If you live and work in Belgium as an expat, you may be entitled to a Belgian pension if you meet certain conditions.
Learn how to safeguard your retirement in Belgium by finding out if you are entitled to a Belgian pension, as well as how the Belgian pension system works, with this guide from Salvatore Orlando, head of expatriates at BNP Paribas Fortis.
BNP Paribas Fortis
BNP Paribas Fortis offers a comprehensive network of specialised branches for expats, with extended opening hours. Their specialist multilingual advisers are happy to answer all your questions whenever it suits you best.
Who is entitled to a pension in Belgium?
To qualify for a Belgian state pension, you must have been employed in Belgium with an employer who paid contributions to the Belgian National Office for Social Security (RSZ). Self-employed workers can also claim a Belgian pension under similar conditions, provided you have paid into the social security scheme in Belgium.
Employees, the self-employed and civil servants all receive their pensions from the National Pension Office (FPD); civil servants previously received their pensions from the Pension Office for the Public Sector, but the two departments merged in April 2016.
Retirement age in Belgium
Currently, payment of a Belgian retirement pension (rustpensioen/pension de retraite) begins when you are 65 years of age and have worked a minimum of 40 years throughout your career. However, the government recently agreed to raise the retirement age to 66 in 2025 and to 67 in 2030 for men and women, and the minimum years worked will increase as well — to at least 42 years by 2019.
Belgium pension calculation: how much will my pension be?
Your pension is based on how many years you have worked and how much you have earned. The National Pension Office will calculate the amount you will receive based on your average wage over your career, converting past salaries to what they would be worth today. A single person will usually receive 60% of the average wage, and a married person 75%.
To calculate your approximate pension, use these formulas:
- Single person or person who is part of a double-income couple: 1/45 x 60% x gross annual wage
- Person with a spouse who has no income: 1/45 x 75% x gross annual wage
Pensioners in Belgium are also entitled to a holiday allowance, which is paid each May. This amounts to a maximum of €923.09 for pensioners who are married and €738.45 for a single person.
Note that if you have any additional professional income while receiving a state pension, your pension may be reduced or stopped.
Supplemental pensions in Belgium
As living entirely from your state pension is not realistic, there are options for supplemental pensions. One option is an occupational pension scheme, in which company pension plans are administrated via an insurance company. Previously, the law dictated that occupational pension plans guaranteed minimum returns of 3.75% on employee contributions and 3.25% on employer contributions. A new law changed this as of January 2016, and there is no longer a fixed rate.
Another option is a private pension plan, which you can organise with your bank or insurance company. This kind of pension enables you to take your retirement savings into your hands while still qualifying for a state pension. You can make contributions to your pension plan, growing your savings with interest until you are ready to retire. The contributions can be deducted on your income tax return.
Pension plans for the self-employed are also available via banks or insurance companies. You can determine how much you contribute and how often, and premiums are tax deductible.
Early retirement in Belgium
You qualify for early retirement if you have been made redundant and are entitled to unemployment benefits, or if you are 60 but can prove you have worked a minimum number of years (35) throughout your career based on a collective bargaining agreement.
In Belgium, the gap between the actual retirement age and the official retirement age is larger than in most other European countries. As of 2013, the average age of effective retirement for men is 59.6; for women, it is 58.7. The government has been trying to close this gap by making changes to tax rates on pensions. Those who retire at 60 are taxed at 20%, which is 3.5% higher than the rate for a 65-year-old. There is even a rate of 10% if you reture at 65 and stay professionally active.
Survivor’s pension in Belgium
In the case of one spouse passing away, the surviving partner qualifies for survivor’s pension (overlevingspensioen) provided they are at least 45 years old. If they are younger than 45, they can still receive a survivor’s pension if they have a child or are 66% or more disabled. If neither condition is met, a temporary pension is granted, usually up to one year.
If the deceased had already received a retirement pension, the surviving partner qualifies for 80 percent of that pension. If the deceased had not been receiving a pension, the surviving partner receives 80% of what that pension would have been had the deceased lived to retirement age (but based on their average wage at time of death).
This type of pension stops when the recipient remarries or starts receiving a pension of his or her own.
Applying for a Belgian pension
If you live in Belgium, you do not have to apply for your pension. Rather, the National Pension Office will contact you one year before your retirement is set to kick in. If you qualify for a Belgian pension but live in a European Economic Area country, you can download the application and send it to:
Bureau voor Internationale Overeenkomsten
Zuidertoren – 1060 Brussel
Belgium has bilateral conventions with regard to pensions in the following countries: Algeria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Democratic Republic Congo, Croatia, India, Israel, Japan, Macedonia, the Philippines, South Korea, Morocco, San Marino, Tunisia, Turkey, the United States, Uruguay, Yugoslavia. If you reside in any of these countries, you must submit your pension application to whichever institution is responsible for pensions in your current home country. Be sure to mention the bilateral conventions.
Pensions ombudsman: in case of disputes
If you have concerns or complaints about the pension process, you can contact the Pension Mediation Service (Ombudsdienst pensioenen / Service de médiation Pensions) at:
Boulevard Simon Bolivar 30 bus 5
Tel: +32 (0)2 274 19 80 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.ombudsmanpensions.be