Talking Dutch: Doing taxes made ridiculously simple


Tax authorities roll out a new platform that makes doing your tax return as easy as having your car serviced

Derek Blyth on financial plain sailing

It sounded too good to be true. Wie de belastingaangifte indient via Tax-on-web – Anyone who submits their tax return using Tax-on-web zou dit jaar minder werk voor de boeg hebben – will face less work this year, reported De Morgen.

You might have been puzzled by that phrase voor de boeg, which literally means in front of the bow (of a ship). It’s one of those nautical terms that have entered everyday use, in this case meaning imminently, as in the recent newspaper headline: Warm weekend voor de boeg – Warm weekend is coming.

The reason we are faced with minder werk voor de boeg is that Belgium’s online tax form has been simplified. Voor 70 procent van de gebruikers – For 70% of users, of 2,58 miljoen mensen – or 2.58 million people, volstaan enkele klikken – all that’s needed is a few clicks.

Voor wie de fiscale toestand ongewijzigd bleef – For anyone whose tax situation remains the same en Tax-on-web vorig jaar reeds gebruikte – and who used Tax-on-web last year, volstaan minder dan 5 minuten – it will take less than five minutes om de aangifte in te dienen – to fill in the tax form. 

Under the bonnet

This was surely good news. Most people need a long weekend to fill in a tax form. Or they have to pay an expensive belasting adviseur – tax accountant to do it for them.

But finance minister Johan Van Overtveldt insists that the new system is plain sailing. Zij moeten slechts één scherm consulteren in de online aangifte – They only need to consult one screen on the online tax return.

The tax department, points out, however, that de aangifte van de personenbelasting – The tax return for personal tax telt dit jaar nog eens 75 codes extra – includes 75 extra boxes this year, of 885 in total – or 885 in total. But Van Overtveldt pointed out that 82% of people only need to fill in fewer than 20 boxes.

De fiscaliteit onder de motorkap is zeer complex – Under the bonnet, the tax system is really complicated, Van Overtveldt admitted, sounding like your friendly garage mechanic.

Maar we streven ernaar – But we are trying, en ik denk dat we daar in belangrijke mate in slagen – and I think we are to a large extent succeeding, om het dashboard dat de burger moet gebruiken – to make the dashboard that the citizen has to use bij de besturing van deze wagen – in driving this car zo overzichtelijk en eenvoudig mogelijk te maken – as clear and simple as possible.

It sounds too good to be true. But we could all do with minder werk voor de boeg. Especially with a warm weekend in store.