BUSINESS IN BELGIUM

The favorable geographical location in the west of Europe, between France, Germany and the Netherlands, makes Belgium one of the most attractive European countries for starting and doing business. These neighboring states account for about 45% of Belgian exports, in addition, a flow of goods is directed to the UK, USA and Italy.

The Belgian economy is built on modern market principles, open and quite stable. The unemployment rate in 2024 is about 5-7%, inflation is 1-2%. The Belgian government timely carries out necessary reforms, including tax policy and regulation of the labor market, which contributes to the inflow of foreign investments and increases the competitiveness of Belgian producers.

Business in Belgium

Today in Belgium and the capital Brussels there are concentrated not only a large number of international political and public organizations, but also offices of the largest foreign companies, for example, Microsoft, IBM and Toyota. Every year thousands of foreigners open their own business in Belgium, among which there are also citizens from countries outside the EU.

Business immigration to Belgium, in addition to financial benefits, will allow not only the entrepreneur, but also members of his family for a long time to settle in the European Union, in a country with a high standard of living, ideal infrastructure and long-standing cultural traditions. Belgian universities provide quality education, and the diploma is quoted almost all over the world, which will allow, if necessary, to find a job both in Belgium and in any other state in Europe.

How to start a business in Belgium

According to the official data of the Belgian statistical agencies, today in the country are doing business more than 1 million people, the lion's share of which are foreigners. Local laws do not provide special obstacles for foreign businessmen, however, some conditions still have to be met. This is especially true for citizens of so-called third countries.

What a foreigner needs to open and run a business in Belgium

  • Age of at least 18 years.

  • In most cases, you will need business experience, relevant education and management skills.

  • Registration of a long-term visa, residence permit in Belgium and a professional card (carte professionelle).

  • Company registration. Particular attention should be paid to the list of regulated professions, for which special conditions are provided.

  • Registration with the social insurance authorities, tax office and opening an account in a local commercial bank.

From all of the above, we can conclude that it is quite problematic to open a business in Belgium on your own. You will probably need advice and assistance of specialized lawyers, preferably Belgian. One of the main conditions is to obtain a professional card, i.e. a kind of work permit. As a rule, the document is issued through the Belgian Consulate in your country together with your visa and residence permit.

In order to make a positive decision on the issuance of a professional card, it is necessary to provide comprehensive information about the business project, financial opportunities, business experience, business contacts and other information that will allow local officials to assess the effect of this type of activity on the Belgian economy. Initially the card is issued for two years, with the right to extend it up to 5 years. The cost of registration is 140 euros, with subsequent payment of 90 euros annually.

For more details on the procedure for obtaining a professional card in Belgium and requirements for foreigners, please visit the official website of the Economy and Employment of Brussels. It is worth noting that the card is issued for a specific field of activity and is linked to a valid residence permit. Permanent residence in Belgium for at least 5 years will allow you to apply for Belgian citizenship.

Procedure and cost of company registration in Belgium

According to the World Bank, namely the research of the agency Doing Business, out of 190 countries in the world on the availability of opening a business, Belgium ranks 46th. This is far from the best indicator in the European Union. This once again emphasizes that, most likely, to simplify the procedure of registration of your own company in Belgium will need the services of local lawyers. Let's highlight the main stages.

  1. Opening an account in a commercial bank and depositing an amount of at least 20% of the authorized capital. Owners are issued a certificate certifying the payment of the necessary funds, which are temporarily blocked on a special account.

  2. Registration by a notary of the main legal documents of the company, including the financial plan and the memorandum of association. The notary verifies the authenticity of the documentation and registers the deed of incorporation. The procedure takes one day and costs about 1.5 thousand euros.

  3. Registration in the commercial register of legal entities. The cost of services is 82.5 euros. At this stage, the company is assigned an identification code, and the owner may be required to provide proof of business experience and a diploma of education corresponding to the direction of the business.

  4. Registration with the tax and social security authorities. The cost of issuing a VAT payer's certificate is 55 euros.

In total, the process of company registration in Belgium takes up to one working week. The procedure can be carried out in one place through special offices (guichet d'entreprise/ondernemingsloket), which are located throughout the country.

Forms of ownership in Belgium

One of the most important steps on the way to creating a successful business in Belgium will be choosing the form of ownership for the future company. It is worthwhile to familiarize yourself with all available types in advance and stop on the most suitable form, depending on the goals and scale of the planned activities. Let's consider the most popular among entrepreneurs forms of ownership in Belgium.

  • Private Limited Liability Company (SPRL/BVBA). The most convenient and popular type of company in Belgium, as well as the only option to create a legal entity by one person. It is mainly used for small and medium-sized businesses.

    Provides for a minimum amount of authorized capital of 18.55 thousand euros, of which 6.2 thousand euros are contributed at the initial stage of registration of the company, if there are several shareholders. In the case of a single owner it is required to contribute 12.4 thousand euros at once. Shareholders' liability is proportional to their contributions to the share capital.

  • Public limited liability company (SA/NV). More suitable for large businesses in Belgium. Requires at least two shareholders and a minimum share capital of 61.5 thousand euros. The company's shares can be listed on the stock exchange. General management is carried out by a board of directors. Shareholders' liability is limited to contributions to the share capital.

The full list of forms of ownership and the procedure for registering a business in Belgium can be found here.

Taxes in Belgium

Tax optimization is one of the most important components of business development in any country, including Belgium. At the same time, foreign entrepreneurs are obliged to strictly comply with local fiscal legislation and keep accounting records of business activities in accordance with Belgian requirements.

Rates of main taxes in Belgium in 2024

Corporate income tax – 25% (29.58% in 2018-2019).

VAT. The basic rate is 21%. There are reduced rates of 12%, 6% and 0% for some categories of goods and services.

Income tax. Progressive rate depending on income (euros per year):

  • Annual income up to 15,820 euros – 25%

  • Annual income from 15,820 euros to 27,920 euros – 40%

  • Annual income from 27,920 euros to 48,320 euros – 45%

  • Annual income over 48,320 euros – 50%

Tax on dividends – 15%.

As you can see, Belgium does not have the lowest tax rates compared to other countries in the European Union.

Business destinations in Belgium

The high level of international trade, the demand for Belgian products and the concentration of large global companies in the country not only attracts investors, but also creates appropriate competition. Therefore, it is extremely important to conduct a detailed analysis of the local market and identify the most accessible niches for investment. The most attractive area for investment is considered to be the tourism sector.

Belgium is famous for its many cultural attractions and places for recreation, including a long coastline, forests, museums and architectural structures. The exquisite Belgian cuisine creates the conditions for opening a café or restaurant. In each case, special licenses and permits will be required. IT companies and innovative startup projects are also often considered.

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