Starting a business in Belgium equals to fill out formalities. If you are not familiar with the world of administration, then it might look complicated.
There is paperwork to do on many levels; the level of the town you are living, the province where the town is embedded in, the (language) region you belong to, and it is not always crystal clear who is in charge or who is responsible (or not) for what.
The demands of local, regional or national Belgian Administration can be different depending on the place you are living, or nationality you are having.
In Belgium, all data relating to Belgian enterprises (commercial companies and self-employed professionals) is kept in a single, protected register: the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (in English CBE, in French BCE, in Dutch KBO). The Crossroads Bank for Enterprises gives every enterprise and business unit its own unique identification number, the enterprise number. All economic activities have to be registered with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises, no later than the day on which the activity starts.
This applies to any additional activity that a self-employed person might engage in. If you fail to register all of this properly with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises, as a self-employed person, you are risking a fine. Several different bodies and institutions supply information to the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises, depending on the precise nature of the economic activities concerned. These are: the enterprise counter (also called one-stop shop business services), the office of the clerk of the Commercial Court, the VAT authorities or the Belgian National Social Security Office (in English NSSO, in French ONSS, in Dutch RSZ).
If you are planning to set up a one-person business, your registration with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises will be handled directly by a one-stop shop business service (also called enterprise counter). If you are setting up a company, your first step will be to register the deed of incorporation with the office of the clerk of the Commercial Court. Once you have done this, you will have to get an enterprise counter to handle your registration with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises, which will include submitting all the required company information.
A strong recommendation for you is, if you want to find your way in the paper jungle of legal formalities, to put your plans on paper, to develop a detailed plan and to ask yourself at every step: what do I need to do this and where can I get it? If you don’t know the answer, look for someone who does.
It will make you progress nice and easy, and it prevents you from unnecessary steps and waste of time to complete all administrative formalities in Belgium.