Types of companies
You intend to develop your own professional business as a self-employed worker. Your first task will be to choose the legal structure which is best adapted to your projects.
There are two options:
- the individual company (self-employed as a natural person);
- the company (legal person).
For more information on the advantages and disadvantages of each option, please see the chapter entitled "Choosing a legal status: one-man business or company".
If you decide to carry out your work using the legal form of a company, you have to make sure to choose the most appropriate type of company. This choice is critical for the future of your business. Don’t hesitate to call upon the advice of experts such as notaries public, lawyers, accountants, tax experts, financial reviewers, etc.
What are the most common types of companies?
This section offers a brief presentation of the most common types of companies.
For more information, please see the Belgian Companies Code which forms the legal basis of these different types of companies.
Private Limited Companies (PLC) are created by one or more persons who only commit their contribution. Their responsibility is therefore limited.
The shares are registered (the holder is mentioned by name and thus is identifiable) and there are only limited possibilities to sell shares. Thus, associates always know who they are collaborating with.
The one-person private limited company is a variation of the PLC which allows self-employed workers to create a one-man company and distinguish their own private assets from the company’s assets. This type of company is often best suited to the needs of young entrepreneurs.
For more information, please see the chapter on PLCs.
Limited Liability Companies are those which mainly rely on contribution of capital from associates. This type of commercial company has the advantage of making a complete distinction between the company and its shareholders, which are usually anonymous. In general, shares are easy to transfer, without limits.
However, this type of company requires a minimum capital of 61,500 euros, whereas few entrepreneurs have this type of capital before the launch of their business. Furthermore, the administrative management of such companies is relatively difficult for small companies (board of directors, general assembly, etc.).
For more information, please see the chapter on LLCs.
There are two types of cooperative companies:
- Cooperative companies with unlimited liability
- Cooperative companies with limited liability.
The cooperative company with unlimited liability is a flexible legal structure which does not require notarised deeds or minimum capital. Associates of these types of companies are jointly responsible for the commitments made by their company.
This structure offers limited responsibility but is governed by stricter operating rules.
For more information, please see the chapter on cooperative companies.
A general partnership is a company of persons whose corporate purpose is to engage in a civil or commercial activity under a common name. There is no legal minimum capital. Its existence is linked to its associates. This type of company requires few administrative formalities, but it remains less commonly used because the associates have joint, unlimited responsibility for the company’s commitments.
Limited partnerships include general and limited partners. General partners are responsible for management. Limited partners are financial contributors which may not interfere with the company’s management. There is no legal minimum capital.
Only general partners are jointly and indefinitely responsible with their assets for the company's debts and losses. Limited partners are only responsible for the amounts they promised to provide, unless they have become involved in managing the company.
A partnership limited by shares is a type of limited partnership. It involves two types of associates:
- General partners, amoung which the company managers are to be chosen;
- Limited partners, who provide capital and are shareholders.
More information on company law may be obtained from the:
Federal Public Service Justice
Department of Commercial Law and Legal Entities
Boulevard de Waterloo, 115
1000 Brussels, Belgium