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Retirement in Belgium: Some tips on volunteering and philanthropy

10:06 18/11/2020

It’s never too late to feel fulfilled by helping others – and maybe learn new things along the way. Plenty of charities, NGOs and other organisations are constantly looking for enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers from among the older generation – those with a wealth of experience and time on their hands to give something back to the community. There’s a vast choice of areas in which to contribute. Philanthropy is another way of giving back.


Most cities and communes have a website or volunteering hub with a database and contact details for many organisations needing volunteers of all ages. English speakers are welcome, you don’t need to be fluent in Dutch or French to help out. Under Belgian law, pensioners can volunteer without any special authorisation and without affecting any pension or family-related allowances.

In Belgium the organisation using volunteers has to draw up a volunteering agreement which guarantees your legal status as a volunteer, and arrange for insurance. Volunteering work is unpaid. As a volunteer you can have (travel) costs refunded, but this is not automatically the case.


Charitable donations are tax-deductible in Belgium if they are made to an authorised non-profit organisation. The minimum level of donation qualifying for a tax concession is at present 40 euros.

These donations have to be substantiated by official receipts. There is an official list from the Treasury of the institutions that qualify for tax relief and may issue receipts. It is easier however simply asking the non-profit organisation of your choice if your donation qualifies for tax relief

Of course, individuals can give to any cause they feel deserves support. You may donate money but also other assets such as jewellery, real estate or paintings.

You can do this via a private donation: this is a non-registered donation where the donor hands over part of his assets. The beneficiary does not pay donation duties unless the donor dies within three years of the donation. In that case inheritance tax will be due.

You may also donate with the assistance of a notary. This is a notarial donation. Donation duties are always payable on this type of donation. The donation of real estate must always take place in the presence of a notary.

You can also donate after death. In order to make this bequest, you have to make a will. You can do that yourself (in a handwritten will) or with assistance from a notary. In the latter case all arguments about the interpretation of your wishes are avoided.

Expatriates wanting to engage in a more structural way with a specific project or contribute long-term to a cause close to their heart, may want to consider setting up a fund. There are different possibilities, i.e. with universities or with the King Baudouin Foundation. By creating a fund, you benefit directly from income tax relief. The King Baudouin Foundation’s Centre for Philanthropy can help you find the philanthropic formula that most corresponds with your wishes and personal concerns.

Giving to causes in other countries

Expatriates may want to support projects in another country, in Europe or in the rest of the world. Transnational networks facilitate giving to a cause in another country. One of these is the TGE network, led by the King Baudouin Foundation. It enables donors to financially support non-profit organisations in other countries that are members of the network – coupled with a tax break in Belgium.

Covid-19 solidarity response fund by EU staff

Covid-19 is causing death and misery across the world. Many EU civil servants feel an obligation to help countries and people in need. EUstaff4Climate, in cooperation with King Baudouin Foundation, have set up a dedicated fund for EU staff to support the response to the COVID-19 crisis, to help with the economic and social recovery and prevent future crises. Donations are free but they propose to all colleagues across EU institutions to donate monthly at least 2% of their salary for the duration of the health emergency.

Further information

  • Serve the City is a global movement of volunteers working mostly with the homeless, the elderly, the disabled, orphanages and asylum-seekers. It has several offices in Belgium, including Brussels, Mons and Sint-Truiden.
  • matches volunteers with relevant organisations
  • Websites with full details of volunteering centres and opportunities include Talentree, which will help you identify the area of voluntary work which interests you. For “small ads” seeking volunteers, have a look at this site.

This article appears in Golden years in Belgium: an expat guide to life after retirement, produced by the King Baudouin Foundation and the Federation of Notaries, available to download for free.

Written by The Bulletin with the King Baudouin Foundation and the Federation of Notaries