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Holy See

Freelancing and Independent Contracting

Understand the distinctions and regulations for freelancers in Holy See

Difference employees and contractors

In Vatican City, also known as the Holy See, the legal system based on canon law and Lateran Agreements makes a clear distinction between employees and independent contractors. This distinction is crucial for determining tax obligations, social security contributions, and worker rights.


Employees in the Holy See are under a high degree of control. The Holy See sets their work hours, schedules, location, and methods for completing tasks (Law No. XIX of 2008, Article 3). On the other hand, independent contractors have significant autonomy in how they perform their work. They control their schedules, methods, and tools used (Statute of the Governatorate of the State of Vatican City, Article 10).


Employees are integrated into the Holy See's work structure. They typically work on-site, use the Holy See's equipment, and wear uniforms (if applicable). Independent contractors, however, operate outside the Holy See's work structure. They typically use their own equipment and work from their own location.

Economic Dependence

The Holy See is the main source of income for employees. They receive a fixed salary or wages. Independent contractors, in contrast, have multiple clients or sources of income. They are not financially dependent on the Holy See.

Benefits and Social Security

The Holy See provides social security benefits, paid time off, and other benefits to employees (Law No. XIX of 2008, Articles 20-29). Independent contractors, however, are generally not entitled to social security benefits or other benefits from the Holy See. They are responsible for their own social security contributions.

Independent contracting

Independent contracting in the Holy See presents a unique set of considerations. It's important to understand the nuances of this type of work arrangement in this specific context.

Contract Structures

Independent contractor agreements in the Holy See should be clear and specific. They must outline the scope of work, deliverables, and payment terms.


The agreement should be detailed and precise. This includes outlining the scope of work, deliverables, and payment terms.

Termination Clauses

Clear termination clauses are crucial. These should specify the conditions and notice periods for ending the engagement.

Negotiation Practices

Negotiation practices in the Holy See may differ from those in other countries due to the relatively small job market within the Vatican City State.

Limited Leverage

Compared to some countries, independent contractors in the Holy See may have limited leverage during negotiations.

Focus on Deliverables

Negotiations should focus on clearly defining deliverables, timelines, and compensation to ensure a mutually beneficial agreement.

Intellectual property rights

Intellectual property (IP) rights, including copyrights, trademarks, and patents, are recognized by the Holy See. For freelancers and independent contractors, understanding the ownership of these rights within their work is essential.

Ownership of Copyrights

The default rule is that, in the absence of a written agreement, the freelancer or independent contractor typically owns the copyright to the original work they create, as per the Code of Canon Law, Canon 1167. However, a written contract can explicitly transfer ownership of the copyright to the Holy See, as stated in the Lateran Treaty, Article 57. This is a common practice for commissioned works. If the work is considered a "work made for hire" under specific criteria set by the Holy See courts, ownership automatically defaults to the Holy See, according to the Statute of the Governatorate of the State of Vatican City, Article 11.

Moral Rights

Freelancers retain their moral rights to their work even if copyright ownership is transferred. Moral rights include the right to attribution and the right to object to distortion or modification, as per the Code of Canon Law, Canon 1168.

Trademarks & Patents

The principles for ownership of trademarks and patents developed for copyrights generally apply. Contracts should clearly address ownership if the freelancer's work involves trademarks or inventions.

Tax and insurance

Freelancers and independent contractors in the Holy See, also known as Vatican City, have unique tax and insurance obligations.

Income Tax

Freelancers with an annual income exceeding €8,000 (around $8,800 USD) must register with the Governorate's Office - Ufficio del Governatorato (UG). A progressive income tax system applies, with rates ranging from 0% for income below €8,000 to a maximum of 19% for income exceeding €85,000 (around $93,500 USD). Registered freelancers must file annual tax returns and pay income tax by deadlines set by the UG.

Social Security Contributions

Freelancers are not automatically enrolled in a social security program. However, they can opt-in to contribute to a voluntary pension scheme offered by the Institute for Social Security Provisions of Clerics (ISPAC).

Insurance Options for Freelancers and Independent Contractors

The Holy See doesn't have a mandatory health insurance system for freelancers. However, several insurance options can provide financial protection.

Health Insurance

Several private insurance companies offer health insurance plans for freelancers in the Holy See. These plans can cover medical expenses, hospitalization, and other healthcare costs.

Professional Liability Insurance

Error & Omissions (E&O) insurance protects freelancers from financial losses if a client sues them for negligence or mistakes made while performing services.

Life and Disability Insurance

These types of insurance can provide financial security for freelancers and their families in case of death, disability, or critical illness.

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