As an expat working in Brussels, you will be part of an international community. At least 30% of the inhabitants are foreign residents. The reason why so many foreigners are currently living and working in Brussels is mainly the city’s status as a center for international politics.
Many other enterprises in the city’s service-oriented economy directly or indirectly depend on the presence of so many foreign politicians, diplomats, and administrative staff working in Brussels. However, multinational companies with their regional or global headquarters in Brussels also provide jobs for foreign nationals.
The largest international organizations by numbers of employees working in Brussels or its environs are, without any doubt, the EU and NATO (the latter based south of Brussels in Mons). The main EU institutions which have their staff working in Brussels are the European Commission and the European Council. Based in the European Quarter in the east of the city, the Commission alone is said to claim a quarter of the city’s total office space for its employees.
Other large international organizations located in Brussels include, for instance, the World Customs Organization and Eurocontrol. In addition to (and because of) all these inter-governmental organizations (IGOs) and NGOs, there are several hundred lobbying consultancies working in Brussels and, allegedly, more journalists and ambassadors than in Washington, D.C. There’s also a small but significant industry sector: Brussels’ breweries are not only world-famous, but they also provide employment for quite a few people.
As a foreigner working in Brussels, how your income tax is calculated in Belgium depends on your residency status. You may work in Brussels without qualifying as a Belgian resident: in this case, you will only be taxed on that part of your income which you receive from Belgian sources. However, if you are registered in Brussels and physically present more than 183 days per year, or if your asset management is based in Brussels (even if the assets are elsewhere), you will be classified as a Belgian resident for tax purposes.
Expats may be entitled to a tax-free allowance to make up for extra expenses commonly associated with expatriate life, such as travel and relocation costs, housing, and school fees, provided these are not covered by the employer. You should contact the tax authorities to find out whether you qualify. The allowance is capped at roughly 11,000 EUR per year, or around 30,000 EUR in exceptional cases, e.g. for activities of a controlling or coordinating nature or for scientific research.
If you are classified as a Belgian resident, you have to file a tax return at the end of every financial year (same as the calendar year). This can be done online via the FPS Finance website (French and Dutch only). The tax authorities of your community will inform you whether you are liable to pay income tax as a foreigner working in Brussels.
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