Business in Belgium – The Perfect Path of Intuitive Entrepreneurs

Situated at the center of Western Europe, Belgium has been one of the minor European countries when it comes to size. The country is sharing its borders with Germany (in the east), France (south), the Netherlands (north) and Luxembourg (southeast), having access to the North Sea in the west. Because of its ideal geographical location, at the intersection of "Germanic" and "Latin" Europe, Belgium becomes a multilingual, multicultural, dynamic country. In general, the people of Belgium make the most of modern, Western way of life. There are no specific religious or cultural influences or exclusions on business activities.

General Information about Opening a Business in Belgium

General Information about Opening a Business in Belgium
General Information about Opening a Business in Belgium
Belgian (local) authorities are open to foreign investment. Different attractive investment incentives and tax regimes exist to draw and facilitate foreign investment to the country. Generally, there are no specific restrictions linked when establishing a business in Belgium. Setting up a business in Belgium does not need any special authorization from the government. On the other hand, to be able to continue your business in the country, you have to register with the Banque Carrefour des Entreprises/Kruispuntbank Ondernemingen (BCE-KBO), which is the body that is responsible for the registration of business conduct in Belgium. In order to acquire a VAT number, registration is needed inter alia.

There are no specific or general restrictions placed on foreign ownership of real property or businesses. But then, access to several activities, like construction and building, needs registration with the right authorities. In addition to this, although establishing a business within itself does not generally need any authorization, still, legislation exist about the construction and location of industrial plants. To state an example, to be able to establish a plant, you will be required to get a local building permit, which will have to comply with the regulations of the local building.

Traditionally, Belgium has both encouraged and invited investment from foreign countries. As mentioned above, there are no particular prohibitions on foreign investment or acquisition of real property or business entities. Along with this, the government produced an alluring climate for private conduct and has taken the necessary steps for stimulating investment.

A foreign individual or company that likes to run a business in Belgium would normally integrate a subsidiary. Otherwise, to run a business in Belgium, a company should register the business as the branch office. One of the most common types preferred by many foreign investors for running a subsidiary in Belgium includes either the BVBA/SPRL or the NV/SA. Recently, some foreign investors also look at integrating SE (Societas Europaea or European Company).

Intellectual Property

Belgium's trademark law on Intellectual Property is primarily governed by the Benelux Convention. The Benelux countries consist of a single jurisdiction when it comes to trademark purposes. Therefore, it is possible to acquire trademark protection only within Belgium. Belgium has taken on a number of global conventions on trademarks. The trademarks include:

  • The Paris Convention for Industrial Property Protection
  • The 1967 Nice Convention on the global classification of services and goods for trademark registration
  • The 1989 Protocol and 1891 Madrid Agreement for the global registration of trademarks, which are administered by the International Bureau of WIPO
It is crucial to keep in mind that it is also probable to register to the Community Trademark (CTM). A CTM system offers consistent trademark protection all through the whole Europe territory and has been administered by the Office for Harmonization within the Internal Market.

Limited Liability Companies (Forms and Constitution)

Limited liability companies are allowed to do business in Belgium that may be incorporated with the following forms:

  • Public Limited Liability Company NV/SA (Naamloze Vennootschap/Société Anonyme)
  • Private Limited Liability Company BVBA/SPRL (Besloten Vennootschap Met Beperkte Aansprakelijkheid/Société Privée à Responsabilité Limitée)
  • Co-Operative Society With Limited Liability CVBA/SCRL (Coöperatieve Vennootschap Met Beperkte Aansprakelijkheid/Société Coopérative à Responsabilité Limitée)
For liability purposes, many foreign investors normally choose to run a business in Belgium through establishing a completely owned subsidiary (Dochtervennootschap/Filiale) in a form of the Limited Liability Company. The BVBA/SPRL and NV/SA are most commonly used forms.

Requirements for Establishing a Business in Belgium

In Belgium, foreign investors are not subjected to alien business law. The competition policy in the country falls under the Belgian Federal Government's jurisdiction. This applies all across Belgium. When it comes to both substance and procedure, the legal conditions are created in accordance to Europe competition law. When the mixed revenue of your businesses included in an acquisition or merger goes beyond €100 million in Belgium and the revenue of each of the minimum of 2 involving businesses goes beyond €40 million in Belgium, a transaction will be subjected to mandatory premerger filing within Belgium.

A business transaction may not be subjected to general controls when the combined collective global revenue of all involved entities is over €5 billion and the collective EU revenue of at least 2 of the entities is over €250 million, unless every entity involved derives more than 2/3 of the collective EU revenue within a single member state. In this case, a transaction will be subjected to European jurisdiction.

Environmental Regulations

Environment regulations might apply both to performed industrial processes and to services or products sold in the market. Usually, industrial activities require administrative declarations and/or operating permits, while services and products need to comply with certification requirements, product safety regulations and more. Processes to acquire permits might involve huge consulting costs.

Government Licenses, Permits/Approvals

As mentioned earlier, Belgium (both on the regional and the federal governments) has conventionally encouraged and invited foreign investment on a national basis. With this, foreign investment is completely unrestricted and profits and capital may be transferred freely in and out of Belgium. Particular businesses, whether owned by Belgian residents or the other way around, are subjected to certain screening or approval rules (for instance road haulage, private security firms, credit institutions, sale or production of food, retail businesses, travel agencies, precious stone cutting, hotel trade, and sales of weapons).

The Economic Expansion and Foreign Investment Department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs is cooperating with Belgian consulates and embassies to advise prospective investors about the advantages they can get once they make an investment in Belgium.



© Goldblum and Partners 2007 — 2020
About Us