You might also find our other country guides to working abroad as a contractor useful too:
- Contracting in France
- Contracting in Germany
- Contracting in the Netherlands
- Residency and registering for work and contracting in Germany
- Health insurance in Germany
- Tax rates in Germany
If you would like to discuss contracting working abroad or have questions about tax please contact our international contracting partner Generate directly on 0203 488 3061 and reference SJDGEN or email SJD@generate-fs.co.uk.
Working in Belgium
There are three main regions – Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels where the language spoken and written can be Flemish, German or French.
All work is governed by The Federal Parliament and then Local Labour Courts.
Collective Bargaining is the key mechanism by which labour standards are established and maintained.
A multi-industry agreement that creates a formal framework for all collective agreements is concluded every two years. Additionally, several industry agreements exist and many are extended by royal decree to become generally binding to all employees in a particular sector or geographical area.
Main industries in Belgium
The main industries are Agriculture 73%, Industry 25% and Services 2%. All economic activities are divided into branches or sectors and about 150 different sectors are officially recognised. Their legal framework is provided by joint committees in which both employers and employees have representation. These committees draw up Collective Labour Agreements, binding for all those in their sector. These agreements are important as they can override individual agreements between employer and employee. These agreements define minimum salaries, working hours and many other things.
Belgium working practices
Working hours do not normally exceed 40 hours per week through 38 hours is the norm and most Belgium employees do not take paid leave during the first year of their employment
Most workers then become entitled to 20 days paid holiday per annum.
There are as many as 10 public holidays per year so slightly more than in the UK.
The minimum working age is 18 years setting aside apprenticeship contracts.
What your contract should state:
If you are employed your contract should clearly set out:
- The name and address of your employer
- The dates – start and finish of your assignment arrangement
- A description of your work
- Your pay and method of calculation
- The length of any probationary period agreed
- The hours of work
Visas for working in Belgium
Citizens of full European (EU, EFTA, EEA) member countries are able to live and work without a visa or work permit.
Belgium is a member of the SCHENGEN countries which are: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
With a SCHENGEN visa, you may enter one country and travel freely throughout the SCHENGEN zone.
Nationals of the following countries, travelling with a valid passport do not need a visa to visit Belgium for less than 90 days: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, San Morino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Switzerland, USA, Uruguay and Vatican City.
Holders of passports NOT MENTIONED above WILL NEED to obtain a visa to enter Belgium.
The 183-day rule in Belgium
Your treatment will depend on your residency and the duration of the work assignment ‘ 183-day rule’.
If you are in the country for 183 days or more in any calendar year or for an average of 90 days in any four year period you are deemed to be tax resident. A similar test exists in most European countries.
Travelling days are normally excluded and only full days spent in the country are calculated, however in the UK in recent years the time you spend travelling is a consideration when abroad and there are limits. This test is only really a problem for you if you intend to work in Belgium as a self-employed person and pay your taxes in your home country. If you work under a LIMOSA declaration (see LIMOSA declarations below), or via your UK LTD Company as a freelance worker on assignment, this is unlikely to be something to concern you.
Deductions from your Gross Salary in Belgium include
Social Security System Contributions – the amount payable will be equal to 13.07% of your gross salary. It is deducted from your salary by your employer. Employed contractors will pay both employers and employees contributions and both are calculated on your full gross income.
Sickness and Maternity Benefits include benefits in kind to include medical and dental treatment, hospitalisation and cash benefits such as work accidents payouts, disability benefits, old-age pensions, survivor’s pension, unemployment benefits and child allowance.
Health Insurance – (which includes preventative and curative care) – a worker must choose a mutual benefit association or register and pay contributions to a supplementary health insurance fund.
If you arrive from a country with which Belgium has concluded a social security agreement, you must have been covered by a health insurance scheme of the relevant member country for at least six months prior to joining.
Sickness Insurance is compulsory for everyone. If you see a Doctor in Belgium you will almost certainly have to pay in full for this at the time of treatment or consultation. The health scheme will then refund some of the cost once it receives a document from the Doctor.
When you start work you become entitled to Family Allowances in Belgium unless you have the right to receive these in another country.
Under your Employment Contract, you immediately become entitled to have medical expenses refunded through The Sickness Fund. However, you do not become eligible for replacement income until the minimum 6m period of insurability within the EEA has elapsed. You remain insured by your country of residence if you are in receipt of unemployment benefits when you arrive in Belgium.
It may be possible for you to continue to pay your NICs here in the UK. What used to be called an E101 can be completed by SJD on your behalf allowing you to continue paying UK NICs.
Short periods of work do not normally carry pension rights.
A DIMONA is a declaration of staff entering and leaving the country
A LIMOSA declaration is now only required if you are not a resident in Belgium. If you are a resident, which means you have registered for an ID card at the local Commune, then you will automatically receive a tax return. LIMOSA was designed to mop up those workers who received cash for their work and avoided paying taxes.
The Social Trap – If you work in Belgium as a self-employed person and stay for a longer duration during the first two years you are unlikely to pay any Social Security there but this is not the answer for you – the system will catch up with you. The AVIS de REGULARISATION demands you pay any shortfall by the end of a calendar year and if you fail to do this then they charge 10% interest monthly. Therefore it is vital to pay from day one and avoid the trap altogether.
Setting up a Belgian LTD Company rather than a UK one?
To set up a Belgian LTD Company you must be a resident there and have between 6K and 12K euros in the bank there. You must also have a university degree. The cost of creating a company there is also 2K euros. There are no shelf companies in Belgium, also most documents are in French or in Dutch.
Personal tax rates in Belgium
|Euros earned||Personal Tax Payable|
|0 – 8,070||25%|
|8,071 – 11,480||30%|
|11,481 – 19,130||40%|
|19,131 – 35,060||45%|
Basic exemption 6,570 euros irrespective of marital status.
The additional tax is payable on taxpayers resident in a Belgian area which is between 5-8.5% of the income tax payable above. In addition, you also have to pay up to 15% of the dividend income earned from a foreign Company. So if your UK LTD Company pays you a dividend as a director and you are on a local assignment in Belgium you have to declare the said dividend.
The only way to work in Belgium is to declare all of your Belgium source income. The only legal way to mitigate your taxes and Social Security is to maintain your centre of economic interest in the UK or in another country and pay yourself a small salary working for your own limited company ensuring all remaining income is properly declared through your Company.
Other useful information about Belgium
- Belgium has a population of 10,839,905 people on January 1st, 2010
- The languages for all written and most spoken word are Flemish, French and German
- Telephone Code 32
- Domain: .be
About International Contracting
SJD has partnered with Generate, an international contractor payroll solutions company who have the skills and experience to support contractors working abroad ensuring they operate in a compliant and tax efficient way.
Contracting abroad can bring many rewards but it also carries extra responsibilities and challenges with regards to tax and in-country compliance. Few companies offer support to British and non-British contractors working overseas. However, International Umbrella has the skills and experience to support contractors working abroad ensuring they operate in a compliant and tax efficient way.