Follow our checklist for tips on setting up your finances in Belgium, including advice on banking, pensions and investments.
Financial planning isn’t the most exciting part of starting life as an expat in Belgium, but getting your finances sorted in advance can save you a great deal of hassle further down the line.
In this guide, expat finance expert Dave Deruytter of ING Belgium offers tips on arranging each aspect of your financial life before you move to Belgium.
With over 50 years of experience in advising expats on their finances, ING offers a range of banking, insurance and financial services to professionals moving to Belgium - from bank accounts to mortgages and advice on the Belgian pension system.
Resident or non-resident?
When you move to Belgium, you’ll need to decide whether you’re going to be a resident or non-resident for fiscal purposes, as you could face significant penalties if you become a resident but fail to inform the Belgian authorities about assets you hold in your home country.
Dave Deruytter says: “First and foremost, you need to tell your employer and your bank whether or not you plan to become a fiscal resident in Belgium, or whether you will instead officially retain the residency of the country you’re moving from.”
“If you fail to declare assets from your home country and want to become a Belgian resident, the fiscal authorities will be notified.”
You can learn more about the the definitions of residency in Belgium and the tax consequences in our full guide on taxes in Belgium.
- Tell your bank you’re moving and update your contact details;
- Cancel any ongoing standing orders and direct debits;
- Pay off any outstanding debts;
- Find out if you’ll need to pay any fees to maintain your accounts if you keep them open.
The relationship you maintain with your bank in your home country will be dependent on how long you plan to stay in Belgium. If you’re going to be here for the long term, you should start to think of your Belgian bank as your primary financial services provider.
Dave says: “For the first six months in Belgium you might still feel like a tourist, but you will reach a point where you feel like a citizen in your new country.”
A long period of inactivity could result in your bank in your home country deciding your account is dormant and seeking to close it.
“Over time, your bank in your home country may forget about you – so if you’re in Belgium for the long run, immerse yourself in the local banking services here instead”, says Dave.
If you’re moving around a lot, however, it may make sense to maintain some of your existing financial relationships in your home country.
Dave says: “If you’re a serial expat, it might not be prudent to constantly change bank accounts each time you move.”
- Find out if you can continue to make contributions to your home pension;
- Learn about how the tax system in Belgium could impact on your pension;
- If you’re going to retire in Belgium, find out how you can access your pension.
Whether to move your retirement savings can be a big dilemma, especially if you’re not sure how long you’ll be living in Belgium.
If you’re moving from another EU country, you might find that reciprocal agreements are in place, but for some expats moving pensions around can be overly complicated. This is primarily because different countries all adopt their own taxation systems. We recommend taking independent financial advice before making a decision.
To find out more, take a look at our full guide to Belgian pensions.
- Tell your local tax agency you’re moving;
- Do some research on the Belgian tax system;
- Find out how capital gains tax applies on existing assets at home and any you purchase in Belgium.
As mentioned earlier, the taxation system in Belgium might be different to what you’re used to in your home country, so a little research can go a long way – especially if you’re thinking of buying a home once you’re settled in Belgium.
Our full guide on taxes in Belgium tells you everything you need to know about expat taxation.
- Find out how your investments will be affected by your move to Belgium;
- Get professional financial advice on how you can organise your investment portfolio.
When it comes to investments, it pays to get professional advice on what to do with your portfolio, as in Belgium the way you are taxed will depend on your residency status and the origin of the investments involved.
Find out more in our guide on how savings and investments are taxed in Belgium.
- If you’re selling your existing property, get the ball rolling as early as possible as the process could take a number of months;
- If you’re planning on letting your property out, make sure you’ve got the relevant insurance and arrange who will manage the let. Speak to your mortgage lender about switching to a buy-to-let mortgage.
Making plans for any existing properties before moving to Belgium is sure to be one of your most pressing concerns. Some expats choose to let out their home while working abroad, while others will sell up and buy in their new country.
Whether you sell or let, you need to be aware of your home country’s taxation, regulatory and mortgage systems and ensure you’re financially set to either buy or rent once you arrive in Belgium.
Tying up loose ends in your home country
- Cancel utilities and ensure you’re up to date with payments;
- Check that municipal and council tax bills are settled;
- Have your mail redirected to a friend or family member.
It’s important to settle any financial relationships you have in your home country before moving – as any unpaid bills could result in you struggling to obtain credit should you return home in the future.
For example, think about all of the utilities you’ve used before your move. Are you up to date with council or local authority taxes, and have you informed your insurance and utility providers that you’re moving away?
To ensure you don’t get caught in the trap of forgetting an old account and it falling into default, it may be wise to have your post redirected to your new home if your country’s post office allows for international forwarding.
Dave Deruytter is head of expatriates at ING Belgium and has first-hand experience of living as an expat around Europe. Dave boasts more than 30 years of experience in expat financial advice on everything from bank accounts to insurance and real estate.Explore financial options