The federal government supports employers who carry out research and development by, among other things, exempting them from part of the withholding tax on researchers' salaries. In other words, employers who employ workers in the context of research and development do not have to pay part of the withholding tax on wages to the tax authorities. More specifically, the exemption in question consists of 80% of the withholding tax on the working time actually spent on research and development by the employer's scientific personnel. Thus, on the remuneration of researchers who devote themselves full-time to research, the employer only needs to pass on to the tax authorities 20% of the total amount of payroll withholding tax due.
However, the application of the exemption is subject to strict (formal) conditions. It may therefore be important to verify whether these conditions are properly observed and followed up in your company. For example, the sanctions for non-compliance with these conditions consist of the retroactive cancellation of the exemption...
1. Was a project/program registered on the BELSPO tool?
The exemption can only be applied if at the BELSPO platform a research project or research program was notified. A research project consists of a definable and concrete plan, while a program indicates a research activity that is carried out in a continuous - structural or recurrent - manner.
Moreover, the exemption can only be applied from the moment of notification. In other words, it is not possible to apply retroactively to a research activity in order to obtain the exemption for the past. The notification of a project or program should therefore always precede the exemption..
2. Is the project/program still current?
The research activities reported on the BELSPO platform should be updated, and provided with a realistic end date. Also if one opts for a research program, one has to make sure that the research activities are updated, and one has to introduce an end date.
Projects and programs for which no or an unrealistic end date was introduced may jeopardize the exemption. In addition, a rectification of a non-existent or unrealistic end date does not work retroactively.
3. Is my research eligible?
Not just any activity qualifies as valid 'development' or 'research'. Only those activities that constitute 'basic, experimental, or industrial' research qualify. What is included can be found at the bottom of this page back.
For example, consider research in the automotive sector on CO2 emissions, research on the construction of new models of wind turbines,..., the automation of certain software services using artificial intelligence, ...
4. Are the research personnel eligible?
Private companies wishing to take advantage of the exemption must have so-called "qualified" research personnel. Thus, not just any researcher will qualify. Only researchers with the right master's or bachelor's degrees the exemption can be applied for. However, for companies that cooperate with universities and other knowledge institutions, and so-called "young innovative companies," this diploma requirement was relaxed.
In addition, a list of researchers involved in the research activities has to be added to the application on the BELSPO tool, accompanied by a description of their involvement in the project, the working time they dedicate to the project and the indication of their degree. The exemption can only be applied for the correctly registered qualifying researchers.
If you would like more information, you can always contact us at 051 26 82 68 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.