Belgium’s strategic location in the European Union makes it both a strong economic and political centre that attracts many expats each year. For those considering relocating to Brussels, we’ve put together a cost of living guide to help you analyse the costs and evaluate whether the move is feasible for your upcoming career move. We also explore income tax rates, housing costs and transport to help you calculate an estimated cost of living in Brussels.
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE COST OF LIVING IN BRUSSELS
The cost of living in Brussels is generally more expensive than other Belgian cities such as Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp. However, the overall cost of living is considerably lower than its neighbouring European cities, making it a highly attractive city for ambitious tax professionals pondering a relocation.
The largest expenses in Brussels include housing and electricity, however, food, public transport and dining out are typically cheaper. Importantly, with higher costs of living come better standards of living, as an aspect that most expats admire when thinking about a big career move whether that be independently or with family. According to the OECD, Belgium is among the top 10 countries in the world for a high quality of living.
The cost of living in Brussels is believed to be:
- 10% cheaper than Munich
- 23% cheaper than Paris
- 37% cheaper than London
PERSONAL INCOME TAX
Taxation in Brussels is dependent upon your status as a resident or non-resident of Belgium. Belgian residents pay personal income tax on their total worldwide income on a sliding scale. This applies to expats who live in Belgium for at least six months during the tax year. Thanks to double taxation treaties, non-residents are only responsible for paying tax on their Belgian income.
The Belgian income tax bands are as follows:
Belgian income tax bands Belgian tax rate
- Up to €12,990 25%
- €12,990 – €22,290 40%
- €22,290 – €39,660 45%
- €39,660+ 50%
Housing is typically the biggest expense for expats in Brussels. However, when you compare the average salary in Belgium to rental prices, renting a larger property is feasible, therefore still offering tax expats a comfortable cost of living.
Rental prices depend on the size and quality of the property, and its proximity to the city centre and the European quarter. Importantly, there is a range of housing options catering to every budget. Average rental prices in Brussels are as follows:
- Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre: 831.50 EUR
- Apartment (1 bedroom) outside city centre: 703.83 EUR
- Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre: 1,443.03 EUR
- Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside city centre: 1,164.62 EUR
The most expensive areas to live in include Ixelles, Uccle and Woluwe St Pierre. Expats can find more budget-friendly properties outside of the city centre in areas such as Waterloo, Tervuren and Overijse. For more information on accommodation in Brussels, read our article How to Find an Apartment in Brussels.
Although many residents in Brussels tend to drive, public transport is often the preferred method of transportation for expats who live and work in the city centre or the European quarter. Brussels benefits from well connected Metro, bus and tram lines and an easy-to-use MOBIB card systems which allows passengers to reload every type of fare and season ticket, making travelling around the city effortless for expats. The MOBIB card only costs 5 EUR and is valid for 5 years.
- One-way ticket: 2.10 EUR
- Monthly pass: 49.00 EUR
From high-end dining to cheap snack stands, Brussels offers a variety of eating out options that cater to any taste and budget, providing expats with an abundance of options whatever the occasion. You can sample local specialities such as Belgian Frites or waffles at the snack stands for only a few euros. Even the finer restaurants cost a fraction of the price of fine-dining restaurants in other major European cities.
- Three course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two: 60.00 EUR
- Cappuccino: 2.90 EUR
- Domestic Beer: 4.00 EUR
Expats who enjoy fine dining should head to the two Michelin star restaurant Comme Chez Soi which has long been the city’s top culinary institution. Another highly praised fine dining restaurant in Brussels is Bon-Bon which has also been awarded two Michelin stars.
If you are interested in a move to Brussels or anywhere else in the world and would like to speak to Kingpin International about international tax opportunities, please contact a member of the team. Alternatively, please browse our current international tax vacancies.