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Set up a company

What type of company can be created in Brussels?

Before choosing your corporate form, you must decide whether to create a branch office or a subsidiary of the parent company.

Branch office

An extension of a parent company located in another country. It is wholly-owned by the parent company, that is liable for all the debts and obligations of the Belgian branch office. A branch office does not have stocks, shares, a board of directors, or minimum capital requirements.

Subsidiary

A company created and capitalized in Belgium by the parent company. It has its own board of directors, is liable for its assets and subject to Belgian law, even if controlled from outside Belgium. A subsidiary can be established as a public stock corporation, limited liability company (LLC), a cooperative, general partnership, sole proprietorship or joint venture. A subsidiary and its parent company are considered as separate legal entities.

The most largely used corporate forms are the following ones:

Stock Corporation

The ‘NV/SA’ format is most often chosen for larger enterprises. This is a share company, or joint-stock company, equivalent to a public limited company in common law jurisdictions.

Limited Liability company A ‘bv/srl’ structure is attractive for small companies. This is a privately owned company with limited liability and legal personality.

Cooperative company

A cooperative company structure is a flexible corporate form with a limited liability.

What is the minimum capital and cost for setting up a company?

A Stock Corporation, known as ‘NV/SA’ requires a minimum capital of €61,500 to be paid in by the founders at the time of incorporation.

A Limited Liability company, known as well as cooperative require no minimum capital but sufficient initial net assets.

In addition to the capital injection, fees for the services of an accountant and for company registration (through a notary) may be required depending on the type of entity to be created.

How do I set up a company?

Once you decide which structure is best suited for your activity, you will need to constitute and register the company. The legal steps required when establishing a company are similar for all corporate legal forms:

  • Opening a bank account to deposit the capital
  • Notarising and registering the deed of incorporation of the company
  • Register the company to the “Crossroads Bank for Enterprises”

An accountant specialising in company creation can advise you on the documents and registration process for creating a specific type of company in Brussels – including corporate statutes, tax and social security registration, health insurance payroll, employment obligations, and other formalities.

What about work permits in Brussels?

EU and EEA citizens:

All European Union citizens and citizens of the European Economic Area can live and work in Belgium without formalities and a work permit. EEA includes Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Non-EU citizens:

Non-EU citizens wishing to be employed in Belgium need to apply for a work permit and be legally resident in Belgium to work here (see the Invest in Brussels Guidelines for details).

Non-EU citizens wishing to be self-employed in Belgium need a professional card to practice their profession.

Work permit types

Belgium issues three types of work permits: AC Permit, valid for one year for multiple employers (typically for migrant agricultural or domestic workers); G Permit, not renewable; A/B Permit, valid for one employer for one year, renewable, typically by the same employer for the same position.

What type of employment contracts exist in Belgium?

Unlimited duration contracts – An open contract. Employer or employee can terminate the agreement subject to a notice period.

Fixed-term employment contract – Employer and employee agree that the contract will automatically end at a specific date.

Contracts for clearly defined tasks – A contract that expires when a specific task is completed.

Temporary employment contracts – To replace a permanent worker, or to respond to an increase work and labor needs.

Who can help me set up my business in Brussels?

hub.brussels is the Economic development agency of the Brussels-Capital Region and the welcome desk for the foreign investors. Its “Invest” team is fully dedicated to help you assess your needs and make the right choices for setting up your business in the Brussels region. Once you have decided on the approach, you have access to many business services, accountants and tax specialists who can help constitute the company, and provide payroll and related support.

Taxes and costs

What is the corporate tax rate in Belgium?

Corporate tax on profits is currently set at 29.58%. This will be reduced to 25% in 2020 for big corporations. For Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), the corporate tax rate to is 20.4% on the first bracket of €100.000 of net taxable income in 2019, and will be reduced to 20% in 2020.

What is the personal income tax rate?

Personal income tax in Belgium is based on a progressive rate of taxable income, ranging from 25% to a maximum rate of 50%. To reduce taxable income, a wide range of deductions is possible.

What is the cost of employment in Belgium?

Administrative and professional staff are paid monthly. Most employees receive a 13th-month additional salary payment every year and double holiday pay, equivalent to 89% of the monthly salary. Salaries are inflation-adjusted.

Employees can also be remunerated in ‘in-kind benefits’; this reduces social security contributions tied to salary levels. In-kind benefits include company car, mobile phone, computer, group insurance, pension fund, stock options.

If you are starting a company in Brussels, one of the many payroll agencies can advise on employment contracts and help set up the payroll scheme.

Social security

Payment of social security contributions is compulsory. Professional staff and workers pay 13.07% of their gross salary to the national social security fund; employers pay 25% of the employee’s gross salary.

Belgian social security provides unemployment benefits, pensions, sickness and disability benefits, family and child allowances, workers' compensation for accidents and healthcare.

To estimate employment costs for a company you are creating, see https://www.belgiumtaxcalculator.com/

What investment incentives are offered to companies setting up in Brussels?

When setting up your company in Belgium, you can benefit from a range of tax incentives, including deductions on the cost of capital, on patent income, on the hiring of researchers and related costs, and on capital gains.

Brussels also offers advantageous asset depreciation schemes, relocation assistance for companies, and investment subsidies to buy or convert buildings to house a new business.

Expatriate executives setting up their operation in Belgium also benefit from substantial tax advantages. Likewise, a company setting up for the first time can benefit from a lifetime exemption from social security payments for its first employee.

Healthcare

What can I expect of Belgium's healthcare system and what does it cost?

Health care in Belgium is recognised as offering among the highest cost/quality in Europe. It was ranked by a patient survey as fourth in Europe on total score, with the best ranking on availability – waiting times being very rare.

All registered residents in Belgium are covered by the national healthcare system, funded by social security contributions. National health insurance reimburses a large percentage of most types of healthcare costs, including doctors’ visits, medical interventions, therapies, and medication. Residents in Belgium have a choice of healthcare providers with clear reimbursable policies and offer additional services to cover 100% of health care cost.

Education

What are the options for education in Brussels - for international and other schools?

Brussels ranks consistently in the top 2 to 5 cities in Europe for the quality and diversity of its international education offering.

30 of Europe’s top international schools are located in Brussels, offering GCSE, AP, IB, and ECIS programs in English, bilingual French-English, French, Japanese, German, Scandinavian languages, Russian and others. The national Belgian school system offers a choice of local publicand private institutions to foreign students in French and Dutch.

A non-exhaustive list of international schools

Life

What is the average home & office rent in Brussels?

Office rental costs are well below those of Europe’s other business centers. For personal accommodation, a 100sq meter apartment in most central locations costs €1300/month or lower. Office space in prime locations is as low as €25/sqft.

Brussels is the "capital of Europe". What does this mean for my business?

In Brussels, your company will be within easy reach of the European Institutions, many regional and international, commercial, political and diplomatic representations. Many public affairs consultancies provide the link between the business and European policy communities to help you better understand how the European Institutions function, and how to inform and influence decision-makers.

Brussels is a federal country. What does this mean for my business?

Belgium is a Federal State composed of three regions – the Brussels Capital Region, the Walloon Region, and the Flemish Region. Each region manages its economic sector – including support to businesses and investment, as well as employment and mobility. The issues related to these sectors may differ from one region to another. In contrast, tax and fiscal matters, justice, and social security are managed by the federal government and identical across the three regions.

What about arts, culture & leisure activities?

Brussels provides a very wide scope of art museums and exhibitions, cultural venues and activities, as well as leisure activities for all. There are too many to even try to sum it up here, but we'll be happy to redirect you towards the appropriate information points according to your needs.