Translator based in Germany looking to move to Belgium- advice needed
Thread poster: Diana Kaplan

Diana Kaplan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:10
Member (2019)
English to German
+ ...
Jan 6

Hello dear fellow translators,

I have two questions:

1. When moving to Belgium from Germany, is it possible to keep the business in Germany if I don´t really have an office address here anymore? Asking because I´ve heard that taxes are much higher in Belgium, please correct me if I am wrong.

2. Regarding medical insurance, if I have my business in Germany I can keep my medical insurance, correct? But if I need to move my whole business to Belgium then I h
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Hello dear fellow translators,

I have two questions:

1. When moving to Belgium from Germany, is it possible to keep the business in Germany if I don´t really have an office address here anymore? Asking because I´ve heard that taxes are much higher in Belgium, please correct me if I am wrong.

2. Regarding medical insurance, if I have my business in Germany I can keep my medical insurance, correct? But if I need to move my whole business to Belgium then I have no way to keep my German one? Asking because I´ve heard that the medical system is different and more expensive there, please correct me if I am wrong.

Last but not least- any books or internet addresses you could recommend on getting established and paying taxes in Belgium?

Thank you!

Diana
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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Tax Jan 6

In general, the question of determining in which country you are liable for income tax is regulated by bilateral agreements known as double taxation agreements (for the avoidance of double taxation). They are concluded between two countries. In your case, you would need to consult the double tax agreement between Germany and Belgium.

Most such agreements stipulate that freelance work is taxed in the country where it is carried out and where you have a permanent establishment. You s
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In general, the question of determining in which country you are liable for income tax is regulated by bilateral agreements known as double taxation agreements (for the avoidance of double taxation). They are concluded between two countries. In your case, you would need to consult the double tax agreement between Germany and Belgium.

Most such agreements stipulate that freelance work is taxed in the country where it is carried out and where you have a permanent establishment. You say you will have no address in Germany and imply that no work will be carried out in Germany, so it's difficult to see how you could avoid Belgian tax without some complicated and probably expensive solution.

In plain English, you can't just pick and choose where you pay tax (unless you're a large multinational corporation that can hire the best tax consultants to set up convoluted structures to benefit from the most advantageous tax jurisdictions).

As for medical insurance, you need to abide by Belgian regulations. According to EU regulations for the coordination of social security, Belgium would be the competent jurisdiction for that. A German medical insurance under the public system would not cover you in Belgium anyway, except for limited travel. If you have a private medical insurance, you may or may not be able to keep it if Belgian law allows it and the insurer accepts it.
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Sheila Wilson
 

Diana Kaplan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:10
Member (2019)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, Thomas! Jan 6

Dear Thomas,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write this.

So basically I would need to close my business in Germany and start from scratch in Belgium?

Can someone recommend websites on starting business in Belgium (Vlaandern)?

Thank you!

Diana


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Yes Jan 6

Diana Kaplan wrote:

So basically I would need to close my business in Germany and start from scratch in Belgium?



Yes. If you move to Belgium.

I don't know anything about setting it up in Belgium, but you can probably find books and websites about it.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:10
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Not from scratch, surely? Jan 7

Diana Kaplan wrote:
So basically I would need to close my business in Germany and start from scratch in Belgium?

I don't see it quite like that.

Yes, you have to tell the German authorities that you're ceasing trading there, although if you retain your German address you have the right to continue sending invoices for a period of three months from your German business, as you can claim you were on holiday. After that, you'll need to register for physical residency in Belgium, and that's when you must switch over. You have to do whatever Belgium requires, which could be anything from nothing at all (like the UK) to jumping through many hoops and paying (like Spain). Taxation will probably change at end tax year, depending on each country's rules and agreements. Beware that if you move early in the tax year, your fiscal domicile could change from the start of it, i.e. before you moved! So if you're doing something major like selling a house or taking a lump sum from a pension fund, consider the taxation angle first as that can be a very hard lesson to learn the hard way.

But there's no need to say goodbye to (m)any clients, unless you actually work on their premises or rely on face-to-face meetings. I moved from France to Spain in 2012. It was an administrative nightmare, I have to admit, partly because both countries are very keen on red tape, but mainly because I didn't speak a word of Spanish at the time and managed to hook up with a lazy, incompetent accountant . But although my EFL teaching activities stopped abruptly at that point, I only lost one translation client -- practically the only one I'd ever met in the flesh. None of the others were in the least bothered, as communication was still to the same email address, etc. They just sent the money to a different euro-zone bank account. Establishing a solid client base has to be the major challenge for any freelancing business, and we're very lucky to be pretty much geographically independent.


Thomas T. Frost
 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
From scratch Jan 7

Of course, I presumed that you referred to administrative matters such as business structure when you said, 'from scratch', as you can quite obviously keep those of your clients that don't depend on your physical presence.

I moved from France to Germany in 2013, as the French bureaucracy was driving me insane (and for other reasons). It was quite easy to set up in Germany, but it's not ideal to live in a country whose language doesn't match your working languages. I don't understand
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Of course, I presumed that you referred to administrative matters such as business structure when you said, 'from scratch', as you can quite obviously keep those of your clients that don't depend on your physical presence.

I moved from France to Germany in 2013, as the French bureaucracy was driving me insane (and for other reasons). It was quite easy to set up in Germany, but it's not ideal to live in a country whose language doesn't match your working languages. I don't understand how Sheila survived a move from one bureaucratic country to another. I hope the Belgians aren't too bureaucratic, but I have no idea.

I suggest you start by reading a living-and-working-in-Belgium book to get a general overview.
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Sheila Wilson
 

Milan Condak  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:10
English to Czech
YourEurope Jan 7

In all EU languages is a site "youreurope"

https://europa.eu/youreurope/business/running-business/index_en.htm

https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/index_en.htm
--
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In all EU languages is a site "youreurope"

https://europa.eu/youreurope/business/running-business/index_en.htm

https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/index_en.htm
--
https://europa.eu/youreurope/business/running-business/index_de.htm

https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/index_de.htm
--
https://europa.eu/youreurope/promo/leaflets/index_en.htm


Milan
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writeaway  Identity Verified
Dutch to English
+ ...
Brace yourself for a significant increase in the cost of living Jan 7

Official sites, just to give some idea
https://www.belgium.be/en/economy/business/creation/becoming_self_employed
https://www.partena-professional.be/en/youre-self-employed

Taxes, food/household items, car tax, car insura
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Official sites, just to give some idea
https://www.belgium.be/en/economy/business/creation/becoming_self_employed
https://www.partena-professional.be/en/youre-self-employed

Taxes, food/household items, car tax, car insurance, internet, restaurants etc. will all cost more than in Germany. Much more.

https://www.icaew.com/technical/by-country/europe/belgium/accounting-in-belgium

[Edited at 2020-01-07 18:03 GMT]
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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Some things are cheaper Jan 7

As far as I can see, German electricity is three times as expensive as in Belgium.

The Belgian TV licence also seems to be cheaper. It's an outrageous 210 euros a year in Germany (for German-dubbed TV I never watch).

In Belgium you should be able to receive British satellite TV (if you have the possibility of using a satellite dish), which is out of reach of much of Germany (due to a narrow UK satellite footprint). The main channels are not encrypted.

Germa
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As far as I can see, German electricity is three times as expensive as in Belgium.

The Belgian TV licence also seems to be cheaper. It's an outrageous 210 euros a year in Germany (for German-dubbed TV I never watch).

In Belgium you should be able to receive British satellite TV (if you have the possibility of using a satellite dish), which is out of reach of much of Germany (due to a narrow UK satellite footprint). The main channels are not encrypted.

German health care can also be expensive.

But overall, as Writeaway says, Belgium will probably be more expensive.
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Wout Van den Broeck
Belgium
Local time: 13:10
Member (2019)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Best to consult an accountant Jan 8

Hi Diana,

I'd recommend that you consult an accountant and in particular one in the Lüttich/Eupen/Malmedy area, where there will undoubtedly be ample accountants with experience with your situation. Most business and social regulations in Belgium are federal matters, so you don't particularly need a Flemish accountant. Even though you don't really need an accountant to set up your business, the initial steps being quite straightforward (see below), filing your (first) VAT and tax r
... See more
Hi Diana,

I'd recommend that you consult an accountant and in particular one in the Lüttich/Eupen/Malmedy area, where there will undoubtedly be ample accountants with experience with your situation. Most business and social regulations in Belgium are federal matters, so you don't particularly need a Flemish accountant. Even though you don't really need an accountant to set up your business, the initial steps being quite straightforward (see below), filing your (first) VAT and tax returns is a very different matter. I don't have an accountant myself but have worked for more than 15 years in the field of social security for entrepreneurs, and even with my background, it took me a lot of time and effort to figure out all the practicalities.

Assuming that you will be working as a sole trader (not through a company), the basic formalities to start working in Belgium are:
- registering with an "Unternehmensschalter"
- registering for VAT
- registering with a social insurance fund (to which you will pay your social contributions)
- registering with a health insurance fund (which will pay you your health benefits)
- and possibly registering with a child benefit fund

If you want to do this yourself, the easiest way is to visit one of the "Unternehmensschalter", which function as a kind of one-stop-shop for businesses. There are about eight of them, but as Liantis seems to be the only one offering information in German, I'll link to them: https://www.liantis.be/de/sich-selbststandig-machen/. Note that, even if you use an accountant or go to an "Unternehmensschalter", you will generally have to register with a health insurance fund yourself.

As for keeping your German health insurance: you can't "escape" being insured in Belgium as social security is organised publicly (which, if I recall correctly, is a major difference with Germany, where medical insurance is mostly organised privately?). But I think it is possible to keep some kind of (private?) German health insurance, as I know at least two Germans who live and work abroad and return to Germany for "serious" medical treatment. Even so, I don't think medical care in Belgium is particularly expensive, basic (legal) coverage is more than adequate. A doctor's appointment will cost you € 6 and a dental check-up about € 20. A lot of people have additional private insurance, but even without one, a hospital stay shouldn't bankrupt you. On the other hand, legal benefits for prolonged inability to work are not very high (about € 1,200 before taxes), so it may be wise to take out additional insurance for that.

[Edited at 2020-01-08 02:42 GMT]
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Diana Kaplan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:10
Member (2019)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Dear all, Jan 8

Thank you so much!
Yes, it´s not easy to move but you´ve helped me to gain more clarity.

Thanks again,

Diana


 


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Translator based in Germany looking to move to Belgium- advice needed

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