Reform of the special tax regime for foreign executives

Author: Peggy Criel (Legal Expert)
Date:

Two special tax regimes will be introduced on 1 January 2022, one for incoming taxpayers and one for incoming researchers. The introduction of these two new regimes coincides with the phasing out of the special regime for foreign executives.

Special regime for foreign executives

In its Circular of 8 August 1983, the Federal Public Service Finance developed a special tax regime for foreign executives. The objective of this regime is to reduce the wage costs resulting from the employment of executives in Belgium and thus to encourage investment in Belgium.

In order to be entitled to this special tax regime, the foreign executive must be employed by a certain employer and under certain conditions with regard to employment and/or professional qualification.

The basic principle of the special tax regime is that the foreign executive is treated in the same way as a non-resident. He is therefore only taxable on his income of Belgian origin. In addition, executives can have numerous costs resulting from their secondment or employment in Belgium be charged as expenses proper to the employer.

Implementation of two special tax regimes

Two special tax regimes will be implemented on 1 January 2022:

  • the special tax regime for incoming taxpayers (BBIB);
  • the special tax regime for incoming researchers (BBIO).

These two new regimes offer identical advantages and aim to attract qualified personnel from abroad to Belgium. They differ only slightly in their personal scope and conditions.

Please note that the legal texts are still in a draft phase. So changes are still possible but we give you already the broad outlines.

Scope and conditions

The special tax regime for incoming taxpayers (BBIB) will be available for employees and business managers who:

  • are recruited directly abroad or made available by a foreign company belonging to a multinational group;
  • during the 60 months prior to taking up employment in Belgium:
    • have not been a resident;
    • have lived within 150 kilometres of the border;
    • have not been subject to the taxation of non-residents on professional income in Belgium;
  • receive remuneration from the employer or the company for services rendered in Belgium exceeding EUR 75,000 per calendar year.

Unlike the regime for foreign executives, under the new regime it is irrelevant whether the employee or business manager retains the non-resident status or acquires the resident status after his arrival in Belgium. The nationality of the employee or business manager is also irrelevant.

For the special tax regime for incoming researchers (BBIO), there are some differences with the BBIB as regards the conditions:

  • only employees have access to the regime;
  • the employees must meet the definition of 'researcher':
    • they must carry out exclusively or mainly research activities of a scientific, fundamental, industrial or technical nature within a laboratory or an undertaking carrying out one or more research and development programmes;
    • and they must hold a specific diploma or have a relevant professional experience of at least 10 years.
  • there is no minimum remuneration.

Advantages of the regimes

In addition to the remuneration, the employer may charge recurring expenses that are a direct consequence of the posting or the employment in Belgium. This charging is considered as a reimbursement of costs proper to the employer up to 30% of the annual remuneration with a maximum of EUR 90,000 per year.

In addition to the reimbursement of recurring expenses, the following reimbursements are also accepted by the employer as reimbursements of costs proper to the employer:

  • the costs arising from the relocation of the incoming taxpayer or researcher to Belgium;
  • the costs related to the furnishing of the house in Belgium made during the first six months after arrival in Belgium;
  • school fees for the children of the incoming taxpayer or researcher or his partner who move with their parents or one of them.

Duration of the BBIB and BBIO

The special tax regime is applicable during the period of the assignment of the taxpayer or researcher in Belgium, with a maximum of 5 years. The period of 5 years may be extended by 3 years provided that the conditions relating to the employer or the company are met. For the BBIB, the remuneration threshold of EUR 75,000 must also be met.

Application procedure

In order to benefit from the special tax regime (or its extension), the employer or the company must submit an electronic application to the FPS FIN. The application must be submitted within 3 months of the taxpayer taking up employment in Belgium. The request for extension must be made no later than 3 months after the expiry of the first term of 5 years.

Entry into force

The new rules enter into force on 1 January 2022 and apply to incoming taxpayers and incoming researchers taking up employment in Belgium as from 1 January 2022.

Transitional provisions for the special regime for foreign executives

Taxpayers or researchers who, on 1 January 2022, have been in a situation targeted by the BBIB or the BBIO (recruited abroad or made available to a Belgian employer within a multinational group) for a maximum of 5 years will be able to opt for the application of the BBIB or the BBIO.

They must then meet all the conditions from a first assignment in Belgium (i.e. remuneration threshold (if BBIB), application, ...). The conditions are therefore assessed retroactively and must still be met at the time of the application for implementing the BBIB or BBIO.

To exercise this option, the employer or company must submit an electronic application to the FPS FIN by 31 July 2022 at the latest. The administration shall decide within 3 months of receiving the application.

In case of a positive response, the taxpayer or researcher will be able to benefit from the BBIB or BBIO as from 1 January 2022. The benefit of the BBIB and BBIO will be granted for the remainder of the maximum period of 5 years, possibly extended by 3 years.

In the absence of a (legally valid) application or in the event of a negative response to the application to switch from the old regime for foreign executives to the BBIB or the BBIO, the special regime for foreign executives would still apply for 2 years. The circular of 8 August 1983 will be amended accordingly.

We are glad to help you

We actively encourage and support companies to assess the impact of the proposed regime on their current and future workforce, identifying opportunities and challenges based on each company's own and unique situation.

The crucial moment for opting-in, when considering a switch from the regime for foreign executives to the BBIB or the BBIO, requires an individualized approach. Our dedicated team is equipped to not only verify the old terms versus the new terms, but more importantly, to predict the final impact on the net remuneration of the executive/researcher and the employer charges.

If you have any questions about these new measures and/or if you are interested in receiving further information, please do not hesitate to contact us at globalmobility@partena.be.

Source: Draft program bill, Parl. Doc., Chamber 2021-22, no. 2349/001.

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