Authors’ rights and neighbouring rights tax regime remains limited to artists only

May 21 2024

The Constitutional Court has confirmed that the tax benefits for authors’ rights and neighbouring rights only apply to artists, as originally intended. This decision overrules objections from the IT sector, who wanted to extend the scheme to other professional groups- as was the case before the law was amended. PlayRight welcomes the decision and hopes that this will finally close all debates surrounding this law. 

In establishing the law of 16 July 2008, the Belgian legislator put an end to a long-running debate on the tax treatment of income from authors’ rights and neighbouring rights. Since then, this income was considered as income from movable property, subject to a withholding tax of 15% after deduction of a fixed amount for expenses. 

This favourable regime was designed for artists to benefit from rights on their creations and recordings. However, it quickly attracted the attention of tax consultants, who saw an opportunity to organise tax optimisation for other professions. They were further encouraged by the response to a parliamentary question by the Finance Minister at the time.  

As a result, the law of 16 July 2008 seemed to offer an opportunity for tax avoidance not only for IT professionals, who would benefit from a similar authors’ right for software, but also for many other (intellectual) professions. 

This development, contrary to the original philosophy of the law, raised more and more questions- even the government began to question the role of the whole system as part of its tax reform. Fortunately, it did not come to that: after intense lobbying by PlayRight, an amendment to the law recently put an end to its abuses. The law was thus re-committed to its original philosophy and beneficiaries, enabling artists to benefit from the authors’ rights and neighbouring rights received for their works. 

The IT sector did not accept this, so they attempted to challenge this legislative amendment in the Constitutional Court. However, in a ruling published on the Constitutional Court’s website last Thursday, they were proven wrong across the board.  

PlayRight welcomes this decision and hopes that it will put an end to any further discussions. Case closed.

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