ERYV is a family business working in accountancy and tax and have been operating in the Belgian market for over 30 years! Eric Laurent is a Partner at ERYV, specialising in international income. He took time out of his schedule recently to talk to Radio X about why expats living and working Brussels need to hear what he has to say at Expat Financial Affairs 2015!
Why should someone come to EFA and why should they attend your session?
When you are working, or residing, in Belgium you have to file a Belgian tax return. The principal in international taxation is that you have to declare you’re worldwide income in the country you are residing in. So if you are an expat, it is likely that you have some kind of foreign income; perhaps from interest earned from a savings account or rental income.
You have to report this information in your tax return, but don’t worry you won’t be charged twice! There are certain taxation treaties in place that prevent you from being charged twice but this depends on the type of income for example, or the bilateral tax treaty between Belgium and another country and these can perhaps influence the tax process.
It is interesting that you raise the issue of residence as there are different statuses: for example one can work in Belgium but not be a resident or one can be an official resident. What are the differences in terms of taxation?
In Belgium, for individuals, you can file a resident tax return or a non-resident tax return. Regarding the resident tax return: as you are residing in Belgium you must declare your worldwide income. This applies even if you are working outside of Belgium, maybe you have had your contract terminated, maybe you have changed jobs or maybe you have retired, you are still a Belgian resident and have to go through the same process.
Then we come to the non-resident. There are several sub-categories; there are those who are in Belgium under the special taxation laws for foreign executives, a very special category, there are also those who don’t live in Belgium but do source there main income there. In addition there is a third category for those that fall neither into the resident or non-resident category. These are the people that either work for the commission or another EU institution or someone working for an IGO like NATO or for a foreign embassy for example.
I suppose what could potentially complicate things even more is if you are in a couple and one of you works for an EU institution and the other doesn‘t. I believe the Belgian law will not then recognise you as a couple!
Let’s say in most cases, yes!
Obviously things do depend a lot on individual circumstances and this is why it is so important to get tailored advice.
Are there any things that have changed since last year’s event in terms of international taxation?
You know, tax is an ever changing subject. If you are a Belgian resident; you have to declare your worldwide income, it is interesting that there is a trend with Belgian tax administration to try and catch all kinds of income and so people try to hide it. This makes it difficult for the tax authorities to track. So basically they are trying to make an inventory, unofficially of course, of all your assets. They want to know if you have a bank account abroad, life insurance or abroad or are you a beneficiary of an overseas trust.
On that last item: since 2015, under the name of legal constructions including trust foundations and all kinds of things like that, there will be what’s called the Cayman Tax. This means that these legal constructions will be transparent from a tax point of view, despite the purpose of the construction. That means that any income that is received from this construction should be received directly by the founder or the beneficiary. So for example, if a trust is receiving dividends from an investment the trust has made and if you are the Belgian beneficiary of that trust then you will have to declare these dividends in your individual tax return. Not all trusts will be considered but I will speak in more detail about this during the event.
And even if you don’t own a trust in the Cayman Islands, even an ordinary individual with an overseas bank accounts needs to provide details. So if you have a current account or a savings account in the UK for example, the Belgian authorities need to know about that.
Yes, for sure. Especially if the account owner is earning interest. With the EU saving directive, there is an exchange of information between the source country and any other EU country from which the account owner is receiving interest for assessment purposes.
It’s a complicated subject and one which we will be hearing more about from Eric at Expat Financial Affairs on 3rd October!
If you would like to receive personalised expert advice on a variety of areas relevant to your big life decisions as an expat in Belgium, please visit our Expat Financial Affairs website and register to join us on the 3rd of October at Vlerick Business School, Brussels. Sign up now, and we will keep you updated on the event programme as it gets published and help you prepare for your visit in the best way possible.