Banking, Money and Taxes in Belgium
The system of banking in Belgium is well-organised and sophisticated. It lies at the heart of the European Union and has stabilised since the global financial crisis.
Expats will therefore find that managing money in Belgium is usually a hassle-free process.
Numerous local and international banks have branches in the country, with the main banks being ING Belgium, KBC Bank, AXA Bank Europe and BNP Paribas Fortis.
The country is part of the Eurozone and the currency in Belgium has been the Euro since 2002. One euro is divided into 100 cents.
Notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 EUR
Coins: 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and 1 and 2 EUR
Banking in Belgium
Most people carry out transactions either at ATMs or via online and telephone banking. Some banks in Belgium operate entirely online, where it's possible to do everything from opening an account to using the bank's investment services and more.
Belgian banks charge separately for individual services, such as debit and credit cards, Internet banking facilities and regular transactions. The service charges and charges for credit cards vary depending on factors such as the customer’s spending limit and added services.
Banking hours in Belgium are normally 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. Some banks are also open on Saturday mornings.
Opening a bank account
Opening a current account in Belgium is often quite easy regardless of the particular bank used. Expats are required to bring documents such as proof of identification, completed application forms and proof of address.
Some Belgian banks even allow customers to open bank accounts online, with some allowing foreigners to do before they arrive in Belgium. In these cases, the expat will have to inform the bank once their residency permit has been issued.
ATMs and debit cards
ATMs are widely available in Belgium and credit as well as debit cards can be used. ATMs in Belgium used to be bank-specific in that if someone wanted to draw cash they could only use their card at an ATM operated by their specific bank, but this has now changed and any card can be used at any ATM.
The main type of debit card used in Belgium is known as the Mister Cash/Bancontact card. This is a chip card that has a four-digit PIN number. The Bancontact card can be used to draw cash at ATMs and to pay for everyday items, including groceries and petrol.
Taxes in Belgium
Taxes in Belgium account for approximately one third of monthly salary deductions and depend on an individual’s family situation, such as whether or not they have dependants. Tax is paid on a progressive scale with tax rates of 25 to 50 percent, depending on income.
Tax-free allowances depend on the family situation of the employee as well as tax deduction payments such as pension and dependants.
Expats are generally considered to be tax residents of Belgium if they primarily work or live in the country and have registered at their local municipal office (which most expats have to do if they intend to stay in Belgium). As a result, an expat may be subject to Belgian tax on their worldwide income. Luckily, the country has double-taxation avoidance agreements with countries around the world, so most expats should not be taxed twice.
There are, however, special tax concessions for non-Belgians who are in the country on a temporary basis, allowing them to be treated as non-residents for tax purposes. For expats, taxes on cost of living allowances, housing allowances and tax equalisation allowances may also be exempted within certain limits.
Expats in Belgium may want to consider offshore investments in order to manage their tax liability and to control when tax charges are made. Given the relative complexity of taxation in Belgium, however, expats would be well advised to consult with a specialist.