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Doing Business in Belgium

Belgium, a diamond in the rough of Europe, has long been a beacon for businesses seeking to make their mark on the European stage. Its strategic location, multilingual and skilled workforce, and business-friendly environment make doing business in Belgium an attractive destination for businesses of all sizes and industries.

Key Takeaways

  • Navigating the Belgian business landscape requires an understanding of local laws and regulations, as well as its role in the EU.
  • Setting up a business entity involves filing documents, registering with authorities, and managing fiscal obligations.
  • Expanding a business offers access to a large market through established infrastructure and flexible tax policies.

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Navigating the Belgian Business Landscape

Belgium, a country known for its rich history, iconic chocolates, and world-renowned beers, also shines as a prime location for business endeavors. Its strategic location at the heart of Europe, coupled with a strong infrastructure and a diverse, multilingual population, makes it an attractive choice for businesses looking to penetrate the European market. However, success in any foreign market, including Belgium, hinges on understanding the local business landscape.

When considering Belgium as a business destination, entrepreneurs must be aware of the potential challenges. The country’s intricate bureaucratic procedures, high living costs, and language divide can pose hurdles when entering the international market. Moreover, one must understand the complexities of local laws and regulations to avoid possible pitfalls, such as delayed market entry, increased expenses, or even legal ramifications. Nevertheless, these challenges can be mitigated by seeking appropriate support and resources, such as reaching out to the Chambers of Commerce or regional investment agencies.

Understanding Local Laws and Regulations

Starting a business venture in Belgium requires a comprehensive understanding of local laws and regulations. The primary business laws in Belgium encompass a wide range of areas, from the requirement for employers to provide annual training for employees, to the Belgian Code of Economic Law which regulates online business conduct. Foreign companies looking to conduct business in Belgium can do so by establishing a local branch. However, it’s worth noting that these branches do not have a distinct legal identity and the parent company is fully responsible for their actions.

Moreover, businesses operating in Belgium are subject to several legal obligations. These include:

  • Implementing employment policies to ensure adherence to labor laws

  • Safeguarding intellectual property rights

  • Complying with the regulations for establishing a company or branch in the country

  • Adhering to strict labor laws that encompass language regulations, employee rights, and conditions of employment.

Understanding these complexities might appear overwhelming, but a solid grasp of these laws and regulations forms the bedrock of successful business operations in Belgium.

Belgium’s Role in the European Union

One of Belgium’s key advantages as a business destination lies in its strategic position within the European Union. The country’s EU membership offers businesses access to a large consumer market, an open economy, and a strategic location that facilitates trade and logistics. Moreover, being part of the EU grants businesses in Belgium the freedom to operate and establish themselves anywhere within the EU’s single market, eliminating trade barriers and allowing for smooth business operations across borders.

Belgium’s EU membership also impacts its trade relations and business regulations. As a member of the EU, Belgium enjoys the benefits of the EU’s bargaining power in trade agreements and is committed to the multilateral trading system based on the World Trade Organization.

Belgium’s role in the EU also influences its business regulations and standards, as the country takes an active part in the EU’s decision-making process and abides by common rules and standards applicable to all member states.

Setting Up Your Business Entity in Belgium

Establishing a business entity in Belgium is a straightforward process that involves selecting a legal structure, registering with the Belgian Chamber of Commerce, and understanding fiscal obligations. A variety of legal structures are available for businesses, ranging from private limited companies to partnerships without legal personality. The most commonly used legal entities in Belgium are the public limited company and the private limited liability company.

Once a legal structure is chosen, the next steps in setting up a business entity in Belgium include:

  • Opening a bank account

  • Registering with the Belgian Chamber of Commerce

  • Submitting the necessary paperwork to the Belgian authorities

  • Setting up the company’s accounting system

The company’s accounting system is integral to recording and tracking all financial transactions.

The Incorporation Process Explained

The incorporation process in Belgium is fairly streamlined. Here are the steps involved:

  1. Draft the deed of incorporation.

  2. File the deed of incorporation with the relevant authorities.

  3. Register the company with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises.

  4. Open a bank account for the company.

  5. Obtain any necessary permits or licenses.

The documents required for company incorporation in Belgium include:

  • Articles of Association

  • Proof of identity and address for shareholders and directors

  • Bank reference letters

  • Proof of initial capital deposit

The associated costs for incorporating a business include registration fees with a civil law notary and a minimum capital requirement.

While the process might seem complex, a comprehensive understanding of these requirements can ensure a seamless incorporation process.

Dealing with Withholding Tax and Other Fiscal Obligations

Running a business in Belgium comes with certain fiscal obligations. Some of these obligations include:

  • Withholding tax, which is a tax deducted from employee salaries based on a predetermined formula

  • Corporate income tax, which businesses must pay according to their financial statements

  • Compliance with the new corporate income tax regulations established from January 1, 2023.

Fortunately, Belgium offers tax exemptions and reductions for certain types of businesses. These can be found on the official website of Belgium’s business portal: Tax Benefits in Belgium. By taking advantage of these incentives, businesses can reduce their fiscal burden and further enhance their profitability.

Investment Opportunities and Incentives

Belgium offers an abundance of investment opportunities and incentives, making it an appealing destination for businesses. These include financial assistance, investment subsidies, and tax breaks. Furthermore, the country provides regional advantages for a variety of industries, including transportation services, manufacturing, high-tech, exports, and distribution centers. These advantages, combined with the country’s educated workforce and competitive wages, render Belgium an appealing destination for businesses across various industries.

The Belgian government provides support for research and development activities, including:

  • Public support for business research and development

  • Tax incentives for investments in innovation

  • Government funding for scientific research projects and staff development

In addition, specific incentives are available for startups, such as the Startlening+ program offering a subordinated loan for starting entrepreneurs.

Regional Advantages for Different Industries

Belgium’s regional diversity offers unique benefits for different industries. The primary industrial regions, mainly located in the northern part of the country, boast a highly trained workforce, a sophisticated infrastructure, and close proximity to major transportation hubs. These regions are renowned for their concentration of manufacturing industries and offer significant advantages for businesses.

On a regional level, the predominant industries vary. Here are some examples:

  • The Wallonia region is known for its aeronautics, aerospace, transport, logistics, and agri-industry.

  • The Flanders region is dominant in manufacturing, engineering, metal products, and automobile assemblies, among others.

  • The Brussels region is most prevalent in software & IT services, plastics, food & beverage, chemicals, and transportation.

This regional diversity provides a wide range of opportunities for businesses to tap into.

Research and Development Support

Belgium recognizes the importance of innovation and provides significant support for research and development activities. For businesses investing in R&D, there are a number of incentives available, including:

  • A 20% tax credit for assets procured or established between 2018 and 2019

  • An 80% exemption of Belgian payroll withholding taxes for firms employing R&D personnel

  • Incentives such as notional interest and increased investment deduction

These incentives can greatly benefit businesses and encourage innovation in Belgium.

To apply for R&D funding, businesses typically need to identify the relevant funding opportunity, assess the criteria, assemble the requisite documentation, submit the grant application, and await the review and evaluation of the application by the authorities. The governing bodies responsible for providing R&D support in Belgium include the European Commission, the Belgian Science Policy Office (Belspo), and Science Europe.

Realizing the Potential of Belgium’s Infrastructure

Belgium’s well-developed infrastructure plays a significant role in its attractiveness as a business destination. The country boasts:

  • A highly interconnected natural gas network

  • Advanced transportation infrastructure

  • A well-developed financial sector

  • A highly interconnected electricity system

  • Seaports, inland ports, airports, and railways, all of which facilitate smooth and efficient business operations.

This robust infrastructure has facilitated Belgium’s economic growth by attracting substantial investments in industries such as:

  • chemicals

  • petrochemicals

  • plastics

  • composites

Moreover, Belgium’s transport infrastructure, characterized by a well-developed road, air, rail, and water network, has positioned it as a significant transportation hub in Europe.

In terms of energy infrastructure, Belgium’s highly developed and interconnected electrical system provides businesses with access to reliable and sustainable energy sources, further strengthening their operations and growth.

Legal Aspects of Doing Business in Belgium

Navigating the legal landscape is a critical aspect of doing business in any country, and Belgium is no exception. When it comes to registering a business property, the process involves working with a notary who will draw up a deed and obtain all necessary documentation. Businesses also need to understand the types of business permits required in Belgium, which can include:

  • Professional card

  • Trade license

  • VAT registration

  • Environmental permits

  • Health and safety permits

among others.

Belgium has the following legal aspects that businesses need to be aware of:

  • Territorial intellectual property rights, which means businesses need to go through extra steps to gain protections in specific territories

  • Labor laws that prioritize the work-life balance of employees

  • Stringent language regulations for labor documents and communications with personnel

Comprehending these legal aspects is key to successful business operation in Belgium.

Registering Property and Obtaining Permits

When it comes to registering property in Belgium, the process involves:

  1. Locating a property

  2. Signing a purchase agreement

  3. Engaging a notary

  4. Paying registration fees

  5. Registering the property with the pertinent authorities

There are two institutions responsible for land registration in Belgium: the Land Registry Office and the Mortgage Registry. The process typically takes around four months, and there are no limitations on foreign ownership.

Obtaining the necessary permits and licenses is another crucial step in establishing a business in Belgium. The types of permits required depend on the nature of the business activity and can include:

  • Trade licenses

  • Professional cards

  • VAT registration

  • Environmental permits

  • Health and safety permits

  • Construction permits

By understanding these requirements and ensuring compliance, businesses can avoid potential legal pitfalls and set themselves up for success in the Belgian market.

Financial Considerations for Entrepreneurs

Financial considerations are a key aspect of running a business in Belgium. These include opening a business bank account and accessing capital and funding. In Belgium, investors include private individuals, venture capitalists, and investment funds. These sources of funding, combined with various investment instruments such as convertible loans, equity investments, and warrants, provide businesses with a range of options for securing the necessary capital.

Moreover, financing a business in Belgium can be achieved through several methods, including:

  • Borrowing from a bank

  • Obtaining capital from investors

  • Obtaining a loan from the government

  • Issuing shares

However, to open a business bank account, businesses typically need to provide proof of identity and proof of address. While the costs associated with opening a business bank account can vary depending on the bank and the type of account, having a dedicated business bank account is essential for managing financial transactions effectively.

Opening a Business Bank Account

Opening a business bank account in Belgium involves the following steps:

  1. Select an appropriate bank, such as BNP Paribas Fortis, KBC Bank, Belfius Bank, or ING Belgium.

  2. Gather the necessary documentation, including valid proof of identity and proof of residence.

  3. Execute the relevant paperwork provided by the chosen bank.

  4. Make an initial deposit to activate the account.

Establishing a business bank account offers several advantages, including:

  • Applying for credit on behalf of the company

  • Access to a straightforward account opening process with minimal documentation requirements

  • Efficient management of financial transactions, such as paying employees, vendors, and suppliers, managing marketing expenses, and receiving funds.

Accessing Capital and Funding

Accessing capital and funding is a key aspect of running a successful business. In Belgium, businesses can access bank loans through major Belgian banks like:

  • ING Belgium

  • Belfius

  • BNP Paribas-Fortis

  • KBC

Additionally, businesses can explore alternative financing options and sources of funding.

To qualify for a bank loan in Belgium, a business must:

  • Present a well-prepared business plan

  • Submit the necessary documents

  • Demonstrate a stable cash flow and self-financing capacity

  • Provide equity or collateral as security for the loan, as required by the bank.

The primary investors in Belgian businesses include:

  • Ninepointfive

  • PMV

  • Hummingbird Ventures

  • Capricorn Partners

  • Tioga

  • LRM

  • Volta Ventures

  • Quest for Growth

  • Smartfin

By exploring these various funding options, businesses can secure the necessary capital for their operations and growth.

Expanding Your Business Reach in Belgium

Expanding a business in Belgium can be a rewarding endeavor, offering access to a large and diverse market. However, businesses should be aware of the potential challenges, including the impact of Brexit due to Belgium’s strong ties with the UK and the country’s territorial intellectual property rights. Despite these challenges, the benefits of expanding in Belgium, including its ideal location in Western Europe, open economy, competent workforce, established infrastructure, and flexible tax policies, make it an attractive prospect.

Belgium’s strategic location provides a significant advantage for businesses looking to expand. Here are some reasons why:

  • Accessibility to a broad and varied market

  • Political stability

  • Suitable infrastructure and connectivity

  • Availability of a competent workforce

  • Culture of innovation

These factors contribute to Belgium’s appeal as a business base. Several successful Belgian startups and biotech companies serve as shining examples of successful business expansion in the country.

Establishing a European Base

Establishing a European base in Belgium can provide businesses with numerous advantages, including:

  • Access to a larger consumer market

  • A business-friendly environment

  • A strategic location that facilitates access to suppliers and customers across Europe

  • The opportunity to benefit from an already established entity, representing a safer investment with solid return potential compared to starting from scratch.

To establish a European base in Belgium, businesses must fulfill several legal requirements, including:

  • Company formation

  • Business licensing

  • VAT registration

  • Social security contributions

  • Employment contracts

  • Financial reporting

By establishing a European base in Belgium, businesses can tap into the European market, reach a larger customer base, and increase their sales and profitability.

The Workforce in Belgium: Hiring and Management

Belgium’s workforce is a significant asset for businesses aiming to establish or expand their operations in the country. The country’s multilingual and highly skilled workforce is a significant attraction for businesses, but comprehending local labor laws and hiring practices is vital. In Belgium, personnel can be recruited through an agency, a headhunter, or by posting a job advertisement. A professional employment lawyer can provide valuable advice on recruiting personnel and ensuring compliance with applicable regulations.

Belgian labor laws prioritize the work-life balance of employees and include strict language regulations for labor documents and communications with personnel. Furthermore, Belgium has strong non-discrimination and equal opportunity laws, governed by the Anti-discrimination Law of 10 May 2007, which strictly prohibits discrimination on the basis of 13 different criteria. Ensuring compliance with these laws is essential when hiring and managing a workforce in Belgium.

Corporate Taxation: A Comparative Perspective

Corporate taxation can significantly impact a business’s bottom line, and it’s important for businesses to understand how Belgium’s taxation policies compare to other European countries. Belgium’s corporate tax rate stands at 25%, marginally above the European average. However, the country provides numerous tax incentives for corporations, unlike other EU countries. These include the notional interest deduction (NID), investment deductions, and tax credits for research and development (R&D) activities.

When it comes to social security contributions and income tax rates, Belgium ranks among the highest in the European Union, with only France having higher social security contributions. On the other hand, Belgium’s standard Value Added Tax (VAT) rate is 21%, which aligns with the average standard VAT rate in the European Union. Understanding these taxation policies can help businesses make informed decisions about their operations in Belgium and across Europe.

Essential Services for Businesses in Belgium

Businesses operating in Belgium have a range of essential services at their disposal to help them navigate the business landscape and assure their success. These include consulting, tax and audit services, and legal support. Belgian businesses have to pay a number of taxes, such as corporate tax, value-added tax (VAT), and personal income tax. These are part of the country’s taxation system. The aggregate tax and contribution rate for companies conducting business in Belgium is 55.4 percent, with businesses typically required to make 11 tax payments per annum.

Leading consulting firms such as:

  • Deloitte

  • PwC

  • KPMG

  • EY

  • McKinsey & Company

  • Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

  • Bain & Company

  • Accenture

  • Roland Berger

  • Oliver Wyman

offer a range of services to assist businesses in their operations. By leveraging these services, businesses can ensure they are compliant with local laws, manage their finances effectively, and make strategic decisions to drive their success.


Belgium offers a unique combination of advantages for businesses looking to establish or expand their operations in Europe. Its strategic location at the heart of Europe, diverse and skilled workforce, well-developed infrastructure, and business-friendly environment make it an attractive choice for businesses of all sizes and industries. However, navigating the local business landscape requires a comprehensive understanding of local laws and regulations, the incorporation process, fiscal obligations, and other key considerations.

By leveraging the country’s investment opportunities and incentives, capitalizing on its regional advantages, accessing available support for research and development, and understanding the legal and financial aspects of doing business in Belgium, businesses can establish a solid foundation for success. Whether you’re looking to establish a European base, access a larger consumer market, tap into a diverse and skilled workforce, or take advantage of the country’s well-developed infrastructure, Belgium offers a wealth of opportunities for businesses ready to make their mark on the European stage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Belgians are known to maintain a good work-life balance, so it is important to separate business from private life when engaging in meetings or communication. Calling colleagues outside of working hours should also be avoided.

Belgium has been ranked 46th in the world for ease of doing business by the World Bank, with a score of 75 and the highest score being in trading across borders.


In Belgium, the equivalent of a Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a BVBA (Belgium Limited Liability Company). Shareholders are only liable for the value of their shares subscribed.

To get a business permit in Belgium, I need to choose a business counter or the Belgian Embassy/consulate abroad, bring all necessary documents and pay a fee of € 140 for the application. Afterwards, an additional € 90 must be paid per year of validity of the card.

Belgium is an attractive place for businesses due to its strategic location, diverse and multilingual workforce, open economy, well-developed infrastructure, and flexible tax policies.

At RemotePad, Lech draws on his professional experience to write about employment taxes and payroll (both remote, and in-office). Lech holds a Bachelors’ degree from the University of Kent, a Master of Arts (MA) from Kings College London, and professional payroll and tax qualifications. He has 20 years experience advising on all manner of tax and business planning matters.