Conditions for being a self-employed worker in Belgium
If you want to be self-employed in Belgium, you must meet certain conditions and complete several administrative procedures.
First of all, you must have the legal capacity to carry out the activity:
- be at least 18 years of age;
- enjoy your civil and political rights (a criminal conviction prohibits self-employment during the sentence);
- be legally capable, i.e. not have been declared legally incompetent, not have been banned from practising or subjected to judicial review.
The administrative procedures depend on several circumstances:
- you are established in Belgium or you work there temporarily and occasionally as a company established in another Member State;
- you are operating as a company or natural person or as a legal entity.
If you want to work in Belgium on an occasional and temporary basis as a company established in another Member State of the European Union, you will find information on Be-Assist (Directive 2005/36/EC on professional qualifications).
In any event, if you set up in Belgium, you must first register as a company with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (CBE) via one of the eight approved business portals.
- The business portal will take care of your registration if you are a company or a natural person. Following this registration, you will receive a business number that you can use as an identification key with other competent authorities.
- If you want to operate as a legal entity under Belgian law, you will first have to draw up the articles of association of your legal entity. In most cases (SA, SRL, etc.), you will need to contact a notary to draw up a notarial deed. Once the notary has filed the articles of incorporation, your legal entity will receive its business number.
- If you want to establish your foreign company in Belgium, you have various possibilities: your company can set up a branch, a subsidiary or a simple establishment unit here. The branch does not have its own legal personality. The subsidiary has its own legal personality and takes the form of a company under Belgian law (SNC, Scomm, SC, SRL, SA). The establishment unit is simply a geographical address from which the foreign company carries out its activities in Belgium.
When you register at the CBE, the business portal will check that you meet the following conditions:
- Conditions related to nationality: if you are not a national of one of the Member States of the European Union, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you must prove (unless you are exempt) that you are in possession of a professional card that authorises you to be self-employed in Belgium. The regions are responsible for issuing professional cards. The business portal will support you with this.
- Entrepreneurial skills: these involve basic management knowledge and professional skills for a number of activities. You must prove that you have entrepreneurial skills if your company head office is located in the Walloon Region or in the Brussels-Capital Region. The business portals are available to provide information about this legislation.
- Conditions linked to the activity: there are specific formalities to be fulfilled by certain categories of self-employed persons. These formalities relate to the conditions to be met for working as or using the title of a self-employed or intellectual professional providing services, and for obtaining specific licences and authorisations. For certain professional activities, you must first complete specific formalities and/or obtain permits justified, for example, by environmental protection (environmental permits granted by the Regions), the protection of food hygiene (permit from the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC), the protection of privacy (private detective), or the protection of public order (caretaking), etc.). In view of the diversity of these permits, please ask your approved business portal which specific permits you need for your professional activity.
As a self-employed person, prior to starting your activity, you must join a social insurance fund for self-employed persons. You are free to choose this fund. The business portal can affiliate you to it.
Before starting your business, you should check whether you are subject to value added tax (VAT). You must pay this if your company independently and habitually provides goods or services covered by the VAT Code (Article 4). If you have to pay tax, you must identify yourself to the General Tax Administration of the Federal Public Service Finance. Your business number is also used as a VAT number. The procedure is free of charge if you request your identification directly from the General Tax Administration. You can also ask your business portal to do this. There is a charge for this business portal service.
If you employ or intend to employ one or more workers, you must identify yourself as an employer to the National Social Security Office (NSSO). In addition, each time you hire staff, you must make an immediate employment declaration (Dimona) to the NSSO. This process, which is mandatory for all employers in all sectors of activity, can only be done electronically. For a fee, you can ask the business portal or the social secretariat to which you are affiliated to take care of these procedures for you.