A programme for a touristic trip around Belgium

The idea is simple. First, watch a quality movie about a place and the next day, go there to see it with your own eyes. The point is to find quality movies that get to the feelings and pass the atmosphere of the place.

Here are a few suggestions:

Start by watching In Bruges. It is a dark comedy telling the story of two Irish hitmen enjoying the beauties of Bruges. Upon arriving in town, walk over the Grote Markt and climb The Belfry. I may assure you that it will feel very different after watching the film.

Watch the story on the birth of the so-called "social catolicism" in an industrial city of Aalst at the turn of XIX in Daens.

Finish by the Girl with a Pearl Earring which depicts the life in a medieval dutch town through the imaginary story of one of the best known painting of Johannes Vermeer. Delft has kept its medieval centre largely intact, and you can still discover beautiful landscapes from the film in Delft's surroundings.

For completeness


Any way the wind blows.


A camera is following-up a killer as he moves around Wallonia to get his job done in Man bites dog.


College freshmen drama Ad Fundum happens in the setting of the medieval city of Leuven.

Belgian coast

The sexual life of Belgians shown in Camping Cosmos and filmed in a camping on the belgian beach.

Attack on the tax calculation: it is the law, dude!

I must admit that I was wrong in my previous stance over the tax calculation issue. Apparently, The Ministry of Finance has nothing to do with such a strange calculation process. It is prescribed by the law.

Article 134 CIR 92

§ 2. La quotité du revenu exemptée d'impôt est imputée par contribuable 
sur les tranches successives du revenu, en commençant par la première.

What I took for ingenuity was plain stupidity.


A man-in-the middle attack on tax calculation in Belgium

I am probably missing some background knowledge, but the salary calculation process in Belgium looks like it has been subverted by Ministry of Finance officials.

This is better seen by example

The so-called key formula for the tax prepayment calculation (précompte professionnel) for the year 2008 (income year 2007) states that the first 5220 EUR are exempt from taxes.

Now, let us work by example. We will do the calculation for someone called Jacques who earned 10000 EUR in 2007. We proceed by subtracting 5220 EUR from his earning and we pay taxes on the rest, that is, the 4780 EUR.

This amount falls entirely within the lowest tax range, that has the tax rate of 26,75 %.

4780*0.2675 = 1278.65

So Jacques supposedly has to pay 1278.65 in taxes. Right? Wrong!

The calculation procedure is defined by the Ministry of Finance as follows

First, Jacques calculates his taxes on the total of his earnings. 10000 EUR are split in two ranges. The first 7550 EUR is taxed at the rate of 26,75%. Everything over 7550 EUR up to 10250 EUR of earnings is taxed at the rate of 32,1%.

7550*0.2675 + 2450*0.3210 = 2806.08

Second, Jacques subtracts from the result the amount that he would have paid if the first 5220 EUR were taxable at the lowest tax rate, that is

2806.08 - (5220*0.2675) = 1409.73

The difference between both calculations is


Service vouchers status quo for 2007

According to ONEM, there's been 53 mln service vouchers sold in Belgium in 2007.

At the price of € 6.70, this makes for € 355.1 mln of expenses for belgian households.

For each service voucher, the state pays € 20 to the serviceing company, which amounts to € 704.9 mln in immediate losses for the state ((20-6.70)*53000000) . The hourly payrate at service vouchers companies is around € 9.50. Which leaves € 10.50 per cheque or € 556.5 mln in total for the serviceing company to cover the overhead of running the business and for profit margins.


Who benefits from the service vouchers (dienstcheques, titres-services)

PHBs, stay away. This is as complicated as the Type C work permit gamble, Type B vs. immigration legal loophole or the intrinsics of the payslip calculation.

Here is the idea of service vouchers in a 100 words. A few years ago, you could find someone to clean your house or iron your shirts by a word-of-mouth. After the job was done, you paid them in cash 8 € per hour and you were done. Nowadays, you first buy service vouchers from a multinational, state-assigned monopoly at the price of 6.70 €. You then call a service provider which is a company licensed by the state to accept service vouchers for house holding services. They make you sign a contract and they send their employee to you. Every visit, you give the cleaner as many service vouchers as the hours worked. The cleaner returns the service vouchers to his employer and the employer claims from the state 20 € per voucher. You, as a customer are not done yet as well, you can subtract the amount you paid for service vouchers in your personal yearly tax form, which decreases the real price of service vouchers down to 4,69 €.

At first sight, there's a clear gain from the customer's point of view. The service gets cheaper. However, the customer loses time in paperwork and is somewhat bound by the contract from now on. There's also an intuitive expectation of decreased service quality, as the service becomes less personal.

On the other hand, the state clearly loses 13,30 € per working hour, and some more money in personal taxes, which makes the service vouchers program look slightly unrealistic. Where's the catch?


A nasty trick the belgian payslip can play to you

Nearly everyone gets one surprisingly small monthly pay during his 1st year or so in a company.

In order to understand what happens, one has to know that workers earn their holidays this year for the next year. Once someone quits an employer, he gets a nifty paycheck which includes the monetization of the earned holidays that the employee did not take, yet. Now, once he decides to spend those holidays next year, he usually forgets that they have already been paid by the previous employer. That is, he actually takes an "unpaid" holiday from his current employer, instead of a paid one. Naturally, these days have already been paid before, but who cares, when the money is gone ;-)

All this is a prelude. Here is a nasty trick that makes the payslip look awfully unjustified.

The general rule is to adjust the monthly salary to take into account those "unpaid" holiday days not on a month-by-month basis, but once in a year, the month when the employee has taken more than 50% of the amount of the days off he was entitled to take.

Here's an example. You leave your old employer on December, 31. Next year, you take 5 days off during the first half of the year and then leave on vacation for 10 working days in August. Suppose this August had 20 working days. By the end of August, you will receive your salary for ~ 5 working days, as the salary calculation this month will take into account all the 15 "unpaid" days you have taken off so far.


Looks like it is not limited to Belgium

There is a whole thread on /. about the pay system failures in US public schools.

As usual with slashdot, you get sometimes a pearl while digging through a multitude of clueless comments. Here is one I found out for you:

Over time you get more and more complex rules for how to calculate pay. The end result is that nobody understands their pay slips anymore and it is nigh impossible to implement and test a system that handles all the exceptional cases.