Based on an administrative practice that has been in place since 1983, expats who come to work in Belgium and who meet certain conditions, are entitled to reduced income taxes and social security on their Belgian salary. A new expat regime has been in place since 2022.
The expats who can benefit from this (old) regime are foreign executives, specialists, and researchers. Only those who do not have the Belgian nationality are eligible. While this is quite a controversial requirement, the status is therefore only accessible for non-Belgian nationals.
The tax status can be applied for by the following categories of expats:
- foreign executives who are working in a managerial position in a Belgian branch or Belgian company, without necessarily being considered an employee;
- foreign specialists who have special knowledge or specialist skills that are very difficult or impossible to find on the Belgian labour market;
- foreign researchers who work in Belgium as scientists in a recognized scientific research centre or laboratory.
The expatriate had to be directly recruited abroad by a Belgian company or temporarily assigned from abroad to a Belgian entity that is part of an international group. A company was considered to be ‘international’ when it has an entity in at least one country other than Belgium or at least 50% of the shares of the Belgian entity are held by a foreign shareholder.
Research centres or laboratories must not be part of an international group but must be exclusively engaged in scientific or technical research in any type of area. Simply collecting information or documentation was not enough to qualify as a research centre, except when this activity was carried out with a view to creating new regulations or to developing new manufacturing methods or products. If the expat earned a gross remuneration of at least €50,000 per year, the tax office automatically presumed that the employee had ‘special’ skills. If the annual salary was lower, it was still possible to apply for the expat status, but any special knowledge or experience had to be demonstrated. This could be done on the basis of your degree or previous job experience.
The employment in Belgium also had to be temporary, which had nothing to do with the duration of the Belgian employment (which could even be an indefinite term contract), but was demonstrated by the fact that the expat had to maintain their centre of personal and economic interests outside Belgium, and therefore qualify as a non-resident taxpayer. If this condition was no longer met, the tax office could at any point in time decide to revoke your expat status.
TAXPATRIA® can check if you are eligible to apply for the (new) expat status and assist with filing your application with the Belgian tax authorities.