Since 2002, Belgian football and basketball teams (playing in the first and second division and being subject to certain criteria -licence system-) have the possibility to apply (through the intervention of their respective federations) for a ruling based on which certain foreign players that these teams attract will be qualified as non-residents.
The purpose of this ruling system is to grant the clubs certainty on which system of professional withholding tax should be applied on the salaries and premiums paid to these foreign players. Indeed, there is a substantial difference between the rules applicable for residents (progressive tax rate scales up to 50% depending on the income of the individual) and the rules applicable for non-resident athletes. For the latter category a flat (regardless of the height of the income) professional withholding tax rate of 18% applies. This 18% is the final tax to be paid in Belgium, and the individual concerned will not have to file a Belgian tax return.
The above ruling can only be applied for players not having the Belgian nationality, and for whom no final assessment in the Belgian personal income tax has been levied in a period of five years prior to the ruling request. Furthermore, the ruling can only be requested for a 4-year period. In this respect it should be noted that the way in which the player can prove his non-resident status is different in the first two years as opposed to the last two years. Whereas in the first two years one has to prove that one did not stay on the Belgian territory for a period of more than 10 months (or via a certificate of residence of the players? home country), for the last two years, only a certificate of residence of the players? home country will be accepted.
In a recent answer to a parliamentary question, the Minister of Finance now confirms that the scope of this ruling system will be no longer be limited to the already mentioned football and basketball players, but will expanded to volleyball players (men and women) active in the first division.