How to Set up as an Independent Contractor in Belgium
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Working as an independent contractor is the most commonly used setup for remote workers. In Belgium, when a person doesn't have an employment contract, they can be considered an independent contractor.
However, there are a few steps to be followed to ensure compliance with Belgian laws and regulations. This article aims to guide you through the process of becoming an indépendant (independent contractor) in Belgium.
Please bear in mind that this article doesn't substitute legal advice. Information in this article was collected from Belgian government websites and other online resources.
What conditions do you have to meet to be an independent contractor in Belgium?
To become an independent contractor in Belgium, you need to meet certain conditions:
- be 18+ year old
- not be stripped of your political and civil rights by a judge
- not be subject to a judicial review nor be declared legally incapable (i.e., irresponsible because of a mental disorder)
- not be banned from carrying on a business
- depending on your profession, you may need a license or a permit issued by the state of Belgium to work as an independent contractor
- make sure that you have basic management skills (see below)
How to get a basic management certification?
To work as an independent contractor, you need a basic management certification which you can get passing an online exam. Training courses are offered in public institutions (enseignement de promotion sociale) and in other centers (EFP and IFAPME). The exam is organized by the Central Recruitment and consists of a set of multiple-choice questions you have to answer.
Exemption from this exam is given to applicants with:
- a Bachelor, Master degree, or any other officially equivalent diploma; applicants with a CESS (Certificat de l'Enseignement Secondaire Supérieur)
- any certification obtained after qualification of secondary-level studies, after six years as an accounting technician or a commercial technician, or after seven years as a manager of small business firms
- experience in companies over the past 15 years
This certification is necessary to be allowed to work as an independent contractor in Belgium.
How to become an independent contractor in Belgium?
Obtaining an independent contractor status in Belgium is fairly easy and takes a few steps.
- Step 1: Choose between société (a company) and entreprise individuelle (an individual firm). The individual firm allows you to separate your business and personal assets and to limit your liability in case of bankruptcy.
- Step 2: Go to any of Guichet d'entreprises to register your company to the Banque-Carrefour des Entreprises. You will have to bring:
- your basic management certification
- your certification of professional competency if you have a regulated profession (such as a lawyer, a doctor or an architect)
- your professional licensee and your professional card if need one (see above).
- Step 3: The Guichet d'entreprises will then take these documents and validate them before registering your company to the Banque-Carrefour des Entreprises and giving you the business and establishment numbers.
Request a VAT identification number
All independent contractors must get a VAT registration to work in compliance with Belgian laws and regulations.
If you have any intention to work with non-UE countries, you need an EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) number. To get it, you must go to any customs office.
Affiliation with a social insurance company
Affiliation with a social insurance company must be done before the beginning of your activity as an independent contractor. If you forget to do it, the INASTI (Institut National d'Assurances Sociales pour Travailleurs Indépendants) will ask for a regularization. If you persist, you will be automatically affiliated to the Caisse Nationale Auxiliaire pour Travailleurs Indépendants. This affiliation is crucial as it will allow you to pay your legally required social contributions as an independent contractor.
Eventually, you'll have to be affiliated to a mutual health-insurance, which requires a certificate of membership from your social insurance fund, to prove that you paid social contributions. Depending on your activity, you may also subscribe to other insurances.
Open a designated bank account
You must have a bank account dedicated to your company's activity. This bank account's number must appear on every commercial document you produce.
Note that if you work without registration and required permits, you risk receiving a legal report, sanctions, and administrative fines (not cumulative). Penalties vary depending on the individual case.
- For a minor offense, you risk paying a criminal fine of €300 to €3000 or an administrative fine of €60 to €600.
- For a bigger offense, you risk paying a criminal fine of €600 to €6000 or an administrative fine of €150 to €1500.
- For a serious offense, you risk imprisonment of 6 months to 3 years and a criminal fine of €3600 to €36000 or an administrative fine of €150 to €1500.
These amounts take into account the additional decimals. Note that the judge may double these penalties in the event of recurrence of the offense.
There could also be alternative consequences:
- transaction → you have to pay an amount to put an end to discontinuing the criminal proceedings
- penal conciliation → you have to respect some rules to put an end to the public action
- other actions → you have to pay compensation for damages; to undergo therapy; to complete community service or to undergo training.
Furthermore, the ONEM (Office national de l'Emploi) will punish you if you are provided with unemployment benefits: you'll be excluded from these benefits up to 52 weeks, and indue payments will have to be reimbursed.
Recognition of qualifications
Belgian, Swiss, and European Economic Area nationals
Belgian nationals, Swiss nationals, and nationals of one of the Member States of the European Economic Area (which includes European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) don't need any recognition of their professional qualifications from Belgium.
If you aren't a citizen of the countries above, you need a working permit and a recognition of your professional qualifications to work as an independent contractor in Belgium. The permit allows you to work in Belgium between 2 and 5 years. To obtain it, you must go to a Belgian diplomatic post in your country or any Guichet d'entreprises (Ondernemingsloket) in Belgium.
You will have to provide:
- a filled form to apply for a professional card
- an extract from the police register with your criminal record
- a copy of your ID
- 2 ID photos
- an explanation of your business plan (20 pages maximum)