Change in the Belgian legislation on the interference between criminal law and tax law
In the past, there was a risk of double sanctioning and double procedure in tax fraud. A recent legal amendment provides clarity for the procedures and prevents dual criminal and fiscal sanctions, as the criminal judges are set to analyze and judge the cases from A to Z – from criminal and tax perspectives.
Tax fraud is often linked to criminal law because forgery and money laundering, for example, are also often involved. Before the aforementioned legal change, one could be first pursued before the criminal courts (and be sanctioned with a prison sentence and a fine) and then be involved in a separate procedure before the tax authorities for the same deeds. This would lead to double sanctions and a double procedure (criminal and tax), which is contrary to European law.
The Belgian legislator has come up with a solution, stating that serious tax fraud procedures will be fully dealt with by criminal courts. The tax authorities will report tax fraud cases to the public prosecutor's office and the latter will decide whether or not to prosecute (and eventually start a case before the criminal courts, which will take the whole case into its hands).
The tax authorities will therefore also take part in the criminal proceedings. The criminal courts will not only rule on the criminal infringements and sanctions, it will also take a decision on the tax claim.
For example, even if an individual is criminally acquitted, the court will still have to make an assessment with tax authorities concerning the fiscal consequences of the facts.
The new process is promising, as it will make it possible to achieve a balanced sanctioning.
Additionally, criminal courts will now need to hire judges who are not only skilled in criminal law, but also in tax law. In that sense, it is likely that tax specialists will have to be placed in these specific chambers in order to arrive at well-founded and balanced judgements.
This change was needed in order to avoid double procedures, which has often led to unfair outcomes. By doing so, Belgium now also complies with European case law.
Should you have any questions in regard to your tax law matters, we at Vanbelle Law have many years of extensive experience in dealing with such matters and therefore will be more than happy to help!
Source: John Maes, Geen dubbele sanctie meer bij fiscale fraude, 12/10/2019, www.jubel.be