Starting A Business In Belgium

Business Opportunities in Belgium

Belgium has an expanding economy and a formal corporate culture like its European neighbors. As per World Bank Doing Business Report 2020, Belgium ranks 46th out of 190 economies. 

According to EU figures, there are more than 62,000 operating firms in Belgium. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), which account for most of these, contribute about 62.4% of the value of the Belgian market. Foreigners own many enterprises in Belgium; these companies account for about 28% of the value of the private sector. As per the OECD report (June 2022), Belgium’s economic growth will remain robust in 2022 at the rate of 2.4%.

Anyone who is a citizen and at least 18 years old can set up a business in Belgium easily (16 for craftspeople). Although non-EU/EFTA nationals may require a visa to visit Belgium and a Belgian residential authorization, foreigners can open businesses in Belgium.

Benefits of Starting a Business in Belgium

Starting a business in Belgium offers numerous benefits to business owners:

  • Belgium has access to more than 500 million EU consumers through its membership in the EU.
  • Globally, Belgium is the 12th largest exporter and 14th largest importer of goods.
  • Due to its strategic location, trading across Belgian borders is quick. The regulatory criteria for export take about one hour. One of the justifications Belgium is placed first out of 190 significant economies in World Bank’s Doing Business report for cross-border trading is due to this.
  • Belgium is dedicated to enhancing and extending free trade agreements to facilitate access to foreign markets and promote national economic progress.
  • Belgium is renowned for highly advanced transportation systems, including airports, trains, seaports, inland ports, and more. The economy has prospered because of this infrastructure. Moreover, Belgium’s global rail and air infrastructures are recognized as some of the most captivating in terms of growth and technology in the world.
  • Brussels, popularly known as “the capital of Europe,” is a center for European and global governance. Notable organizations like NATO and the EU are headquartered here.. Brussels is a bustling hub for international business in addition to politics and government. It is the second most popular location for meetings of international associations, right after Singapore.

Requirements for Starting a Business in Belgium

Before setting up a company in Belgium, organizations need to have a clear idea of the project, analyze the nation’s economy, and then begin operations. Some other significant requirements are:

Resident permit and work visa

Anyone living in Belgium at least 18 years old can start a business relatively easily (16 for craftspeople). Although non-EU/EFTA nationals may require a visa to visit Belgium and a Belgian residential authorization, foreigners can open businesses in Belgium. 

Regulated business

You require permission to engage in fairground or itinerant trading activities. Some service-providing intellectual activities fall under a unique restriction regarding the classification of liberal professions, such as:

  • Real estate brokers 
  • Recognized accountants and tax specialists 
  • Surveyor-experts 
  • Accountants and tax consultants 
  • Psychologists 
  • Auditors 
  • Car experts 
  • Architects 

Other free and intellectual professions are governed by the FPS Justice or FPS National Health, primarily the legal, medical, and paramedical fields.

Choose your company name

This is the first step after settling on your legal business organization, which you will use to brand and register your company. As long as no existing business operates under the same name, choosing a company name in Belgium is unrestricted.

Taxation

All independent contractors who start a business in Belgium must contribute Belgian income tax on the profits. A large number of Belgian companies that offer services and goods both domestically and internationally must pay VAT (Belasting over de Toegevoegde Waarde/Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée; BTW/TVA). Your tax requirements to do business in Belgium include:

  • Determined by the amount earned, income tax ranges from 25 to 50% of profits. 
  • Corporate tax is at 25% (reduced to as low as 20% for some companies if they earn a profit of less than €100,000)
  • VAT is charged at a standard rate of 21% of revenue generated.

Bank account

Before starting a business in Belgium, you should create a Belgian bank account exclusive to your business and not connected to your account. On all of your company paperwork, you should provide your account number. 

Types of Business Structures in Belgium

You can opt for one of the following as your self-employment status:

Individual or sole proprietorship (natural person/eenmanszaak):

  • In a sole proprietorship, there is no difference between the business and the business owner. 
  • The owner is legally responsible for all the profits, debts, and higher personal income tax than corporate tax.

Private  limited liability corporation (Besloten Vennootschap with Beperkte Aansprakelijkheid/Société Privée à Responsabilité Limitée; BVBA/SPRL) 

  • This is one of the most popular legal entities in Belgium. Usually, small and medium businesses go for BVBA/SPRL structure. 
  • At least two owners must set up a private limited liability company. 
  • Individual tax is significantly higher than company tax.
  • A relatively small minimum capital of €18,550 is required. If only one person is involved, then the amount is reduced to €12,400.
  • Founders are only responsible for the amount contributed to the company. 

Public limited liability company (NV/SA)

  • Larger companies willing to start a business in Belgium usually set up a public limited liability company. 
  • Compared to BVBA/SPRL, this entity requires a significantly higher minimum capital of €61,500. 
  • At least three directors are required to manage the company. 

Partnership

  • A partnership is formed between two or more people in which all partners are personally liable for the company’s debts, obligations, and assets up to their fullest extent and pay personal income taxes on the profits made from the firm.
  • It can take three forms – general partnership, limited by shares, or ordinary limited partnership. 
  • In general and ordinary partnerships, there is no minimum share capital required. However, a limited partnership requires a minimum share capital of €61,500. 

Co-operative

  • These can be established with a minimum of three participants and have limited or unlimited liability.
  • No minimum capital is required for cooperative companies with limited liabilities.

Company Registration Process

The steps involved in offshore company registration in Belgium are:

1. Select a legal structure

  • Companies must first decide what legal structure the company will take while opening a business in Belgium. 
  • You can consider the company’s needs and capital requirements to decide on the company form. 

2. Selecting and registering the company name

  • After settling on your legitimate business organization, the next step is to select the company name. 
  • While selecting a name, keep the brand’s motto and image in mind. Select a name that will represent your company solely. 
  • This is the name you use to brand and register your company. As long as no existing business operates under the same name, choosing a company name in Belgium is unrestricted.

3. Writing up the company documentation 

  • If you are forming a limited company and registering your firm in Belgium, you must draft and get notarized articles of incorporation.

4. Register with Crossroad Bank for Companies

  • Before engaging in business activity, you must register for trading with the Crossroads Bank for Companies. 
  • Once done, you’ll get a company number that also functions as social security and VAT number.

5. Register for VAT

  • Companies that provide goods or services under the Belgian VAT code must register with the relevant authorities.
  • You can download the VAT registration form (form 604a) online and submit it manually to the relevant office. 

6. Register with the social insurance fund 

  • All independent contractors in Belgium must register with a social insurance fund to pay social security contributions. 
  • They are also responsible for arranging their social security plans. Make sure you are also registered with a Belgian health insurance fund.

Once you have completed the steps to incorporate a company in Belgium, you can register your business as an employer. After that, you can start your business and hire new employees.  

How Much Does it Cost to Incorporate a Company in Belgium?

The cost of incorporating a company in Belgium is approximately 6850 Euros. These include the following expenses:

  • The notary fees are based on the share capital of the business and are more for an SPRL than a SA.
  • The publication fees, roughly 250 euros, are charged when the articles of association are posted in the Belgian Official Journal.
  • The company registration costs, ‘typically ‘around 70 euros, are due upon business registration with Crossroad Bank.
  • The costs associated with VAT registration: A  company’s VAT registration typically costs roughly 50 euros.

These charges only apply to those that must be paid to institutions in Belgium. Other costs include leasing or purchasing office space, furnishing the area, and buying the equipment required for operations, depending on the business activity. The company’s initial financial plan needs to account for these expenses.

Are Foreigners in Belgium on Certain Passes Allowed to Start a Business in Belgium?

There are specific requirements to do business in Belgium for foreigners, which are listed below:

  • Foreign nationals must have a professional card
    Suppose you want to start a business in Belgium. In that case, you must apply for a professional card (carte professionnelle/beroepskaart) if you are a citizen of a country outside of the EU or EFTA unless you already have a Belgian residence permit. Your professional card represents your work permission.
    When you file for your Belgian visa, you can request the card, or you can do so beforehand by contacting the Belgian consulate or embassy in your native country. For a charge of €140, they will submit your application to the Federal Public Service’s (FPS) authorization service. 

Government Assistance for Foreign-owned Businesses in Belgium

  • The economy of Belgium continues to be open, and commerce with other countries continues to be vital to its development. 
  • Foreign investors are not subject to any legislation that discriminates against them. Belgian authorities are developing a national security-based investment screening law.
  • However, the Belgian government and the European Commission have worked together to develop its investment screening system. In reality, this system enables the European Commission to provide opinions in cases where an investment threatens the public safety of many member states. 
  • A screening process at the federal level may be maintained or adopted by EU member states. 
  • Member states will have the final say about whether or not to authorize a particular investment in their country.
  • In Belgium, there are now no restrictions on foreign ownership or control, and Belgian and foreign corporations are not treated differently, whether it’s regarding establishing a business, owning an existing one, or setting up a lucrative activity. However, the upcoming investment screening apparatus may set some restrictions on terms of national security. 

How Can Multiplier Help?

Planning, investigation, and funding must be done with great care when starting a business abroad. You must also employ the appropriate personnel when the initial incorporation procedure is over to ensure smooth functioning in the long run. Without assistance from a global PEO-EOR company like Multiplier, it is a lengthy procedure that could be challenging. 

By onboarding employees, handling their payroll, and managing your global employee team, Multiplier will lessen HR responsibilities. Without creating a subsidiary, our experts can assist you in hiring people abroad and expand your business globally. While we take care of the ordinary HR activities, you get to explore new markets and concentrate on the administrative parts of your organization.

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Frequently Asked Questions

If you are a citizen of a nation outside of the EU or EFTA and wish to start a business in Belgium, you must first apply for a professional card (carte professionnelle/beroepskaart) unless you already have a Belgian residence permit. Your professional card serves as a representation of your right to work. You can ask for the card when you apply for your Belgian visa, or you can do it in advance by contacting the Belgian consulate or embassy in your home country. They will send your application to the Federal Public Agency (FPS) authorization service for a fee of €140.

No, as long as no existing business operates under the same name, choosing a company name in Belgium is unrestricted.

Anyone living in Belgium and at least 18 years old can launch a business with relative ease (16 for craftspeople). Although non-EU/EFTA persons may require a visa to enter Belgium and a Belgian residency authorization, foreigners can open businesses in Belgium.

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