Everybody moans about paying their taxes, but Belgians have more reason than most to complain.
Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows that Belgium has the highest income taxes in the developed world.
The average Belgian worker paid 42% of his salary back to the government in income tax and social security last year. That’s actually down from 42.4% in 2014.
The OECD — which analyzed taxes in about 40 countries — made the comparison by taking the average annual salary and then subtracting federal and local income taxes, as well as employee social security contributions. The OECD used as its benchmark a single worker without kids or dependents.
Patrick Derthoo, a tax expert at Deloitte in Brussels, Belgium, said income taxes in the country are unusually high but things are starting to change.
“The tax shift started last year,” he said, noting that the government is cutting income taxes and social security payments for low wage workers over the next few years, while collecting more revenue in other areas.
Belgium recently raised taxes on alcohol, tobacco and fuel, as well as some capital gains, interest and dividend payments.
Those financial earnings had been largely tax-free in the past, according to Alain Huyghe, a tax partner at Baker McKenzie in Brussels.
Belgium puts its tax dollars to work by financing robust health care, education and social security programs, said Huyghe. Many students go to university without having to make any significant payments, he said.
At the other end of the spectrum, the average worker in India doesn’t have to make any income tax or social security contributions. The vast majority of workers get to take home 100% of their salary.
Before you start thinking that India is some kind of haven, consider this: The average Indian worker only makes about 85,000 rupees ($1,281) per year. And they still pay many other taxes, including sales tax.
Between the two extremes lie countries such as Germany, France, the U.S., Britain, Canada and China.
OECD data shows that the average American worker took home 74.4% of their gross pay in 2015, after income tax and social security deductions. By comparison, Canadians took home 76.6% of their gross pay and Mexicans just under 90%.
But keep in mind that this analysis is based on single workers who have no children and make the average wage. Your personal situation is likely to be different – kids, marriages, salaries and other factors all affect tax rates.
The OECD data shows married workers with children tend to have a lighter tax load, while single parents often receive even better tax breaks. And people who make higher-than-average salaries generally pay more income tax.