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Retention periods for fiscal documents

Retention periods for fiscal documents

Summary dated 1 September 2021 of the essential legal provisions regarding the retention periods of your archives.

Documents Minimum retention period (1) Format Start date of the retention period Act
Accounts and documents required to assess the amount of taxable income.
This term must be interpreted very broadly. It relates to more than the submission of only the legal prescribed documents (Ghent, November 5th, 1998, Fiscale Actualiteit 1998, 40/5).
This concerns in particular:
  • for residents: the books and documents relating to the accounts referred to in Article 307, § 1/1, paragraph 1, of the Income Tax Code 1992, life insurance contracts and legal arrangements;
  • for companies: all books and records necessary to determine the amount of taxable income, including the registers of registered shares and bonds, as well as the attendance lists of the general meetings;
  • for legal persons: the books and records relating to the legal arrangements referred to in Article 307, § 1/3 of the Income Tax Code 1992;
  • for creditors subject to personal income tax: the books and records relating to the loans referred to in Article 21, paragraph 1, 13°;
  • any other documents in as far as that they can contribute to the assessment of the taxable income, such as details of the analytical accounts, estimates and specifications, tachograph disks (2) (3).
7 years, except in case of seizure by a judicial body or deviation granted by the administration (4) Original Up to the end of the seventh financial year following the taxable period Art. 315 Income Tax Code 1992
Computerised systems (the abovementioned accounts and documents stored by using a computer system or any other electronic device) : the information carriers and all the data they contain, as well as the records related to the analyses, programs and management of the system used. 7 years (4) A legible and intelligible format As from January 1st of the year following the last year in which the system was used Art. 315 bis Income Tax Code 1992

Although we have composed this list with much care, Merak N.V. cannot be held responsible for any errors or any changes made to legislation.

(1) The tax authorities may, for instance, dispute a professional loss the moment the loss is effectively reduced from the taxable income of subsequent taxable periods (Cass. September 12th, 1991, F.J.F. 1992, 49).

(2) With regard to tachograph disks, the Court of Appeal in Brussels ordered that, despite the fact that tachograph disks are not recorded for a direct fiscal purpose, they are important for determining the taxable income of a transport company and their submission may therefore be requested (Brussels, February 15th, 2007, Fiscale Koerier, 07/511). It can be assumed that this case law also applies to the data transferred from the electronic tachograph to the company`s storage system.

(3) Consequently, tachographs or their data are subject to a retention period of 7 years. For the sake of completeness, it should be noted that certain regulations and administrations stipulate different storage periods for tachograph data. For example, the VAT administration accepts for paper tachograph records, pursuant to article 60 § 4 VAT Code, a special storage period of three years counting from their date is granted because of the transience of the paper used for tachograph discs (B.T.W-Revue no. 129, p. 611). The Royal Decree of 27 October 2016 on the tachograph and driving and rest times stipulates a retention period of five years for data transferred from the digital tachograph to the company`s storage system. In general, however, it must be stated that tachograph data is subject to a retention period of 7 years, since it also falls within the scope of Article 315 or 315bis Income Tax Code 1992.

(4) In the case of loss carry-forwards, depending on the case, a longer retention period may apply for the documents proving the loss, since the tax administration may verify the existence of losses for the taxable period in which they are set off. A longer period must also be taken into account in the context of a dispute in which the taxpayer is allowed to provide proof to the contrary of the correct amount of taxable income (J. Roseleth en J. Vanden Branden, Fiscale procedure inkomstenbelastingen, 2021, 56-57).

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