As a Belgian investor, understanding the Reynders tax is essential to correctly declare your taxes for the fiscal year 2022. In this article, we will cover what the Reynders tax is, how to calculate and declare it, and discover if you need to pay it this year based on your investments in 2022. We will also see how Curvo can help simplify the process for long-term investing.
What is the Reynders tax
The Reynders tax, named after the Belgian Minister of Finance Didier Reynders, is a 30% tax on capital gains from bonds. The tax is unique to Belgium, and aims to encourage long-term investing and discourage speculative behaviour in the financial markets. And of course, to generate income for the state.
Which investments are liable for the Reynders tax
The Reynders tax applies to funds and ETFs that invest in bonds, as well as mixed funds with at least 10% invested in bonds. So an ETF that invests only 5% of its assets in bonds is not liable for the Reynders tax. An example of a bond ETF is Xtrackers II Global Government Bond ETF (DBZB), that we selected as one of the top ETFs for Belgians. The series of Vanguard LifeStrategy ETFs are examples of mixed funds that invest in both stocks and bonds.
Technically, the Reynders tax applies only to accumulating funds. Distributing funds, which pay out dividends instead of reinvesting them, are normally exempt. But there's a caveat.
Still be careful with distributing funds
Distributing funds can also be subject to the tax if their prospectus does not explicitly state that all income from the bond portion is distributed as dividends. Most Belgian fund providers made this adjustment in their prospectus. But many foreign fund providers haven't. For them, the Belgian market is only a small part of their overall business, making the tax too insignificant to warrant a modification of the prospectus. As a result, both the accumulating and distributing variants of these funds are subject to the Reynders tax. Since Belgians are likely to invest in foreign ETFs domiciled in Ireland or Luxembourg, there's a good chance you'll have to pay the tax, even if the fund is distributing.
An example is the Xtrackers Global Government Bond (EUR Hedged) ETF, with ISIN code LU0690964092. It's a distributing fund. But due to the lack of the relevant information in the prospectus, you still have to pay the Reynders tax when investing in this fund.
Also be careful with synthetic ETFs
Another caveat are synthetic ETFs, because they can invest in bonds even if the underlying index they're tracking is not a bond index. Take for example the Invesco Bloomberg Commodity ETF, with ISIN code IE00BD6FTQ80. It tracks the Bloomberg Commodity Index, which follows the prices of futures contracts on physical commodities like oil and gas. The Reynders tax does not apply to commodities, so you would think that the ETF is exempt from the tax. But the ETF replicates the index synthetically. It doesn't buy the underlying futures contracts on commodities, but instead holds a basket of US Treasury Bills and swap contracts to reproduce the returns of the index. And US Treasury Bills are bonds. So unfortunately, even if the ETF tracks a commodity index, the Reynders tax still applies because the fund holds bonds to implement the index.
What about funds and ETFs that invest only in stocks?
Good news: the Reynders tax does not apply for stock ETFs. It's only for bond funds. This essentially means that Belgium does not tax capital gains on stocks.
This is rare, as most countries do tax any profits on stocks. Luxembourg and Switzerland are the only other countries in Europe to not tax capital gains on stocks. This is certainly one of the (few) good elements of the Belgian tax system! And it's an incentive for Belgians to invest in the stock markets.
How to calculate the Reynders tax
For now, let's only consider funds that invest just in bonds. The basic calculation is easy: the Reynders tax is 30% of your capital gains. So if you bought a fund at €100 and sell it for €150, you owe €15 to the state (30% of the €50 profit).
It gets a bit more complicated when you made purchases at different times. Suppose the following scenario:
- On January 1, you buy 50 shares of a bond ETF at €10 per share.
- On February 1, you buy an additional 100 shares at €12 per share.
- On March 1, you sell 90 shares at €15 per share.
Which 90 shares do you sell? Investment firms apply the first-in-first-order principle (FIFO), where the oldest shares are sold first. In our example:
- The first 50 shares sold are from the January purchase. The capital gain for these shares is (€15 - €10) x 50 = €250.
- The next 40 shares sold are from the February purchase. The capital gain for these shares is (€15 - €12) x 40 = €120.
The total capital gain is €370, so you owe €111 in Reynders tax (30% of €370).
What about mixed funds and ETFs?
For mixed funds that invest only part in bonds, it gets complex unfortunately. The Reynders tax is applicable only for the bonds portion of the gains. But in a mixed fund, where the proportion of bonds is constantly changing, this is not an obvious matter.
In order to simplify the tax calculation process, some fund providers compute a daily Taxable Income per Share (TIS) value. This TIS value represents the portion of the net asset value consisting of taxable income coming from bonds. However, many fund providers, often foreign ones, do not perform this calculation because it's labour-intensive.
If the TIS value is not provided, some providers apply an alternative method involving an asset test that reveals the percentage of the fund invested in bonds, which they run periodically. The investor's total capital gain is then multiplied by the average percentage of bonds in the fund, resulting in an acceptable approximation of the taxable base. In cases where neither the TIS value nor the asset test is available, the entire capital gain is considered the taxable base, even though it may include capital gains from stocks.
Because of these complications, the taxman does not make it easy for Belgian investors to invest in mixed ETFs, especially since most of them are foreign and do not do the additional work to support the calculation of the Reynders tax. This is why certain mixed funds like the excellent Vanguard LifeStrategy funds, are fiscally not interesting for Belgians. The Reynders tax namely has to be paid on the entire capital gain, and not just the bonds part.
Which brokers declare the Reynders tax for you
Fortunately, Belgian brokers take care of calculating, paying and declaring the Reynders tax for you. That's a significant administrative burden off your back! But Belgian brokers are also among the most expensive on the market. This is why foreign brokers like DEGIRO have become so popular. Bad news though: foreign brokers do not handle the Reynders tax. They shift the task and fiscal risk onto you. It's definitely a trade-off to be aware of when choosing a broker.
Below is an overview of the brokers available to Belgians, and if they handle the Reynders tax for you.
Albeit important, the declaration of the Reynders tax isn't the only concern when choosing a broker. Cost, safety and ease of use are also important criteria. Read our guide of best brokers in Belgium to help you choose a broker.
How to declare and pay the Reynders tax in your 2023 tax form
Fortunately, the declaration is a lot easier than the calculation! You simply need to add the capital gains coming from bonds in box 1444 of the tax declaration. Be careful, do not put the amount of the Reynders tax itself, but the whole capital gain. You'll end up paying 30% of the amount that you declare in taxes.
The hassle of managing your taxes through a broker
Navigating the complexities of the Reynders tax is one the many challenges you face when managing your own portfolio of investments through a broker.
When you have thousands of funds and ETFs to choose from, establishing a well-balanced investment portfolio that matches your financial goals is tricky. You need to choose the underlying indices, build your portfolio as the right mix of indices that suit you and your goals, and choose the ETFs that track these indices. But that's not all. There are unfortunately other taxes besides the Reynders tax, you need to learn how to use your broker, and know when to rebalance your portfolio.
You may not have the time, motivation, or simply interest in finance to climb over the learning curve. Or you'd rather spend time on things more important to you than the management of your investments. It's also possible that you are confident managing your investments with a broker, but you have friends and family members who are not. Yet, if you're like us, you believe that good investing is such a powerful tool to better one's financial life, that it should be available to everyone.
This is where Curvo comes in.
Curvo: the easiest way
Curvo was built to take away all the complexities of investing in index funds and ETFs. Our mission is to improve the financial well-being of our generation through the power of passive investing. No need to search through thousands of ETFs or scour wikis in order to understand how to select a fund. Through Curvo:
- Invest in a portfolio tailored to you: Based on a questionnaire, the right mix of funds is selected that corresponds to your goals and appetite for risk.
- Invest safely: Your investments are managed by NNEK, a Dutch investment firm that is overseen by the Dutch regulator (AFM).
- Set up a savings plan: Put your savings on autopilot. Choose an amount and it will automatically be invested every single month.
- All your money is invested: In contrast with the majority of brokers, your investments will work with fractional shares. This means that all your money is put to work. There will never be cash sitting on your account doing nothing.
- No entry or exit fees: There are no transaction fees, entry or withdrawal fees.
Learn more about how Curvo works.
How Curvo compares to investing through a broker
You can perfectly manage your own portfolio of investments through a broker. However, if:
- you're worried of making a mistake when investing
- you don't want to handle the taxes
- you don't want to spend time choosing a broker
- you don't want to spend time making the trades
- you don't want to figure out a rebalancing strategy and execute on it
- you want fractional shares
- you want peace of mind that your investments are taken care of
...then you're welcome to try Curvo! You can learn more on the differences with doing investments yourself through a broker.
The Reynders tax withholds 30% of the capital gains on bonds, and is unique to Belgium. It's aimed at encouraging long-term investing and discouraging speculation. It applies to bond funds, ETFs, and mixed funds with at least 10% invested in bonds. Fortunately, stock ETFs are not subject to the tax.
Calculating the tax can be complex, especially for mixed funds. Belgian brokers typically handle the process for clients. However, foreign brokers, which are often cheaper, do not manage the Reynders tax.
But managing your investments through a broker can be challenging, especially for new investors. Curvo simplifies long-term investing in index funds and ETFs and aims to remove the complexities of investing and handling taxes, making passive investing more accessible to everyone. Through the Curvo app and the services offered by NNEK, invest in a personalised portfolio, automated saving plans, fractional shares, and no entry or exit fees. Feel free to learn more!
Questions you may have
Are dividends taxed in Belgium?
Yes, dividends are taxed in Belgium. Dividend income is subject to a withholding tax of 30%, also known as the "roerende voorheffing" or "précompte mobilier". The dividend tax is the main reason why accumulating ETFs are preferred over distributing ETFs for most Belgian investors. Accumulating funds bypass the dividend tax since the dividends are directly reinvested within the ETF.
What other taxes do I have to know about when investing?
There are four taxes relevant to Belgian investors:
- tax on transactions (the "TOB")
- tax on dividends
- tax on capital gains for bonds (the Reynders tax)
- tax on investment accounts over €1,000,000
We've done our best to provide accurate info, but keep in mind we're not fiscal lawyers. Your situation might be different, so it's up to you to double-check or ask for professional help.