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What is a liberal profession?

This is not an easy question to answer. There is no precise definition or a complete list of liberal professions. A person who practices a liberal or intellectual profession mainly provides intellectual services that cannot be described as commercial or artisanal.

A person who practices a liberal profession

  • acts in the best interest of the client and the communinity
  • is often subject to a code of ethics and specific legislation regarding the profession concerned
  • is personally liable for his professional deeds.

A person who practices a liberal profession usually does not engage in commcercial activities. This means that the business counter will register him a a non-commercial enterprise in the central business database (BCE). Non-commercial enterprises do not have to demonstrate basic business management knowledge or professional knowledge. The order or the institution that grants professional recognition will examine whether the self-employed person is suited to practice his or her occupation.

A non-commercial enterprise does not always engage in a liberal profession. And vice-versa, a liberal profession is not always a ‘non-commercial enterprise’.
A real-estate agent is a lberal profession, but is also a commercial activity. This means that real-estate agents have to demonstrate basic business management knowledge when registering their business with the business counter, and are registered in the BCE as commercial enterprises. A child-care provider, on the other hand, is registered in the BCE as commercial enterprise even though this activity is not considered a liberal profession.

The following professions are basically regarded as liberal professions

  • bookkeeper, accountant, company auditor, tax consultant
  • architect, land surveyor, interior designer, real-estate agent
    If you combine the activities of an interior designer with other activities (providing goods, fabrics, et cetera) or if you do the decorating yourself (painting, papering, et cetera), you engage in commercial activities, and your business will be registered as such in the BCE.
  • lawyer – legal advisor, notary public, bailiff
  • doctor, specialist doctor, dentist, medical labaratory, patient transport, parademic
  • physiotherapist, veterinary surgeon, pharmacist.


For certain liberal professions, the professional association forbids its members to exercise commercial activities, for example:

  • lawyer
  • notary public
  • bailiff
  • bookkeeper
  • bookkepper-tax specialist
  • accountant
  • tax consultant
  • company auditor

More information

Last updated: 17 February 2014