How to start a business in Belgium - company formation, notary advice, taxes & VAT.

Belgium lies at the political heart of the European Union and it is the most cosmopolitan of all EU states. This may go some way to explaining its strongly free-market approach to businesses wishing to set up a company in Belgium. The authorities impose relatively few restrictions on foreign companies operating within the country.

What are the most common types of company in Belgium?

  • Company limited by shares (S.A/N.V.)
  • Private limited liability company (S.P.R.L./B.V.B.A.)
  • Foreign companies seeking to incorporate in Belgium may operate either through a subsidiary (incorporated under Belgian law) or as a branch (incorporated under the law of the country where the parent is based).

Requirements for company formation in Belgium

  • The company has to have at least one shareholder.
  • A minimum of one director.
  • There is no minimum share capital for a S.R.L./B.V. company.
  • A financial plan for three years must be submitted and proof of being able to manage a company need to be given by anyone wanting to become a director of a new Belgium company.

What other requirements are there for a S.A/N.V?

  • You can set up a S.A/N.V alone or with several associates
  • Annual statutory audit
  • No residency or nationality requirements
  • A local serviced office is advisable
  • Minimum share capital is €61,500, which must be fully subscribed and paid up.

What are the formalities regarding company incorporation as a S.A/N.V.?

  • Incorporation by deed through a notary
  • Articles of association to be published in Belgian Official Gazette
  • Language of documents to be French or Dutch according to city
  • Three-year preliminary financial plan required

What other types of company are there?

  • The SC (cooperative company): you need to have three founders and a minimum of only €1 to set up.
  • The Partnership: you need to have at least two associates and the profit is taxed on a personal income tax basis.

How easy is it to recruit staff?

Belgium has an advanced recruitment sector, including clerical and secretarial staff. Labour costs are high and generous welfare benefits are matched by high national insurance contributions for both employers and employees. In Dutch-speaking Flanders, the most prosperous region of Belgium, there is strong demand for skilled workers, particularly in IT and other technical fields.

What is the regulatory environment like?

Belgium guarantees the freedom to set up a company and transfer capital to all foreign companies and to any foreign investor who wishes to settle in Belgium in order to start a commercial or industrial operation. The benefits include:

  • no prior authorization needed except for certain types of business such as banking, insurance and transport
  • foreign capital may be brought into the country without restriction
  • no preliminary authorization required for takeovers or joint ventures
  • variety of tax breaks, including one which allows a multinational company to provide financial and managerial services virtually tax-free

Financial incentives and banking facilities

Full banking services are available which offer a complete range of commercial banking facilities, including those related to acquisitions and the raising of capital. We make it easy for you to open a bank account in Belgium. Financial incentives are available but vary widely according to location. These include:

  • Flanders offers financial aid to SMEs starting up in established industrial zones or in industrial development zones; funding is also available to larger companies; extra incentives are in place for biotech companies and for businesses involving environmental controls
  • Wallonia offers help with the purchase of land, buildings, equipment and project-related investment costs; aid is also available for investment in areas such as product development, licensing and market research
  • Brussels may provide investment grants, initial exemption from withholding taxes in certain cases, interest free loans for industrial research, grants for employment of some categories of job-seekers and aid for technical and language training

For more information on company incorporation in Belgium, how to open a bank account or for any further issues on how to set up a business in Belgium including notary advice, taxes and VAT, please contact us on 0033 (0)1 53 57 49 10 or email us through our contact page and we’ll be happy to help.