In Belgium, taxes are normally assessed on the basis of a tax return filed by the taxpayer. In the absence of a timely return, taxes can be assessed automatically by the tax authorities based on the information readily available to them. The tax assessment will confirm whether the taxpayer has an amount of tax to pay or is entitled to a refund.
If the taxpayer – either a private individual or a company – does not agree with the tax assessment, they can challenge it by filing a complaint. The complaint is an administrative appeal against the tax assessment and is a necessary condition before you can bring your dispute before tax court. You need to initiate this administrative appeal within 1 year (plus 3 working days) as from the date the assessment was sent to you (before 2023 it was only 6 months). If you miss the deadline, you will lose the right to appeal, and the tax assessment will be final. You will then also lose the right to present your case to court.
If the complaint is filed in time, the collection of taxes by the tax authorities is restricted while the administrative appeal is pending. This means that, as long as no decision is made, you are only required to settle the taxes that are not being disputed. You can hold off paying any amount additionally claimed by the authorities while the complaint is being handled. However, a late payment interest of 4% will be charged to you if your complaint is unsuccessful. On the other hand, if you do decide to pay the total amount of taxes due (or the authorities use your tax refund to offset the outstanding amount) and your claim is successful, a compensatory interest of 2% will be awarded to you in addition to the refunded amount.
When an appeal is filed, the tax office will look into the arguments raised and decide on the tax assessment. The authorities may also request that the taxpayer provides them with additional information needed to determine the tax liability. Even if the taxpayer only files a complaint regarding one specific point of the initial assessment, this does not prevent the tax authorities from doing a full-blown audit of your tax situation.
The tax authorities normally issue their decision within 6 months after you submit the complaint (which is 9 months in case of an automated assessment). Please note that the procedure can take (significantly) longer as well. However, the late payment interest of 4% will no longer apply if the authorities fail to make a decision within the first 6 (or 9) months. At that time, the taxpayer has a choice: they can await the decision or immediately bring the case before court.
If a formal decision is made with regard to the complaint, that becomes final if the taxpayer does not bring the case before tax court within 3 months after the decision is made. The judicial procedure starts before the competent Court of First Instance and can be further challenged before the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court, if needed. This whole process will obviously take several years to complete, but may be necessary to prove you right.
TAXPATRIA® can assist you with administrative or tax court proceedings, and fiscal mediation.