Are you recovering VAT on bad debt? Don’t miss out this VAT opportunity!

Apr 28 / Mohamed El Kastite
Since February 1, 2022, Belgian legislation changed the “payment terms” between companies. In a nutshell: the standard payment term is 30 days. However, there is a possibility to deviate from the default rule, but never exceeding 60 days!

But.... what happens if the invoice remains (partially) unpaid and suddenly becomes a bad debt?

Good news! European VAT provisions (article 90 of the VAT Directive 2006/112/EC) allow for the reversal of output VAT in case of non (or partial) payment.
The European Court of Justice consistently ruled against EU countries which do not allow refund of VAT paid on bad debts. Indeed, there are countless court rulings confirming that VAT should be neutral to businesses and that the tax authorities may not in any circumstances collect a VAT amount exceeding the tax which the taxable person has himself received as consideration.

Yet, the challenge is that EU have different VAT regulation/procedures to obtain the actual refunds. And that the administrative easy for recovering VAT strongly varies per country, with certain jurisdictions being very relaxed and others being very strict.

Our practical experiences show that businesses do not always pursue VAT recovery possibilities on VAT debts, often because the country specific VAT legal framework is not clear to them.

We have listed below the key VAT recovery rules for Belgium.

When is VAT refund possible?

  • Bankruptcy/insolvency: As from the date of the judgment in which the bankruptcy is pronounced. Proof of this date (e.g., via publication in the Belgian Official Gazette) is sufficient in order to claim the VAT back.
  • Reorganization: In case of protective measures (cf. "chapter 11" under US law), VAT relief could be obtained as from the judgment; whereby the final suspension with respect to the debt reductions foreseen in the recovery plan was approved.
  • Other situations: The Belgian tax authorities usually accept a claim for VAT bad debt relief where the debt has been written off in the P&L and the taxpayer can prove, by any means, that all possible collection steps have been taken.


  • Except for in the situation of bankruptcy, the company always needs to issue a rectifying document (credit note) to the customer, mentioning the VAT amount for which refund is asked.
  • On this credit note the following statement must be mentioned: “VAT to be repaid to the State to the extent to which it was originally deducted". The bad debt relief is claimed via the VAT return. The VAT should be claimed by reporting it in box 62 of the VAT return.

Prescription period?

  • The prescription period is 3 years, starting from the 1st of January of the year following the year in which the VAT refund claim occurs (article 82bis of the Belgian VAT Code).
  • The VAT refund claim arises as from the moment the cause of the VAT refund occurs.

How to check the legal status of your clients?

Crossroads bank for Enterprises

Other jurisdictions

Please let us know if you would like to obtain information regarding the other EU countries so that your company doesn’t miss out the VAT refund opportunity!