Belgian royals face first tax bills, wage cuts

BRUSSELS Thu Jun 6, 2013 6:23am EDT

Belgium's Queen Fabiola poses with jury members of the Queen Elisabeth music competition at the Laeken castle in Brussels May 28, 2013. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Belgium's Queen Fabiola poses with jury members of the Queen Elisabeth music competition at the Laeken castle in Brussels May 28, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium's royal family will start paying taxes for the first time and will lose some state allowances, the government said, bringing them into line with some other monarchies at a time of belt-tightening around Europe.

The Belgian government has been under pressure to reform the system of royal allowances after national media said Queen Fabiola, the widow of King Baudouin, had planned to pass on an estate in Spain by using a trust to avoid paying tax. The plan drew criticism from Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.

Under the new system, approved by the Belgian government late on Wednesday, only the monarch, the heir and his or her spouse and also the widow or widower of a deceased monarch will continue to receive money from the state.

A monarch who abdicated would also receive an allowance.

The royal family will also lose its exemptions from paying income and value-added tax.

In the Netherlands, Belgium's northern neighbor, only King Willem-Alexander, his wife Queen Maxima and former queen Beatrix receive a state allowance and also enjoy some tax exemptions.

In Britain, several members of the royal household receive annual allowances but these are paid by Queen Elizabeth herself, who in turn receives an income approved by parliament. She pays tax on the income.

Under the Belgian reform, Queen Fabiola, 84, will see her annual allowance cut sharply to about 450,000 euros ($588,900) from 1.3 million euros. Her husband Baodouin died in 1993 and his brother Albert is Belgium's current king.

Crown Prince Philippe's siblings, Laurent and Astrid, will continue to receive allowances set at a level of about half the amount received by their older brother.

Future siblings of the next in line to the throne will not receive any state support under the changes. ($1 = 0.7642 euros)

(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, additional reporting by Gilbert Kreijger in Amsterdam,; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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