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Living in Brussels

The city of Brussels is a beautiful and cosmopolitan city, whilst being an exceptionally popular choice for many current transfer pricing expats and those who are pondering relocation to achieve their corporate tax career ambitions. From exquisite international tax career opportunities to incredible architecture and a central hub to neighbouring cities, there are many reasons why Brussels is an attractive city for tax advisory, law and research professionals to relocate to. In our latest article, we explore the top 7 reasons why prosperous tax professionals love to live and work in the heart of Belgium.


Career Opportunities 

Since it’s effectively the de facto capital of the EU, Brussels has a dynamic and International atmosphere fuelled by tax expatriates and diplomats from all over the continent. Brussels also houses countless multinational companies and hosts more than 1,000 business conferences on an annual basis which makes living in Brussels extremely attractive to professional expats wanting to explore corporate tax career opportunities abroad. Belgium has a job vacancy rate of nearly 3%, which is the second-highest in the whole of the EU, meaning talent is constantly in demand. 


Excellent Transport System 

Brussels offers a modern, well-organised and affordable transport system, boasting one of the most widespread tram networks in Europe. Thanks to the travel opportunities internally and externally, transfer pricing and tax expats can easily travel to neighbouring towns and villages or back to their hometown when they please. Contactless tickets are also available for purchase at ticket offices, newspaper shops and STIB information offices and can be used on bus, metro, tram or a combination. It is for these reasons that many international tax expats feel comfortable relocating here, with travel convenience right on their doorstep. 

Brussels is very strategically located alongside many major European countries and big cities are just a short distance away. They include Belgium’s neighbours, all of which are less than two hours away: The Netherlands, France, Germany and Luxembourg. Due to Belgium being so central, the options for short weekend holidays and family day trips are virtually endless. Paris (265km) is a three-hour journey, Amsterdam (173km) and Luxembourg (187km) approx. two hours each along with London (320km) which is easily accessible by train, car or plane. 


Prevalent Greenery 

Brussels is home to a magnitude of parks, gardens and forests which are all regularly taken care of to ensure the city remains clean and pleasant to walk through. In fact, Brussels is often regarded as one of the most ‘green’ capitals in Europe with many of the parks containing stunning lakes and ponds, promoting and encouraging a diverse range of wildlife whilst offering expats and city workers the chance to unwind and relax throughout their working day. 


During the hotter months, the parks and gardens are a popular place to meet groups of friends or family to enjoy the summer sun and have a picnic, right in the heart of the city. And across the weekends, you will likely find that these parks host a variety of social clubs and international sports which is a must. 


Some parks continue into a forest like Bois de la Cambre, while other smaller parks are in neighbourhood areas like Leopold Park near the European Commission. Cinquantenaire Park, Woluwe Park and Foret de Soignes are three of the most famous parks and certainly worth visiting! 


Incredible Architecture 

Brussels is home to some truly stunning architecture, statues and art, located beyond just the obvious tourist areas of the city centre. The world’s oldest shopping mall ‘The Galeries Saint-Hubert’ opened in 1847. Most people remark that it looks ‘more like a palace!’. Alternatively, Brussels houses one of the world’s most unique buildings in ‘The Atomium’ with its giant metallic construction, offering a panoramic view of the city which is particularly popular at sunset. 


Tourist attraction in Brussels
The Atomium in Brussels

World Heritage sites are also located all over Brussels with four of Victor Horta’s (a Belgian architect and designer who is considered one of the most important names in Art Nouveau) houses being listed as well as Stoclet House, a gleaming masterpiece from the Vienna Secession movement. You can also visit numerous other art nouveau gems right across Brussels. 


Avenue Franklin Roosevelt is also a must-see with this mile-and-a-half embassy row packed with great architecture. You also have the weird and wonderful Maison Delune, where jazz was first played in Belgium along with the majestic Villa Empain which is now a museum of East-West cultural exchange. 


Work-Life Balance 

A high standard of life and healthy income highlights the possibility of a great work-life balance for expats relocating to Brussels. In fact, both of these elements rank above the OECD average meaning it’s no surprise that the expat community is growing. Living in Brussels can be fairly affordable and is known to be cheaper than accommodation in London. 


The business culture in and around the bustling Brussels city centre generally follows the normal 38-hour week, whilst being forbidden to work more than 40 hours per week, making more time for personal lifestyle commitments. Thanks to the city being reasonably compact, expats only need to travel a short distance to their accommodation or to further explore the city during the week. 


World-Class Healthcare 

The Belgian healthcare system is undoubtedly one of the best in Europe, provided you carry out the appropriate registration then you will be entitled to subsidised healthcare, which includes immediate family. Although in order to use the healthcare system you must have state and/or private health insurance. 


The system is divided into state and private sectors, which have fees payable in both and are funded by a combination of social security contributions and health insurance funds. With mandatory health insurance, patients are free to choose their own medical care provider and places of treatment. 


Patients generally pay costs upfront and are reimbursed a proportion of the charges for medical and dental fees, hospital care and treatment, maternity costs and prescriptions through their health insurance fund. Some alternative treatments are also reimbursable if carried out by a qualified doctor. Many people top up their cover with private insurance to get a full refund of all medical costs. 


Delicious Cuisine 

Famous for its eating and drinking culture, Brussels has several Michelin restaurants that are a hit among tax and transfer pricing expats. The culinary offerings in Belgium are extensive, diverse, delicious and even fairly affordable. Mostly it is made up of different regional dishes with influences from the neighbouring cuisines: French, German and Dutch (Netherlands). 

Belgium is also known for being the land of beer and chocolate, with the country producing over 800 different varieties of beer and 220,000 tonnes of chocolate per year! Not only is the cuisine outstanding, but Brussels also offers a fantastic lifestyle to residents and expats alike, with a wealth of cultural and historical attractions, combined with top-class eateries and fantastic shopping. You will never be short of new restaurants to try among the unique atmosphere in Brussels, which is rich with history and youthful energy.


Waffles on baking tray
Traditional Belgian Waffles


Cost of Living 

For those considering relocating to Brussels, we’ve put together a cost of living guide to help you analyse the costs and evaluate whether the move is feasible for your upcoming career move. We also explore income tax rates, housing costs and transport to help you calculate an estimated cost of living in Brussels. 


The cost of living in Brussels is generally more expensive than in other Belgian cities such as Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp. However, the overall cost of living is considerably lower than its neighbouring European cities, making it a highly attractive city for ambitious tax professionals pondering a relocation. 


The largest expenses in Brussels include housing and electricity, however, food, public transport and dining out are typically cheaper. Importantly, with higher costs of living come better standards of living, as an aspect that most expats admire when thinking about a big career move whether that be independently or with family. According to the OECD, Belgium is among the top 10 countries in the world for a high quality of living. 


The cost of living in Brussels is believed to be: 

  • 10% cheaper than Munich 

  • 23% cheaper than Paris 

  • 37% cheaper than London 


Personal Income Tax 

Taxation in Brussels is dependent upon your status as a resident or non-resident of Belgium. Belgian residents pay personal income tax on their total worldwide income on a sliding scale. This applies to expats who live in Belgium for at least six months during the tax year. Thanks to double taxation treaties, non-residents are only responsible for paying tax on their Belgian income. 


The Belgian income tax bands are as follows:   

Belgian income tax bands

Belgian tax rate

Up to €12,990   

25% 

€12,990 – €22,290

40%

€22,290 – €39,660

45%

€39,660+

50%


Public Transport 

Although many residents in Brussels tend to drive, public transport is often the preferred method of transportation for expats who live and work in the city centre or the European quarter. Brussels benefits from well-connected Metro, bus and tram lines and an easy-to-use MOBIB card systems which allows passengers to reload every type of fare and season ticket, making travelling around the city effortless for expats. The MOBIB card only costs 5 EUR and is valid for 5 years. 

  • One-way ticket: 2.10 EUR 

  • Monthly pass: 49.00 EUR 


Eating Out 

From high-end dining to cheap snack stands, Brussels offers a variety of eating out options that cater to any taste and budget, providing expats with an abundance of options whatever the occasion. You can sample local specialities such as Belgian Frites or waffles at the snack stands for only a few euros. Even the finer restaurants cost a fraction of the price of fine-dining restaurants in other major European cities. 

  • Three course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two: 60.00 EUR 

  • Cappuccino: 2.90 EUR 

  • Domestic Beer: 4.00 EUR 

Expats who enjoy fine dining should head to the two Michelin star restaurant Comme Chez Soi which has long been the city’s top culinary institution. 


Lifestyle And Diversity Within Brussels 

Brussels – the capital of Belgium, is an extremely diverse, multicultural and international city. The first language in the city is French, followed by Dutch and English. Around 70% of the Brussels population is made up of Belgium nationals. The city is bilingual; English is becoming extremely common to hear in Brussels due to the high and demanding rate of expats living there. With the large growth in ethnic diversity in Brussels, a wide spectrum of different religions are found within the city – there are churches, mosques and synagogues. 

If you are from a European country it is not essential to have a visa to enter Belgium, on the other hand for ‘third-state nationals’ you can apply for a Schengen visa. There are also other visas available that are dependent on your circumstances. When you receive your visa, it is important to register with a local commune. 


Being an expat and working in Brussels allows you to be part of the international community – over 30% of the residents are foreign. The large percentage of foreigners that are currently both living and working in Brussels owes to the prestigious status of the city and the fact that it is known to be the central core for international politics. Many expats find it easy to settle in the city as it is so flexible and diverse.  


There is a lot of rain throughout the year in Brussels, therefore similar to London or Amsterdam for example. Even though the city is mainly urban, it does have a range of public gardens, parks, and forests. Public transport is very effective and flexible therefore commuting is easy, but there are also airports located close to the city. 


Online Networking Sites For Belgian Expats 

Expat.com is a networking website central for expats that are living in Brussels. On this website, you can become a member, be part of the expat community and have the opportunity to read expat magazines. There are also many job adverts and a wide range of properties for sale which are all listed on the site, along with a detailed information page on health insurance and an exclusive expat guide. 


Work-life balance is very important, the website Business Culture details all the national holidays available in Belgium but also provides information on health insurance, the work culture and the typical average working hours that would be expected in the country. 

The Expat Arrivals website is very useful in terms of the forum and guides that are available, for Brussels specifically, questions can be answered on certain job adverts, education and the curriculum but also any further generic questions you may have. Apart from questions being able to be answered, there is also a detailed guide focused on moving and living in Brussels which includes living costs. 

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