The court of appeal in Ghent has ruled in favour of a woman who contested the payment of a tax on second homes charged by the local council in Koksijde at the coast. The tax is not paid by full-time residents, and is therefore discriminatory, the court decided.
The tax – also charged in other communes along the coast – ranges from €700 to €1,000 a year, but is only applied to owners of second homes, and not to residents. The local authorities consider that local residents already pay enough in different ways.
Various owners of second homes have initiated legal proceedings; the latest verdict comes in the case of a magistrate from Rixensart in Walloon Brabant and her husband, who fought the case all the way to the court of appeal.
“The judge has ruled that the second residence tax is contrary to the principle of equality and is therefore discriminatory,” said the couple’s lawyer Alain Coulier from Nieuwpoort.
“These are people who would stay in the municipality only sporadically, but would pay the largest contribution to feed the municipal coffers. In addition, the judge ruled that it has not been proven that they would cost more in safety provisions or maintenance and that this was more due to day trippers.”
But the ruling does not mean the end of all tax on second homes. The court was careful to point out that its ruling applied only to this specific case, and only for the contested tax year of 2018.
In order to strike down Koksijde’s entire tax law, it would be necessary to go to the Council of State, and the time allowed for that has already expired.
“But this judgment does offer hope for other second home residents. I can only advise them to take out legal assistance insurance so that they do not have to bear the costs of a possible trial, often a painful process,” advised Coulier.
The Koksijde authorities, meanwhile, are unrepentant.
“Our policy remains the same,” said Dirk Dawyndt (Open VLD), municipal councillor for legal affairs.
“The regulations on the second residence tax have been around for decades and there has been discussion for just as long. We absolutely do not agree that there is a violation of the principle of equality.”
Koksijde residents pay sufficient taxes in other ways, he said.
“I think it shows little civic sense that second residents do not want to pay taxes. With their contribution we collect their garbage, the street lights are on, they can use sports infrastructure, museums, events and there are lifeguards on the beach. We will continue to follow the same course.”