What’s new in the New Year?

With the new year come a host of new rules, measures and changes that will affect us all in our daily lives. Flandersnews.be sums up the most important changes.

• The price of a postage stamp for letters to correspondents within Belgium has gone up by 4 cents. It now costs 75 cents for an individual stamp of 65 cents/stamp if you buy a book of 10

• Belgacom has increased its rates for a number of mobile and landline products by 3.41%. Its rates for ASDL will also rise by the same margin.

• The level of VAT levied on the digital television services has risen from 12 to 21%.

• From now on notaries will have to pay VAT. Anyone engaging the services of a notary or a bailiff will have to pay 21% VAT.

• The rate of tax on stock market transactions is to rise by 30% and a new tax on bonds has been brought in.

• From now interest and dividends made from shares and other investments will be subject to capital gains tax of 21%.

• The price of registering a motor vehicle has gone up from 20 to 30 Euro.

Building and renovating more expensive

Most federal government grants for energy-saving improvements to homes have been scrapped.

Tax breaks for passive houses, low-energy houses and zero energy homes have been scrapped.

• Grants for roof insolation remain. However, home-owners will now only receive a 30% tax break on the cost of insolating their homes.

• Similarly the tax-breaks given on green loans have fallen from 40% to 30%.

• New stricter energy efficiency rules have been brought in for new homes, offices and schools. The so-called E70 norm now applies.

Give us work!

• The number of days that students are allowed to work while paying a reduced rate of social security has been increased to 50 per annum.

• The wages of 400,000 white collar staff in a range of industries have gone up by 3.47% to compensate for inflation.

• The period of notice that must be given to blue collar workers that are being laid off has been increased.

• The age at which you can take early retirement has been increased as part of an overhaul of the whole system.

• From now on jobs-seekers will be obliged to take any “suitable job” they might be offered within a 60 km of their home. Up until now this was just 25km.

An now the good news

• Traders will have to pay less for electronic payments of less than 10 Euro.

• International money transfers within the European Economic Area will be speeded up.

• Shareholders of companies that are quoted on the stock market are being given new rights. For example, from now on they will be able to put points onto the agenda of their company’s AGM.

• A new customer service charter stipulates that you should never have to wait longer than 2.5 minutes when calling a call centre. A free call back service should be provided if this cannot be achieved.

• Anyone detained by the police is now entitled to a solicitor from the moment they are taken in for questioning. The changes follow a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

• From now on pigs must by anaesthetised before they can be castrated.