In this post you will find information about how to register a business in Ghent and Belgium. It includes tips about the paperwork and administration needed for setting yourself up as self employed or as a freelancer (zelfstandig, eenmanzaak) in Ghent. It also includes a reference to a governmental source with information on the more complicated procedure of setting up a limited company.
This is the third post about starting a business in Ghent. In the first one you can find out if you are eligible to start a business in Belgium. The second one explains the pros and cons about working as a freelancer and starting a limited company. Here is also a list of organisations supporting startups in Gent.
Registering as a freelancer (zelfstandig, eenmanszaak)
Opening a bank account
Start by opening a bank account. Many banks are very keen on getting business customers, so shop around to get the best deals. They will especially try to sell you their pension- and insurance solutions. Do a comparison between the major banks and ask for recommendations from people you know to find the best fit for you. You can read more about opening a bank account as an expat here.
Enterprise counter (KBO)
After you have checked you meet all the requirements (see this post) you need to visit an enterprise counter (ondernemingsloket), like Partena/Acerta/Xerius… to register at Kruispuntbank van Ondernemingen (KBO). KBO is a databank where all companies are registered. This is also where you apply for your company number, which is the same number as your VAT number (BTW-nummer). If you are not registered on KBO you can not trade legally.
Use the following link to search for the counter closest to you in Gent and Flanders: http://vlaanderenonderneemt.be/ondernemingsloketten
These are the things you need to bring with you when you apply for your VAT-number (BTW-nummer):
- Residence card, or ID and proof you have applied for residence
- Bank account number
- If necessary, any extra certificates needed to start a business in a regulated sector, e.g anything food related, law, accountancy… Here is a link to a site by the European commission where you can find all the regulated professions in Belgium and each EU country listed.
Registering costs about 80€ but you get this paid back by the city of Ghent. If you don’t receive it in 3 months or so automatically, write an email with your request to get it reimbursed and your bank account number to email@example.com.
Note that in your application you will need to state all the activities you will do. Add here as many activities you can think of as any additions you need to do later will cost you the same administrative fee as when you first registered. You will need to list based on NACE-codes, and you can find them in English here.
You will need to pay quarterly social contributions, and the enterprise counter can arrange this for you. Note that on top of the social contribution you also need to pay the social security provider a fee. This fee can vary between the different providers, so again, do some comparisons. Tip: a good contact person can be like gold dust when you have any questions, so do choose a person you have a good connection with.
Belgium has quite a complicated system for health insurance, you can get an introduction to it via The Square.Gent health care insurance guide here. As a freelancer you need to make sure you are associated with a health fund (ziekenfonds). And don’t forget your hospital insurance – as a self employed person you don’t have an employer who takes care of this for you!
Registering a company
To register a company you will need to follow quite a tedious procedure.
- Set up articles of incorporation. These are usually drawn up by a notary and contain information such as the names of the founders, the company type, the address of the company and so on.
- Have a financial plan
- Have quite a substantial amount of starting capital – this also depends on the type of company you choose to set up.
- Register the articles of incorporation at the commercial court
- Find a good accountant as there are quite some requirements on bookkeeping and accounting!
You can find more detailed info in English about setting up a limited company via this link.
If you have questions about this topic, suggestions for future articles or have a tip that can be useful for an aspiring business owner, do share in the comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org!
About the author:
Jenny is originally from Finland and moved to Ghent in 2009. Now she works as self-employed organising events, supporting businesses with marketing and helping people starting their own businesses by being a community manager of Entrepreneurs Anonymous & co-organiser of Freelance Business Day. Find out more and connect with her on LinkedIn.