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Picture the scene: you’re sitting on a warm, sandy beach, laptop in one hand and a refreshing margarita in the other. As the waves crash against the shore and the sun shines on your face, you think about your old working life, and bask smugly in the glow of being your own boss.
Sounds perfect, right?
Well, if you want to trade in your office cubicle for a hammock and make this vision a reality, then setting up as an independent contractor in Mexico could be just the ticket.
Before you can head off to happy hour, though, you’ll need to know how to:
Register your business in Mexico
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, and help you navigate your tax responsibilities as a self-employed worker. We’ll also discuss some of the other risks and liabilities you should be aware of. So if you’re ready to become el jefe and start living the good life, let’s begin!
First, it’s important to clarify how Mexico defines independent contractors.
Independent contractors are workers who provide paid services (or products) to another party. However, they are classified differently to employees, and are usually not entitled to the same benefits, such as paid leave, sick days, and minimum wage. On the flip side, contractors have more freedom and flexibility in the way they work.
See also: Why businesses hire contractors vs. international employees
While there is no specific section dedicated to independent contractors, Articles 8, 15, 20, and 25 of Mexico’s Federal Labor Law (Ley Federal del Trabajo) identifies several key differences between employees and contractors. With these guidelines in mind, you can be considered a contractor if you:
Determine your own work schedule and working hours
Perform work for other companies
Set your own rates and scope of work
Provide your own tools or equipment
Are not integrated into the company and its operations (i.e. you don’t have an internal email address)
Are able to delegate or subcontract work
Work without direction or supervision
When you work with clients, it’s important to be correctly classified to avoid penalties and fines, and to ensure that you are paying the right taxes.
Before you can begin working as an independent contractor in Mexico, you’ll first need to choose a formal structure for your business.
Unlike most countries, there is technically no sole proprietorship or sole trader structure in Mexico. Instead, sole owners can set up a business under a persona fisica (natural person) tax identity which, depending on your business activity, can take one of two forms:
Persona fisica (natural person): A simple structure that is ideal for independent, individual contractors. It is similar to the sole proprietorship model that is prevalent in most countries. 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. This model is generally intended for professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, and architects.
Actividad Empresarial (Business Activity): Technically, Actividad Empresarial is a type of tax regime rather than a legal structure. However, you can form and operate your business as a persona fisica under this guise. Generally, this structure is intended for all other forms of business activity, such as vendors, artisans, and other tradespeople. Again, there is no legal separation between you and the business.
If you want more legal protection (or you anticipate that you will generate large revenues), you can also incorporate a company or enter into a partnership. If you’re unsure which structure is most suitable for your business, it’s a good idea to speak with a registered solicitor or accountant first.
If you do decide to operate under the persona fisica structure, you can register your business with the Public Registry of Commerce (Registro Público de Comercio), although this is not mandatory.
You will, however, need to have a personal tax number (Registro Federal de Contribuyentes, or RFC). If you don’t already possess one, you can apply through the Mexican Tax Authority (Servicio de Administración Tributaria, or SAT).
If you choose to operate under an assumed trading name (say, for marketing or branding reasons), you will need to check that this name is not already registered in the Public Registry of Commerce.
If your business activity is regulated (i.e. you are practicing a licensed profession, or handling food), you will also need to make sure that you have the correct operating permits for your location.
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 other countries besides Mexico, 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 Mexican pesos — and with no hidden fees. Learn more about how our platform can help.
As an independent contractor, you’re responsible for filing and paying your own taxes.
The good news is that, as persona fisica, you pay personal income tax (Impuesto Sobre la Renta, or ISR) on your business profits (using your personal tax number). This means that you do not have to fill out a separate tax return, or pay additional corporate taxes.
Like most countries, Mexico has a progressive income tax rate system. Depending on how much you earn, you pay a set flat amount, plus anywhere between 2% and 35% on the excess.
You must file your tax return and settle your tax bill by April 30 each year. You can do this online.
In Mexico, it’s not mandatory for self-employed people to make social insurance contributions. However, if you want to contribute (and access the benefits), you can enroll with the Mexican Social Security Institute (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, or IMSS). Your contributions will be calculated according to your level of income.
In some parts of Mexico, you may be eligible for tax credits, so check with your local tax office. You can also claim tax deductions on multiple business expenses, such as:
Accounting, bookkeeping, and other professional services
Equipment and materials (including maintenance costs)
Rent and utility bills for business premises
Business travel (including mileage and maintenance costs)
Under Mexican VAT (IVA) laws, any self-employed person that “sells goods or renders independent services” is liable for VAT. This means that you must charge your clients VAT (on relevant goods or services), and then pass on this tax to the government. In most cases, you must make these payments on a bi-monthly basis, though this might change depending on your level of income.
In Mexico, the standard VAT rate is 16%, although this is lower (around 8%) in the northern border region. A small number of goods and services are charged at 0%.
As a persona fisica, 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 Mexican and international clients.
As a persona fisica, you do not need to publish financial statements or accounts. However, you should still keep organized, accurate records of all your income and expenditure (including client invoices, purchase orders, bank statements, and receipts). This will help you correctly file your taxes, give you a stronger picture of your financial situation, and generally make life easier if you are audited by the tax authorities.
You can either manage these records yourself using an accounting or bookkeeping tool, or hire a professional bookkeeper or accountant.
As we’ve mentioned, independent contractors are classified differently to employees in Mexico. 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 Mexican 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 Mexican pesos (or other currencies), 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 Mexican 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 Mexican 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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