The Challenges of the Belgian Company Register and moreExtolled by foodies who rave about the country’s chocolate, beer and frites, and appreciated by travellers for its excellent transportation system, Belgium is also a favourite of expatriate entrepreneurs and foreign investors. In fact, the team at Startup Overseas calls Belgium “one of the most amiable business environments in the EU.” They specifically cite its open and liberal economy, one in which domestic and foreign businesses are treated equally under the law as to rights and obligations.
Opportunities and Challenges of Doing Business in BelgiumThere are other reasons, too, that Belgium is popular with foreigners who wish to start or invest in a business abroad. Lawyers Belgium, a service that helps both expats and foreigners invest in, start up or expand companies in Belgium, writes that other benefits include:
- a dynamic tax system, which anticipates and adapts to economic changes;
- a workforce with talent that is both skilled and qualified;
- an international network of double tax treaties (reducing double taxation); and
- a business environment designed to attract foreign investment.
Types of Legal Entities in BelgiumThere are several types of companies that foreigners can open in Belgium. These are set out in the Belgian Commercial Code and include the following:
- private limited liability company
- public limited company
- cooperative company (limited and unlimited liability)
- various partnerships
Professional CardIf you are already living in Belgium when you decide to start a business (which can be working as a freelancer or as a self-employed worker), or if you decide to buy an existing one, the process is somewhat simplified. Those who are not residents of the country and who are citizens outside of the European Union, the European Economic Area and/or Switzerland, will need to obtain a professional card. Legal expert Emmanuel Ruchat writes at HG.org that your application will be assessed by the Department of Economical authorisations as to the impact your investment or business will have. Criteria looked at include: “response to economic need, job creation, investment useful economic impact on businesses located in Belgium, or opening export of innovative activity or specialisation.” Obtaining a professional card, Ruchat adds, is one of the best ways to obtain Belgian resident status. The other two are getting either a work permit or a wealth card, the latter being proof that you have the financial means of supporting yourself without being employed.
Other RequirementsThere are a few other requirements with respect to being self-employed or working as a freelancer in Belgium. On its information page, Expatica lists these:
- You must be over 18 years of age.
- You must register your business and obtain a company number.
- You may be asked to provide proof of skills or education.
- You must register with a social security fund.
- You should open a business bank account.
Money MattersThere are 3 major steps that entrepreneurs launching a commercial or industrial business in Belgium must undertake. Set out by the Doing Business project of the World Bank Group, which examines regulations in hundreds of economies, these steps are for companies with between 10 and 50 employees:
- Deposit at least 20% of the initial capital with a Belgian credit institution.
- Deposit a financial plan with the notary; sign the deed of incorporation and the by-laws for registration by the notary.
- Register with the Register of Legal Entities, VAT, and social security, and obtain a company number.
A Few More ServicesIn addition to those mentioned above, we’ve found a few other services that help foreigners establish companies in Belgium. These include:
- BridgeWest, which offers full incorporation packages and helps with setting up bank accounts, virtual offices, and accounting services. As each business is unique in some way, personal consultancies and tailored solutions form part of what they do.
- There’s also the TMF Group to look at when you need local knowledge in order to set up a new business in Belgium or streamline operations that already exist there.
- Open a European Company offers advice, as well. The teams writes that while Belgium’s recruitment sector is advanced, labor costs are high, as are employer contributions for national insurance contributions. They further advise as to which region might be best in terms of staffing for your industry, writing that “in Dutch-speaking Flanders, the most prosperous region, there is strong demand for skilled workers, particularly in IT and other technical fields. In contrast, there is an unemployment problem in French-speaking Wallonia, notably for unskilled workers.”