There are no worldwide rules about where to pay income taxes if you live or work in another country. The country where you are tax resident (in other words, where you have tax residency) can levy taxes on your worldwide income. This means wages, pensions, benefits, income from movable and immovable assets and other sources of income. Every country has its own definition of “tax residence”. Below you can read about Belgian tax law.
General principles and legal presumptions
‘Tax residence’ is based on reality. Its determination is therefore also determined by facts. The concept is generally described as the place where:
- You stay in reality, permanently
- Your family is established
- You have emotional ties
There are two legal presumptions that make it easier for a legislator to determine tax residence. Those two presumptions are the registration in the national register and, for married couples, the place where the family is located.
- Registration in the national register
If you are registered in the Belgian national register, you are deemed to be a tax resident. This can be refuted if you prove the opposite. In other words, despite your registration in Belgium, you are allowed to prove that you actually live abroad. A decisive factor in this respect is the presence or absence of a professional activity.
Be careful: You’re not automatically a non-resident when you deregister from the Belgian national register. The Belgian fiscal authorities can still determine that you actually live in Belgium and therefore are still a tax resident in Belgium. The fiscal authorities take real situations into account.
- Place where the family is located
If you are married or legally cohabiting, your tax residence is the place where your family is located. This concept is irrefutable; no evidence to the contrary is allowed. The spouses or legal cohabitants are therefore either both national residents or both non-residents depending on whether or not the tax residence is located in Belgium.
Because every country has its own definition of “tax residence”, criteria can sometimes collide with each other. Consequently, you can be a tax resident and be taxed in multiple countries. For income taxes, this problem is often solved by the double taxation treaties. As a tax resident of one of the states of the agreement, you can rely on a tax exemption or reduction requirement.
Tip: Check the overview of the international tax treaties and see if there is one between Belgium and your host country.