Are you thinking about contracting abroad? If you’re looking for your next opportunity a bit further afield, Belgium could be a good location to consider.
Working in Belgium
All work is in Belgium governed by the Federal Parliament and then Local Labour Courts. Collective Bargaining is the key mechanism by which labor 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.
Contracting Abroad Hub
You might also find our other country guides to working abroad as a contractor useful too:
Main industries in Belgium
Most industries are concentrated around the region of Flanders and the capital city, Brussels. Some of the biggest industries in Belgium are:
- Agriculture – this is due to a large amount of fertile land in Belgium.
- Manufacturing – most manufacturing activity takes place in the Eastern regions and makes up for around one-third of the country’s GDP.
- Financial services – since a large number of local and foreign banks are located in Brussels, finance is one of the country’s main industries.
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.
Working practices in Belgium
Working hours do not normally exceed 40 hours per week, though 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 of 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
Do I need a visa to work in Belgium?
Citizens of full European (EU, EFTA, EEA) member countries are able to live and work without a visa or work permit. You will just need to register at a local town hall upon arrival and undergo a police check before you can begin working.
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.
Can I work through my UK limited company in Belgium?
The length of your stay in Belgium will depend on whether you can work through your limited company. This is known as the 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 and will, therefore, be liable for Belgian taxes.
Travelling days are normally excluded and only full days spent in the country are calculated. However, in the UK, 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 limited company on assignment, this is unlikely to be something to concern you.
Deductions from your salary in Belgium
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.
Personal tax rates in Belgium
The 2020/21 tax rates in Belgium are as follows:
Between €0 and €13,440
Between €13,440 and €23,720
Between €23,720 and €41,060
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 limited 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.
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