A ruling or preliminary decision is a decision taken by the federal tax ruling commission in which the Federal Finance Department determines how tax laws will be applied to a specific transaction, situation or project, which did not yet have any actual tax consequences (i.e. were not yet processed in a tax declaration). The application may cover both professional and private matters.
A tax ruling is generally valid for five years and provides the applicant with legal certainty as such a tax ruling is binding for all sections of the Federal Finance Department; in other words, each section of the Federal Finance Department must adhere to these tax rulings.
In order to have a preliminary idea of what the odds would be of having the tax ruling request accepted, a pre-filing procedure will often be initiated before the ruling commission. This procedure is very discrete.
As of 15 September 2015, it is possible to request a tax ruling from the Flemish Tax Authority for matters that fall within the competence of the Flemish authority (such as the application of registration and inheritance tax on intended actions). For matters that fall partly within the Flemish competence and partly within the federal competence, the Flemish Tax Authority will send a binding advice to the federal ruling commission, which will then deliver the ruling to the applicant.
For a number of matters, neither the federal ruling commission, nor the Flemish tax authority will be competent to deliver a tax ruling. This is, for example, the case for tax rates, the calculation of taxes and the provisions on sanctions, penalties and tax increases.