Do the tax authorities have unlimited access to the UBO-Register ?
The Belgian UBO-Register is a domestic database that organizes and structures up-to-date information regarding Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBOs) of corporate and other legal entities incorporated in Belgium. Already since last year, all Belgian corporate and legal entities are required to identify their UBOs and upload the required information in the Belgian UBO-Register.
It goes without saying that a lot of personal information regarding the UBOs (being always a private individual) is processed in light of the UBO-Register, such as, for example, their name, date of birth, nationality and current residency address. This information can be very useful for identifying taxpayers.
The Belgian tax authorities recently published an administrative letter (Nr. 2020/C/59, dd. 24 April 2020) further clarifying the conditions in which they are allowed access to the information included in the UBO-Register.
Article 322, § 1 of the Belgian Income Tax Code 1992 (BITC92) stipulates that the tax authorities, only in respect to a particular taxpayer, may consult the UBO-Register to ensure a correct income taxation. This consultation is only allowed to be carried out by an official with a higher rank than that of ‘Attaché’, in other words not just by anybody who works at the tax office.
Any request to that end made by an official working at the General Administration of Taxation (AAFisc/AGFIsc) or the Special Tax Inspectorate (BBI/ISI) must be sent to the General Treasury Administration (AAThes/AGTrés). This request must identify a tax official responsible for managing the access to the UBO information for their department. As soon as the General Treasury Administration has approved the request, the responsible person will then grant further access to their colleagues.
Any consultation of the UBO-Register will take place without the UBO being notified of this. Every consultation is registered and kept by the General Treasury Administration for a period of 10 years.
Within the context of the international exchange of information, foreign tax authorities can also send a request to the Belgian competent authority to receive information about ultimate beneficiaries, for which the Belgian authorities will logically turn to the UBO-Register. Such exchange can be made on the basis of (new) Article 338, § 24/1 BITC92.
If a request for information is made by a foreign tax authority located in a non-EU Member State, with whom there is a treaty in place for the exchange of information (TIEA) and the condition of reciprocity is met, the Belgian authorities may exchange information from the UBO-Register, with this foreign authority.
This reciprocity requirement also makes it possible for the Belgian tax authorities to request similar information about beneficial owners located abroad. For the exchange of information with other EU Member States, the modalities are stipulated in Article 338, §5 BITC92. For non-EU countries, the provisions on the exchange of information are also included in the relevant bilateral or multilateral agreements.