Off topic: Translator and Citizen of the World
Thread poster: Roberto Matta

Roberto Matta  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:42
Member (2015)
English to Italian
+ ...
Aug 31, 2016

Hi Everybody. Let's make it clear, this is more a dream than a real plan...

I always had this wish of travelling a lot bringing the job with me. I mean, I would like to be able to book an apartment on AirBnB and work some months from an apartment in Prague, in Vilnius or in Madrid or in a small town in Iceland, in the french Alps etc. I am a European citizen (Italian), currently living in Netherlands. Living in NL has many advantages from this point of view, the main is the extreme easy bureaucracy (everything is done online, no need to be physically in any office), but on the other hand it's an expensive country, especially the housing, which makes it difficult to pay a huge rent for a flat and use it part time.

So, hypothetically, in which European country would you set your base camp? I think the country should have these characteristics:

- Light and smart bureaucracy, where everything can be done online, and possibly in English;
- Affordable life cost for the non-travelling periods;
- Self-employees friendly;
- Well connected with the rest of Europe.

Any suggestion?


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:42
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Pre or post Brexit? Aug 31, 2016

Roberto Matta wrote:
So, hypothetically, in which European country would you set your base camp? I think the country should have these characteristics:

- Light and smart bureaucracy, where everything can be done online, and possibly in English;
- Affordable life cost for the non-travelling periods;
- Self-employees friendly;
- Well connected with the rest of Europe.

Pre-Brexit I'd have said the UK, though the currency was always going to be a problem. Post-Brexit, it isn't such a good bet, I imagine?

Ireland? I don't know about the level of bureaucracy there.

France and Spain? My experience of those countries from the self-employed side of life hasn't been great. I've lived there despite their convoluted and expensive administrations.


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Roberto Matta  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:42
Member (2015)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I didn't find good reviews about Spain for self-employed Aug 31, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Roberto Matta wrote:
So, hypothetically, in which European country would you set your base camp? I think the country should have these characteristics:

- Light and smart bureaucracy, where everything can be done online, and possibly in English;
- Affordable life cost for the non-travelling periods;
- Self-employees friendly;
- Well connected with the rest of Europe.

Pre-Brexit I'd have said the UK, though the currency was always going to be a problem. Post-Brexit, it isn't such a good bet, I imagine?

Ireland? I don't know about the level of bureaucracy there.

France and Spain? My experience of those countries from the self-employed side of life hasn't been great. I've lived there despite their convoluted and expensive administrations.


I thought Spain too (Andalusia is pretty cheap and I speak Spanish), but seems there is a heavy bureaucracy and high taxation, which includes a fix amount to pay monthly, even with zero earnings.

France and Ireland maybe can be a option, I need to find more info about.


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Georgie Scott  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:42
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Ghent? Aug 31, 2016

Housing was cheap as chips when I lived in Ghent, just difficult to find. Not sure what Belgium's attitude towards the self-employed is like though.

I hear the bureaucracy is strong with Ireland.

France definitely isn't set up to encourage people to work for themselves.

As Sheila said, the UK used to be great for sole traders/ltd companies but who knows how things will be post-Brexit.

From a practical point of view is it really that easy to move around in this job? I definitely had the same plan a while back but now I work with extra screens and a keyboard etc. and find I really struggle when I'm working from London where I don't have access to my full set-up. That said, I recently met a travelling translator family from the US and it worked really well for them. They were having a ball.


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Roberto Matta  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:42
Member (2015)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Setup is not a huge problem Aug 31, 2016


From a practical point of view is it really that easy to move around in this job? I definitely had the same plan a while back but now I work with extra screens and a keyboard etc. and find I really struggle when I'm working from London where I don't have access to my full set-up. That said, I recently met a travelling translator family from the US and it worked really well for them. They were having a ball.


Well, most of my job is proofreading and game testing, with my 17 inches laptop I feel confortable enough, that wouldn't be the main problem for me


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:42
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Fulltiming Aug 31, 2016

Hi Roberto,
I've been working (and sometimes living) fulltime in a camper van for over ten years now and have never looked back.
You can travel overland wherever you want with no rental costs or bills, use 4G and external Wifi antenna connections, it's an office, home and car all rolled into one.
At the moment I'm based in Andalucia (Spain) which isn't too bad for taxes, much better than Italy. No taxes if you're not earning as far as I know unless you want to keep paying social security contributions for healthcare and/or pension. You can deduct half the Vat of all van-related stuff such as purchase, maintenance, fitting out, fuel, etc. as you use it for work.

If you want to fly to some far off land just park up near the airport, chuck your computer into your rucksack with a few clothes, and go.

The only problem is you do tend to settle down in one place.


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Roberto Matta  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:42
Member (2015)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No contribution? Aug 31, 2016

Jo Macdonald wrote:

At the moment I'm based in Andalucia (Spain) which isn't too bad for taxes, much better than Italy. No taxes if you're not earning as far as I know unless you want to keep paying social security contributions for healthcare and/or pension.


Hi Jo,

so the social security contribution is not mandatory in Spain? Then seems I made a huge evaluation mistake about Spain.

p.s. nothing is worse than Italy about taxation and bureaucracy.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:42
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You're presumably still using the UK as your business address? Aug 31, 2016

Jo Macdonald wrote:
At the moment I'm based in Andalucia (Spain) which isn't too bad for taxes, much better than Italy. No taxes if you're not earning as far as I know unless you want to keep paying social security contributions for healthcare and/or pension. You can deduct half the Vat of all van-related stuff such as purchase, maintenance, fitting out, fuel, etc. as you use it for work.

None of that would apply if you're legally resident in Spain. You have no choice but to register as an autónomo here if you want to send a legal invoice (at least, if it's more than a very occasional one), and that means forking out €250+ every month, earning or no earning. You don't have to make use of the health and retirement benefits but you do have to contribute to them. And it would be very difficult for a translator to claim anything for transport costs as they aren't essential to the running of our businesses, although it might well be feasible for an interpreter.


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Roberto Matta  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:42
Member (2015)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Sheila Aug 31, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Jo Macdonald wrote:
At the moment I'm based in Andalucia (Spain) which isn't too bad for taxes, much better than Italy. No taxes if you're not earning as far as I know unless you want to keep paying social security contributions for healthcare and/or pension. You can deduct half the Vat of all van-related stuff such as purchase, maintenance, fitting out, fuel, etc. as you use it for work.

None of that would apply if you're legally resident in Spain. You have no choice but to register as an autónomo here if you want to send a legal invoice (at least, if it's more than a very occasional one), and that means forking out €250+ every month, earning or no earning. You don't have to make use of the health and retirement benefits but you do have to contribute to them. And it would be very difficult for a translator to claim anything for transport costs as they aren't essential to the running of our businesses, although it might well be feasible for an interpreter.


So I was right about Spain. Damn it.


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:42
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Tax resident in Spain Aug 31, 2016

I'm resident and registered as an autónomo in Spain, pay tax here and social security is about €280/month as it increases with age after 46.
€250 is for the youngsters Shiela.


Most of my customers aren't Spanish so I don't add Vat to their invoices and half the Vat of the (very few) expenses I have can be deducted for things like fuel, van maintenance, phone, etc. They just changed the law and you still can but no longer should deduct vehicles for income tax purposes as you would a computer or software for example, but you can still deduct half the Vat.

This means I get a Vat refund every year, and as having to fork out money to some bloody foreigner was obviously rubbing the Spanish tax department up the wrong way they hit me with an extensive audit a few years back, which I passed with flying colours also thanks to my friendly Swiss accountant (based in Spain too).

If you're not working/earning you just close your tax/social security position (baja) and you're entitled to healthcare for the next 3 months. Then you can open it when you start working again. You can now do this online after registering with Hacienda for an electronic signature. Don't think there is a limit to how often you can do this.
Income tax is about 20% methinks, might be cheaper in the UK.

Anyway just to say that this way you can be based somewhere and actually be anywhere else the sun shines.

Once you've declared your tax residence in your country of choice, somewhere such as your own flat, a friend or relatives' place, you can just drive or fly and work from anywhere in the world. European law says that after half a year and a day in one country you should change your residence to the country you're staying in longest but no one is checking. Other countries are stricter about non-residents. You can stay in Morocco for 3 months for example, Thailand is 30 days. If you do stay in one place for a while what will probably happen in Europe if you're obviously living there, say staying in the same town in Spain for years with your Dutch van then the police will politely start asking you to become a resident and change the number plates for Spanish ones.

Some expenses in the van in Spain
Water €0-8/month
Happy phone €7-8 month with 1.3Gb of 4G included, 10 minute calls in Spain just 18 cents connection charge, costs 7 cents/min. to call the UK or Italy.
External wifi antenna was about €20 (great signal from hot spots up to half a kilometre away)
Gas about €10-20/month
Deduct half the Vat on all the above as long as you've got an invoice to prove it.
Zero rent, no electricity bill cause sunlight is free.

Food is pretty cheap here in El Andaluz, even eating out.
Camper van insurance is about €200/year which is about half what it costs to insure a car. Road tax depends on HP.


[Edited at 2016-08-31 14:48 GMT]


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MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:42
Member (Jun 2017)
French to English
+ ...
I thought Spain had much lower taxes than France Aug 31, 2016

One of my clients recently moved from France to Spain because of the high taxes in France, so yeah, I thought Spain was a lot better.

What about Portugal? I remember reading an article a few years back about French entrepreneurs packing up camp and going to Portugal to open up their businesses. Much cheaper but with all the cultural advantages one might look for in a quest for good quality of life.

I hear that in France, taxes can add up to almost 75% of your income. Can that really be true?


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:42
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Sounds as though you've got it well sorted! Aug 31, 2016

Jo Macdonald wrote:
I'm resident and registered as an autónomo in Spain, pay tax here and social security is about €280/month as it increases with age after 46.
€250 is for the youngsters Shiela.

You think I'm a youngster? I used to pay about €280 until I realised that I was paying a couple of voluntary insurances - one for a bit of unemployment benefit if my business failed and the other for if I lost an arm, leg or whatever. I cancelled them and got it down to just a smidgen over €250.

If you're not working/earning you just close your tax/social security position (baja) and you're entitled to healthcare for the next 3 months. Then you can open it when you start working again. You can now do this online after registering with Hacienda for an electronic signature. Don't think there is a limit to how often you can do this.

Ah, yes, I hadn't thought about the possibility of actually stopping work totally for months at a time. I'm sure I'd lose all my clients if I did that. I take 1-3 weeks off maximum, and so have to keep paying. It's hard to pay out €250 in a month when you only work for a week or so.

Anyway just to say that this way you can be based somewhere and actually be anywhere else the sun shines.

Yes, it's a great job to have. Even better if you don't need to go anywhere because the sun shines on you all year round, as it does here in the Canaries. I guess it isn't bad where you are either. But in the Canary Islands we don't even have to pay/collect VAT!.

[quote]If you do stay in one place for a while what will probably happen in Europe if you're obviously living there, say staying in the same town in Spain for years with your Dutch van then the police will politely start asking you to become a resident and change the number plates for Spanish ones. [quote]
Hmm... That used to be the case but I think you might just find that they come knocking after a very short while nowadays. We're hearing a lot about fines locally for those who are clearly contravening the rules regarding residency, vehicle matriculation, driving licences etc. But then Fuerteventura is where the really green Guardia Civil come to be trained, so they're eager to get some fines under their belts. And of course, Brits would do well to get residency sooner rather than later.


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:42
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Thanks for the tip Sheila Aug 31, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

I used to pay about €280 until I realised that I was paying a couple of voluntary insurances - one for a bit of unemployment benefit if my business failed and the other for if I lost an arm, leg or whatever. I cancelled them and got it down to just a smidgen over €250.



I'll drop my accountant a line about that.


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:42
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
UK still worth considering Aug 31, 2016

The words "European country" and "light and smart bureaucracy" are not typically used in conjunction are they?

Maybe I should need to get out more, but going by the tales of woe one hears on ProZ about Italy / Spain / France and considering the tax regimes in Scandinavia, one would think that only a small slice of northern Europe is friendly to the small business owner.

I wonder what eastern Europe is like. Can anybody comment? Also Benelux?

Incidentally, having lived in Japan, I'm pleasantly surprised by how straightforward it is to set up and run a company in the UK. Obviously it needs some organisation, but the powers-that-be in the UK do seem to want to make life easier for small business.

I'm hoping for further cuts to UK corporate tax after Brexit, but combined with much more aggressive policing of tax avoidance by large corporates.

Regards
Dan


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