Ask the headhunter

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K.G. asks:

During my master’s degree in electrical engineering in Lebanon, I did an internship at Imec for six months. Life in Belgium suited me well and I quickly got an offer for a position as a chip design engineer at a Belgian startup. After having worked there for a few years, I switched to another fabless semiconductor startup to broaden my experience.

Not long after my switch, the corona pandemic hit and I’ve been working from home ever since. Obviously, this isn’t how I imagined my new job to be. To make things worse, as the roles within the team had already been divided and I was the newcomer, I was mostly assigned uninteresting tasks. And when, during the year, the stream of new projects dried up, I even got benched for a couple of weeks.

This has made me rethink my situation. I’ve concluded that the time has come to look for another job, in a different organization and no longer just in technology. I want to push my boundaries and develop my people skills, for example in customer support or project management.

Recently, a large international chip company in the Netherlands offered me a job that exactly met my expectations. They wanted me to move right away but eventually agreed that I would come to the Netherlands with my family within a year. This seemed reasonable to me because it takes a while to be able to tell whether a job and a company are a good fit. And it would give us the time to find us a house and my wife a new job in the Randstad.

Now, because I like it so much in Belgium, I’m having second thoughts about moving to the Netherlands. It really doesn’t seem necessary. The commute from Antwerp to Amsterdam by Thalys takes just over an hour and the trip is very affordable.

My new employer, however, is insisting that I move. They don’t want to set a precedent and have colleagues follow suit and work from home outside the Netherlands as well. They also claim that it would lead to all kinds of tax and insurance complications. They’re allowing me to work from my home in Belgium in my first year but, because of the complications, only for one day a week, on average.

This doesn’t sit right with me. Didn’t Belgium and the Netherlands make arrangements about this topic for the corona period?

The headhunter answers:

The main rule is that you pay tax where you work. This makes your physical place of work very important. However, as you already thought, the Netherlands has made arrangements with Germany and Belgium about the taxation of work from home in corona time. For salaried frontier workers, it has been agreed that the working days at home may be treated as days worked in the country where the work would normally take place, provided that these days are taxed in the other country.

These agreements came into effect on 11 March 2020 and have been extended until 30 September 2021. The relevant social security legislation applies until 1 January 2022. For the time being, there’s a lot of uncertainty for employees. As it’s still unclear whether the measures will be extended and if so, for how long, they can only wait and see.

The pandemic, meanwhile, is far from over. After a global fall in the spring, the highly contagious Delta variant has caused the number of Covid-related deaths to rise again. As a result, companies around the world are forced to rethink their return-to-office policies and look for solutions to keep up their productivity that are sufficiently supported by their employees. A recent US survey found that 43 percent of workers questioned the wisdom of returning to the workplace. This is unlikely to be much different in Europe.

If the Dutch and Belgian governments don’t extend the agreements, working from home for you will mean paying tax in Belgium – unless you move to the Netherlands after all.