Statutory benefits for temporary unemployment: withholding tax levy?

Author: Isabelle Caluwaerts (Legal Expert)
Date:

The reduction of the withholding tax levy on statutory benefits for temporary unemployment to 15% is extended until 31 December 2021.

Why?

In principle, the withholding tax that must be withheld from statutory benefits for temporary unemployment is 26.75%. This percentage was determined by taking into account a limited number of days of temporary unemployment on a monthly basis.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in a number of sectors, workers are still temporarily unemployed for long periods; for some of these workers, the tax rate deducted from regular remunerations are lower than the 26.75% mentioned above.

In this regard, the government considers that it is important to continue to support the purchasing power of workers who have been temporarily unemployed for a long time, especially for those with the lowest wages, and that it is therefore appropriate to temporarily maintain the withholding tax levy at 15 % (without reduction) on statutory benefits for temporary unemployment.

Temporary measure

The reduction of the withholding tax from 26.75% to 15% is temporary. This reduction was originally to apply from 1 May 2020 to 31 December 2020 and was subsequently extended several times.

It therefore applies to statutory benefits for temporary unemployment paid or granted from 1 May 2020 to 31 December 2021 and relating to days of temporary unemployment during the same period.

Income concerned

The withholding tax levy of 15% applies to the statutory benefits for temporary unemployment.

This reduction does not apply to extra statutory benefits. Sector and extra statutory supplements (possibly granted by the employer) are not affected and remain subject to a withholding tax levy of 26.75%.

Does the withholding tax correspond to the final taxation?

No, the withholding tax is only an advance payment on the tax that will finally be due. The withholding tax levy therefore does not necessarily correspond to the income tax rate which will ultimately be applied to these benefits.

For the final taxation, no distinction will be made between the statutory benefits for temporary unemployment paid during the health crisis and other unemployment benefits. No changes were made to the final taxation on this income.

Sources: Royal Decree of 29 September 2021 amending Annex III of the Royal Decree/CIR 92 on statutory benefits for temporary unemployment, Belgian Official Gazette of 1 October 2021; Circular letter 2020/C/123 on statutory and non-statutory benefits for temporary unemployment.

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