Belgian Tax Hack

Here’s a fascinating tax hack from Belgium (listen to the details here, episode #484 of “No Such Thing as a Fish,” at 28:00).

Basically, it’s about a music festival on the border between Belgium and Holland. The stage was in Holland, but the crowd was in Belgium. When the copyright collector came around, they argued that they didn’t have to pay any tax because the audience was in a different country. Supposedly it worked.

Posted on July 6, 2023 at 7:03 AM20 Comments


Clive Robinson July 6, 2023 8:06 AM

@ Bruce, ALL,

Re : Are Europeans less “Might is Right” crazzed?

“… they argued that they didn’t have to pay any tax because the audience was in a different country. Supposedly it worked.”

I’m reminded of that place in the US where technically crimes is not illegal due to a gap in jurisdiction coverage.

However the “Might is Right” attitude apparently wins.

But if you look back far enough on this blog you will find conversations between @Nick P and myself for setting up a security system exploiting amongst other things “secret sharing” protocols with individual shares held in different non-cooperating countries.

It was before the US “Princelings” started in on Kim Dotcom, Julian Assange, and Ed Snowden… Which demonstrated just how far the US are prepared to go with “Might is Right” and “Power will not be thwarted” of the “self appointed, self entitled” thuggish and oft criminal elite misusing the guard labour for their own ends.

Winter July 6, 2023 8:24 AM

Technically and legally, copyrights are not a tax.

The legal point here seems to be that you do not pay copyrights directly to the copyright holder, but that they are collected by a national organization that will “clear” them, with some indeed, sometimes, ending up with the copyright holder or, $Deity forbid, the artist. [1]

So, the Dutch collector had an artist, but no audience, and the Belgian collector had an audience, but no artist. Neither will get any compassion from anyone.

[1] If the performing artis is the copyright holder, she/he still has to pay the copyrights through the copyright office.

Tatütata July 6, 2023 9:58 AM

Playing rights collection agencies are usually about as popular as chlamydia, both with performers and the public. And performing rights indeed aren’t a “tax”.

And this case is very small potatoes in comparison with the industrial-scale frauds going on in the EU: Cum-Ex and Cum-Cum deals (creative accounting occurring on the dividend payout day, a kind shell game with the ownership of the share playing the role of the bean), Missing trader fraud a.k.a. caroussel tax fraud (VAT accounting tricks based on international transaction rules), carbon credits fraud (a variation of the caroussel system, this one had major banks heavily involved).

Politicks were/are more than complacent with the perpetrators. To wit, chancellor Olaf Scholz’s very deficient memory regarding his handling of Warburg bank when he was still the mayor of the city-state of Hamburg.

Mariano July 6, 2023 11:18 AM

Hi Bruce,
it is an old hack, resolved here in Italy for a long time.
Think that in South Italy there are cities so near, and where the population is so dense, that borders between cities are very hard to establish. So, in many cases, city borders crosses buildings in the half or worst.
Strange to say, but one can have its windows in a city and its gates and doors in the other ( or other two, in case of a triple border cross ), and the application of local taxes is a very puzzling affair.

To solve and avoid the hack, in Italy, there is a law statement that says: “The city where is the ‘main gate’ of building, is the city where the entire building belongs, also if the rest can be in other territory. “.

The funny thing is about “main gate” concept: it is choiced and defined on a declaration of building owner and, of course this declaration can be changed at will also if between declarations must occurs few years…

A wonderful gerrymandering, no ?

Zaphod July 6, 2023 12:20 PM

Old trick in some ways.

A city in KY had rules that you couldn’t serve alcohol in places that had adult dancing. So the club owner got two buildings right next to each other, bar in one, glass wall across the alley into the the other that had the dancers.

Different addresses, buildings were not connected.

Winter July 6, 2023 12:40 PM


Obligatory, Belgium does not exist:

One of the deftest conspiracies ever. It fits at every point, down to the variations in the languages used in the made up country.

Joe Wall July 6, 2023 1:08 PM

I’ve heard of a few interesting cases of things “split” like this. There’s the Westfield Valley Fair mall, which is divided across two cities. Nobody paid much attention until one of those cities raised its minimum wage. Then there’s the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, across the US-Canadian border. The only entrance is in the USA, but it’s one of the rare examples where someone can literally just walk into the country, legally, without contacting border patrol (who I hear watch this pretty closely—as they also do at Peace Arch Park in Washington and BC, which became well known during COVID when the border was otherwise closed).

lurker July 6, 2023 3:37 PM


For a while I lived and worked in the place that calls itself Belgium. Only place I know that had tram tickets printed in two languages. But eventually, je ne pouvais pas exister sans mes frites.

Winter July 6, 2023 4:24 PM


je ne pouvais pas exister sans mes frites.

il y a aussi des frites francophones, non?

MarkH July 6, 2023 4:36 PM

To my understanding, what we call Belgium is not “Belgium” in any of that state’s official languages.

AndrewD July 6, 2023 5:21 PM

@Joe Wall: The Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua New Hampshire borders Massachusetts. It turns out a little too closely: about 6 feet of a corner of one store was in MA itself. Now, MA has a sales tax and NH famously has none (which is why the mall was built in NH), but the MA tax department claimed that one corner in MA meant the whole mall was subject to MA state sales tax.

In came the construction company who lopped 6 feet off that corner….

non-existant-belgian July 6, 2023 5:36 PM

The stage was in Holland, but the crowd was in Belgium.

It’s quite easy to do this in some places, have a look at


In Baarle-Hertog (Belgium) and Baarle-Nassau (Netherlands), it’s quite normal to have your front door in one country and the next window in the other.

non-existant-belgian July 6, 2023 5:54 PM

Belgium does not exist

Also the city of Bielefeld in Germany does not exist:


And until the early 1990s there was a Belgian Artillery Batallion based in Bielefeld.

Clive Robinson July 6, 2023 6:20 PM

@ ALL,

Many years ago the “licencing hours of Public Houses” that is the times a bar could legally sell alcohol were significantly different in England and Wales.

There was however a Public House where one end was in England and the other in the more “deity fearing” Wales. The solution was to decorate the inside so that the part in England was one colour, and the part in Wales a different colour, and have a big bell on the dividing line.

When the bell was rung the customers simply moved from one colour zone to another… We used to joke that there were more Welsh “emigrating” into England through the Pub, but more English crossing the boarder to go home to their “second home”.

Unfortunately the tranquility of the arangment got disturbed by a group of nutters who “Wanted Wales for the Welsh” and they started burning down those “second homes”…

Godel Fishbreath July 6, 2023 10:26 PM

Come on now. Radio and TV broadcasts cross borders. Other things too. (books?)Yet the copyright holder usually gets their money.

Winter July 7, 2023 12:10 AM


Radio and TV broadcasts cross borders.

But copyrights are paid by the broadcasters based on their local audience. Cross-border audience has a free ride. Copyright owners do keep that in mind when setting the rates.

old-timer July 7, 2023 1:07 AM

I’m reminded of the plot of the late, great Spike Milligan’s
novel “Puckoon”, where a country split, complete with differing
tax regimes, causes havoc in a small town… such as a 1-metre
end of the bar in the local pub being lower-taxed, and so the
entire clientele crush into that end in order to buy drinks…
much to the disgruntlement (sp?) of the publican.

— old-timer

ResearcherZero July 7, 2023 2:13 AM

Fourier’s and Bellamy’s and Morris’s utopias should all be outdone, and millions kept permanently happy on the one simple condition that a certain lost soul on the far-off edge of things should lead a life of lonely torture…

…how hideous a thing would be its enjoyment when deliberately accepted as the fruit of such a bargain? —

“I was a Centrelink staff member in the compliance division at the time of Robodebt conception through to implementation.

“I know that when the idea was floated at a meeting by [REDACTED], a colleague of mine who was at that meeting immediately told them it was illegal, and she was not invited to future meetings.

“[REDACTED] was also at that meeting, so they both knew all along that THEIR idea was illegal.”

*“We voiced our concerns at staff meetings with the manager and team leaders. We were however advised in very strong terms to not raise our concerns about this ‘averaging’ practice and were also threatened and intimidated when we wanted the matter taken further up the chain of command.

“In actual fact we were advised it was nothing to do with us and were told to shut up and just do our job.”

“I raised issues about the calculation software, methods used, policy, incorrect debts, to (the) national manager and the secretary at the time. I even made an internal public disclosure but I then became a target and was bullied and harassed before setting me up for termination.”

— would you let the child suffer in order to live the dream?

If ever this child’s misery is relieved, even in the smallest way, the utopia would be destroyed. This is the payment for everyone else’s happiness.

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