Giving foods for charity can now be done VAT free

When you buy goods to further supply these, you can deduct the VAT which you paid on your purchase. When you later decide not to supply them, but keep the goods for yourself or to give them away for, you should pay back the deducted VAT to the treasury. There are some exceptions to this general rule and giving away foods for free for charity is one of those. The rules are applicable as from 30 June 2019.

Since 2013 or 2018 or 2019

The VAT exemption for giving foods away for free already exists since roughly 2013. It was only in 2018 that the exemption was actually included in the law. A recent royal decree has explained the exemption further.

More specific you can give foods away for charity when they can no longer be sold at the 'normal commercial conditions'. This can also be read as 'when the goods are close to the expiry date, you can give them to a food bank'.


First of all, foods are concerned. These can be solid or liquid (drinks) foods, but they should be destined for human consumption. It does not matter which foods are concerned, whether or not the foods are packed or wrapped (butter, milk, fruit, vegetables, etc.), dry (pasta, rice, cookies) or frozen products, or foods in whatever form.

The VAT rate applicable on these foods is irrelevant, so it is without importance whether it concerns butter, milk and eggs or oysters, caviar and langoustes. You cannot additionally pour a nice liqueur, since alcoholic beverages are excluded.


A second condition is that the foods can no longer be sold at 'normal commercial conditions'. The tax authorities accept four 'circumstances' whereby it is accepted that this condition is fulfilled.

The first situation concerns the perishable character of the foods: foods which no later than five days after the gift expire, can be given away VAT exempt.
The second possibility concerns the package: you can give the foods away in case the package damaged in such a way that the foods can no longer be sold against normal commercial conditions or that the package can be considered as non-compliant (off course without jeopardizing the quality of the product).
The third case which is accepted is when the foods do not or no longer comply with the production standards which are determined by the producer, irrespective whether this concerns a change in size, taste, texture or color.
A fourth and last situation concerns foods which are only commercialized during a limited period. Think of Easter eggs and chocolate Santa Clauses.

By the way, the foods given away should not be supplied as such. They can be processed or prepared in the form of meals or food packages.

The beneficiary

To whom can the foods be given?

First of all, you can give the foods to the food banks. These food banks should be member of the Belgian Federation of Food Banks or of an institution which itself is member of the European Federation of Food Banks. Their goal should be to provide food aid to the deprived through charitable institutions recognized by the food banks.

Qualified are also local, communal, intercommunal, provincial, community, regional or federal administrations or governments in the context of their assignment to provide food aid to the deprived (think of PCSW, social rescue services, regional or communal distribution platforms).

You can also give the foods to whatever charity organization (associations, entities with no legal personality, forums, projects) recognized by one of the above governments. In this category, we find e.g. the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Foodsavers, Resto du Coeur, Société de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, ...


Finally, there are the formalities.
In principle, you should draft a document in twofold per gift on which all details of the gift are mentioned. This document per gift can be replaced by a monthly aggregated document containing the gifts for that month. In both cases, you have time until the fifteenth day of the month following the month in which the gifts were done.
It is a good idea to complete your administration with a certificate of the beneficiary institution, in which it confirms not to use the foods for commercial purposes, but only in the framework of a social action for deprived persons.
The beneficiary institution should also confirm on the certificate that there is no compensation from the ultimate beneficiary or any other intervening organization. It is however allowed to ask for a 'limited financial contribution' in order to cover the costs related to the distribution of the foods, in their original condition or after processing or preparation or as a compensation of storage, transport or cooling expenses.

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