Taxation and charges for freelancers and the self-employed in Belgium
If you're living in Belgium and working as a freelancer or self-employed worker, you must register to pay Belgian taxes and social security contributions.
If you living in Belgium and working as a self-employed person or freelancer, you will be liable to file a Belgian tax return and pay taxes in Belgium. All self-employed workers must register with the tax office plus with a social security fund for the self-employed, and pay regular contributions.
The information given here provides a general overview only, you should always get professional advice from a Belgian accountant or financial professional when setting up your own business.
Who has to pay Belgian taxes?
If you are living in Belgium for more than six months (183 days) of the year and are registered with your local commune, then you are classed as a Belgian resident and have to pay Belgian income tax on your worldwide income. Your taxable income is the income left after deductions for social security contributions, professional costs and so on. If you are married, and your spouse’s income is less than 30 percent of your joint income, then you can also deduct a dependent spouse allowance.
If you live in Belgium for less than six months (183 days), you will be classed as a non-resident and only be taxed on the income earned in Belgium.
How to register to pay Belgian taxes
You should register with the tax office and, if necessary, the VAT office – both of which can be done through a one-stop-shop or business counter (guichet d’entreprise/ ondernemingsloket). There are offices throughout Belgium. You can find the nearest office here on the FPS portal. You will need to keep accounts, receipts and make declarations of income and pay your bills on time.
Types of Belgian taxes and when to pay
Whether you are a freelance or a sole trader, you have to pay income tax (impôt des personnes physiques or personenbelasting) every year. This tax is payable one year after the end of the tax year, although you can choose to pay advance estimated quarterly payments for the year in progress. You are not required to make advance payments for the first three years of setting up your business; after this period you are required to do so.
If you are a sole trader or in a partnership, then your profits are subject to personal income tax. The current rates are progressive, up to 50 percent.
Income tax bands in Belgium:
- Up to EUR 8,710: 25 percent
- EUR 8,710–12,400: 30 percent
- EUR 12,400–20,660: 40 percent
- EUR 20,660–37,870: 45 percent
- EUR 37,870+: 50 percent
If you are a limited company, your company’s profits are subject to corporate income tax with a maximum tax rate of 33.9 percent, which may be even lower in certain cases.
The tax year runs from 1 January to 31 December.
You can pay tax by post to your local tax office (the address will be on the top of your tax return) or online using an eID through the Belgian government’s tax portal Taxonweb.
If you are non-resident with a Belgian-earned income, then you have to inform your competent tax collectors office, who will send you a tax return every year. You can also pay by post or online.
Taxes on services and goods (VAT)
In Belgium, VAT is called Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée (TVA) or Belasting over de Toegevoegde Waarde (BTW).
If your business is offering goods or services (with some exceptions – teachers, journalists, artists, doctors and lawyers) then you may be liable to pay VAT – and charge your clients VAT too. It is important that you keep accounts (an invoice book) and receipts. VAT is a flat rate of usually 21 percent and is paid monthly or quarterly.
If you pay VAT, you can reclaim VAT on your professional expenses. If your earnings are less than EUR 5,580 you can opt for petite entreprise/ kleine onderneming status, which makes you exempt from VAT but also from claiming it back.
VAT between EU member states
If you’re selling goods to another VAT-registered business elsewhere in the EU, the customer pays the VAT at the rate in their country, not you. You will need the customer’s VAT number; you can check this through the European Commission’s website. If you buy goods from another country within the EU, then you pay the VAT at Belgian rates.
As from January 2015, if you are a business providing digital services (for example, e-books) to consumers in another EU country, then you have to pay VAT at the applicable rate and to the relevant authority in your customer’s country.
Social security and health insurance for the self-employed in Belgium
Self-employed and freelancers generally pay a higher percentage of their income than employees, although the exact amount will depend on your age, how long you have been self-employed and how much you earn. Contributions generally work out to around 22 percent of your annual income, rising to 14.16 percent when your income is greater than EUR 54,398.06. Use the Belgian Social Security portal’s online social security calculator (in French) to work out your contributions.
Contributions are based on your income from three years previously. During your first three years of working as a freelancer, you will be charged a minimum provisional amount and at the end of the three years your contributions will be adjusted – and you may have a shock. Avoid large bills by estimating what your income will be and making payments in advance.
You will be sent a bill at the beginning of each quarter (January, April, July and October) and you have to pay before the end of the quarter.
Combining freelance with paid employment
If your freelance work is in addition to paid employment, you can apply for the status of indépendant complémentaire/ zelfstandige in bijberoe, which allows you to pay social contributions as you earn with no minimum. Income tax is calculated by adding freelance income to your salary.
Finding an accountant or financial expert in Belgium
You can find an expert-comptable/ compte fiscal/ accountant/ belastingconsulent through the website of the Instituut van de Accountants en de Belastingconsulenten (French or Dutch only).
- Federal Public Service Economy SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy: information on self-employment in Belgium, much of which is in English.
- Belgian Social Security: information on Belgian social security, mainly in French and Dutch, but has an English language contact email service.
- VAT section of the FPS Finance website: more information on VAT, in French, Dutch and German.
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