Contracting in Belgium: A Guide for International Contractors
Belgium is an attractive location for contractors in the EU and has the advantage of easy access and a special expat tax rate if your income is above a certain amount. If you are an EU citizen, then the process of entering the country and working as a contractor is simplified. Non-EU contractors will need to take a few extra steps while contracting in Belgium. They may want to consider working as employees or through an umbrella company for assistance.
This guide will explain how to get paid and meet social security obligations. It will also help you determine tax residency as you start contracting in Belgium. We also explain solutions for overcoming challenges that you might face if Belgium is a new work location for you.
Getting Paid while Contracting in Belgium
Getting paid should be fairly straightforward for EU citizens given the common currency (the euro), which avoids the issue of fluctuating exchange rates. If you are non-EU and getting paid in euros then you might want to set your rates based on your home currency even if you are being paid in Belgium. You can ask your clients to either pay you by wire or check, and it may be simpler to open a Belgian bank account to accept payment.
First, as a contractor, you will need to register to pay both self-employment and corporate tax in Belgium. You will be filing tax returns and will need to make regular withholding and social security contributions.
How Much is Social Security in Belgium?
The social security contributions for contractors is nearly 22% of annual income and maybe less as your income exceeds certain thresholds. You will have to register for social security before you begin work.
Do You Need a Visa to Work in Belgium?
The work visa rules are different depending upon whether you are an EU citizen or not. In general, you should have your contract or job set up before applying for either a work visa or resident permit.
- UK Citizens and EU Citizens
As members of the EU, UK citizens don’t need a work visa in Belgium, but that could change when Brexit goes through. There could be rule changes that exclude UK citizens from the freedom of travel rights in the EU, and if you are working long term in Belgium you might need to adjust your work permission.
For now, you just register locally and then apply for a resident permit. You will need a professional card to be self-employed in Belgium, and that can be applied for ahead of time at a Belgian consulate.
- Non-EU Citizens
Non-EU citizens will need a work permit, and can only work as employees or using a professional card as a self-employed. This means that as an employee you will need a local company of record to hire you and sponsor the work permit. If you apply for a professional card, then that will act as your work permit. You can also use the EU Blue Card if you are a highly skilled professional.
Are You a Tax Resident in Belgium?
If you live and work in Belgium more than 183 days per year, then you will be classified as a tax resident. What this means is that Belgium will tax your worldwide income, and then you will have to seek an offset via tax treaties with your home country. If you are self-employed in Belgium for less than 183 days, you only pay tax on income earned inside the country.
How to File Taxes while contracting in Belgium
Step 1: You will receive a tax return form (déclaration/aangifte) from the Belgian tax authorities in May/June of the ‘tax year’ which allows you to declare income from the previous year or ‘income year’. This form specifies the due date for your tax filing (usually the end of June). Resident taxpayers must obtain the necessary forms from the Ministry of Finance if they have not received them by 1 June.
Step 2: All residents and non-residents must file an annual Belgian tax return. This can be done online via the Belgian government’s tax portal ‘Tax-on-Web’, or via post, to the address listed at the top of your tax return form.
Both residents and non-residents who are married or legally living together are required to file their tax return jointly, except for the year of marriage, year of the declaration of legal cohabitation, or if they are living separately. They will still be taxed separately on all income.
Step 3: Before 30 June in the year following the ‘tax year’, an assessment notice will be sent to you. Any tax due must be paid to the tax authorities within 2 months of them sending the assessment notice.
Your employer will deduct a withholding tax from your salary. The difference between the final tax liability and the withholding is payable or refundable within 2 months after receipt of the tax assessment.