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Welcome in Belgium 🇧🇪 and start your life as self-employed, hassle-free

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Here you are, you have made up your mind: lucky you, you have just arrived in the country of beers & chocolates and want to kick off your freelancer activity. Or even better: you have been there for some time now and wanted a change in your career: in any case, you are about to start your activity as self-employed.

We know the feeling, we’ve been there ourselves.

In this article, we are going to share with you all the things that we wanted to know before we started working for ourselves. No more wondering what the process should look like and what pitfalls you should avoid: welcome in your new life.

Any tips or questions for us? Email us at hello@accountable.eu, and we’ll be back in touch shortly.

It all starts by getting the right license & permits 📜

If you are living in Flanders, you are in luck and can skip to the next section: as of Sep 1st, 2018, you do not need to demonstrate a form of basic knowledge to start a business.

Whether you reside in Brussels or Wallonia, to register as self-employed, you will need to be able to demonstrate that you have enough basic knowledge on how to operate and run a business. Without this proof, you will not be able to register your company at the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises.

So, how can you demonstrate this knowledge?

Well, it is simple if you have a diploma of the third grade of secondary education (see the set of pre-approved diploma’s (sorry only available in French, or Dutch).

You can also choose to use your previous experience to prove your knowledge: 3 to 5 years of experience in the field you are applying for are typically needed (this last part only for Wallonia).

If none of these options works, you can always decide to go back to school and take an exam in business management at the central examination board.

Next step? Open a dedicated bank account 🏦

At the end of the day, you are not working for free, of course.

So, when you want to get paid by your clients, it is always helpful to have a bank account, so you can receive payments.

Opening up a separate bank account is most probably the best tip we can give you: by having a dedicated bank account, you can better keep track of your receivables, but most importantly,

it gives you the option to separate your professional expenses from your day-to-day expenses. Something tax authorities will love for sure.

Opening a bank account can be done with any bank, please choose one of your likings. Some banks even allow you to create an account without leaving the comfort of your desk. Enjoy.

You are on to affiliate yourself to a social security fund and register with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises 🏛

Registering to the Crossroads Bank is the core step of the process: it’s the basis of your relationship with the State as a self-employed worker.

Indeed, if you don’t register with the CBE, you won’t have a company number. A company number is a number that appears on all of your invoices.

The CBE register contains all the details of your company (name, address, etc.) and that of other self-employed individuals in Belgian companies.

The registration with the CBE will cost you a one-time payment of 88,50euro (in 2019).

Time to get your basic layer of insurance as self-employed 🥅

We touched upon it: as self-employed, you also need to affiliate yourself to a social security fund. You can choose from any of these social security funds (sorry only in Dutch).

Don’t be mistaken; it is a mandatory step: failing to do so early on as you start your activity will put you in deep trouble.

The fund that you choose will take care of family allowances, child benefits, your (small) pension as self-employed and the reimbursed of basic health costs.

Want to know more about the benefits of social security are?

No worries, we have a specific article for you.

How much you need to pay to this fund depends on how much you’re earning. Social contributions amount to around 20% of your taxable income.

Of course, as a starter it is difficult to estimate how much you will earn: there is usually nothing to base your estimation on. You can choose between a fixed minimum amount (722,59 euros) or a higher amount of your choosing.

We also recommend matching, as much as possible, your contributions to 20% of your taxable income. If you wait to do so, tax authorities will come back at you three years later & claim the difference. Believe us; it is not a spot you want to be in.

Finally, don’t forget to let your mutual fund know about your recent status change ensure that you are also covered whenever you are sick. Don’t wait for the last minute.

TIP: you are paying your contributions for the entire quarter, even if you’re only working for one week during that same quarter. Be mindful of choosing your starting date carefully when you want to start as a self-employed!

VAT or no VAT 💵 ?

As a self-employed, unless you work in specific fields such as medicine, you are generally subject to VAT.

You then get what is called a VAT number.

In Belgium, that number is the same as your company number.

As soon as you have this VAT number, you can start invoicing & receiving money for the products & services you deliver to your customers.

VAT is actually simple: it is a tax you pay to the government, typically on a quarterly basis.

You collect VAT from your customers & you claim VAT back from certain professional purchases (excluding restaurants, for instance).

You start issuing VAT returns as soon as you start collecting VAT from your customers. Thankfully the government made an easy to use calendar so you know what the exact dates are when you need to start paying,

Of course, if you’re using Accountable, you get timely reminders as well.

If you want to get a VAT number for your business you can do so by filling in this form (sorry only available in Dutch and French).

Attention, when your yearly revenue is below 25.000 €, no need for you to file VAT every quarter. You only need to submit a listing of clients on a yearly basis. It naturally means that you cannot deduct any VAT from your expenses.

Some other things to keep in mind:

  • There are certain professions like bakers and cafeteria owners can issue a flat-rate VAT statement. Their annual turnover may not exceed 750,000 euros in the past year and they can only issue invoices for a maximum of 25% of their total turnover.
  • If your turnover is higher than 2 500 000 euros, you must submit your VAT return on a monthly basis.

What’s next?

You’re off to the races! Now all you have to do is work and reap the fruits of your hard work as self-employed – or rather part of the fruits;

In the end, only part of the sum that your customers pay you goes into your pocket: be mindful of the tax man that we tax the profit you made on your professional activity at the end of the year.

OK, you got it: your customers pay you, you pay your suppliers, you keep track of all your paperwork. It might seem overwhelming to keep track of all of it all, but we have developed a solution – readily available on your most personal device, your smartphone.

Thanks to our app, you can record your expenses, prepare and send your invoices, follow-up your payments and know which taxes you need to pay.

By self-employed people, for self-employed people. Because we experienced ourselves all the difficulties that come with being self-employed in Belgium.

Back to you! Did we miss anything? What steps did you take to become self-employed? And what are the best things about being self-employed for you? Get in touch, we are here to help.

Hassan Ayed - Chief Accounting & Mindful Tax Adviser

A word about the author

Hassan Ayed - Chief Accounting & Mindful Tax Adviser

Hassan is Chartered Accountant. Ex-PWC, he built his own multi-million fiduciary from the ground up.
When Hassan is not running numbers, doing tax optimizations or digitizing accounting processes within Accountable, he loves to run around and play with his 2 kids

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