7 steps and 1 easy solution to start officially freelancing in Belgium

Thinking of freelancing in Belgium? Here's what you need to know!
If you are a Belgian thinking of starting a freelance business or a foreign entrepreneur thinking of settling in Belgium, there are 7 steps you need to follow to register yourself as an independent professional. Here's what you need to know about launching a freelance business in Belgium.

  1. Are you eligible?

Before starting to freelance, you need to make sure you are eligible to start a business in Belgium.

If you have Belgian nationality, or are from one of the Member States of the European Economic Area (European Union, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) or Switzerland, you would be eligible. If you're a UK national, find more information here.

If you're not a member of any of those countries, you will need to obtain a professional card – (a beroepskaart/carte professionnelle), by your consulate if you live abroad. The card acts as a work permit and costs €140, being valid for between 1–5 years. You can extend this for a fee of €90 per year. You might also need a visa to enter Belgium, as well as a Belgian residency permit.

Other requirements are that you need to be at least 18 years old (or 16 for craftspeople), not be under a prison sentence, be entitled to your civil rights, and not be banned from practicing your profession.

You will also need either a valid "certificate of registration model A" (attest van immatriculatie model A/attestation d'immatriculation modèle A) or proof that you are registered in the foreigners' register (electronic residence card type A).

Certain professions or businesses can require you to prove you have the skills and fulfil certain conditions before you can start working. You can see the list of regulated activities in Belgium here.

Note that if you live in Belgium for more than six months (183 days) of the year and are registered with your local municipality, you are a Belgian resident. This means you must pay Belgian tax on your worldwide income.

2. Choose a bank

Now you're ready to start, begin by choosing a bank. You will need to open a dedicated business account which you will use only for your freelancing purposes. Compare the offers of major banks and ask for recommendations where you can. Don't feel rushed into signing anything – take your time and read the fine print.

You can find a list of banks in Belgium and other important information in our Freelance Guide.

3. Visit an enterprise counter

Next, visit an enterprise counter (ondernemingsloket/guichet d'entreprises), like Partena/Acerta/Xerius/Zenito and register your business with the Kruispuntbank van Ondernemingen (KBO)/Banque-Carrefour des Entreprises (BCE).

KBO/BCE is a national databank where all companies are registered – if you are not registered with the KBO/BCE, you cannot run business legally.

A faster solution can be that you register your own company with a service like Xolo Leap and Xolo Go, which will take care of admin and banking for you. All you need to do is to register as an Estonian e-resident online (as Xolo is based in the country) and activate your account on Xolo Leap. Be aware that business taxes will be paid to Estonia, and you will also have to pay taxes on your personal income if you reside in Belgium. Talk to your accountant about it.

4. Apply for your VAT number

At the enterprise counter you can also apply for your company number, which will be the same as your VAT number (BTW-nummer/numero TVA). The only difference will be that your VAT number will have the BE prefix, so you can use it abroad as well.

The registration fee is €80 and needs to be paid on the spot. It is tax deductible so you can add this invoice to your first business expenses.

If your earnings are less than €15,000, you can opt for petite enterprise/kleine onderneming status. This makes you exempt from VAT but also from claiming it back.

Alternatively, you can start invoicing without a local VAT. If you register with Xolo Leap or Xolo Go, you will automatically get an Estonian VAT. To your advantage the VAT is automatically calculated and added to your invoices, so you don't have to worry about trying to figure out the different rates and calculations.

5. Estimate your social contributions and income tax

You are also required to pay quarterly social security contributions – the enterprise counter can arrange that for you. The quarterly payments depend on your income and can vary from €700 to €1,500 a quarter.

If you'd prefer to not handle the administration yourself, you can consider joining a payrolling service, which will take care of many admin processes in exchange for a percent of your profits. More information about those can be found here.

Once a year you need to submit a tax declaration, which will define how much income tax you need to pay to the state. It is advisable to do quarterly tax prepayments to minimise your tax burden at the end of the year. A good accountant can help you to run that painlessly.
If you register with Xolo and not via KBO/BCE, you may avoid paying the state social contribution amounts, but be aware that in that case you won't be protected by Belgian social system in case of your illness, disability or loss of income. It may not be a big issue if you are still employed and running your freelance business part-time.

6. Health insurance and other insurances

For health insurance, you need to be associated with a health fund (ziekenfonds/mutualité). The main ones in Belgium:

For more info about insurances, check this article.

7. Accounting and invoicing

Accounting is one of the trickier parts of freelancing, as you need to keep track of all the expenses of your freelance business.

If you are a small starter and would like to avoid the bureaucracy of registering your own company, you can start invoicing immediately using Xolo GO. You won't own a company but will use Xolo GO as a legal framework to invoice clients across the EU, US and Canada.

Using an invoicing solution like Xolo GO will make it easier for you to invoice clients and have your invoices cleared on time.

In case you need accountants recommendations in Belgium, you can find tips for choosing the right accountant in our article.

Conclusion

Freelancing in Belgium can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience, but as you can see, there are a lot of things to get done before getting to work. It can seem intimidating, but with the right partners and a supportive community, you'll be able to start your freelance journey in no time! And if you're worried about landing your first clients, we have some advice on that too!

Check our Freelance Business events that will allow you to connect with active freelancers and learn some tips and tricks before you start your own independent business and subscribe to our monthly Freelance Business Digest.
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