have to check that the information is the same as they have given you.
  5. Tax-on-web checks that you haven't omitted any required information. E.g. if you take a deduction for your mortgage, the program will remind you to name the bank. When you make a mistake, the form will point it out but not all mistakes are errors, and it can be frustrating when you can’t move on. 
  6. There is a wizard to help you complete your tax return correctly for mortgages. The deduction for mortgage payments is probably the most complicated part of filing a tax return
  7. You can save interim versions and continue on another day, or from another computer.
  8. You don’t need to file all the justification documents that you normally file with your return. You can scan them and attach them as a PDF file, or you can keep them at home until the taxman asks for them.
  9. An online return cannot go missing in the mail and is also processed more quickly and you receive your tax bill sooner.

Are there any disadvantages?

You do all the work and all he needs to do is press the button to send you the bill. And are they not rushing out the tax bills while holding on to reimbursements? There is no evidence to that. True, it is easier for the taxman, but scanning paper tax returns has already sped up the process. He still has to check the figures. And so should you when you get the bill.

Moreover, once you file online, you don't receive a tax return anymore, and seeing the brown envelope on your mantelpiece is a useful reminder for us procrastinators.

Who cannot file online?

You cannot file online if:

  • your spouse died earlier this year,
  • you have to file a tax return for someone who died in 2018, or
  • you have just separated and want to file separately.

More from our 2018 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, lawyer and partner at De Broeck, Van Laere & Partners (www.taxation.be). 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