27 July 2023

Can I lose my Belgian national residency if I am abroad for an extended period of time?

by Stephanie Vanmarcke and Ine Coolman

What happens if you are abroad for an extended period of time for work or holidays? Is there a possibility that the country of residence will consider you a resident? If so, would you have to pay taxes there too? Such questions may come into play if you find yourself in another country for an extended period of time.

National residency in Belgium

To qualify as a national resident in Belgium, you must reside in Belgium. Belgian law stipulates two legal presumptions for determining domicile. On the one hand, domicile is presumed to be in Belgium for any natural persons listed in the Belgian population register. However, this constitutes a refutable presumption, for which counter evidence may be provided. On the other hand, domicile is assumed to be where the family is located. Family domicile is an irrefutable presumption, meaning no counter evidence may be provided.

Double tax treaty

In practice, however, this can be a cause for debate. If it is unclear which country should consider you a resident, the double tax treaty, concluded between two countries, can be resorted to. This treaty should avoid individuals being double taxed in multiple countries.

The OECD model convention (basis for double tax treaties) stipulates that a taxpayer is deemed to be a resident where they have a permanent residence. If they have permanent residence in both countries, personal and economic interests are then taken into account, as well as where these are predominantly taking place. If the focal point of vital interests cannot be determined, the person is deemed to be a resident in the country in which they spend the majority of their time. If this too is not 100% clear, then the country in which the person is a registered citizen is used. This is the country of said person's nationality.

Planning on moving or spending regular time abroad? For tax purposes, it is vital that you adequately prepare your departure from Belgium. Our colleagues are happy to assist you in ensuring that you are not considered a resident in two countries, and therefore not taxed in said two countries.

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Stephanie Vanmarcke

Team Manager International

Ine Coolman

Advisor International

In our opinions, we rely on current legislation, interpretations and legal doctrine. This does not prevent the administration from disputing them or from changing existing interpretations.

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