New on 1 April: VAT on gas and electricity drops to 6 per cent, workers get 'right to disconnect'

From permanently reduced VAT on gas and electricity to a right to disconnect for workers: this is what changes in Belgium on Saturday 1 April.

First, the VAT on gas and electricity will be permanently reduced to 6 per cent. While VAT on energy was reduced to 6 per cent a year ago, that was intended as a temporary measure to reduce bills in the context of rocketing energy prices.

The lower revenue for the government as a result of the VAT cut will be partly offset by an excise reform. Belgian finance minister Vincent Van Peteghem said previously that the lower VAT would mean a loss of revenue of 892.95 million euros until the end of this year, while excise duties will bring in 543.91 million euros.

Furthermore, social tariffs for electricity and natural gas will rise further, by 7.7 per cent for electricity and 9.5 per cent for natural gas. This is the fourth increase in a row for social tariffs, a reduced rate for certain individuals or households, such as people on welfare or occupants of social housing. An estimated 2 million Belgians are entitled to the reduced price.

Right to disconnect

Not all changes this month are related to energy prices. Companies with at least 20 employees must have agreements on employees' 'right to disconnect': the right to be offline or unreachable outside working hours.

"Your employer is no longer allowed to contact you unless there are unforeseen or specific circumstances that cannot wait. Those circumstances and practical conditions must be laid down by the employer in a collective agreement or made part of the current employment regulations," HR service provider Liantis says on its website.

Living in Brussels will become more affordable, thanks to a reduction in registration duties when buying a first home or building plot, and an extra premium for major energy renovations. Flemish premiums for home batteries, a way to store self-generated electricity for later use, will no longer be available, and airlines with loud, polluting planes will have to pay extra at Brussels Airport.




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