This is “An Informal Guide to Retiring in Europe” and the information may change or need to be updated over time, but the information is posted as the best possible information available at the time.
The information on this webpage represents the collective experience of your fellow military retirees who have lived in Europe, in some cases for decades. It represents their best efforts to assist those who are following in their footsteps and is not a Command or IMCOM product. While all material has been extensively scrutinized for accuracy by these retirees, all users are strongly urged to use this information as the start of their own research when they prepare for European retirement living
The information presented here pertains to retirement in the primary European Countries where the U.S. Army and IMCOM-E maintain a presence. These countries include Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, and Italy. For all retirement information in other European countries contact the US Embassy – US Citizen Services Department in the country being considered. Retiring in Europe implies several important issues to consider. Retirees moving or remaining in Europe fall into “Ordinary Resident” status. You are essentially immigrating to the country of choice as an expatriate and therefore required to satisfy VISA and residency requirements. You will be subject to host nation laws, to include taxation. Information one needs to know is presented here in alphabetical sequence.
BENELUX - Belgium
The following website prescribes information related to vehicle registration, residence requirement, death, taxes and more: https://www.expatica.com/. This weblink https://www.angloinfo.com/how-to/belgium/healthcare/death-dying provides more general information, but being Brussels-centric, ignores somewhat the legislative autonomy of the Walloon and Flemish Regions. Certain items concerning death, inheritance, wills and living wills are specifically addressed in the Survivors Guide published by the Association of Retired Members of the Armed Forces – Belgium
AAFES – DECA Shopping: is restricted to those who can present the ID cards DD Form 2 (the Retiree) or DD Form 1173 (annuitants, survivors), and limited to unrationed items.
APO Privileges: Applications for a Retiree “Box R” are made at the local APO upon presentation of the ID cards DD Form 2 (the Retiree) or DD Form 1173 (annuitants, survivors). Retirees may send and receive up to one (1) pound through the military postal system. This is a DoD restriction, and not SOFA based.
Drivers’ License: The International Driver’s license such as issued by AAA is valid for 6 months. Retirees planning to remain in-country should apply at the commune / gemeente offices for a Belgian driver’s license, within that time. Belgium will grant a license on basis of a US driver’s license, with the equivalency depending on the issuing State. The by-state information is found at https://mobilit.belgium.be/sites/default/files/chapitre_36_-_etats-unis.pdf
- DoD employment: As a person no longer covered under the SOFA, you will be treated as a “Local National” when applying for employment with the U.S. Forces unless a direct transition from Military to DoD/DAC/NAF Civilian status has occurred. This means showing proof of your legitimate presence in the country: the Residence Visa Permit.
- Local civilian employment: Military Retirees and their authorized ID Card Family members must comply with the Belgian visa and immigration requirements in order to receive residence and work permits. Up to date details can be found on State Department and the local American Embassy websites, but a good source is the Foreigners window (“Etrangers / Vreemdelingen”) at the town’s commune/gemeente offices.
- Also see the appropriate information at the following link: https://www.expatica.com/be/
Weapons: See the information at the following link:
- Firearms ownership is highly restricted. In spite of some exemptions for hunting or collector purposes, ownership rules are complicated, and may change after any given election and the appointment of a new Minister of Justice, or of the Interior. Unless you are a hunter and familiar with hunting in Europe, safest course of action is to send or take them back to the US before your SOFA or diplomatic coverage ends or they may be confiscated and destroyed. Items which could be used as weapons (standard Swiss Army pocket knife, Leatherman, baseball bat) can be confiscated if carried on your person. If a baseball bat is in your home, better have a reason such as coaching Little League. The lipstick-sized pepper spray canister a woman might reasonably carry in her purse, and can be legally purchased in Germany, are considered illegal weaponry in Belgium.
Privately Owned Vehicles: Your POV must be “imported” since your presence under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), or diplomatic status no longer applies. This process requires an inspection by the Belgian Customs (“Douane”) and receiving a Certificate of Conformity (conforming to Belgian vehicle standards). The latter may possibly require you to change the US DOT red tail direction indicator lenses to the international standard yellow. For a brief guide, see: https://www.expatica.com/be/moving-to/Importing-your-car-to-Belgium_100121.html
Taxation: Income taxes: Other than Scandinavians, Belgians are the highest taxed in Europe, with the federal income tax on middle class at over 50%, not counting all the indirect and hidden taxes. The good news is that Belgium exempts your pension income due to your US government service and if you receive it, income from Social Security. (See Social Security Exemption below). However, like the USA, Belgium asserts the right to tax your worldwide income, which may include, for example, dividends earned on investment accounts in the US. The double taxation treaty intends to avoid being taxed by both the US and the host nation, but in practice both sovereigns may claim being first in line. There is also a provision that certain expats are treated as non-residents, and enjoy more allowances. The Belgian part within https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-trty/belgiumtt06.pdf has more information. You will wish to consult an accountant or tax preparation company familiar with these matters.
All other taxes are imposed as on any resident: “Value Added Tax,” inheritance, real estate, business, road use, utilities, communal services such as garbage hauling and sewage disposal, social support of the indigent, municipal, regional, and many more.
• Social Security exemption: The income earned in Belgium indisputably subject to Belgian taxes. However, a US employer can arrange with Belgium to have the expatriate American employee exempted from Belgian Social Security contributions by reason of contribution in the USA. The Belgian part within https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-trty/belgiumtt06.pdf has more information.
U.S. Citizen Services: The American Embassy provides information and support for Report of American Deaths Abroad, Social Security, tax matters such as the IRS rate of exchange, and for Passports. The US Army Garrison assists with passport issue and renewal. Death of a Retiree should be reported to both the Embassy and Garrison’s Retiree Services Office. Details: see the earlier mentioned ARMAF-B Survivors Guide. https://ie.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/social-security/
BENELUX - Netherlands
AAFES and DECA shopping by military retirees is restricted to those who can present the ID cards DD Form 2 (the Retiree) or DD Form 1173 (annuitants, survivors). Military Retirees residing in the NL can enroll in a Commissary/PX shopping program that allows them to shop with the following understanding: No rationed items or alcoholic beverages are available for program purchase. There is a limit of $7500.00 in purchase allowed during a 12-month period. There is a tax of 16% for AAFES and the Commissary that will be levied on the amount of purchases made. That certification must take place to participate in this program and a re-certification must be done semi-annually
APO Privileges: Application for a Retiree “Box R” is made at the local APO upon presentation of the ID cards DD Form 2 (the Retiree) or DD Form 1173 (annuitants, survivors). Retirees may send and receive up to one (1) pound through the military postal system. This is a DoD restriction, and not SOFA based.
Privately Owned Vehicles and Weapons: Contact the USAG Benelux-Schinnen for more information.
U.S. Citizen Services: The American Embassy provides information and support for Report of American Deaths Abroad, Social Security, tax matters such as the IRS rate of exchange, and for Passports. https://ie.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/social-security/ The US Army Garrison assists with passport issue and renewal. Death of a Retiree should be reported to both the Embassy and Garrison’s Retiree Services Office. See the earlier mentioned ARMAF-B Survivors Guide.
Taxation: Taxes are imposed as on all residents: “value added,” inheritance, real estate, business, road use, utilities, communal services such as garbage hauling and sewage disposal, social support of the indigent, municipal, regional, and many more.
• Netherlands - US Tax Treaty
There is a tax treaty between the United States and the Netherlands, which helps define how citizens of one country who are living in the other country are taxed. The residency status of the taxpayer is usually what determines which country receives the taxes. The tax treaty also helps eliminate double taxation of dual citizens, and clarifies tax issues that might otherwise be unclear.
However it advisable that Military Retirees consult with host nation government finance offices to determine their tax liability or seek consultation with a private tax advisor familiar with host nation and U.S. Tax laws.
AAFES and DECA Shopping in Germany: Retired ID card holders who have registered and acquired a host nation residency visa can apply for shopping privileges at the Military Customs Office. Applicants will be given a form to take to the local German Customs Office where they will be issued a purchases authorization card. Shoppers must present this card to the cashier at AAFES and DECA facilities. Shoppers are then required to report to the German Customs Office within one month of purchase and present their purchase receipts where a customs fee will be assessed. See the local military customs office for specifics related to authorize retiree shopping at AAFES and DECA facilities and the customs tax amounts that will be assessed. Retirees in this category are not authorized to purchase rationed items such as fuel, tobacco products and certain alcohol products, (wine and beer is excluded)
APO Privileges: The DoD has authorized retired ID Card holders to send and receive up to 1lb through the military postal system. This is a DoD restriction and not SOFA based. Applications for a Retiree (R) Box can be made at the local APO.
Drivers’ License: Retirees will be required to acquire a host nation driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle. For more information on acquiring a host nation driver’s license contact the local host Landratsamt Führerschein Stelle VISA Information: One must apply at the local Ausländeramt responsible for the Country or City where you will be a resident to acquire the necessary documentation. The location of this office is available at the City Hall. (Rathaus)
Edelweiss Lodge and Resort Garmisch: Certain restrictions apply to retirees who wish to stay at this facility. Visit this website to determine eligibility requirements: https://www.edelweisslodgeandresort.com/your-stay/eligibility
Taxes: Military Retirees should consult with host nation government finance offices to determine their tax liability or seek consultation with a private tax advisor familiar with German and U.S. Tax laws particularly as it applies to the dual taxation treaty/exclusion on Social Security Benefits.
US. Citizen Services: The Federal Benefits Unit of the US Consulate in Frankfurt provides Social Security and Medicare Support. The U.S. Consulates support for Passports, Report of American Deaths Abroad and other services. The US Army Garrison assists with passport issue and renewal. Death of a Retiree should be reported to both the Embassy/Consulate and Garrison’s Retiree Services/Casualty Office. The Federal Benefits Unit of the US Consulate in Frankfurt is: https://de.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/social-security/
VAT Forms: All unused VAT forms must be turned in to the military customs office prior to becoming an “Ordinary Resident”
It is highly recommended for military retirees considering retirement in Italy to contact the Director of Human Resources at the USAG Italy and visit the following weblink for information: