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Freelancing and Independent Contracting

Understand the distinctions and regulations for freelancers in Burundi

Difference employees and contractors

In Burundi, the legal framework differentiates between employees and independent contractors based on the nature of the work performed and the level of control exerted by the hiring party.


Employees are under significant control by the employer, who dictates their work schedule, methods, and tools. This includes setting work hours, dictating how tasks are completed, and providing specific equipment or software. On the other hand, independent contractors have more autonomy in how they perform their work. They control their schedule, methods, and tools, as long as the agreed-upon outcome is achieved.


Employees are typically integrated into the employer's organization. They may wear uniforms, work on-site at the employer's premises, and participate in company events or training. Independent contractors, however, operate independently of the employer's organization. They typically work from their own location and use their own tools and equipment.

Social Security Contributions

Employers are generally responsible for withholding social security contributions from employee salaries. These contributions typically cover healthcare, pensions, and unemployment benefits. Independent contractors, on the other hand, are responsible for their own social security contributions. They may need to register as self-employed individuals to make these contributions.

While there isn't a single codified law solely dedicated to this distinction, Burundi's Labour Code (Law No. 1/010 of 11/01/2016) lays the groundwork for employer-employee relationships. Articles 2 and 3 outline the scope of the Labour Code and define key terms like "employer" and "employee". Additionally, Law No. 1/020 of 27/04/2012 on Social Security establishes contribution requirements for both employers and employees.

This is a general overview, and the specific legal distinctions may vary depending on the nature of the work and the specific contractual agreements. It's always advisable to consult with a legal professional in Burundi for definitive guidance on a particular situation.

Independent contracting

Independent contracting can be a viable option for businesses in Burundi seeking project-based expertise or specialized skills. However, navigating the legalities and maximizing benefits requires understanding the nuances.

Contract Structures

Burundi doesn't have a standardized independent contractor agreement. However, adhering to general contract principles outlined in the Civil Code (Livre II du Code Civil Burundais) is essential. Common elements in an independent contractor agreement for Burundi include:

  • Scope of Work: Clearly define the project, deliverables, and expected timeline.
  • Fees and Payment Schedule: Outline the agreed-upon compensation structure, including milestones for payment.
  • Term and Termination: Specify the contract duration and procedures for termination by either party.
  • Confidentiality: Include clauses protecting sensitive information shared between the parties.

Negotiation Practices

Negotiating a successful independent contractor agreement in Burundi requires cultural awareness and strategic planning:

  • Open Communication: Maintain clear and transparent communication throughout the negotiation process.
  • Focus on Mutual Benefit: Structure the agreement to be fair and beneficial to both parties.
  • Compliance Emphasis: Highlight adherence to Burundian labor laws and social security regulations.
  • Written Confirmation: Always finalize the agreement in a written document signed by both parties.

Common Industries for Independent Contracting

Several industries in Burundi commonly utilize independent contractors:

  • Information Technology (IT): For website development, software programming, and IT support.
  • Construction: For specialized skills like carpentry, plumbing, or electrical work on a project basis.
  • Marketing and Communications: For freelance writers, graphic designers, or social media consultants.
  • Consulting Services: For expertise in legal, financial, or human resources domains.

While these industries commonly use independent contractors, it's crucial to carefully assess the working relationship to ensure proper classification under Burundian labor law. Misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor can lead to legal and financial repercussions for the business.

Intellectual property rights

Intellectual property (IP) rights are a crucial aspect of freelancing and independent contracting in Burundi. Understanding these rights can help protect the valuable creative work produced in these work arrangements.

Copyright is a prevalent type of IP right relevant to freelancers and independent contractors. It safeguards original works of authorship, including literary, artistic, musical, and dramatic works. In Burundi, copyright protection is automatic upon the creation of the work, as acknowledged by the Burundian Law on Intellectual Property (Law No. 1/003 of January 15, 2000), Article 9.

Ownership of Copyright

Typically, the creator of a work is the first owner of the copyright. This rule applies to freelancers and independent contractors as well. Thus, unless otherwise agreed, a freelancer or independent contractor will own the copyright in the work they create for a client.

Contracting for Copyright Ownership

Clients and freelancers can agree contractually on who will own the copyright in the work. The contract should clearly specify which party owns the copyright and the extent of the ownership rights. For instance, the contract may specify whether the client can use the work for any purpose or only for a specific purpose.

Important Considerations

  • Work Made for Hire: Burundian law recognizes the concept of "work made for hire," which is a work created by an employee within the scope of their employment. The Burundian Law on Intellectual Property, Article 11, addresses this concept. In such cases, the employer is considered the author and the first owner of the copyright. However, it is unclear whether this concept extends to independent contractors. It is advisable for the contracting parties to clarify this issue in their agreement.
  • Moral Rights: Even if a client owns the copyright in a work, the freelancer may still retain certain moral rights, such as the right to be identified as the author and the right to object to derogatory treatment of the work. The Burundian Law on Intellectual Property, Article 20, recognizes moral rights.


Trademarks are signs used to identify the source of goods or services. Burundi protects trademarks through the Burundian Law on Intellectual Property. Similar to copyrights, trademarks generally arise through use.

Ownership of Trademarks

The person or entity that first uses a trademark in Burundi generally owns the trademark rights. This applies to freelancers and independent contractors as well. However, if a freelancer or independent contractor creates a trademark for a client, the client may acquire ownership rights through an assignment agreement.

Contracting for Trademark Ownership

It is important for freelancers and independent contractors to be clear about who will own any trademarks created during the course of their work. The contract should address this issue and specify whether the freelancer or independent contractor can use the trademark for their own purposes.

Freelancers and independent contractors in Burundi should be aware of their IP rights and how those rights can be affected by their contracts with clients. By carefully considering IP ownership issues and clearly outlining them in their contracts, freelancers and independent contractors can protect their valuable creative work.

Tax and insurance

Freelancers and independent contractors in Burundi are subject to the country's tax system, which applies to all income generated within the country.

Income Tax

Freelancers and independent contractors must register with the Burundi Revenue Office (Office Burundais des Recettes, OBR) to obtain a tax identification number (TIN). Income tax is levied on a progressive scale, with rates ranging from 0% to 40% depending on the annual taxable income. Freelancers are required to file annual tax returns and pay income tax by May 15th of the following year. Estimated quarterly tax payments might also be required depending on the income level.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

Freelancers and independent contractors exceeding a specific annual turnover threshold must register for VAT. The current registration threshold is set by the OBR and subject to change. Registered freelancers must collect VAT on their services and pay it to the OBR on a quarterly basis.

Insurance Options

Social security coverage is not mandatory for freelancers and independent contractors in Burundi. However, there are voluntary insurance options available:

National Social Security Fund (Caisse Nationale de Sécurité Sociale, CNSS)

Freelancers can opt into the CNSS program for benefits such as retirement pensions and healthcare coverage.

Private Insurance

Private insurance companies offer various health, disability, and life insurance plans tailored to freelancers' needs. It's important to explore the CNSS website and consult with a registered insurance broker to understand the specific benefits, contribution requirements, and enrollment procedures for these insurance options.

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