Legal certainty in tax matters: state of play concerning the practice of ruling
The Belgian legal framework offers taxpayers a relatively secure legal environment insofar as it allows them to avoid any uncertainties surrounding the application of tax law to a given transaction by submitting a request for an advance ruling (a "tax ruling") to the Ruling Commission
The guiding principles associated with the advance rulings issued by the Ruling Commission, a service located within the FPS Finance but independent of the other general administrations, are binding on the tax administration, which is in principle not authorized to challenge them during a tax audit.
The "contract" between the taxpayer and the Ruling Commission can be summarized as follows: the former submits a request in which he sets out, in full transparency, all the relevant circumstances relating to the transaction he is considering and obtains, from the latter, legal certainty as to the tax treatment that will be applied to this transaction.
Given the complexity and volatility of the Belgian tax environment and the impact of taxation on companies' projects, the practice of "Belgian-style" rulings is widely favored both domestically and internationally.
However, we note that in practice, some tax authorities do not always agree with the office's views and try to challenge the validity of the rulings issued, not so much because of a possible failure by the taxpayer to comply with the "contract" (which of course remains acceptable), but because of the legality of the positions taken by the office for Advance Tax Rulings, even though the legal certainty associated with rulings is itself enshrined in the law.
Let us note for the record that such a "tendency" is also observed in other acts taken by independent administrative authorities. For example, the opinions issued by BELSPO in the context of tax measures promoting innovation and research and development activities are increasingly being challenged by the administration, notwithstanding their binding nature, which is once again enshrined in law.