Any natural person who exercises a professional activity in Belgium for which they are not bound by a contract of employment or a status is considered as a "self-employed person". There is no subordinate relationship.
A self-employed person is subject to their own social status and benefits from a specific social security regime. The social status of self-employed workers does not only provide for obligations, it also provides for rights.
The different categories of self-employed persons
Self-employed as the main activity
If your self-employed activity is your only source of professional income (full-time occupation), you are considered to be self-employed as your main activity. You are subject to the social status of self-employed persons as the main activity, which entails rights and obligations, including social insurance fund
Self-employed as a side activity
People who are self-employed as a side activity carry out another professional activity simultaneously, which is their main activity:
- either as an employee;
- or in teaching;
- or as a civil servant.
The formalities to be carried out in order to exercise a self-employed activity as a side activity are identical to those for a self-employed person as their main activity.
As a self-employed person in a side activity, you are also subject to the social status of self-employed persons. You must, therefore, join a social insurance fund for self-employed persons and pay quarterly social security contributions. However, you will continue to benefit as a priority from the social benefits of the system to which you are subject, by virtue of your main activity or status (employee, civil servant, pensioner).
You can be considered as a self-employed person as a side activity:
- if you are an employee, a temporary worker or a non-designated teacher: the number of hours worked in the context of your salaried or temporary activity must be at least half a month;
- if you are a civil servant: you must work 200 days or 8 months a year and the working hours must be at least half a month;
- if you are a designated teacher: you must work at least 6/10ths of a full timetable;
- if you are unemployed: you must be a beneficiary of unemployment benefit and be authorised to carry out your self-employed activity on an incidental or occasional basis;
- if you receive an allowance paid by the mutual insurance company: your disability must be at least 66% and the allowance paid to you must be at least equivalent to the pension of a self-employed person at the single rate.
If you are unemployed, you also have the possibility of starting a secondary (supplementary) self-employed activity without losing your right to unemployment benefit for 12 months. It is the "Tremplin-indépendants" (Self-employed springboard) measure. For more information on the conditions of application of the benefit, you can consult the information sheet T158 of the NEO.
An assistant is a natural person who assists or replaces a self-employed person in the exercise of their activity without being bound by an employment contract. The assistant is often, but not necessarily, a family member of the self-employed person.
The assistant can only act for an individual and not for a company. However, they can act as an assistant for the agents of a company (managers, directors).
If they are unmarried, the assistant is only subject to the social status of self-employed persons on 1 January of the year in which they turn 20.
The following assistants are not tax liable as self-employed assistants:
- occasional assistants (irregular assistance that does not extend over more than 90 days per year);
- assistants (students) receiving child benefit (under 25 years of age).
The assisting spouse
A person is considered to be the assisting spouse of a self-employed person when they:
- are the partner of a self-employed person (in the context of a marriage or cohabitation contract);
- effectively assists their self-employed partner (regularly or at least 90 days a year);
- do not have income from another professional activity or a replacement income which gives entitlement to social security benefits at least equivalent to those of the self-employed.
Managers, directors and active partners
In the context of a company, the managers, directors and active partners are considered as self-employed workers and are, therefore, subject to the social status of self-employed workers.
The self-employed student
It is possible to become self-employed while being a student. This status offers a preferential system for social security contributions.
In order to qualify for self-employed student status, you must:
- be at least 18 years of age and not more than 25 years of age;
- be registered as regularly attending courses in an educational establishment, as your main activity, in Belgium or abroad, with a view to obtaining a diploma recognised by a competent authority in Belgium;
- engage in a professional activity for which the social status of self-employed persons is required.
What are your obligations?
With self-employed status, you are subject to the social status of self-employed persons. As such, you must:
- join a social insurance fund for the self-employed,
- pay quarterly social security contributions.
What are your rights?
The social status of self-employed workers does not only provide for obligations, it also provides for rights. Once you have complied with the legal requirements, you will acquire rights to:
- family benefits;
- health and disability insurance;
- maternity insurance;
- paternity and childbirth allowance;
- a pension;
- bridging rights;
- a caregiver's allowance.
This matter was regionalised during the 6th reform of the State. Since 1 January 2019, each Region has had its own system of family allowances, with its own sums and rules. The applicable system is determined according to the domicile of the child.
Health and disability insurance
The social status of the self-employed includes health and disability insurance that covers health care and incapacity for work.
As a self-employed person, you are legally insured against minor and major risks (e.g. visiting the doctor, buying medicines) in the same way as other workers (employees, civil servants).
Incapacity for work
Insurance against incapacity for work is specific for self-employed workers. It guarantees you, under certain conditions, a replacement income if you have to interrupt your professional activity following an illness or an accident:
- you are compensated from the first day of incapacity if the incapacity lasts more than 7 days;
- from the second year (period of disability), your benefits are increased.
If you are self-employed or an assistant, you may be entitled, at the end of your pregnancy, to a maternity allowance during your rest period. There are, however, a number of conditions that must be met.
Among other things, you will be exempt from paying social security contributions and your rights will be maintained for the quarter following the birth.
The maternity rest period is 12 uninterrupted weeks or a maximum of 18 weeks part-time, and consists of a compulsory rest period and a rest period to be freely chosen. In the event of multiple births, you receive an additional week of optional rest or two weeks if you take maternity leave on a part-time basis.
Maternity assistance is also offered subject to certain conditions after the birth, in the form of service cheques.
Paternity and childbirth allowance
For self-employed fathers and co-parents, a paternity and childbirth allowance is granted when your child is born. This is a fixed daily allowance in the event of an interruption of activity for a maximum of 10 days (or 20 half days). If the father or co-parent only interrupts his activity for a maximum of 8 days (or 16 half days), he may, in addition to the fixed allowance, also benefit from the birth grant (a one-off bonus of EUR 135 to compensate for the costs incurred via an approved household help scheme).
In addition to the retirement pension for the self-employed person at the end of their career, there is also a survivor's pension for the surviving spouse.
If you wish to obtain a higher pension, you can, under certain conditions, conclude a free supplementary pension agreement.
The bridging right
You can take advantage of bridging rights in the following four situations:
- in the event of bankruptcy (personal bankruptcy or bankruptcy of the company in which you are a manager, director or active partner);
- in the event of a collective settlement of debts;
- in the event of a forced interruption of your self-employed activity (due to a natural disaster, damage to a building or equipment, a fire, an allergy, a decision of a third party economic actor or an event with economic impacts);
- in the event of official termination due to economic hardship.
This bridging right will allow you to:
- maintain your rights to health care and indemnity insurance for 4 quarters;
- obtain a temporary allowance for 12 months.
You can benefit from the bridging right throughout your career for a maximum of 8 quarters and 24 months.
You can interrupt your self-employed activity, completely or partially (at least 50%), in the event of a serious illness of a relative or friend at the end of their life (palliative care) or to care for your disabled child.
In such cases, you can receive a monthly caregiver's allowance for up to 12 months.
For more information on the social status of self-employed workers and their rights and obligations, please contact the following bodies:Federal Public Service Social Security
General-Directorate Policy Support and Coordination
Administrative Centre Botanique
Boulevard Jardin Botanique 50 box 135
Tel.: +32 2 528 64 50
Fax: +32 2 528 69 77
Website of the FPS Social Security National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-employed (NISSE)
Quai de Willebroeck, 35
Tel.: +32 2 546 42 11
Fax: +32 2 511 21 53
Website of the NISSE