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WORKING IN SWEDEN

IN NUMBERS: How freelance profits in Sweden compare to actual salaries

Employers in Sweden pay taxes and pension payments for each employee, so if you go freelance, you end up having to pay them yourself. The accountancy firm Frivision has estimated for The Local how profits from a solo company correspond to a salary as an employed person.

Woman working on laptop from sofa
Freelancing has plenty of perks, but make sure you've done your sums right or you could get a nasty shock when tax season comes. Photo: Margareta Bloom Sandebäck/imagebank.sweden.se

Tobias Ryberg, director of Frivision, says that people who decide to go freelance or work as a self-employed consultant can be tempted to see the payments that come in from clients as earnings. But this can cause problems if they haven’t budgeted for the taxes and social fees that they’ll need to pay later, either at the end of the month, quarterly or yearly. 

“It’s easy to think that everything you earn is your income,” he told The Local.

“But in fact, you have a lot of taxes, so in the worst case, people end up spending all the money they’ve made, and then they are behind with taxes, sometimes forever, so that’s a potential trap.”

Employees in Sweden are required to make a seven percent contribution to unemployment insurance, pensions, family benefits, and health insurance, while employers contribute 31.42 percent. 

When you go freelance, whether you set up a one-person company or register for “F-skatt”, Sweden’s sole trader tax system, you have to pay these contributions yourself (albeit at a slightly reduced rate). 

This means, Ryberg estimates, that you need to make a net profit of 500,000 a year at your company to have the same effective salary as an employee earning 31,705 a month (or 380,460 kronor a year). 

Here are Frivision’s numbers: 

READ ALSO: 

So what should foreigners bear in mind before going freelance or setting up a one-person business? 

"First, you need to know what your cost base is and if you need some materials. For example, if you're a photographer you need expensive cameras and to budget for travel costs," Ryberg said. 

"Then if you want to make, say, 30,000 kronor a month in salary, you need to know that the company must bring in about 40,000 kronor in net profit, because you will pay all these additional taxes and welfare payments."

It's also important to note that the above figures don't take holiday into account. While employees in Sweden get at least 25 days of paid annual leave, plus public holidays, freelancers and self-employed people need to budget for this themselves. 

And if you're comparing with a specific salary, for example when judging whether it's worth quitting a job to go freelance or weighing up a job offer and a freelance agreement, remember to look at the entire compensation package. With many jobs in Sweden, this will include an employee pension and possible extra perks such as a contribution to fitness and wellness expenses (frikshetsbidrag) which you'll need to cover using your profits as a self-employed person. Of course, as a self-employed person there are some tax deductions you can make yourself as well.

Another tip from Ryberg is to have at least one reliable customer when starting out, if you can, to maintain some level of regular recurring income.

"If you're a freelance journalist, you for example know that 'I will work with this newspaper', so you have a customer base." 

And finally, it is probably a good idea to save up a cash buffer so that you can survive any lean months that come your way. 

"What do you do if you don't get any revenue next month? You need to make some kind of appropriate security planning according to your level of comfort. Some people are okay not to know, but others might want to have a good buffer tougher to feel safe and secure." 

And should you set up your own company or pay F-skatt? 

Ryberg generally recommends that clients set up their own company. This means if the business goes bankrupt, they are protected. It can also be more tax-efficient, particularly for high earners such as computer programmers and consultants. And, it also means you can avail yourself of government schemes, like the support packages for businesses introduced during the pandemic. 

For those on lower incomes, the total tax take can be slightly lower for someone on F-skatt, but he believes that the advantages above generally outweigh this. If you're unsure, it may be worth seeking personalised advice from an accountant.

Member comments

  1. “How freelance profits in Sweden COMPARE to actual salaries” Compare being the key word. Still waiting for the comparison part of the article between EMPLOYEES and entrepreneurs.
    Stating facts and showing company tax fees is not really a comparison, isn’t it?

  2. The title of the article looked promising but the quality of it is very poor. For the first, I agree with John.Smith that no comparison is actually made.
    Then, some things in the article do not make any sense. For example, the author states “Employees in Sweden are required to make a seven percent contribution to unemployment insurance, pensions, family benefits, and health insurance, while employers contribute 31.42 percent. ” What 7% contribution are you talking about? I had been working as an employee in Sweden (before getting into sole trader) for more than 10 years but never heard about that.
    The structure of the article and its content just shows that the author has very poor understanding of the Swedish tax system for employees and sole traders. The phrase “And should you set up your own company or pay F-skatt? ” just shows it clearly.

  3. A very rough rule-of-thumb is that a freelancer needs to have an annual ‘income’ of about 1 million SEK to be able to take out a reasonable monthly salary and to have at least some holiday when no income is being generated. Don’t forget as well that the Christmas/New Year period can mean at least two dead weeks with significantly reduced income, and Easter isn’t much better. In the summer, biz activity will abruptly slow down after Midsommar and nothing much will happen until mid-August. All of this needs to be budgeted for when starting your new business venture, depending of course on the particularities of your specific sector.

    If your plans for freelancing are long-term, I would recommend starting an aktiebolag so as to keep your business accounting totally separate from your personal finances. The minimum share capital is now only 25,000 SEK compared with the previous 50k and even 100k in the old days. Keeping an AB’s accounts is simplified tremendously with software such as Visma Bokföring and similar, and these days you are no longer legally required to have an auditor.

    If your business is very successful, an aktiebolag will also enable you to take out a dividend each year instead of a comfortable salary with the advantage that tax on dividends is only 20% compared with at least 30% on salaried income or even 50% if your salary exceeds 504,000 SEK. This results in people taking a maximum annual salary of 504k and then any further income as a dividend. Politicians are obviously aware of this and there are constant plans to close the loophole, although they themselves exploit the situation when they leave politics and enter the lucrative lecture circuit and similar.

    1. Forgot to mention that if you intend to freelance long-term, it is also very important to budget for contributing to a decent pension scheme. Your aktiebolag can do the contributing, but it will mean a relatively significant monthly cost depending on what you choose for scheme. On the other hand, it will be well worth it when you eventually retire. Your only regret will be not to have made higher contributions…

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WORKING IN SWEDEN

CHECKLIST: Here’s what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

What authorities do you need to inform before you leave, are you liable to Swedish tax and how can you access your Swedish pension? Here's a checklist.

CHECKLIST: Here's what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

Tell the relevant authorities if you’re leaving for more than a year

If you’re planning on leaving Sweden for more than a year, you will have to let the authorities know. The main authorities in question are Skatteverket (the Tax Agency) and Försäkringskassan (the Social Insurance Agency).

Försäkringskassan

You have to tell Försäkringskassan when you leave so they can assess whether or not you still qualify for Swedish social insurance. As a general rule, you aren’t eligible for Swedish social insurance if you move away from Sweden, but there are exceptions, such as maternity or paternity benefits if you’re moving to another EU country.

This also applies to any family members who move with you – any over-18’s should send in their own documentation to Försäkingskassan about their move abroad. If you’re moving abroad with anyone under 18, you can include them in your own report to Försäkringskassan.

If both legal guardians are moving abroad together, both need to include any children in their application. If one legal guardian is moving abroad and the other is staying in Sweden, you need the guardian staying in Sweden to co-sign your application. If you are the sole legal guardian of any under-18’s travelling with you, you don’t need any documentation from the other parent.

You can register a move abroad with Försäkringskassan on the Mina sidor service on their website, here (log in with BankID).

Skatteverket

If you are moving abroad for a year or longer, you also need to tell the Tax Agency. This also applies if you were planning on moving abroad for less than a year but ended up staying for longer.

If you move to another Nordic country, you will also need to register your move with that country’s authorities if you will be there for six months or more. You’ll be deregistered from the Swedish population register the same day you become registered in another Nordic country’s register.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll lose your personnummer – you’ll still be able to use it if you ever move back to Sweden – but you will no longer be registered as resident in Sweden.

Similarly to Försäkringskassan, you will also need to report any children you are bringing with you, and both legal guardians must sign the form, whether or not both guardians are moving abroad or not.

In some cases, you may still be liable to pay tax in Sweden even if you live abroad – particularly if you are a Swedish citizen or have lived in Sweden for at least ten years. This could be due to owning or renting out property in Sweden, having family in Sweden, or owning a business in Sweden.

You can tell the tax agency of your plans to move abroad here.

Contact your a-kassa, if relevant

If you are member of a Swedish a-kassa (unemployment insurance), make sure you tell them that you’re leaving the country. As a general rule, you have unemployment insurance in the country you work in, so you will most likely have to cancel your a-kassa subscription.

If you are moving to another country with the a-kassa system, such as Denmark or Finland, it may pay to wait until you have joined a new a-kassa in that country before you cancel your membership in Sweden.

This is due to the fact, in some countries, you only qualify for benefits once you fulfil a membership and employment requirement. In Sweden and Denmark, you must have been a member for 12 months before you qualify. In Finland, the membership requirement is 26 weeks.

If you qualify for a-kassa in Sweden before you leave the country, you may be able to transfer your a-kassa membership period over to your new a-kassa abroad and qualify there straight away, but this usually only applies if your period of a-kassa membership is unbroken.

Check what applies in your new country before you cancel your membership in Sweden – your a-kassa should be able to help you with this.

Contact your union, if relevant

Similarly, if you are a member of a Swedish union or fackförbund, let them know you’re moving abroad.

If you’re moving to another Nordic country, they might be able to point you in the direction of the relevant union in that country, if you want to remain a member of a union in your new country.

If you’re moving to another EU country, you may be able to remain a member of your Swedish union as a foreign worker with the status utlandsvistelse.

If you chose to do this, you will usually pay a lower monthly fee than you do in Sweden, and they can still provide assistance with work related issues – although it may make more sense to join a local union in your field with more knowledge of the labout market.

If you don’t want to be a member of a union in your new country and don’t want to be a member of a Swedish union, you should contact your  union and ask them to cancel your membership.

Collect relevant documents regarding your Swedish pension

If you have worked in Sweden and paid tax for any length of time, you will have paid in to a Swedish pension. You retain this pension wherever you move, but you must apply for it yourself.

To do so, you will need to give details of when you lived and worked in Sweden, as well as providing copies of work contracts, if you have them. If you have these documents before you leave Sweden, make copies so that you can provide them when asked.

If you move to the EU/EES or Switzerland, you may also have the right to other, non-work based pensions, such as guarantee pension for low- or no-income earners, or the income pension complement (inkomstpensionstillägg).

Currently, you can receive your Swedish pension once you turn 62 – although there is a proposal in parliament due to raise pension age to 63 for those born after 1961 from 2023, so this may change.

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