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Retention periods for VAT documents

Retention periods for VAT documents

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

Documents Minimum retention period Format Start date of retention period Act


Every taxpayer has to retain received invoices, as well as copies of the invoices that have been issued by himself, his customer or his purchaser or, in his name and in his account, by a third party.

7 years original or electronic copy (1) As from January 1st following their date Articles 60 §§ 1 and 4 VAT Code. See also circular AAFisc Nr. 14/2014 (Nr. E.T. 120.000) of 4 April 2014 on electronic invoices

Ledgers (2)

The retention obligation also applies to ledgers and other documents for which the VAT Code (or the implementing provisions) prescribe the retention, the drafting or the issuing.

7 years original or electronic copy (1) For ledgers: as from January 1st following their closure
For the other documents: as from the date of the document
For documents with relation to deliveries concerning pieces of art, collection pieces and antiquities (article 58 § 4, 7° VAT Code): as from January 1st following the year in which the right of deduction came into being
Article 60 §4 VAT Code.

The obligation of retention also applies to taxpayers and non-taxable legal person, established in Belgium, with relation to invoices or documents that are to be regarded as such concerning intra-Community acquisitions of goods or purchases carried out abroad, of account books, accounting documents, contracts, documents with relation to the order of goods and services, with relation to the shipping, delivery of goods, of statements of accounts, payment documents, as well as other books and pieces with relation to the exercised activities.

7 years original or electronic copy (1) As from January 1st following their date Article 60 § 4 VAT Code

Information with relation to the analysis, the programs and the commercialisation of computerised systems

7 years original or electronic copy (1) As from January 1st following the last year Article 60 § 4 VAT Code

The standard retention period for invoices is, as mentioned above, 7 years. This period is, however, extended to 15 years for documents related to the construction or purchase of real estate assets, or to obtaining the commercial rights to such real estate assets.

This period is extended to 25 years for documents relating to the construction or purchase of buildings or parts of buildings, with land attached, that are leased to tenants who exclusively use the building or part of the building for the economic activity that confers on them the status of taxable person, provided that the landlord and the tenant jointly opt to tax that lease, or relating to the acquisition of a right in rem in respect of such buildings or parts of buildings.

15 years original (1) As from January 1st following the end date of the financial year or following the date on which it was drawn up or issued Article 9 §§ 2-3 and article 11 § 4 Royal Decree no. 3 of 10 December 1969 and article 48 VAT Code

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) Invoices can be stored in a digital format, namely via electronic devices for the storage of data, including digital compression (article 60 § 6 VAT Code).
The storage may take place in any place, provided that the taxpayer can, at every request and without undue delay, provide the administration with the invoices and copies of the invoices.
An exception applies for taxpayers established in Belgium, that have to store the invoices and copies of invoices in Belgium, in case they cannot be stored in an electronic format that is entirely accessible online in Belgium (article 60 § 2 VAT Code).
The authenticity of the origin, the integrity of the content, as well as the readability of the invoice, in paper or in electronic format, must be guaranteed for the entire retention period as from the moment the invoice is issued, until the end of the retention period.
The taxpayer himself determines how the authenticity of the origin, the integrity of the content and the readability of the invoice are guaranteed. Any business controls that show a reliable audit trail between the invoice and the delivery of a good or service, can be used to provide the guarantee (article 60 § 5 VAT Code).

(2) The VAT Code mentions, amongst others: the book for incoming invoices, the book for outgoing invoices, the table of fixed assets, the register of returns, the bespoke work register, …

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