Want to work (legally) as a freelancer in Lebanon?

For starters, you will need to get your tax identification number to avoid a 7.5% fee on your earnings (if the company you are working for takes their accounting seriously). Yes, you do have options to do things under the table (this is Lebanon after all!), but if you are serious about being able to grow your services into a full-fledged business (like me), you will need to do things the right way.

I recently went to get my tax identification number so that I can start doing some contract work in my field of Web Development and Agile Consulting. I worked as a consultant for 3 years in the US as part of a small consultancy called OpenSource Connections, before starting work on Jogabo (you can take a look at my past experiences here). But now that I am in Lebanon, I am starting to give workshops (eg. Best Practices Workshop) and trying to get some consulting work done.

So, as a freelancer or contractor what do you have to do to be able to bill for your work, legally? I asked a couple of friends who are in the same field as I am to get an idea what I’m up against. These two friends are people who have already gone through the process themselves. So theoretically they should have valid and valuable information.

Friend number 1 had done this outside of Beirut, since that’s where his residence is, so when I asked him he said the following:

  1. Go to the Ministry of Finance office in DT
  2. Take take a copy of your ID
  3. Take a copy of your diploma
  4. Take a “tasemo7″ signed by your father saying he gives you permission to use the apartment he is renting as your location of work. And that this could not get us in trouble with the landlord and that we would not be evicted (important, since we still have an old lease)
  5. Fill 2 forms they will give you there, it will only cost you LL2,000 the cost of a stamp

Friend number 2 had done this in order to become part of the Engineering Syndicate in Lebanon, he told me the following:

  1. Go the Ministry of Finance office next to Jiser el Naher, after Mat7af, next to el 3adliyeh (Ministry of Justice), the one in DT is actually the office of the minister. According to your profession, they will tell you what to paperwork you need

So I called my father asking him to prepare the paper for the lease. He objected saying that this would cause us big trouble with the landlord and that he would ask a Moukhtar (local notary) friend of ours about this. My dad then called back saying he had talked to another friend who works at the Ministry of Finance and that he got the required documents.

I decided to have my father come with me, just in case we were asked about some paperwork related to the lease or whatnot, he’d be there ready to answer. We gathered all paperwork we thought we might need, according to 3 different sources. Of course, the third source had told us that we had to go the ministry’s offices on Bechara El Khoury (neither one of the other locations I was told about by my friends). Here’s what I had with me:

  1. My ID and a photocopy
  2. My father’s ID and a photocopy
  3. A photocopy of my diploma notarized by a notary public in Virginia (where I got my diploma)
  4. A photocopy of my diploma notarized by a notary public, signed by the Virginia Commonwealth and the Ministry of Interior of the US government
  5. A recent lease agreement in my father’s name, with a photocopy
  6. A signed “tasemo7″, nautorized by the Moukhtar
  7. Myself and my father

We were taking no prisoners :P

We get there. Again, the offices on Bechara El Khoury, before Sodeco, the building on the island separating the two ways going to and coming from the Downtown. Go up to the first floor. Enter the first office on the right. “Saba7o”, “Ahla”. “Mishein el ra2em el meleh”, “eh hon, tfaddal”. Great! We were in the right spot. That’s achievement number 1. We get our turn, we ask what we need to do. The guy asks me immediately: are you an Engineer (“Mhandis”), or a Doctor? Limited choices, right? My father immediately answers “Engineer,” proudly, before I get to give my answer. The guy immediately said that I have to be part of the Syndicate of Engineers to apply for the my tax number. Now, my dad gave the correct answer, but not the appropriate answer. See, I do have a computer engineering degree. Except that my 4 year degree from the US, no matter how much more advanced it might be, is still only a 4 year degree and does not qualify me to be part of the syndicate, since their requirements are a 5 year degree (because that’s how long it takes at the Lebanese University). So I cut in and said that I want to work as a Web Developer, not as an Engineer. That seemed to solve everything.

So, we asked again, what do we need? He got 2 forms for us: the M10 and the M11. Told us that we need to fill them out. Have a copy of my ID. Then he asked what’s our living situation, do we own or rent and is the rent old or new. When we said we rent and it’s an old rent, he told us that all we need is a copy of the receipt of a recent tax payment on the rental and a copy of the rental agreement. That was it! BUT… that was the one thing we didn’t bring! Oh, the irony!

M10 form

M10 form

M11 form

M11 form

No problem. We filled out the forms. Went back home. Got the proper paper. Came back. Gave it to the guy who we talked to. He circled some things, signed the papers and told us to go have the papers signed by another guy in the same office. That person then looked over the papers, circled something else, signed them and then told us to go to the window outside the office and give them the paperwork. We went there, gave the women the paperwork, she typed the data into her computer and then passed the papers to the guy sitting next to her. I just did a simple slide to the right (now clap your hands!), that guy also signed some things, filed something in this HUGE book he had in front of him, gave us a paper which was the equivalent of a receipt saying the paperwork was filed and told us to come back in 2 days for pick up.

Application Receipt

Application Receipt

Typical Lebanese procedures. You ask 3 different people what needs to be done, you get 3 different answers. In fact, when we got there, we saw signs all over the wall saying that a “tasemo7″ will not be accepted for a lease, only from the owner of the apartment. At that point we thought we were screwed. But even one of the employees was on the phone talking to her boss asking about this policy to check. Of course I did try to look for information on the ministry’s website but it had no relevant information. Your best bet is always to go there, put on a good smile with a nice “saba7o”, maybe even wear bright colors (I was wearing an orange UVA hoodie) and hope the person you’re dealing with had his chill pill :)

But in case you were wondering, and you want to be a web development freelancer, here’s what I had to have:

  1. A copy of my ID
  2. A copy of the lease
  3. A copy of a recent tax receipt on the payment of the lease
  4. Forms M10 and M11 (very basic, name and address and signature) that you get from there

Four business days later (they said two, but I gave them a grace period), I went back to same place for the pickup. I brought the application receipt they had given me on the first day, a copy of my ID and a 1,000L.L. stamp, and I received my company registration certificate:

Company Registration Certificate

Company Registration Certificate

That’s it! It seems like a complicated process, it may deter many from even trying, yet it’s very simple and straight forward. Surprising for a bureaucratic country like Lebanon, right?

BONUS 1: the process is the same if you’re a business consultant (or marketing, or designer, etc)
BONUS 2: if you own the house or apartment, you only need a copy of the deed, even if it’s owned by one of your parents, and you do not need an authorization paper (“tasemo7″)

N.B.: bring all orignal documents with you for authenticity verification purposes (you’ll only submit the copy though)

As for foreigners, my understanding is that for you to work in Lebanon, you have to have a work permit and that work permit has to be sponsored by your employer. But for freelancing gigs, you will be forced to take the 7.5% deduction since you will not be paying taxes in Lebanon, instead you’ll be paying your taxes back in your home country.

- Youssef

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59 Comments

Filed under Working in Lebanon

59 responses to “Want to work (legally) as a freelancer in Lebanon?

  1. Reblogged this on Ritachemaly's Blog and commented:
    for all those who want to work legally in Beirut, here are the steps to follow, as my dad has a compagny, I am also helping him in the financial accounting part, so each year we have to go get papers ( formal forms to fill) and by Liban post, posting them to the ministry of finance, and here how we can work legally in leb! the great post is from This is Beirut, Rita!

  2. I am reblogging it!! bravo!! I did that for my dad!

      • Hi! Youssef I’m Shaikh Muhyiddin from India presently working in KSA as E&I Engineer. Going through blog n posts I can see that I can share my thoughts with U. Can you please help me out. I’m in a out of control situation with my online GF in Beirut. Everything was fine from August till Novemver .. then things have started to change from her side. I’m clueless. I can only travel to Beirut by March during vacation.
        I never showed any negative sign for get even going to club with her friends for dancing or so.. She was also good with me.. Now the situation is entirely diff.. When I said I want to meet U by March n discuss further..
        If possible help me out plsss..
        shaikh.alderley@gmail.com

  3. If you’ll get steady stream of customers, I think it’s worth the trouble

  4. Great information… i might add that liban post can also help you with the documents and procedures to follow… and they have the forms too.
    best of luck with work…

    • Liban post is very helpful in most cases. I just find it easier and faster to go directly to the source. Specially when it’s only a nice walk away. I got my criminal records from Liban post the first time, and then straight from 3adliyeh the second time. Same waiting time with the long lines, except with the latter you get your stuff straight away, whereas with the former you have to wait for it to be delivered. But Liban Post is definitely a viable option for those who want to go that route.

  5. Lorena

    Very informative post that every freelancer should read :-) I did this a few years ago and it’s a great ease of mind being registered, for yourself and your clients. Good job Youssef in walking us through the process!

  6. Raymond Halabi

    It’s 7.5% not 9.5% and it is called the “Non resident Tax”. In other countries (USA, Europe, Arab Countries) it is much higher.

  7. You call that easy? Sounds like a nightmare. Reminds me of my days living in Italy and having to register for a residence permit.

    • It’s super easy. It takes 15 minutes total if you have the right papers (and now there’s no reason why not to have the right ones since I’ve shared with everyone what it requires). It doesn’t get easier than that!

  8. katana

    great post amigo. very useful, since i am in the same situation somehow.
    but what about income tax calculation ? (M10 – point 6) did u get it as “bulk” (مقطوع) or “real” (حقيقي) ? and what is the percentage ?

  9. OK, great. But once u have done this, won’t you have to pay taxes? Can you blog about that process (how freelancers pay taxes), if there was one. Thanks!

  10. Hello, you have posted this right on time, thanks heaps for the post really helpfull amazed my friend found it and forwarded the link to me. didnt expect to find this online yay. I currently quit my job and am freelancing as a graphic designer, being the profesional person i try to be thought it would be way better on my consciouse to register in the gov. But questions: the stamp fees is all you paid? do you pay a tax on each project u take as a freelancer in the future? do u get any benefits like daman or something being u are registered now ? okay sorry wrote alot thanks again! helped alot =)

    • Hi Christine,
      I’m hoping to write more in detail about this in a future post. But to answer your questions, you will have to file your taxes at the end of the year. You will follow the regular brackets for the Lebanese taxes. What I know (and I have to double check on this) is that the first $5k is non-taxable, the subsequent $10k is free, the $10k after that is taxed a small percentage, etc. Again, I have to double check these numbers because I’m not sure about them, and I will share the results once I have them. As fo daman (social security), getting your tax number does not register you in it, and i believe doesn’t qualify you either. You will have to get insurance through a private company. Same goes for all the other benefits, as you are independent now, you are responsible for providing all these things for yourself.
      I hope this helps.

  11. SL

    Whats the point, any benefits?
    Not gonna help you with your retirement plan.

    • Well, I personally know the story of at least one (American) guy that was not allowed to re-enter Lebanon after they found out he worked there illegaly as an IT-consultant for some time….

  12. Very helpful post… Thanks for sharing, did anybody hear about the People of Leb iPhone app, it’s about Lebanese People and their biographies and families, my friend downloaded it from app store http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/people-of-leb/id563519565?Is=1&mt=8 … And I am downloading it now, so I’ll update you with my review…

  13. I like reading through an article that can make people think.

    Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!

  14. Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the internet the simplest thing to be
    aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people
    think about worries that they just do not know about.
    You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side-effects ,
    people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more.

    Thanks

  15. Asking questions are in fact nice thing if you are not understanding something totally, however this article provides pleasant understanding even.

  16. Hi youssef i have a question in Form M10 what did you wrote in:
    1- Point 5 (arabic)
    2- point 6
    3- Point 7??

    • For point 5, I described what i do (web developer), it depends on each person
      Point 6 and 7 I left unanswered. The government employee would be able to help you fill them out correctly if you have any question. Unfortunately in Lebanon we cannot guarantee that one way works for everyone.

  17. Malek

    Hi Youssef, Thanks for sharing the whole process its really helpful.
    No I understand that forms M10&M11 are to register yourself as a freelancer! but I can see Company registration paper (Tasgeel Mo2sasa) is this what u receive after applying the forms? So as a freelancer you are free to do work as a company, receive products, do work and so on?
    One more question please, what about the total costs how much is it & is it true that you have to pay 5000$ per year to keep up the registration or that is just for limited liability companies?
    Thanks in advance…

  18. Hana

    Hi Youssef. Thanks for this simple yet very important and useful blog. I can see that it’s been more than a year since you posted it and I’m hoping that you can talk more about what happens later after a year of work (hopefully successful). Also I wonder if anything changed by now but my guess is that the process should still be the same.

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