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Overview of recently adopted measures relevant for employers in 2023

Global Employer Services | Reward & Mobility Alert

This alert provides an overview of various tax developments in Belgium in December 2022 relevant to Belgian employers and their workforce in 2023.

The program law (1) of 26 December 2022 (published on 30 December 2022) provides for the reform of the tax and social security regime applicable to authors’ rights income as from 1 January 2023. The reform prescribes more strictly the scope of application of the regime and provides a one-year transitional period for taxpayers who used to benefit from the regime but are no longer eligible following the reform.

In accordance with the program law of 26 December 2022, employers are entitled to a 7.07% reduction of the “total employer’s net basis contribution” to the social security scheme (for the first and second quarters of 2023) and partial deferral of payment (for the third and fourth quarters of 2023).

The law containing miscellaneous tax measures of 21 December 2022 (published on 29 December 2022) includes useful clarification on various aspects of the application of the tax regime for inbound taxpayers and inbound researchers, specifically the scope of the regime, the determination of the level of gross compensation, and the role of researchers, by: 

  • Extending the scope of application to those employed by a foundation, a legal person with a unique nature (e.g., a university or governmental organization), or a public institution with legal personality. Registration of the employer with the Crossroads Bank of Enterprises is the determining criterion;
  • Clarifying that it is the professional income that is taxable in Belgium which relates to activities attributable to the results of the employer that should be considered when assessing the minimum gross salary threshold (EUR 75,000 per calendar year); and
  • Limiting the scope of application of the scheme for inbound researchers to those who are employed by the enterprise or business unit(s) of the enterprise carrying out the research. On 4 January 2023 the tax authorities released Circular Letter 2023/C/6 (Dutch | French) setting out the application process and incorporating the provisions of the former Circular Letter 2022/C/47 (Dutch | French) regarding inbound taxpayers and inbound researchers.

For further details of the regime, see Deloitte Belgium’s dedicated webpage.

Partial wage tax exemption for night/shift work

The law containing miscellaneous tax measures of 21 December 2022 includes an update regarding the wage tax partial exemption for night/shift work (article 275/5 of the Income Tax Code). 

It was already foreseen that temporary work agencies would be required to obtain the consent of their customers to benefit from the measure. The law has now been updated to specify that with respect to remuneration paid or attributed as from 1 January 2023, such consent must be formalized “in the manner determined by the King” (i.e., the manner is to be specified by royal decree).

A royal decree of 19 December 2022 (published on 30 December 2022) modifies the method of calculation of wage withholding taxes as from 1 January 2023.

Wage withholding taxes will no longer be determined based on monthly wage withholding tax scales, but based on a formula to align more closely with the final tax liability.

The tax authorities released Circular Letter 2022/C/116 (Dutch | French) on 16 December 2022 reflecting their interpretation of the application of changes to tax assessment and investigation periods that were introduced as from 1 April 2022 by the laws of 28 March 2022, 5 July 2022, and 20 November 2022.

It is interesting to note that an erroneous wage withholding tax return leading to a (wrongfully applied) exemption from payment of withholding tax automatically triggers a 10% tax increase as from the first infringement made on or after 1 April 2022.

A self-evaluation of the applied wage withholding tax incentives remains highly advisable, as according to the tax authorities, 64% of audits performed in 2021 resulted in a correction being required (see our Tax Alert of 30 May 2022 for more information).

The avenant to the Belgium-Luxembourg tax treaty was officially approved by the Belgian parliament on 23 December 2022 (Dutch | French), extending the 24-day tolerance period to 34 days with retroactive effect as from 1 January 2022 (see our Tax Alert of 15 December 2022 for more information).

The maximum monthly home office allowance is increased to EUR 148.73 from EUR 145.81 as from 1 January 2023 in accordance with the instruction issued by the National Social Security Office (Dutch | French) (see our Tax Alert of 1 December 2022). Circular Letter 2023/C/4 (Dutch | French) confirming the increase from a tax perspective was published on 4 January 2023.

Circular Letter 2023/C/5 (Dutch I French) issued on 4 January 2023 updates the maximum amounts of the daily subsistence allowances that may be paid by employers to their employees for business trips within Belgium.

The indexed amounts are as follows: 

  • Daily allowance for meal expenses: EUR 19.99 per day;
  • Monthly allowance (subject to a maximum of 16 times the daily allowance for a full-time employee): EUR 319.84 per month; and
  • Additional daily allowance for accommodation costs: EUR 149.99 per night of an overnight stay.

The daily allowances qualify as costs proper to the employer and are therefore exempt from personal income tax, and partially exempt from social security contributions. See our Tax Alert of 21 December 2022 for more information.

The automatic indexation of gross base salaries for employees of Joint Labour Committee (JLC) 200, representing around 500,000 white collar workers, is 11.08% as from 1 January 2023. Employees covered by other JLCs may also be entitled to an indexed rise depending the on their sectoral agreements.