Coastal municipal taxation: how big is the imbalance to the detriment of second residents?

Taxpayers pay additional personal income tax on their income in the municipality where they are domiciled. The proceeds of that tax go to the municipal treasury. In Flanders, supplementary personal income tax averages 7.2% of taxable income.

Like any taxpayer, second residents pay additional personal income tax in the municipality where they first reside. However, they also make use of the municipal infrastructure and services in the municipality of their second residence. That is why it is logical that municipalities also ask second-residents to help bear the costs.

A balanced distribution of the burden between domiciled residents and second residents is, of course, essential here.

An interesting guideline on this balance can be found on page 14 of a “Handbook on second residence” on the website of the Flemish Housing Agency ( “In order not to create a shift in the tax burden to persons who are not registered in the municipality’s population registers and who are therefore not eligible to vote there, the rate charged must be in reasonable proportion to the taxes paid by the inhabitants (first and foremost the additional personal income tax and the property tax surcharge).

It is therefore interesting to take a closer look at the relationship between municipal tax and second residence tax in coastal municipalities. However, this is not as simple as it seems. The tax revenues from the various municipal taxes should actually be available on the websites of the various coastal municipalities. Unfortunately, little relevant information can be found there (!). Fortunately, there are figures on the website of the Flemish Agency for Inland Administration. Among other things, there are tables with an overview of the taxes and their proceeds from 2008 to 2018 for each municipality.

On the basis of these data, we have juxtaposed in a first table for each coastal municipality and for the assessment year 2018 the total proceeds of the additional personal income tax and the total proceeds of the second residence tax. Please note, however, that this first table does not yet take into account the number of taxpayers per municipality. That is why the figures are highest in municipalities with many taxpayers.

MunicipalityRevenue from second residence tax (in millions of euros) Revenue from additional personal income tax payable by resident residents (in millions of euros)Difference (how much more or less is the revenue from second residence tax?) (in millions of euros)
De Panne5,862 0+5,862
Koksijde13,59 0+13,59
Nieuwpoort8,749 2,224 +6,505
Middelkerke8,746 3,447 +5,299
Oostende8,476 17,067 -8,591
Bredene *3,394 4,615 -1,221
De Haan*5,3222,910 +2,412
Blankenberge5,3024,308 +0,994
Brugge1,335 36,734 -35,390
Knokke14,662 0+14,662

* Bredene and De Haan have an important population of second residents in holiday parks and camping pitches. For these municipalities the proceeds of the tax on camping sites and camping stays were added to the figures for the second residence tax. For other municipalities we did not do this because the population mentioned is much lower.

In the majority of the coastal municipalities, the proceeds of the tax on second residences are therefore higher than the municipal tax that the municipalities receive from their own registered residents. However, this may be due to the high number of second homes in those municipalities.

That is why we have taken that number into account in a second table. A first column shows the nominal amount of second-stay tax per stay for 2018. In the case of differentiated rates for different types of second residence, we opted for the contribution due for the second occupation of a studio.

In the second column, the additional personal income tax is divided by the number of domiciled households per municipality (the figures on the number of households can be found on the website ). In this way, it was also possible to calculate the average additional personal income tax per residence occupied by domiciled inhabitants.

MunicipalitySecond residence tax per unit (euro) Supplementary personal income tax per unit first residence (euro) Difference (how much more or less does a second-stayer pay) (in euro)
De Panne5750+575
Bredene 850563+286
De Haan500451+49

In all coastal municipalities, therefore, owners of a dwelling occupied by second residents contribute more to municipal finances than owners of dwellings occupied by domiciled households. At the top of the list is Koksijde, where the owners of dwellings occupied by domiciled households pay nothing at all and all charges are borne by owners of second residences.

Since it can be assumed that second-residents make less use of the infrastructure and services than domiciled residents, these taxes have therefore created a substantial shift in the tax burden to persons who are not on the municipality’s population register and are not eligible to vote.

Becoming a fiscal refugee is always possible. Elsewhere on the TWERES website is a report of a study published in 2016 by the Flemish Government’s study service on the number of second homes in Flanders. Apart from the coast, the authors also discovered large absolute numbers of second homes in some cities: Antwerp came top with almost 18,000; Ghent, Bruges, Kortrijk, Hasselt and Mechelen followed with between 2,400 and 6,000 second homes. The fact that these cities are on this list is partly due to the fact that people living in Antwerp or other Flemish cities register their domicile in Knokke-Heist or another coastal municipality.

However, TWERES chooses to enter into dialogue with the coastal municipalities. Where there is no other option, the legal route will be taken and if there are enough members and sympathisers we can, all together, try to persuade politicians to change applicable regulations.

Question about the sale of a mobile home: why is a campsite manager automatically entitled to a percentage of the sales price for each sale of a mobile home?

Owners of mobile homes, in application of their contract with the campsite manager, are often obliged, when selling their mobile home (even if they sell it to another owner on the same campsite), to give a percentage of the selling price to the campsite manager. If the sale was made possible through the mediation of the campsite manager, this may seem justified. Very often, however, the campsite manager does not play any role in the sale. In that case, this arrangement strongly resembles unjustified enrichment. Individually, there is little that campers can do about it. With TWERES, however, we can work together for balanced model contracts. An example of model contracts are the RECRON conditions for permanent pitches that have been worked out for campsites in the Netherlands.

Ownership restriction of second-residents: proportional in times of Covid-19?

At the end of April, an interesting article was published in “De Juristenkrant” (a Flemish gazette addressed to legal professionals) by a group of legal researchers from KU Leuven. According to the authors, actively tracing and returning second-residents who already reside on the coast does not pass the test of legality and proportionality.

According to Article 7 of the Ministerial Decree of 18 March 2020, non-essential travel in Belgium was prohibited. Furthermore, Article 8(1) stipulated that persons had to stay at home and it was forbidden to be on public roads and in public places, except in case of necessity and for urgent reasons. In the absence of any transfer or movement, the authorities could not invoke Article 7 to track down second-inhabitants and expel them from their property. Moreover, by returning to the first place of residence, a person who has been sent back finds himself on the public highway without any necessary and urgent reasons and provokes a non-essential displacement. This is therefore in breach of Articles 7 and 8.

A second uncertainty concerns the interpretation of Article 8, which stipulated that persons had to stay at home. However, the term ‘home’ was not defined. In the absence of a definition in the Ministerial Decree, a second residence can also qualify as a ‘home’, at least in the broad sense of the word. The researchers also note that prior to the proclamation of the prohibition, citizens should have been given the choice of where they would prefer to stay, just as students were given the opportunity to do so. In any case, according to the lawyers, the rigorous way in which the measure was enforced could be questioned. In some municipalities, for example, large-scale police checks were set in motion, ‘home visits’ were carried out and drones with thermal cameras were deployed. According to the authors, the proportionality of this measure – which postulates second residents as if it were hunted game – is hard to find on all fronts.

Click here for the full text in Dutch.

Opinion of Advocate Van Steenbrugge: “Corona must not prejudice the rule of law”

The corona crisis prompted the government to take far-reaching and urgent measures in the context of our safety, health and well-being. No problem, is our first impression, given that these measures will hopefully help to fight and overcome the corona virus. However, some of these measures restrict our fundamental freedoms and even violate them in a blatant and inadmissible way. The sense of justice of the critical thinker begins to gnaw and rebel. Are we going to blindly observe and undergo all these measures, or do we still dare to question their proportionality and the motives behind them?

To read the full text in Dutch, click here

Read on the website of GDENA lawyers (11 May 2020): COVID measures and property rights on (too) tense. Do (some) coastal mayors have a point?

The last few days there has been a lot of commotion about the non-admission of second residents on the coast (and in the Ardennes). The local hospitality industry and traders are shouting murder and fire. It is said that it makes little sense to open shops when their main customers are not allowed to come. Holiday homes on the coast generate €1.5 billion in turnover, 1.1 billion of which is generated by second-income households. They account for 13.6 million of the 30 million overnight stays on the coast.

To read the full text in Dutch: click here.