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VAT, customs & excise duties

The importance of VAT as a general consumption tax can hardly be overestimated in the current Belgian and international tax landscape.

VAT is fast becoming one of the main sources of revenue for Belgium’s federal government. Although a significant number of goods and services are exempt from it or can at least take advantage of the reduced tariffs of 6 % and 12 %, their position can change at any time, while a rather high standard rate of 21 % is always lurking in the background.

VAT is different from other taxes, as it is very European in its set-up with the EU’s VAT Directive providing the blueprint for the member states to work with. Through its rulings, then, the European Court of Justice has the crucial task of guaranteeing a uniform interpretation of the VAT rules across the entire EU.

Lastly, VAT is subject to a number of important reporting formalities to which the VAT bill is the final piece in the puzzle. Errors in this area can lead to high retroactive claims with fines and interests that may have a major impact on the profits and losses of any business. It is therefore in the interests of companies, governmental institutions, nonprofit organisations and private individuals alike to comply with their VAT obligations.

Tiberghien advises clients on all aspects of VAT. We differ from other advisors in that: 

  • we have an extensive and specialised team exclusively occupied with this area of taxation;
  • we always link our VAT advice to an assessment of the impact on other taxes and vice versa;
  • we lend assistance in VAT compliance, such as with requesting VAT numbers, submitting VAT returns and listings, assisting with correct invoicing, auditing ERP systems and correct transaction processing in terms of VAT;
  • our extensive network of international contacts enables us to advise our clients quickly and efficiently about VAT within an international context.

The Indirect Taxes practice group also has extensive experience with the advice and support of clients in customs and excise matters. These taxes, too, (i) are very European in set-up, sometimes even unique to our part of the world, as is the case with customs duty, and (ii) carry heavy sanctions if not complied with, often including criminal charges. Tiberghien also differs from other law firms in this area, as we are one of the few independent law firms with extensive expertise in this domain.

What can we do for you? 

  • we advise businesses, public law bodies and nonprofit organisations on correct VAT structuring of major transactions, mainly in terms of real-estate investments;
  • we assist with correct invoicing and VAT in a national and international context (cross-border services, import/export, etc.) and also link this to advice on customs and/or excise duty;
  • we assess whether VAT can be reclaimed, mainly if a business’s VAT reporting obligation is mixed or partial, as is the case with financial institutions, nonprofit organisations, government institutions, holdings, etc.;
  • we liaise with the Advance Tax Rulings Service, the central VAT administration, the regional directorate or local VAT office and submit and negotiate tax rulings and individual decisions;
  • we lend assistance with VAT, customs or excise inspections and represent clients vis-à-vis the VAT administration;
  • we provide compliance services in the field of VAT to foreign companies that need to register their activities in Belgium;
  • ...

Our Indirect Taxes practice group advises the most extensive group of clients, including:

  • major Belgian and multinational companies operating in Belgium, including major groups in various sectors of industry: industrial production, automotive, logistics and import/export, energy, etc.;
  • in the finance sector: financial institutions, insurance companies, investment funds, intermediaries, etc.;
  • in real estate: we advise real estate companies (construction companies, property developers, intermediaries, etc.) and other businesses on major real estate transactions (investments, sales); 
  • in the public sector: we lend advice to government authorities as to their VAT status and assist them in their efforts to become independent corporations; our practice group also has extensive experience in advice for major PPP projects;
  • in the nonprofit sector: hospitals, healthcare institutions, nonprofit organisations, etc.; we particularly have experience with partnerships in the care sector and the various VAT aspects to do with them (staff provision, cost sharing, etc.).


Stijn Vastmans

Stijn Vastmans

Stein De Maeijer

Stein De Maeijer

Gert Vranckx

Gert Vranckx

Tiberghien Brussels

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