Sharing economy is the buzzword of this decade. It mostly refers to peer-to-peer platforms that allow people to obtain services or goods from fellow citizens, or to earn some money on the side by renting out their skills or property to perfect strangers.
Here is a short overview of the platforms active in Ghent. At the end you will also find some useful information about current Belgian legislation on taxation of income from sharing economy.
The most popular platforms
Lets – this is a true peer-to-peer, not-for-profit sharing platform. Established in Ghent in 1995, it is also one of the oldest. No money is involved, since all services are paid in stropkes, a fictional currency. They are named after strop, the white-and-black noose which is the symbol of Ghent. You can join the community by participating at an introductory meeting and paying an annual fee of 12 EUR. Afterwards you use the platform as a sort of bartering market, where you can search for someone to paint your living room, rent a sewing machine from, or drive you to the coast. And of course offer such services in exchange for stropkes.
Pawshake – this booming Belgian startup focuses on connecting pet owners with pet lovers. If you’re looking for someone to feed your cats while you’re out of town or take your dog for a walk while you’re at work, this is the place to find them. Also great for animal-loving expats who miss having a pet. All payments are carried out online, and some basic insurance is provided.
Cambio – this car sharing platform makes it possible for everyone to have a car. When you need a car, you can book it online from your nearest parking spot. The cars are available at different places around the town, e.g. Gent-Sint-Pieters, Gent-Dampoort or Zuid. For full list of locations, check the Cambio website. Their fee structure is slightly confusing: during the day you pay per hour plus a kilometre-fee, which includes the fuel costs, while at night (23h-07h) you only pay the kilometre-fee. The fleet is quite large and you can choose from smaller cars and minivans. Since Gent is a ‘green’ city, it comes as no surprise that in some parking spots you can also rent a cargo bike (bakfiets) and electrical cars.
Blablacar – this established European platform connects drivers with people looking for a ride. It is a good alternative to public transport or a way to find a cheap trip back home. If you have your own car, drive often and want to make something on the side, this is a good option. The main advantage of this platform is that it works with reviews and after each trip, you will be required to fill out a feedback form about your passengers or the driver. All payments are processed through the website.
While Cambio is the largest of car sharing services and Blablacar is about ride-sharing, there are other organisations that allow its users to share a car. The umbrella organisation Autodelen.net offers a good overview of the options on their website. In short, you can choose between joining a network with its own car fleet (e.g. Cambio), a network of neighbourhood car sharing groups (Cozycar, Degage), or a true peer-to-peer car sharing platform where car owners can put up their cars for sharing (e.g. Drivy). The Autodelen homepage also features a practical interactive map of all car sharing options in the vicinity of your address.
Parcify – this mobile app supported by bpost helps you find someone who can deliver your package to wherever you choose. So for example, if you need help with picking up a parcel from the post office or want to surprise your loved one with a lovely bouquet, that’s the solution for you. You can also register as a courier on their website.
Additionally, the home-rental platform Airbnb is also present in Belgium, or you can choose to rent out your garden to happy campers looking for a spot via the Campr website. In both cases, be advised that as a rule, you need the permission of the landlord to ‘sublet’ the property. The (in)famous alter-taxi service Uber is not present in Ghent and considering its long troubles in Brussels, it does not look like it will spread to the rest of Belgium any time soon.
What the law says
Belgium regulates the fiscal implications of earning money through sharing economy platforms. The rules came into force on 1st July, 2016, and apply to all income earned through sharing economy platforms as of 1st October, 2016.
According to Belgian law, you need to declare the income earned through sharing platforms in your annual tax declaration. You can declare it under ‘other income’ (divers inkomen), but only if the total amount earned in a year is up to the maximum of 5,000 EUR.
If your income from peer-to-peer websites is below this threshold, it will be taxed at an effective tax rate of 10 %. The conditions for this are:
– the money is earned via a recognised peer-to-peer platform,
– you have performed a service/sold a product to a physical person and not as part of your professional activities,
– the money you have received was transferred via the platform, or the platform enabled the money exchange.
If you earn even a euro more than that amount per year, the whole amount will be added to your professional income (beroepsinkomen) and taxed progressively.
While the rules foresee that each platform should eventually automatically keep the 10 % of your earnings for the taxman, this has not been completely put into practice yet. However, you will still need to declare your total income from sharing economy in your annual tax declaration.
Note: the information on this page is based on the information found on official government and local websites, and on the experience of the authors. While we have done our best to make sure it is accurate, rules and regulations change and each individual situation might be different, so it is always a good idea to check with appropriate authorities for the latest information. Consequently, the authors do not assume any responsibility or liability for any issues or damages stemming from the use of the information found on this website.