Digitalisation of tax procedure: paper-based communication becomes the exception

Legal Eubdate
7 May 2021

A new step in the digitalisation of the FPS Finance is the dematerialisation of communication between the tax authorities and taxpayers. From 1 January 2025 onwards, electronic communication with the tax authorities will become the rule.

Requests for information, notices of amendment, notices of (ex officio) assessment and decisions on tax protests, among other things, will, in principle, only be made available to taxpayers on a secured electronic platform. Likewise, taxpayers will only be able to submit documents, such as tax returns, responses to notices of amendment or requests for information and tax protest, electronically. Currently, the eBox is already used for sending the notice of assessment if the taxpayer has opted for this.

The new regulation will apply to all taxes for which the FPS Finance provides the service; to the collection of tax and non-tax claims by the FPS Finance, and to communication between the FPS Finance and citizens that falls outside the ambit of the various amended laws.

For individuals, an opt-in regime will apply (as is the case today): their communication with the FPS Finance will generally take place on paper, unless they have explicitly opted for electronic communication. That choice can be established by activating the eBox. Individuals can deactivate their eBox at any time, in order to opt again for paper-based communication. Individuals who have a VAT number as a result of their main or secondary professional occupation are obliged to activate their eBox and thus to communicate with the tax authorities electronically.

Legal entities subject to corporate income tax, legal entities tax or non-resident income tax are, in principle, obliged to communicate electronically. They are obliged to activate their eBox and will therefore no longer receive paper-based communication from the tax authorities once the new rules enter into force.

Third-party professional service providers acting in the exercise of their profession (e.g. accountants, attorneys and notaries public) will, in principle, also be obliged to communicate with the tax authorities via the secured electronic platform, even if their (natural person) client has not chosen the opt-in regime. The act does not specify whether communications from the tax authorities to a taxpayer represented by a third-party professional should also be sent via the professional’s electronic platform. In our opinion, such an obligation could only be advocated (given the impact of the communications on the calculation of procedural time limits) if the professional has explicitly been mandated to receive specific communications on behalf of the client.

Each electronic message from the tax authorities is assigned a date of availability. Procedural time limits will start on the first working day following the date of availability of the message on the electronic platform (instead of on the third working day after the letter was sent by the tax authorities, as is currently the case). For taxpayers who already receive their assessment notice in their activated eBox, the time period for filing a tax protest (under current legislation) starts on the day on which the assessment notice was presented in the eBox. The message is therefore: check your eBox meticulously! In order to avoid unpleasant procedural surprises, professional service providers should carefully check their powers of attorney that have been submitted to the tax authorities. After a message has been transferred to the tax authorities, an automatic confirmation of receipt will be generated, which counts as proof of the official date of receipt.