'Buying second home does not mean you are rich': government disagrees on tax break

'Buying second home does not mean you are rich': government disagrees on tax break
Credit: Belga

The Francophone liberal MR party and the Flemish socialist Vooruit party strongly disagree on the current scheme for tax benefits on people's second homes, but it will not change in Belgium's new budget agreement.

Those buying their first home in Belgium stopped receiving a tax break at the beginning of 2020. But those buying a second (or third or fourth) home currently still get that same tax break.

This is the result of an anomaly in the legislation due to Belgium's sixth state reform: anyone taking out a loan to buy a second home is entitled to a tax break, because second homes have remained a federal matter.

However, since 2014 family residences have been in the hands of the regions, and Flanders and the Brussels-Capital Region have abolished the residence bonus.

The MR party, in particular, wanted to keep this tax advantage in the budget agreement, with party leader Georges-Louis Bouchez strongly defending that decision in the VRT programme 'De Zevende Dag' on Sunday.

"For us, it was a very clear a no [to abolishing it]. Suppose a small self-employed person buys a second home for his pension, or someone who does it for his child, are they rich people? Buying a second or third property does not mean you are rich," he said.

"If you earn €3,000, €4,000 or €6,000 a month and have a family, you are not rich," Bouchez added.

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"If these people can put a little money aside, where should they put it? The interest on savings accounts is no longer interesting, the stock market is also dangerous," he said. "[The tax break] is a small advantage that allows you to put a little more aside for your retirement."

In the same programme, the party leader of Vooruit, Conner Rousseau, strongly disagreed with Bouchez. "Housing prices are outrageously high right now," he said, adding that he would "immediately" reintroduce the housing bonus on someone's first home, "if it were up to [him]."

"We have to help people to be able to buy their first house," Rousseau said, adding that the measure to reduce registration fees that Flanders has now introduced is "good."

"But we have to go to something structural to make house prices affordable again. Those who can buy a second, third or fourth home, that's good for them," he said. "But should the government help there, at a time when so many people, both singles and families, work for years but cannot make ends meet and cannot buy a first home?"

"Should the government then subsidise second, third, fourth homes with everyone's tax money? I do not think that is fair," Rousseau added, stressing that Vooruit will "continue to fight" to get that tax break for second, third and fourth homes out of the budget agreement.

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