Foreign journalists should be aware of a certain number of basis principles as far as taxes are concerned.
Most of tax treaties state that:
The income derived from professional activity is taxable in the country where this activity is performed.
A distinction then has to be made between:
The duration of the activity in the country and the location of the salary charge should be contemplated:
a. If the employee is seconded in the country for a period or several periods of in total less than 183 days
in a calendar year, AND if his salary charge is borne by an employer who is not established
in Belgium, this employee remains taxable in the
country where his employer is located.
b. If the stay in Belgium exceeds the limit of 183 days per calendar year, the employee is taxable
Foreign journalists employed by a foreign news organisation may benefit from a special tax regime known as the“expatriate status”. Please note that this regime is not available to free-lance journalists and press correspondents.
In order to benefit from this special tax regime, the employer must:
- • Be a commercial or industrial multinational company
• Have a subsidiary branch or a permanent establishment in Belgium
Journalists who can apply for this special tax regime are those who:
- • Possess a foreign nationality
• Perform functions as employees which require a special knowledge and responsibilities
• live in Belgium because:
- a. They have been seconded by foreign companies to Belgium in order to work there temporarily
- b. They have been seconded to Belgium by foreign companies that form part of an international group
c. They have been recruited directly from abroad by a Belgian company, a subsidiary of foreign compa or by a Belgian company that forms part of an international group
Journalists must also prove that they have maintained in their home country the centre of their economic interest. If they have moved with their family, Belgium will be considered their economic centre, thus they will not be eligible.
Tax Benefits of the “Expatriate Status”
During their stay in Belgium, journalists who can benefit from this special system are considered as non-resident, which implies that they are only taxable on their Belgian source of income.
Journalists are also entitled to receive non-taxable allowances which are deemedto cover the difference in cost-of-living, housing costs and tax equalisation between Belgium and their home country. The maximum amount of these tax free allowances is around 11.100 EUR a year.
• This special tax regime must be requested by the employer and by the employee, and an application
has to be prepared.
• The application has to be sent within six months, starting from the beginning of the activities in Belgium,
to the Tax Inspector for non-residents:
Bureau Central de taxation Bruxelles Etranger, North Galaxy Tour B – 7e étage, Boulevard du Roi Albert II 33/32, 1030 Bruxelles
Tel: +32 (0)2 572 57 57
• If the application is made after this due date, the journalist will perhaps get the expatriate status,
but only as from the year which will follow the request!
• This file, introduced by the employer must establish that the company qualifies and that the
employees fulfil the requested conditions (see above).
• The application must also give the detail of the salary and the tax free allowances and give an
estimate of the travel exclusion. It must thus show that the benefit of the system goes to the employer.
• The acceptance (or the refusal) of the application will be sent by the tax authorities after several
months and under registered cover to the employer.
• If the expatriate status is granted, the employee will have to file a non resident tax form each year.
All the above applies to general cases. For individual cases, contact the Centre of Administration at: +32 (0)2 572 57 57
Special tax remarks for freelancers working in Belgium
Belgium has a favourable tax system for income deriving from author’s rights.
For incomes up to 51.920 EUR (income 2009), 15% will be taxable. However, half of the first 13.840 EUR is deemed as “professional costs”, and is thus free from any tax. The other half of this amount is taxed at 15%. The portion between 13.840 and 27.690 EUR has a 25% deduction for agreed costs, meaning that 75 % of this portion will be taxed at 15%. The remainder, between 27.690 and 51.920 EUR, has no agreed costs rate, thus it will be taxed at 15%.
For incomes above 51.920 EUR, the income will be taxed as a normal professional income with tax rates between 25 and 50%.
The dilemma: if you receive 1.000 EUR from a publisher for an article you wrote, how much of it should be considered a fee for your work and how much can be deemed a payment for your author’s rights (and thus favourably taxed)?
Belgian publishers saw this change as a great opportunity for writers and told their freelancers that the entire fee would be paid as author’s rights beginning in 2009. The law states that the organisation that pays the author’s rights has to withdraw the 15% automatically and directly pay the Belgian tax authorities. In other words, authors no longer has to mention that income (“roerend inkomen” in Dutch, “revenus mobiliers” in French) on their tax form, as it has already been taxed “at the source”. Since 2009, Belgian publishers have been withdrawing the 15% from the payment owed to their freelancers, ultimately a considerable increase in the net income of freelance writers.
However, the Belgian Journalists Association does not believe that the tax change will last, as it would result in a drastic decrease in overall tax income for the Belgian state and social security organisations in the long run.
In January 2010, the Flemish Journalists Organisation (VVJ) met with representatives from daily newspapers to look at what might be a sounder ratio between professional incomes (the fee for the work) and “roerend inkomen/revenus mobiliers” (in this case meaning author’s rights). Both parties agreed that a 70-30 proportion might be permanently accepted by tax authorities and social security organisations. The proportion would mean that for every 1.000 EUR earned, 700 of which would be “normally” taxed, while the remaining 300 would be (favourably) taxed as author’s rights.
However, at the time of publication of this content, analyst associations and publishers have not yet reached an agreement with tax authorities, thus this ratio may not be accepted.
Of course, the above information applies to the income for a first publication right. Additional income, deriving from the resale of an article or a video by the editing or broadcasting company, can be considered as 100% author’s rights.
More information for no-residents can be found on the Belgian Federal Public Service's website.
Articles on general rules for taxation of foreigners in Belgium can be found on expatica.com.