Doing business in Belgium - A summary

Brussels

Background to business in Belgium

Despite its relatively moderate size, Belgium is a major hub for global enterprise and has the 11th largest GDP in Europe. It is one of the EU’s smaller countries, however, a population of 11m makes it one of the most densely populated.  Brussels is the 5th most attractive city in Europe to set up companies, behind London, Paris, Frankfurt and Barcelona according to the European Cities Monitor 2009, published by the international consultancy and property company Cushman & Wakefield.

The city of Antwerp was once the sugar capital of the world and, in the 16th century along with Bruges, it was a major global banking hub. The country’s modern capital Brussels is home to the HQs of numerous international bodies and agencies, such as; the European Parliament and Commission and NATO. Indeed, Brussels might well be considered the capital of the EU.

Belgium is highly attractive to do business

Many multinationals have global and regional HQs in Belgium, with Brussels offering all the specialised business and financial services that headquarters need, as do Wallonia and Flanders. Examples include digital imaging and IT giants Agfa-Gevaert, located in Mortsel just outside of Antwerp and multinational brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev is located in Leuven. The likes of General Electric, IBM, Toyota, Microsoft, Monsanto, Pfizer and Levi Strauss & Co have set up European or regional offices in Brussels.

Belgium ranked 45nd out of 190 countries in the 2019 Doing Business rankings published by World Bank, rising 7 places from previous year. And, according to Ernst Young’s 2018 Barometer on Belgium’s Attractiveness, the country stayed in 8th position in a list of the most attractive counties for FDI in Europe, rising to 15th for European job creation. One reason for its attraction is high level of transaction transparency, which scores higher than the OECD average.

 

 

Belgium

OECD

United States

Index of Transaction Transparency

8.0

6.0

7.0

Index of Manager’s Responsibility

6.0

5.0

9.0

Index of Shareholders’ Power

4.0

7.0

4.0

Index of Investor Protection

5.8

6.5

6.5

Source: Doing Business - Latest available data.

2017 was an especially good year for FDI in Belgium with 215 new projects, a 7.5% increase from the previous year and the best result in a decade.  More than half of FDI in Belgium is driven by five key sectors: transport, chemicals, services, pharmaceuticals and digital services. The US remains the main foreign investor, responsible for 40 new projects (18.6%) and 1244 of 5838 jobs created (21.3%) – pumping $55bn dollars of investment into the country.

With more than 127,000 employees, around 900 American companies account for 4.5% of private sector employment in Belgium. Although the country has high labour costs and a corporation tax of 29% (For SME's 20% from 2018 on the first €100,000 profit) this doesn’t prove prohibitive in terms of attractive investment to Belgium. This is currently the 4th highest in the EU, although it has been gradually decreasing from as high as 34% to 25% as of 2020.

Some other advantages

Living and relocating to Belgium is popular among both corporations and people. The country is modern, multicultural and diverse and its high quality of life makes it very attractive to international staff. Its central location in continental Europe, along with its proximity to political power make it an attractive destination. The country’s use of The Euro currency keeps it in line with many of its neighbours and first-class transport links keeps the city connected with all the major business hubs in Europe. A highly educated workforce and a top-class education system gives the country a highly competitive Labour Market, with high labour costs which would be attractive to tax specialists.

Kingpin has numerous exciting vacancies in Belgium. If you are looking for your next career move across Direct Tax, Transfer Pricing or Indirect Tax and would like to speak to Kingpin International on how we can support your job search, then get in touch with our team.

Alternatively, browse our international tax vacancies.

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