My finances, my projects, my life
May 25, 2020

Ask an expert: social security for the self-employed

  Compiled by myLIFE team myCOMPANY March 23, 2020 33

Because employers are the ones responsible for managing and paying social security, their employees rarely have to worry about it. Self-employed individuals, by contrast, have many more questions on the matter. How can they get social security, what coverage can they expect, and what will it cost them now? For answers, we spoke with Maître Louisa Silcox, a barrister specialised in labour law with the firm Arendt & Medernach.

How should we define a “self-employed” person? Do the EU’s “liberal professions” fall into this category too?

The simplest definition of a self-employed person is someone who works for themselves. Luxembourg only recognises two categories of worker: employees and self-employed people. The major difference is that one works under an employer, while the other doesn’t. This hierarchical aspect is essential, as other intermediate categories do exist in the countries that border Luxembourg. Acting partners who hold more than 25% of their company’s stock or managing directors (depending on the legal form of the business) may also be treated like self-employed individuals. Legally, a worker who pays social security as self-employed can simultaneously hold different roles as both an executive and an employee with the same company, as long as their roles at that company involve different functions.

In particular, this category may include workers in the liberal professions, such as doctors, architects, pharmacists and lawyers.

What does social security cover in Luxembourg, and is it the same for employees and the self-employed?

Social security benefits for the two categories are virtually identical. Because self-employed workers are required to pay into social security, they also have a right to monetary benefits for parental leave, a pension, and even early retirement. They are also guaranteed unemployment benefits, as long as they meet the relevant criteria.

To receive benefits if they become unable to work, self-employed individuals can pay into the employers’ mutual insurance fund.

The difference between employee and independent status is most apparent when it comes to coverage in the event of illness or physical disability, as self-employed workers aren’t covered by default. To receive benefits if they become unable to work, self-employed individuals can pay into the employers’ mutual insurance fund – but this is neither compulsory nor automatic. It has to be requested when registering for social security with the CCSS.

What specifically do self-employed workers have to do to get social security benefits?

First, they have to register as self-employed with the CCSS by filling out the affiliation form especially for that status. If the person has founded a company to run their activities through, they have to declare it, and declare themselves as employed with that company. After checking that they meet the entry criteria, the CCSS will grant them the right to receive social security benefits – provided, of course, that they continue to pay their contributions throughout the life of the business. Remember that an employer is responsible for paying its share of this contribution for each employee, plus the tax withheld on their salaries. By contrast, self-employed individuals are only required to declare and pay their full social security contribution (meaning the employer’s and the employee’s share together), based on their commercial pre-tax revenue.

In addition to the CCSS, self-employed professionals working but not living in Luxembourg have to register for health insurance in their country of residence.

In addition to the CCSS, self-employed professionals working but not living in Luxembourg have to register for health insurance in their country of residence.

How are social security contributions for self-employed workers calculated?

Contributions are calculated on all of the independent worker’s income: from their professional activities of course, but also other income (any additional wages or rents, for example). The smallest calculation base is the same as for Luxembourg’s legal minimum wage, while the largest is five times that.

One practical thing to note is that when you first register with the CCSS, they will automatically set the current minimum wage for the calculation while they wait to learn your real revenue, based on the tax report issued by the ACD, Luxembourg’s tax office. At that point, self-employed workers have to communicate how much they actually earned so that their social security payments can be recalculated based on this information. That’s why we strongly suggest that they adjust their reported income in the interim, as soon as they’re in a position to estimate it, to avoid recalculation with a much higher contribution once the ACD releases the final tax statement.

If their income is lower than Luxembourg’s minimum wage, it’s also possible to have the payments reduced. If it’s lower than one third of the minimum wage, you can even request to be exempted from paying altogether.

Is it required or recommended for self-employed workers to pay into any programmes other than social security?

As mentioned previously, self-employed workers can voluntarily pay into the employers’ mutual insurance fund to cover some risk, like an illness or disability that prevents them from working. To do this, they simply have to inform the CCSS that they wish to, and the employers’ mutual insurance fund will handle the request. These payments are based on income too, but also on the person’s age. In addition, there are supplementary pension and insurance funds that self-employed workers can use, just like employees. I would say these are always nice to have, but they’re not a must-have.

What specialised organisations can people turn to for more information on this subject?

Self-employed workers can consult the Chamber of Trades (for skilled craftspeople), the Chamber of Commerce (for commercial and industrial professions) or the relevant professional association – or the CCSS, of course. Lawyers are in a good position to answer these questions too, and can assist companies and independent professionals with the legal and administrative side of social security. Luxembourg also has a large population of cross-border workers who need this information. We are here, and would be happy to answer any questions they may have.