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New ground rules for lump-sum reimbursement for foreign business travel

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Employees/company managers who travel for work, both domestically and abroad, face additional expenses that are actually borne by their employer/company. The reimbursement of these expenses is not considered salary as long as a maximum amount is respected. Foreign travel is subject to a maximum amount per country.

In addition to an update of the amounts, a number of principles surrounding their allocation were modified via a circular published by the tax authorities in June. Even more attention should be paid when determining the fixed expenses. The article below lists the general principles that apply today.


Flat-rate allowance for foreign business travel: general

A "cost proper to the employer" is a cost paid by the employee or manager but on behalf of the employer/company. For example, consider the cost of lodging, lunch, local transportation expenses, etc., incurred by an employee or manager when traveling abroad for work.

Reimbursements of expenses proper to the employer are not taxable as wages to the person who receives them. The amount of reimbursed expenses can be estimated on a flat-rate basis and no supporting documents need to be provided to justify the reimbursement. However, reimbursements will have to be recorded on a sheet 281.10 or 281.20.

Both the tax authorities and the NSSO distinguish between trips of more than 30 consecutive days ('long trips') and 'short trips'. A 'short trip' must be at least 10 hours. The maximum amounts that can be obtained per country are published annually in the Belgian Official Gazette. The complete list can here recovered.

Important, the amount reimbursed covers the cost of meals and local expenses such as cab, drinks, tips, etc. The cost of accommodation must always be reimbursed on the basis of supporting documents. The NSSO imposes a maximum amount. The tax authorities do not impose a maximum.


Breakdown of the flat fee

However, if part of the on-site expenses are already paid by the employer, a reduction must be made from the maximum lump sum. For example, if the invoice for the overnight stay also includes dinner or lunch, the lump sum must be reduced.

In addition, it was decided that the reduction for breakfast should no longer be applied regardless of who is responsible for payment. Moreover, the NSSO also removed the reduction for small expenses of 5%. Unlike the tax authorities who increased this reduction to 20%! The above reductions are never applicable on the day of departure or return.


Summary table calculation of lump sum cost

  Tax NSSO
Service trip < 30 days

(but longer than 10 hours)

List FPS Foreign Affairs category 1

(min. of 37.18 euros per day)

List FPS Foreign Affairs category 1
Service trip > 30 days List FPS Foreign Affairs category 2 List FPS Foreign Affairs category 2
Reductions to be charged - 35% for lunch

- 45% for supper

- 20% for small expenses

- 35% for lunch

- 45% for supper

Day of departure and arrival Halving amount per day

No application of reductions

Halving amount per day

No application of reductions

Maximum lodging cost Nvt. List FPS Foreign Affairs max. lodging allowance



Business trip to France from 18/09 through 22/09. Breakfast and dinner are included in the cost of the hotel billed directly to employer. Cab expenses on site are also paid directly by employer.

Departure: 100 euros x ½

Stay: 3 x (100 euros - 45% - 20%)

Return: 100 euros x ½

Departure: 100 euros x ½

Stay: 3 x (100 euros - 45%)

Return: 100 euros x ½

= 205 euros = 265 euros


What if exceeded?

If the above maximum amounts and method of calculation are not respected, the fully paid compensation will be subject to personal income tax and/or social security contributions.

If it can be shown on the basis of actual evidence that the actual cost incurred exceeds the lump sum, the reimbursement paid will still remain untaxed.


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