In this video, I talk about why I got e-residency four years ago, and how I used it to start a company in Estonia. I also mention a service called Xolo that I use to manage my Estonian company and do my taxes.
85,000 people from all over the world are Estonian e-residents. And in 2018, I became one of them. I set up my own Estonian company. And for the last four years I’ve been doing some freelance work through it with clients in the U.S. and the EU. In this video, I’m gonna talk about why I started an Estonia company, and if you’re interested, how you can do it too.
My first reason was taxes. Now, wait, if you are one of those people that think that Estonia is some sort of tax haven, you’d be wrong. You’re not going to be paying no taxes but you may be paying lower taxes than what you’re used to, depending on where you live.
The Estonian tax system is also simple– well, simpler than most tax systems. Everything is in English. I personally don’t speak Estonian, but I haven’t had any difficulty finding out rulings, everything is online and accessible in English via the Estonian government’s site.
The second reason I started my company there was control.
As a freelancer, you may not have as much control over your financial affairs as you would like. The government probably dictates to some extent what you can declare as expenses or how much you get to take as income. There are still rules around that for Estonian companies, but in general I’ve found the rules to be way more reasonable and lenient than I would otherwise have to contend with.
For example, if you’re a small business and you choose to reinvest the profit that you’ve made into your business, so for example, buying equipment that you need or paying for other sort of operating expenses, then you don’t have to pay taxes on that income.
My third reason is that Estonian companies are set up to be remote friendly.
That is a very big deal to me, because when I set up a company here in the Netherlands, I had to be here, I had to have a permanent address where I could send correspondence by snail mail and they would piecemeal like my password and little bits of information and other unique IDs that I would later need to lodge my tax returns and other paperwork. There was so much back and forth.
Estonia isn’t like that. Everything is completely online. You do have to still have a physical address for your company, but there’s a way around that which I will get to soon.
The Cool Factor
The fourth reason, of course, is, honestly, the cool factor.
I am very much a proponent of new technologies and being able to take advantage of things that are cool about other countries is something that I’m a fan of. So when Estonia set up this e-residency program I was pretty sure that I was going to be applying for e-residency, even if I didn’t go ahead with my company.
I think this is the way of the future. And I can’t wait to see how many more countries are going to do it, following in Estonia’s footsteps.
Should you manage your company yourself?
So that’s why I started a company, but usually it’s the logistics around actually starting it that are more difficult than the decision itself.
I am a kind of person who prefers to do everything on her own. Just to give you an idea, I do my taxes, my husband’s taxes and company taxes here in the Netherland in Dutch. I specifically got lessons on reading the tax code in the Netherlands in Dutch. I also do it for Australia because we still have a property there and some other things.
And so I’m telling you this to say, I am not one to shy away from reading tax laws of another country, getting up to speed, and doing it myself. I’ve found that that is often not just the most cost efficient way, but actually the best way to maximize it because nobody else cares about my finances more than me. That’s not the strategy that I took with Estonia. I actually have hired a company to do that for me which is quite unusual, and they’re called Xolo.
What does Xolo do?
Quick disclaimer here, this is not sponsored by Xolo or anybody else. I haven’t spoken to them. They don’t know I’m making this video. My communications with them have been related to my personal financial circumstances. So they in no way had anything to do with what I’m about to say.
The only reason that I’m using my referral link is that I think it’s actually pretty useful. So the deal is that I get 150 euro if you use the link but you get 265 euro, which is exactly how much it costs for you to start up a company. I mean, if you want to go and try Xolo without using my referral code, please feel free to– it’s xolo.io. But 265 euro is also a lot of money. So it’s up to you. I do have an ethics statement about this sort of thing. Basically I will never promote or even talk about a product or service positively unless I’ve been consistently using it.
Here’s an email from Xolo in 2018, Back when they were still called LeapIn, just to prove to you that I’ve actually been using them for four years and heartily recommend their service.
You can start up an Estonian company all on your own without really any help from any other company, but it will take a lot more work if you’re just trying to find the easiest way possible. I’ve found that this is it.
Xolo offers a few services. First, they help you with registering your company. So you pay the fee to the state, not to them. It’s 265 euro.
They provide a physical address that your company can use. That includes mail forwarding, if you happen to use that for any company-related or government-related communication.
They help you with applying for a VAT number if you need that.
And they also help you with opening up a bank account. Now, I think that there are ways so that you can just use something like PayPal or Wise for your bank account. I did those, but I also chose to have an actual bank account in Estonia. That is the only part in this process where you actually have to be in Tallinn, in Estonia. Personally, I was looking for an excuse to go to Tallinn, so I went there and set one up. It was pretty easy but you can certainly start a company without it.
The most important thing that Xolo do is that they lodge the taxes for you every year. They give you advice on your company structure. They keep track of your expenses.
And the best part about Xolo is that everything is done online. They have a really nice web app which is pretty slick and modern and user friendly, and that’s what I use to upload my receipts, or if I need something reimbursed or marked as an expense, or if I’ve paid for something with my own pocket, and need the company to reimburse me, then everything is just handled for me. I really think that this is one of the selling points because if I have to get on the phone and actually talk to someone and explain something, I’m out. I’d rather just do it on my own at that point. But in the four years that I’ve been with Xolo, I haven’t had to be on the phone with them once. Their entire staff corresponds by email promptly and really in a thorough, professional way.
So let’s talk pricing. Xolo costs either 49, 79 or 199 euros a month. And that includes all of those services.
The only thing that’s not included is the state fee. And that’s something that you pay to the Estonian government. That’s the 265 euro to actually get your company registered. You can check that out for yourself on the government site. This is something that you’ll have to pay even if you don’t go through Xolo.
Step-by-step process of starting a company
So if you wanna start a company in Estonia, here’s what you have to do.
Step 1: Click on my referral link to sign up to Xolo
First, click on the referral link before the end of March. So March 31st, 2022, you have to have clicked the link.
That doesn’t mean that you have to have paid by then. You just have to have clicked it and gone through the signup process to create a completely free account. At this point, there is no obligation that you’re going to continue.
Step 2: Apply for e-residency
Secondly, you have to apply for e-residency.
This is something that you’ll have to do directly with the Estonia government’s site, which is pretty easy. There’s a link below to an application form that you’re gonna need to fill out with your information and identification. And then you wait around for, usually it takes less than a month. For me, I think it took a couple of weeks.
And when it’s approved you’ll get an email notification asking you to go to your local embassy. So in my case, I applied while I was already in the Netherlands. So I went to the embassy or consulate of Estonia here in the Netherlands just to pick up this ID and get fingerprinted. The e-residency itself costs 120 euro, but it is a one-off fee and you never have to pay for it again.
Pay for Xolo Leap
And the last step is to pay for a Xolo leap plan before May 31st, 2022.
So you essentially get two full months to do your e-residency. And it shouldn’t really take that time. And if you used my referral link, once you sign up for the plan, then they’ll waive the 265 euro that you would need to pay to the state for your company’s registration.
And that’s pretty much it. After that, Xolo will tell you how to proceed and give you the options for banking and that, depending on your business’ unique requirements.
Please don’t take any of this as tax or financial advice because I’m not a tax professional and I’m not a financial advisor. I am simply sharing my experiences and referring you to experts who will certainly know better than me on Estonian taxation law.
Having a company in Estonia is an essential part of my strategy for maximizing my freedom and building the life that I want by moving aspects of my life to countries that are best suited for them. This practice is called flag theory. And if you wanna learn more about that, check out this video to see how I use it to improve my life. Thank you for watching. Or as they say in Estonian, I think, aitäh!
Note: This contains an affiliate link for Xolo. That means that if you use the link to sign up for Xolo, you get some money off your plan, and so do I! Read my Ethics Statement to find out how I decide whether or not to promote a product or service.