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Belgium — 9 min
Want to start making a living on your own terms?
Then say goodbye to the 9-to-5 grind, and hello to life as an independent contractor in Belgium — where freedom, flexibility, and delicious chocolate create the perfect recipe for success.
The country’s vibrant labor market is ideal for small businesses, while its diversified economy and stable democracy mean the ease of doing business is very high.
Before you get started, though, you’ll need to understand how to:
Register your business in Belgium
Avoid misclassification as an employee
Create compliant contracts that protect you
Invoice and collect payments from around the world
In this article, we’ll cover all these things. We’ll also help you navigate your tax obligations as a self-employed worker, and discuss some of the other risks and liabilities you should be aware of.
But first, it’s important to clarify how Belgium defines independent contractors.
Independent contractors are workers who provide paid services to another party. However, they are classified differently to employees, and are not always entitled to the same benefits. Independent contractors are also responsible for arranging their own taxes and social contributions.
See also:Why businesses hire contractors vs. international employees
In Belgium, the key difference between a contractor and an employee is the relationship of authority. Employees are subordinates of their employer, while independent contractors are not. As a result, you’re generally considered a contractor if you:
Determine your own work schedule
Perform work for other companies
Set your own rates
Are able to delegate or subcontract work
Set your own working hours
Work without direction or supervision
It’s crucial to be correctly classified to avoid penalties and fines.
To work as an independent contractor in Belgium, you’ll need to choose a legal structure for your business. Some of the most popular models include:
Sole proprietorship (eenmanszaak/entreprise individuelle): A simple structure that is ideal for independent, individual contractors. You have full control of the enterprise, although there is no legal separation between you (the owner) and the business; you are personally responsible for all its debts and liabilities.
Partnership (maatschap/société simple): A simple partnership agreement. Again, there is no legal separation between the individual and the business; you and your partners are personally responsible for any debts and liabilities. To mitigate this, you can create a limited partnership.
Limited company (BV/SRL): A formal, legal entity that is separate from you, the individual. All income and losses are attributed to the company as opposed to you personally.
There are pros and cons to each structure, but most independent contractors choose the sole proprietorship model, as it is fairly simple to set up and operate.
If you opt for this structure, you will need to register with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (CBE). You will then be given a 10-digit company registration number. Note that, if you are based in the Walloon or Brussels-Capital regions, you may also need to demonstrate that you possess basic entrepreneurial skills.
Finally, you must choose and join a social insurance fund, and a health insurance fund. Failure to do so can result in fines of between €500 and €2,000.
As an independent contractor, it’s down to you to handle your invoices and payment collection. Unfortunately, this means billing each client individually and collecting payment through their preferred payment method — which can be inefficient and time-consuming.
Some of the most common ways to collect payments include:
Digital transfer services like PayPal and Wise
These methods all have their own pros and cons. For instance, bank and digital transfers can be pretty quick, but often come with hefty service fees. And if you have clients in countries other than Belgium, the payment collection process can be even more complicated.
Alternatively, you can use a trusted solution like Remote. Our platform is a simple, secure, and reliable way to get paid quickly in euros — and with no hidden fees. Learn more about how our platform can help.
As an independent contractor, you’re also responsible for paying your own taxes and social contributions. Belgium has a progressive income tax rate that indicates how much you will owe.
As in most countries, Belgian sole proprietors pay personal income tax on their business profits. Therefore, you do not need to fill out a separate tax return. You will receive your return in either May or June, and will then have two months to submit it.
As well as paying taxes to the federal government, you will need to pay a municipal tax. This rate varies depending on where you are based, but is usually around 7%. You will also need to make social security contributions to your social insurance fund (these rates are set by the tax authority).
After your first three years, you can start paying your taxes in advance, depending on your expected income.
On the plus side, you can claim full or partial tax deductions on your business expenses, such as:
Office or studio costs
Equipment and tools
Professional services and fees
Note that, if you practice a so-called liberal profession (such as medicine, engineering, or law), you can opt for a fixed rate deduction (usually around 30%) on your income, for all your business expenses.
When you first set up your business, you must check if the goods or services you provide are liable for VAT (TVA/BTW) in Belgium. In the likely event they are, you will need to apply for a VAT number, charge VAT on your clients’ invoices, and file VAT returns.
Belgium has a standard VAT rate of 21%, although some goods and services are charged at the lower rates of 12% and 6%. Some goods and services are exempt from VAT entirely.
If your annual turnover is less than €25,000, you do not need to charge or pay VAT. Note, too, that when dealing with clients outside of Belgium, the rules are slightly different.
As a sole proprietor, you are personally liable for finance and tax debts, which means your private assets can be forcibly used to settle your business debts. Many independent contractors purchase liability insurance to help mitigate this risk.
It’s also important to cover yourself when drafting and signing agreements with clients. Our legal experts can provide you with fully compliant contract templates, for both Belgian and international clients.
As a sole proprietor, you do not need to publish financial statements each year. However, you do need to keep records of your accounts, including all your client invoices and business purchases.
You can either manage these records yourself, or hire a bookkeeper or accountant.
As we’ve mentioned, independent contractors are classified differently to employees. Many of the protections and benefits employees enjoy do not typically apply to contractors.
As a result, companies may deliberately misclassify you to circumvent their legal obligations, while at other times, it may happen accidentally. Whether it’s intentional or not, misclassification can result in penalties and fines for both you and your client.
As an independent contractor, you can work with your clients to ensure this doesn’t happen. Discuss your role and responsibilities with them, and review the working arrangement regularly.
If your working relationship changes over time and you become more integrated into a client’s company, you can ask to be converted into an employee.
Open a dialogue with your client and carefully discuss the risks and benefits of moving to an employer-employee relationship. In particular, be clear about how it can benefit both parties — not just you.
You can even suggest the help of a third-party solution, such as Remote, to ease the transition. Our global employment services help both parties stay compliant by taking care of key HR functions (like payroll management and benefits administration) in line with Belgian law.
As you can see, there’s a lot to take on board when setting up as an independent contractor. Remote can help you with many of these challenges, allowing you to focus on growing your business and delivering to your clients. Here’s how:
Navigating all of your clients’ different invoicing, approvals, and payments systems can be complicated and time-consuming. And manual methods of invoicing and collecting payments can increase the risk of fees, errors, and delays.
Remote gives you access to a highly secure, streamlined dashboard that makes invoice management and international payments cost-effective and efficient. You can use our platform to get paid in euros hassle-free, without any hidden fees.
When you draft agreements and contracts for your clients, you run the risk of non-compliance with local labor laws — especially when working with international clients. Remote offers localized contracts tailored to Belgian laws, ensuring that you stay compliant. Our legal experts can also provide guidance on complex issues, such as local classification and intellectual property protections.
With Remote, you no longer need to rely on spreadsheets and other manual tools to invoice for payments; we remove many of the inaccuracies and delays caused by archaic processes and manual management. Our platform lets you create invoices, submit them for approval, and subsequently get paid in your local currency without needing to switch to any other tool or software.
Tax management is notoriously complex work. Remote helps you quickly and efficiently deal with tax management by compiling data about your income based on your invoices and payments received.
Having the freedom and flexibility to work on your own terms is liberating. But your administrative responsibilities can distract from what you really want to be doing: helping your clients, delivering great work, and collecting invoices.
By using a stable, trusted platform like Remote, you can manage these obligations quickly and efficiently, allowing you to focus on your business goals. Specifically, we can help you:
Avoid intermediary fees and delays with international client payments
Draft compliant contracts for Belgian and foreign clients
Enhance your invoice management and avoid manual processes
Comply with local labor laws regarding work practices
Our platform makes it quick, simple, and seamless to get started as an independent contractor. Learn more about how our expertise can save you time and resources today.
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