Setting up a business in Belgium11 October 2009
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 31 May 2012
In Belgium, as in many other countries, it is possible to set up a business as a sole proprietor (any natural person acting on their own account), or as a legal entity (companies).
The Company Code governs the various ways companies are structured and how each structure operates.
In Belgium, businesses can be set up as:
- sole traders (natural persons acting on their own account), or
- legal entities (companies).
Every company exists independently. It is a legal entity and has its own assets. In principle, associates are not liable for its debts, although in the case of VAT and NSSO liabilities, there are exceptions.
The main advantage of setting up a commercial venture as a company is the separation between the assets of the company and the associates.
The professional card for foreigners is the permit authorising foreigners to work as self-employed professionals in Belgium.
Company legal atructures
The most common company structures are:
- limited liability company (LLC);
- private limited company (PLC);
Types of activities and related regulations
Some professions are regulated; therefore, in order to practise in these areas, certain conditions must be fulfilled.
All non-European foreigners must obtain a permit to operate as independent professionals on Belgian territory.
To succeed, a new business needs a sound commercial strategy and secure financing.
Some standard requirements to be completed when setting up a business are the same as when opening a branch.
The Services Directive: One-stop shop
The Services Directive is a European law that aims to make life easier for businesses that wish to provide services in the European Union – in their home country or abroad. The Directive defines the rules that apply to entrepreneurs wishing to establish a business or perform temporary services in the EU/EEA area (the 27 EU member states, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). It obliges member states to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, simplify formalities for businesses and make public administrations more efficient.
For the implementation of the Directive, each member state had to set up ‘Points of Single Contact (PSC)’, e-government portals which help businesses complete their administrative procedures on-line. The PSCs provide comprehensive information on all administrative matters related to setting up or expanding a services business in a given country. This includes for example:
- Which licences, notifications or permits do I need to obtain to start a business (at home or abroad)?
- What do I need to do when I want to offer my services abroad on a temporary basis?
- What do I need to do to apply for a licence? Which authority is responsible?
- Are the licences subject to a fee? What kinds of deadlines apply?
- Which acts and decrees apply in my sector?
- What do I need to do to establish, for instance, a restaurant or a shop? Or to work as a tour operator in another country without actually setting up a company?
- Where can I turn for personalised advice and further information?
With the PSCs, you no longer need to approach various authorities one by one!! The PSC allows you to find all relevant information and to send in your online applications to the responsible authority through one single contact point, the PSC. You can complete your administrative formalities electronically through the PSC. Just contact the PSC of the country that you want to do business in.
All PSCs are part of the European EUGO network; through a central website you can easily access all PSCs in Europe. Of course, the services of the PSCs are optional. You may always address yourself directly to the relevant authorities, too.
Business one-stop shop
The process of setting up a business has been greatly simplified. Companies can now be set up in just three days through e-filing at an electronic one-stop shop.
A notary electronically signs a copy (a certified true copy) of a deed of incorporation and submits it to the official databanks of the FPS Justice, the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises, and the Belgian Official Gazette, all in one go. A few minutes later, the client’s company number is ready.
Registering a company
The business registry
Just three steps in three days are all that’s needed to start up a company:
- Bank: the start-up entrepreneur pays in the minimum capital. This takes one day.
- Notary: the start-up entrepreneur engages a notary to prepare a deed of incorporation and electronic statutes and to obtain a business identification number. This takes one day.
- Business one-stop shop: the start-up entrepreneur activates the identification number. Again, only one day is required.
Social security enrolment
Anyone who is self-employed must be affiliated with a social insurance fund for self-employed workers.
If you wish to receive health insurance and disability coverage as a self-employed worker, you must select and subscribe to a mutual insurance company.
To obtain a VAT number, you must file an application with the local VAT office in the region in which your company has been established.
To practice certain professions, you must hold the licence, certificate, permit, registration or approval applicable to the field.
The Walloon authorities have assembled all the information required by start-up entrepreneurs on their SME Start-Up website.
The Flemish authorities have assembled all the information required by start-up entrepreneurs on their website Enterprise Flanders.
Source: Your Europe