Belgian tax authorities can copy and seize computerised information of taxpayers

Written by Philippe Vanclooster 20 March 2014


The Belgian tax authorities have a broad view on their investigation powers as regards to computerised information. Recent case law seems to approve this broad view.

After the tug-of-war between the Belgian taxpayers and the Belgian tax authorities regarding the competences of the latter to investigate, copy and seize computerised (digital) information, it seems that the discussion would be settled eventually in favour of the tax authorities.

On January, 21 2014, the Court of Appeal of Ghent came to the conclusion that the Belgian tax authorities have (in certain circumstances) the authority to copy the mailboxes and certain computer files on the computer of the taxpayer and to seize the information for further investigation. On top of this very broad interpretation of the investigation powers of the Belgian tax authorities, the Court of Appeal has ruled that also the computerised information relating to third parties on the taxpayer’s computer can be copied and seized (to the extent that there is no strict and clear distinction in the computer files between the information concerning the taxpayer and the information concerning third parties).

Although there is no judgement of the Belgian Supreme Court on the case yet, one has to bear in mind this jurisprudence and provide the Belgian tax authorities, upon auditing your company, access to certain computerised information allowing them to copy and seize this information (in certain circumstances). As the Belgian tax authorities can audit your company without a prior announcement thereof, it is very important to be prepared for such a tax audit. It goes without saying that we can assist you herewith.