What changes from 1 January in Belgium?

What changes from 1 January in Belgium?
Energy bills will be simplified, while posting things and bank services will become more expensive. Credit: Belga

A new month means more changes to rules in Belgium, and to mark the start of the new year, the list is longer than usual. From limits on healthcare bills to new stamps, find out what changes on 1 January 2022.

Healthcare changes

An emergency law will force a variety of people other than nurses and doctors – including medical and nursing students, laboratory students, midwives, dentists, pharmacists, pharmaceutical assistants, logopedists, and ambulance drivers with two years’ experience, among others – to both carry out PCR tests and administer the Covid vaccine.

The limit for healthcare bills (commonly called “maximum to pay”) will be reduced for those with lower incomes. The new limit will be €250 rather than the current €450 and will affect over 96,000 households, meaning they will receive larger reimbursements.

Insurers will no longer be able to take into account a cancerous pathology when refusing an application for guaranteed income insurance if a period of ten years has elapsed since the end of successful treatment, without the need for further treatment.

Meanwhile, the annual ceiling for fixed allowances for volunteers in the private and public health care sector will be raised from €1,416.16 to  €2,600.90, meaning volunteers who receive the maximum daily allowance of €35.41 can work up to 74 days per year instead of the previous 40.

Economy and business

Tax authorities will deduct less from employees’ monthly wages. This change will result in an average ‘increase’ of €128 per year in net salary, €209 in 2023 and €243 in 2024. On the other hand, taxpayers will receive a smaller tax refund.

The social tariffs for gas and electricity – a reduced tariff reserved for people with lower incomes or social welfare recipients – will increase again due to high energy prices. In one year, the social tariff for electricity has risen by 36% and 45% for gas.

Banks, including BNP Paribas Fortis and ING, will increase the prices of certain banking services, in particular fees for basic bank accounts but also the sending of statements by post.

Proximus customers with old internet-television-telephone packages will pay more for their subscription. Orange customers with fixed internet and television subscriptions will have to pay more from 17 January. There will be no changes for Telenet customers, as it raised prices in the summer of 2021.

Students receiving the social integration income (RIS) will receive the same level of social and professional exemption as non-scholarship holders, meaning the ceiling will be raised from €72.23 per month to €264.13, as more and more RIS recipients are also taking up a student job to pay for their studies and the associated costs.

Posting letters and packages will become more expensive in 2022. The price of a non-priority stamp will increase to €1.19 (from €1.10). The price of a priority stamp will increase to €1.89 (from €1.60). The price of the postage for a standard item sent within Europe and outside Europe will increase to €2.23 and €2.45, respectively, when a single stamp is purchased.

Banks operating in Belgium will have to report the balance of bank and payment accounts, as well as the aggregate amounts of certain financial contracts twice a year to help in the fight against fraud. The tax authorities will be able to consult the balance of a bank account more easily in the event of suspected fraud or money laundering.

The reform of social security contributions for professional athletes will be implemented, which will see all athletes contribute in proportion to their salary, while those who earn less than €2,474.22 per month will no longer have to pay contributions.

Meanwhile, nuclear operators will be liable for the consequences of a nuclear accident for 30 years, rather than just ten years. The operators have to insure themselves for an amount of €1.2 billion and the transporters of nuclear waste for an amount of approximately €300 million.

Transport, trade and services

Energy bills will be simplified for consumers when a royal decree setting out the minimum requirements for gas and electricity bills and billing information comes into force on Saturday. This should make it easier for consumers to compare and control their energy consumption.

Locksmiths will have to show an identification card to their customers as part of an initiative to help combat fraudulent locksmiths. To receive the card, they will have to sign a code of conduct and present a quality certificate issued by assessment bodies.

Employees’ mobility budget, with which they can exchange their company car for the financing of sustainable travel, will adopt new rules to simplify the system, including the financing of costs for bicycle loans. A new sub-category for electric transport methods has also been added.

In Wallonia, the kilometre levy rates for heavy goods vehicles will increase due to indexation. The new rates will apply to all Belgian and foreign trucks with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of more than 3.5 tonnes, as well as N1 category semi-trailer tractors with the body code BC. This change was already implemented in Flanders and Brussels on 1 July.

New measures will come into force for Belgian companies exporting goods to the UK, including mandatory advance declaration for goods coming from the EU and an end to the ability to defer a customs declaration, making doing business with the British even more complicated.

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