Everything you need to know about becoming self-employed in Belgium

Before embarking on self-employment, it's essential to be thoroughly informed. What exactly constitutes a sole trader? What does the shift from employee to self-employed entail? What benefits can you expect as self-employed, and how much tax will you be liable for? These are all common queries for those considering the leap into self-employment.

From employee to self-employed: what are the biggest differences?

Are you currently in a salaried position but dreaming of launching your own business? Chances are, you’re brimming with questions. For instance, how much do you need to earn as a self-employed individual to keep your current net income, what kind of insurance policies should you sign up for, what’s the deal with social contributions, and many more. Fear not, as we’re about to dive into all the crucial details below.

Net income

As an employee, your monthly pay is your net income. In this case, your employer takes care of your taxes, social security contributions, and any other deductions from your gross salary before passing these on to the government. It’s convenient because you always know exactly what you’ll take home.

However, the income of someone who is self-employed is always gross. This means you’ll need to account for taxes and VAT on every invoice paid by your clients. Additionally, you’re responsible for making your social security contributions quarterly.


In essence, employees on a salary and self-employed individuals pay the same amount of taxes. The Belgian tax authority employs a system of progressive tax brackets, meaning that those who earn more, pay more in taxes.

If you’re an employed salaried worker, your employer deducts a significant portion of your gross salary for taxes, social security contributions, and other fees. As a self-employed person, you need to set aside enough money from your gross income to cover your taxes and other mandatory expenses.

Accountable tip: Accountable tip: Want to know how much you need to earn as self-employed to match your net salary as an employee? Our tax simulator can calculate it for you!


Depending on whether you’re a salaried employee or a worker, as an employee you’re entitled to a number of statutory leave days and often also (double or single) holiday pay. As a self-employed person, you don’t have these benefits. If a self-employed individual doesn’t work, they don’t have an income.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that self-employed individuals can never enjoy a well-deserved holiday. For instance, as a self-employed person, you could set aside money each month to cover periods when you take a holiday.


As an employee, you’re insured for work-related accidents or damage to third parties through your employer. Self-employed individuals, on the other hand, are always responsible for themselves, which is why having liability insurance is highly recommended. If you’re dealing with goods, also consider fire and theft insurance.

When you fall ill as an employee, you receive sick pay through your employer or health insurance fund. When you retire, you can also expect monthly payments. Self-employed individuals can also rely on state support in case of sickness or retirement, though this is often quite limited. Hence, it’s commonly advised for self-employed people to take out additional insurances, such as guaranteed income insurance.

Additionally, employees often enjoy a health insurance policy paid by the employer as part of their salary package. While taking out health insurance isn’t mandatory in Belgium, it does offer several benefits, including for self-employed individuals.

Accountable tip: Interested in learning more about professional insurances for self-employed individuals? Here you’ll find answers to all your questions.

Social contributions

As mentioned earlier, an employee’s social security contributions are paid by the employer. As a self-employed person, however, you’re required to pay your social security contributions to the social insurance fund every quarter. This is obligatory because your social contributions accrue social rights, such as qualifying for a statutory pension in later life.

Social contributions account for about 20.5% of your income as a self-employed individual. The minimum contribution for self-employed individuals working as their main profession is €890.51 per quarter (in 2024). For those working as self-employed in a secondary occupation, the minimum contribution is set at €98.52 per quarter in 2024.

The good news is that your social contributions are 100% tax-deductible. You can read more about social contributions for self-employed individuals here.

Deductible professional expenses

Professional and flat-rate business expenses are perhaps the biggest difference between self-employed individuals and employees. While salaried employees can take advantage of a standard expense deduction, self-employed individuals have access to a vast array of deductible business expenses.
Business expenses are professional costs incurred by self-employed individuals in the course of running their business with the aim of growth and conducting more business. Consider expenses like: purchasing a laptop, internet bills, trade goods, a company car, printing, software licenses, and much more.

These business expenses are tax-deductible. In some cases, they’re fully deductible, up to 100%. Other types of expenses are only partially deductible, depending on how much you use them.

Imagine you’re starting as self-employed and create a website for €1,000. In the first month, you invoice clients for €2,500. You can deduct this business expense from your income, meaning you’re then taxed on €1,500 instead of €2,500.

If you incur few business expenses as a self-employed individual, you can opt for flat-rate business expenses.

Accountable tip: Accountable tip: By claiming business expenses, you can lower your tax burden. It’s in your interest not to overlook any business expenses in your accounting. Our search engine for deductible expenses can assist you here. Easily look up business expenses, find out to what extent they are deductible, and discover another 101 business expenses.

What are the benefits of becoming self-employed?

More freedom

You decide which assignments to take, when you work, how much you work, and where you work. Fancy taking a day off today? Almost everything is possible!

Turn your hobby into your profession

Got a fun hobby or passion that you can monetise? Amazing! As a self-employed, you can now do what you love every day.

Professional expenses

As a self-employed individual, you’ll incur significant expenses, but you can deduct these professional business expenses from your taxes. This can substantially reduce your tax burden.

Optimise your income

You determine how much you earn, how much you spend on professional expenses, and which business expenses you claim. However, we do recommend keeping a good record of the invoices and receipts for your business expenses and deducting them from your taxes.

Do I need a degree or certification to become self-employed in Belgium?

Diving into self-employment, whether full-time or as a side hustle, doesn’t typically require any particular degree, certification, or diploma. That said, for professions like lawyers, doctors, or psychologists, having an official degree is a must.

For other freelance gigs, such as copywriting, graphic design, or consulting, there’s no legal requirement for a degree. However, it’s worth noting that relevant skills, know-how, experience, and even certifications can significantly enhance your credibility and attract more clients.

In Flanders and Brussels, there’s no need for a business management degree to start your self-employment journey. Starting in Wallonia? You’ll need to have a business management degree (or something similar) to get the green light.

How much does it cost to become self-employed?

Sole trader

Opting for the status of self-employed as a sole trader? You should budget around €175.00 to sort out your registration as self-employed. This includes a fee of €105.50 for your enterprise number, which you receive upon registration with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (CBE). Additionally, you’ll need to activate this business number as a VAT number, costing about €70.

Prices might vary slightly depending on how you officially register as self-employed. A bookkeeper or a business counter like Liantis or Xerius can handle the registration for you, but they often charge a small administrative fee. Alternatively, you can manage your registration directly through the CBE.

Self-employed with a company

Planning to become self-employed with a company? Budget around €2,000. Companies must first visit a notary to create an official deed. Although starting capital is not required for most types of companies (except for a public limited company), you need a solid financial plan and sufficient funds to bridge at least the next two years.

Finally, depending on the type of self-employed activity, you’ll need a budget for your startup costs. Consider items like a laptop, work materials, website costs, and your first social security contribution.

How much does it cost to become self-employed in a secondary occupation?

Do you want to become a self-employed part-timer in Belgium? In 2024, it will cost you approximately €175. Here are the costs you need to consider:
You will pay €105.50 for your registration with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises and to obtain your business number. To have your VAT number activated, you will pay about €70.

Additionally, you should also consider:

  • The payment of your first social contribution. The minimum social contribution for self-employed part-timers is €98.52 per quarter.
  • Costs you need to incur to get started, such as: a laptop, mobile phone, software licenses, trade goods, raw materials… Depending on the type of sideline, these costs vary.

How to become complementary self-employed is discovered in step 3.

Can I, as a starting entrepreneur, apply for financial support or grants?

Are you a budding entrepreneur looking for a financial boost or subsidies? Here are some potential sources of funding and support:

  • If you are unemployed, you can apply for various support options to ease your start as an entrepreneur. This includes, for example, a starter loan, the retention of the right to unemployment benefits (Springplank naar Zelfstandige), the transition premium, and more.
  • The government, both Flemish and local authorities, also offers various loans, grants, and support measures to starting entrepreneurs in need of a push.
  • Annually, several competitions are organized for startups and budding entrepreneurs. These are often sponsored by the government or enjoy government support, but there are also many private initiatives. The type of support varies widely and can range from a cash reward, personal coaching, networking opportunities to assistance in obtaining financing. Consider initiatives like Start It by KBC or other initiatives from Vlaio.

Accountable tip: Read more about financing opportunities and subsidies for starting entrepreneurs here.

How do I become self-employed in a secondary occupation?

If you have a job as an employee and find you have time after hours to earn some extra money with a hobby or passion, then you might consider becoming a self-employed person in a secondary occupation. Before you start, it’s important to consider the following points:

  • Ensure that there are no restrictions in your employment contract regarding starting as a self-employed person in a secondary occupation. Most employers reserve the right to disapprove of your side job if it creates competition.
  • Make sure you understand the additional tax obligations that a secondary occupation entails. It’s good to know that the income from your secondary occupation is added to that of your main occupation, which can quickly put you in a higher tax bracket.
  • Your main activity as an employee must take up at least half of your working time. If you are unemployed or receiving benefits, you must be registered as a job seeker and request permission.
  • A secondary occupation is just as official as a primary occupation: you must register your self-employed activity with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises and apply for a VAT number. Additionally, you are obliged to join a social insurance fund and pay social security contributions.

Can you start self-employment if you are unemployed?

Are you currently unemployed and want to start as a self-employed individual, either as your main occupation or as a secondary occupation? It’s possible!

If you are facing difficulties financing your start as a self-employed person, you can apply for a startup loan from the Flemish Government. In this case, you will generally no longer be considered unemployed and, therefore, will lose your unemployment benefits.

Would you benefit from temporarily keeping your unemployment benefits? Thanks to the “Springboard to Self-Employment” (Springplank naar Zelfstandige) you have the opportunity to start your own business without immediately losing your benefits.

Starting as a self-employed person: is it for me?

After reading through the previous chapter, you know exactly what becoming self-employed entails and what the biggest differences are compared to having a job as an employee. Now the time has come to determine if becoming self-employed is right for you.

Which self-employment status should I choose?

In Belgium, you have the choice between different statuses or legal entities for the self-employed. The best status for you depends on your professional activity, how much you expect to earn, and a number of other factors. We’re here to guide you:

Self-employed in a sole proprietorship

What is a sole proprietorship? A sole proprietorship is the most chosen form of enterprise for starting self-employed individuals and is characterized by the fact that there is only one owner.

The proprietor is personally liable for all professional activities, including the profits and losses of the business. Legally, a sole proprietorship is a ‘natural person‘, and therefore, there is no legal personality. Setting it up is relatively inexpensive and requires little administration.

Every self-employed individual in Belgium (with the exception of certain paramedical professions) is, in principle, subject to VAT. However, there is an exception for small businesses with an annual turnover of less than €25,000.

These small businesses often have the status of a sole proprietorship and can apply for a VAT exemption scheme for small businesses. This exempts them from charging VAT and submitting periodic declarations. The downside? They also cannot recover VAT on professional purchases. Once you earn more than €25,000, the VAT exemption is lost, and you must charge VAT to your customers.

Accountable tip: Read more about the VAT exemption scheme for small businesses here.

Self-employed with a company

A company is a form of business where it is possible to start a business alone or with several people. Companies have their own legal personality, meaning that the partners, or company directors, are not personally liable for the company’s profits and losses.

There are various types of companies, each with its specific advantages and disadvantages. The most common types of companies are:

  • Private limited company (BV/SRL)
  • Public limited company (NV/SA)
  • Partnership limited by shares (CommV)
  • Management company

Choosing between a sole proprietorship and a company involves weighing the pros and cons of each form based on your business needs, liability tolerance, and financial expectations.


Freelancers are self-employed individuals who offer services on a project basis to businesses or individuals. They are not bound to an employer but work independently.

It’s important to note that freelancers do not have an official status or separate business form. Freelancers usually opt for the status of a sole proprietorship (natural person) or a private limited company.

Liberal professions

A self-employed person in a liberal profession mainly offers intellectual services or products from a specific specialization. Think of professions such as lawyers, architects, pharmacists, doctors, notaries, psychologists, or paramedics.

Some of these liberal professions or professions with a social character are exempt from all VAT obligations, meaning that they don’t charge or submit VAT. Specifically, medical and paramedical professions such as doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, midwives, nurses, and nursing assistants.

To find out exactly which liberal professions are exempt from VAT, you can consult this list from the FPS Finance.

How much taxes do I have to pay as a self-employed person in Belgium?

As a self-employed person in a sole proprietorship, you will be taxed according to the progressive personal income tax, which ranges from 25% to 50%. But what does that mean exactly for you? We’ve illustrated this with a real-life example, right here.

As a director in a company, your company is taxed on the one hand according to corporate tax (20-25%). The money (salary) that you pay yourself is then also taxed according to personal income tax.

So, it’s best to set aside enough money to pay your taxes. With Accountable, you can see exactly how much this is at any time.

Accountable tip: Accountable tip: With our free tax simulator, you can discover the tax impact on your income as a self-employed person in just a few minutes. Try it now!

Also, don’t forget to consider mandatory costs, such as your social contributions and other expenses. And, while not mandatory, it’s highly recommended to have supplementary health insurance, hospitalization insurance, and pension insurance.

How much do you need to earn as a self-employed person?

You send invoices to your customers and they pay you. These earnings are your gross income. This means that as a self-employed person in a sole proprietorship or company, you still need to consider the following costs:

Therefore, when determining your prices, it’s best to take the above costs into account.

To determine how much your rate as a self-employed person should be in order to have a reasonable income left over, we have developed an income simulator. Discover within just a few minutes how much you need to invoice to keep a decent net salary. Try it now!

Get inspired by fellow self-employed individuals

Discover real stories from ordinary people like you and me who became self-employed and successfully realised their dreams.

Briana Stuart, choreographer, dance and teacher

Originally from the US, Briana’s passion drove her to Belgium, where she became a thriving self-employed artist. Discover how she got her business successfully set up in Belgium. Read all about her story here.

Charlelie Dagnelie, architect

In Belgium, architects often have no other choice than to become independent. Find out how Charlelie navigates in the world of self-employment. You can read his story here.

Justin Petit, influencer

Justin loves photography and social media, so he made it his profession. As a self-employed content creator in Belgium, he creates captivating content for his clients.

Become self-employed: apply for your enterprise number

You're absolutely certain: you're becoming self-employed. Congratulations! An amazing adventure awaits you. But, how do you become self-employed? It's actually quite simple. You have register with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises in order to receive an enterprise number. Let's have a look together.

Business plan

Every successful self-employed career starts with a well-thought-out business plan. In the case of a sole proprietorship, it is not mandatory to create an official business plan. However, for self-employed individuals who establish a company, drafting a business plan is a requirement.

Nevertheless, we also encourage all (future) sole proprietorships to ask themselves the following questions:

  • What products or services will you offer?
  • What prices will you set for these products and/or services? What is your profit margin?
  • Can you start without any restrictions, or do you need a specific diploma or certain permits?
  • How much are your startup costs? What expenses do you need to incur to get started?
  • Have you allocated enough capital to bridge your first month(s) as a self-employed person? Be sure to consider your fixed costs, initial social contributions, and potential professional expenses.
  • Will you entrust your accounting to an accountant or will you do it yourself, perhaps using software like Accountable?

If you have the answers to all the above questions, you are ready for the next step.

Opening a business bank account

Opening a professional bank account is not mandatory for self-employed individuals in a sole proprietorship. However, we highly recommend it because having a business bank account allows you to easily separate private and professional transactions. This makes your accounting much simpler.

In the event of a tax audit, having a business account also works in your favor, as otherwise, you may be required to provide the tax auditor access to your personal account.

For self-employed individuals establishing a company, opening a business bank account is mandatory.

Read more about opening a business bank account here.

Applying for an enterprise number

The preparations have been made. Now it’s time for the real work: your official registration as a self-employed person.

You are only officially self-employed after registering with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (KBO). This is the official database of the FPS Economy with all the basic information of companies in Belgium. After your registration, your company details, such as name, enterprise number, and establishment unit, will also become publicly available.

For a smooth registration of your sole proprietorship, it’s best to have the following information at hand:

  • Your basic details (name, address…)
  • ID card or Itsme
  • Business bank account number
  • Only if necessary: special permits

There are different ways to register your self-employed activity in the KBO:

  • Do it yourself
  • Seek assistance from a business counter
  • Have your accountant or accountant do it for you
  • Register as self-employed via Accountable (read on)

To make your registration as a self-employed person in the KBO a lot easier, you can choose to become self-employed with Accountable. It’s very straight-forward, there are no additional costs involved, and you can do it like this:

Fill in the online form

Enter your basic details and professional bank account number. Also, answer the other questions. Not sure? You’ll find more explanation about what we mean and need with each question. You can’t go wrong because after submitting this form, Liantis will check everything for you.

Liantis will contact you

Within 3 to 5 days after submitting the online form, Liantis will contact you. Together, you will go over the information from the contact form, and you will have the chance to make changes if necessary. At this point, Liantis will also ask you to pay your registration fee (€105.50). If desired, they will also activate your VAT number (€64).

Receive your enterprise number

Hooray! Your registration is complete. From now on, you are officially self-employed. Congratulations! At this point, you can already look yourself up in the KBO. There you are, beaming as a self-employed person in the official database of the FPS Economy. Congratulations!

You will receive your enterprise number via Liantis and can also consult it in the KBO. From now on, you can officially start invoicing.

Become self-employed with Accountable now!

Join a social security counter office

If you choose to become self-employed with Accountable, you can skip this step because in that case, you are already affiliated with Liantis.

If you are already self-employed or arranging your official registration yourself, don’t forget to join a social security secretariat or social insurance fund. This is a mandatory step because your social insurance fund collects your social contributions.

Read more about choosing a social insurance fund here.

Activation of VAT number

We’ve reached the final step of your journey towards self-employment. Becoming self-employed is going smoothly, isn’t it?

Now that you have your enterprise number in hand, you still need to activate your VAT number. Please note, this step is important for all self-employed individuals: including those in part-time self-employment or small businesses exempt from VAT.

To collect and reclaim VAT, your VAT number must be active. Otherwise, you cannot submit VAT returns via Intervat.

Even if you opt for the VAT exemption scheme, you still need to activate your VAT number. You still need to submit an annual customer listing via Intervat. More about that in step 4.

You can activate your VAT number through the business counter, social security secretariat, your accountant, or you can do it yourself. Here’s how to activate your VAT number.

Accountable tip: Accountable tip: Your VAT number is your enterprise number preceded by ‘BE’.


What do I need to do to become self-employed?

Are you considering starting your own business? There are essentially 5 steps you need to go through. From crafting a thoughtful business plan and opening a professional bank account to registering with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (KBO) and obtaining your enterprise number. Don’t forget to activate your VAT number and join a social insurance fund as well. Scroll back up to review all the to-dos step by step.

How do I start my own business?

Becoming self-employed is easier than you think. In just 5 steps, you can start your own business. The key steps include opening a professional bank account, applying for your enterprise number, and affiliating with a social insurance fund, such as Liantis or Xerius. At the top of this page, we walk through everything step by step.

How to become self-employed in a secondary occupation?

To become self-employed in a secondary occupation, you follow the exact same steps as a full-time self-employed person. This includes opening a business bank account, applying for an enterprise number, affiliating with a social insurance fund, and activating your VAT number. Discover how to become self-employed in a secondary occupation.

Time to get started! Your first weeks as a self-employed person

This is what you can expect from your first weeks as a self-employed individual.

Your first social contribution

Soon after your official registration as a self-employed person and the receipt of your enterprise number, you will also receive your first payment request for your first social contribution.

You pay social contributions every quarter. The exact payment date depends on your social security office, but the payment must be made by the following dates:

  • 31/03: your social contribution for quarter 1
  • 30/06: your social contribution for quarter 2
  • 30/09: your social contribution for quarter 3
  • 31/12: your social contribution for quarter 4

Pay your social contribution on time to avoid administrative costs and fines.

When you joined a social insurance fund, you were asked to estimate your expected earnings from your self-employed activity. Based on this figure, your social contributions for this year are calculated. If it turns out that you have paid too little, you will have to make an additional payment later. If you have overpaid, you will get this back, but be aware: you will be taxed on this.

Therefore, it is always in your best interest to make the most accurate estimate possible, although this can sometimes be difficult.

If you notice during the year that you are earning more than you estimated, contact your social insurance fund and request an adjustment to your social contribution. Your future self will thank you!

Accountable tip: Accountable tip: starting self-employed individuals or “primostarters” may be eligible for a kind of starter discount on social contributions. Find out here if you are a primostarter.

Your first invoice

You just finished your first project or gig as a self-employed. Speaking of a milestone! Now it’s time to create and send your first invoice.

The type of invoice you create doesn’t matter, as long as the mandatory information is correctly provided.

Here are some key points to consider when drafting an official invoice:

  • Always include an invoice number as a reference for yourself and your customer. Most self-employed individuals use the year in combination with the sequential number. For example: 2024-01. Both the details of your customer and your own must be stated on the invoice.
  • Use the details (name, address, enterprise number, VAT number) as they appear in the KBO (Crossroads Bank for Enterprises).
  • Include the invoice date, the date when you delivered the goods or services, and a due date (when the invoice must be paid at the latest).
  • Clearly describe the goods or services provided to avoid any disputes.
  • For each service or item, specify the price, the VAT rate, and the price including VAT. Don’t forget to include your payment details (IBAN, BIC…).

Are you exempt from VAT because you earn less than €25,000 per year? Then VAT is shifted to the country of your customer (reverse charge). In this case, don’t simply apply 0% VAT, but justify why there is no VAT on your invoice. You can do this as follows: “Small enterprise subject to the exemption scheme for tax. VAT not applicable.”

If you do business with a foreign customer, the VAT rules are different.

  • For customers within the EU, you do not charge VAT, but you state: “VAT shifted – article 138, paragraph 1, of VAT Directive 2006/112/EC”.
  • For customers outside the EU, add this to your invoice: “Exemption – art. 146 of VAT Directive 2006/112/EC”.

Read more about the mandatory information on your invoice here.

It doesn’t matter how you create an invoice. Whether it’s in Excel, Canva, or through an invoicing program like Accountable: as long as you apply the above obligations, you’re compliant.

Make it easy for yourself: create personalized invoices in 5 clicks with Accountable. This way, you can always be 100% sure that your invoice is legal. Try it now for free.

Your taxes and accounting

Accounting obligations: single-entry bookkeeping for sole traders

As a self-employed individual operating a sole proprietorship, you are required to maintain a single-entry bookkeeping system. Simply put, this means keeping track of your income and expenses in an organized manner. Here’s an overview of all your accounting obligations.

Do you need an accountant?

You are not obligated to work with an accountant or bookkeeper as a self-employed individual running a sole proprietorship. In principle, you can manage your own accounting, for example, with the help of Accountable. You can read more about this here.

Tax returns

Once a year, you must file a tax return. To understand how this process works, you can refer to this article.

Your first VAT return

Are you subject to VAT? Then you must submit a VAT return every quarter via Intervat and remit VAT to the state. Sometimes, you may also receive VAT refunds, for example, when your expenses exceed your income.

In principle, the deadline for VAT returns is always before the 20th of the month following the end of the quarter for which you are filing.

Discover here what your first VAT return looks like.

Max’s tips for a successful start

Before we let you embark on your self-employment adventure, experienced freelancer Max has a few tips for you.

  • Start at the beginning of a quarter (January 1st, April 1st, July 1st, or October 1st). After all, you pay social contributions for the entire quarter in which you start. If you choose to start on September 30th, for example, you will pay social contributions for September and October. Waiting just one more day works in your favor.
  • Beware of false invoices. Once your business is published in the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (KBO), various organizations and companies may use your data for their marketing. You may then receive payment requests for non-compulsory memberships. Learn more about these false invoices here.
  • Finding, convincing, and retaining clients isn’t easy. That’s why we asked nearly 100 other freelancers how they do it. You can read about it here.
  • Always ask for anofficial invoice for professional purchases. After all, you can only recover VAT if you have an official VAT invoice.

Becoming self-employed can be quite overwhelming. Would you like to review everything on paper? Download our free Starter Booklet now. It’s a complete guide with all the information you need for a successful start as a freelancer. Download: Starter Booklet English

Still unsure about becoming self-employed and have questions? Contact our Tax Coaches: a team of experienced individuals available to assist you every weekday.