The rules on the implementation of the new Belgian voluntary occupational pension for employees (‘VOPE’) are laid out in a bill of 31 October 2018, which is expected to enter into force in the first quarter of 2019.
Who is it for?
Employees who do not have an occupational pension scheme at either industry or company level, or whose occupational pension accrual is lower than 3% of their pensionable salary are eligible to take advantage of the VOPE.
From 2019, employees who fall under the scope of the VOPE will be able to conclude a VOPE agreement with a pension provider. Insurance companies and pension funds can both offer this product. If an agreement is concluded, the employer will be obliged to deduct VOPE contributions from the employee’s net salary and transfer it to the pension provider. At least two months in advance of the date contributions will start, the employee must inform his or her employer of the amount and frequency of contributions. He or she will also give his or her employer a certificate from their chosen pension provider, confirming the VOPE agreement and the pension provider’s identification details.
The employer is not a contracting party to the VOPE agreement, which is between the pension provider and the employee. However, the employer does have an important administrative function, namely deducting and disbursing VOPE contributions. The employee can only change the amount of VOPE contributions (or cease contributing) twice a year.
The Belgian statutory guaranteed return for occupational pensions does not apply to VOPE agreements. This means employees will only enjoy the return offered by their pension provider.
Employers may, if they wish, contract a framework agreement with a specific pension provider under which individual VOPE agreements between employees and the provider can be concluded. Nevertheless, employees will remain free to choose another pension provider.
How high can VOPE contributions be?
Employees can decide the amount of their VOPE contributions independently, up to a maximum of 3% of their pensionable salary. This is defined as gross salary, subject to social security contributions, earned in the second year (n-2) before the year of accrual, that is, the year pension contributions start (n). However, if 3% of the pensionable salary is less than EUR 1,600 (the amount set for 2019), the maximum VOPE contribution will be EUR 1,600.
If the employee already benefits from a (limited) occupational pension scheme, the the maximum VOPE contributions will be calculated taking into account the occupational pension accrual from that scheme.
What are the tax and social security implications?
Employees will as a rule enjoy a tax deduction of 30% (plus municipal tax) on their VOPE contribution. In addition, the employee has to pay a 4.4% premium tax on the VOPE contribution.
The pension lump sum paid on retirement is subject to a 3.55% sickness and invalidity contribution and a 0–2% solidarity contribution. In general, the lump sum will be subject to a tax of 10% (plus municipal tax). There are no tax or social security implications for the employer because VOPE contributions are deducted from net salary.
Employers should check if their employees contribute to an occupational pension amounting to at least 3% of pensionable salary (subject to social security), or at least EUR 1,600. If this is not the case, when the VOPE enters into force, they will be obliged to deduct VOPE contributions from the employee’s net wage and disburse them to the chosen pension provider at the employee’s request.