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Starting you own business in Brussels: is it worth the trouble?

Question

My wife is thinking about starting her own business in Brussels. We know already how high taxation rates can be for employees, so we guess it will be about the same level of taxation or more. In case she decides to set up her own company, we wonder if it is worth all the hassle. The impression we get is that Belgian and Brussels authorities are not especially prone to make the life of (new) entrepreneurs easy, specially after having read stories like the one on AirBnB (see the thread entitled Airbnb complaints, started by Mikek1300gt) or Uber. I know those are very particular types of businesses, but it is quite telling how authorities and established actors are reacting to them.

As far as the level of taxation for companies is concerned, I guess it depends on the sort of business and turnover. Can someone confirm?

I have been doing a bit of research, and it seems that BECI has a Guichet d’Entreprises, a one stop shop to set up a company in no time (http://www.beci.be/services/je_cree_ma_societe/guichet_d_entreprises/). Does anyone have any experience with that?

And, last but not least, do you have your own company here? How does it feel to be a foreigner and being confronted with Belgian administration as a your own business' manager?

Thanks in advance!

Answer
sn Sep 19, 2015 18:05

Our accountant took care of all the administration and it was super fast. We setup our company in 4 days with the help of our accountant and notaire (yes they need to be involved as well).

For small business there are tax rebated for the first 3 employees. We have not hired any employees yet, but are thinking about it in the next 2 years.

Over all very satisfied. We are operating for the past 3 years.

Answer
Anonymous Sep 19, 2015 19:41

No, it is not worth it. The taxman kills you.
Decent bank director will also give you strong advice to not do it.
Also see article: Large number of self-employed earning below poverty level
http://www.xpats.com/large-number-self-employed-earning-below-poverty-level

Answer
J Sep 19, 2015 19:59

Depends. If you have a good business plan and a good idea, it's no harder to run a business here than it is in the UK, and if you have plenty of kids, you may even find your tax bill is lower.

Mikek1300gt whines about just about everything here. Some of us are puzzled as to why he's not buggered off yet.

Answer
Mikek1300gt Sep 19, 2015 22:10

It should be noted of course that a huge number of self employed are below the poverty line because they don't declare all their earnings. The butcher, baker, hairdresser, bars, restaurants. ALL the small bars are working in the black and not declaring their earnings, most of the larger ones.

J...I was advised to bugger off if I did not like the taxes quite some time ago. Knowing how unwelcome my money was, I buggered off, as far as the tax man is concerned, quite some time ago. Pay attention man!

PS......Must make you glow with pride to know you live in the only country on the planet where informal airbnb members needs to fill in 15 forms and have a minimum of five clothes hangers per closet, this to be confirmed by a suitably qualified inspector.

Jeez, anyone that did not know Belgium would think I was joking there.......

Answer
Mikek1300gt Sep 19, 2015 22:12

Oh, and while J says you'll do fine for tax if you have a small army of children, you will be eaten alive if you do not and declare a decent income.

Answer
kasseistamper Sep 20, 2015 09:58

AirBnB is a California based organisation - which probably explains why they refer to a wardrobe as a 'closet'.
Their coat-hanger requirements are nothing to do with Belgian bureaucracy.

Answer
Mikek1300gt Sep 20, 2015 11:32

It's Brussels region that just took the incredible simplicity and low cost of airbnb and turned it in to a bureaucratic nightmare.

People who would now like to let their sofa to a kindred travelling spirit for the nigh now have a paper chase of FIFTEEN separate forms, must supply a separate bathroom for the guest and yes, there must be five clothes hangers per closet. All of this to be checked by a visit to the property. Oh, and while I don't know, I am fairly sure there will be costs associated with all those bits of paper. And let's not even get in to the complication of then reporting the earnings of the "business" and associated tax affairs.

Far from airbnb putting such ludicrous requirements on those wishing to let a room occasionally, it was airbnb who brought the requirements of Brussels region to the attention of the public and have described it as the most absurd situation they have ever encountered any where in the world. No surprise to me.

Answer
AJ Sep 20, 2015 12:40

As long as your idea is sound, it should work anywhere. Maybe start out as an "independent" and see how it goes, then move to starting an "sprl". Try not to employ anyone though.

Answer
katie Sep 20, 2015 18:39

Two comments:
If you rent out accommodation in the UK and want to be approved by Visit England or Visit Scotland, you have to have 6 coat hangers per visitor.
If you want an employee without all the hassle, you can ask them to be independent and bill you. I have been asked to do that by several language schools.

Answer
Mikek1300gt Sep 20, 2015 19:50

The people doing airbnb did not want approval.

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