Stampede to cough up undeclared earnings

In recent weeks the Belgian tax services have been inundated by requests from people eager to declare earnings they had kept beyond the ken of the taxman. During the past two weeks nearly 7,000 new files were handed in. Many Belgians hope to beat Sunday night's deadline to declare secret earnings before new penalties kick in.

At midnight on Sunday the current tax amnesty will come to an end. It will be replaced by a new system obliging tax-dodgers to pay heftier fines if they want to declare hidden earnings.

By 25 June 5,852 Belgians had declared an extra 883 million euros. During the past two weeks 6,963 applications were added.

Until now 2010 was the record year for people regularising their undeclared earnings. In that year less than 700 million euros were declared spread over 2,419 files.

Starting next year it will no longer be possible to regularise hidden funds in this way.

Belgians have a long tradition of tax evasion with many people failing to declare earnings on bonds the interest on which was cashed in the Netherlands or Luxembourg, but now the European Union has put a stop to all that.

Tax evasion has become far more difficult. Luxembourg and Switzerland are restricting bank secrecy provisions, while the G8 nations and the OECD are putting pressure on tax havens. Data exchange with other countries is making it easier for the Belgian taxman to discover what funds you have stashed abroad.