Telecommuting abroad: Navigating the legal and tax implications for Belgians

The allure of working from a picturesque home in Provence or a cozy apartment in Spain is undeniable. With the rise of remote work, many Belgians are tempted to swap their usual workspaces for sunnier, more exotic locales. But is it as simple as packing your laptop and catching a flight? Let’s delve into the intricacies of telecommuting abroad for Belgians.

Remote work
Kristin Wilson

The appeal of working under the sun

At first glance, the idea of working from a foreign location seems not only appealing but also entirely feasible. If you have a stable internet connection and the necessary equipment, what could possibly stand in your way? From a legal standpoint, there’s no direct impediment. Moreover, most employers would likely be supportive, especially if you can guarantee efficient work tools and connectivity.

However, as highlighted by our colleagues at Le Soir, the path to international telecommuting is paved with challenges.

Tax implications: What to know

Before you embark on your international telecommuting journey, it’s crucial to notify your employer. Any work-related accidents, regardless of where they occur globally, are considered occupational accidents.

The next significant hurdle is understanding the tax and social security implications. Typically, you pay taxes and social contributions in the country where you work. Therefore, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with any agreements Belgium has with your chosen country and navigate the administrative paperwork. The duration of your overseas telecommuting also plays a pivotal role.

Working within Europe: The concept of "detachment"

If you’ve set your sights on a European country, your remote work might fall under the "detachment" category. Jean-Luc Vannieuwenhuyse, a legal advisor at SD Worx, explains to Le Soir that there are specific European rules for detachment. Before starting, you must complete a form with the ONSS, allowing you to continue paying social contributions in Belgium and remain under Belgian social security. This document is mandatory, even if you’re telecommuting for a short period, say two weeks in Provence. Additionally, you might need to declare your work intentions in the chosen country to avoid hefty fines.

Venturing outside Europe: A trickier terrain

Working outside Europe introduces more complexities. Beyond securing a visa and work permit, it’s crucial to determine if Belgium has an agreement with your chosen country. While telecommuting from most countries is possible, there might be conditions, such as a maximum duration of six months.

Conclusion: Making an informed decision

The dream of working from a sun-soaked location is undoubtedly enticing. However, it’s essential to be well-informed about the legal and tax implications. By understanding the nuances and preparing accordingly, Belgians can enjoy the best of both worlds: the comfort of their foreign homes and the professional stability of their Belgian roots.