The business counter is the central point of contact for all administrative formalities for starting your business.
If you wish to set up your activity as a sole proprietorship, the business counter is your first point of contact. In the case of a company, you first need to go to a notary, then to the registrar of the company court and finally to the business counter.
Contacting a Business counter
Currently, eight organisations are accredited as business counters. The business counters have around 156 offices around Belgium. You are free to choose any business counter regardless of where your business is located.
Role of the Business Counter
The business counter performs a variety of tasks:
- It checks whether you meet the legal requirements to be allowed to carry out your intended activity;
- It arranges your (mandatory) registration with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises;
- It can take care of certain administrative formalities on your behalf, such as:
- completing your identification with the VAT administration or the NSSO;
- requesting various authorisations (FASFC, SABAM, etc.).
The business counters also offer other services, such as:
- affiliation to a social insurance fund for the self-employed (each enterprise counter has an affiliated social insurance fund);
- affiliation to an affiliated social secretariat;
- advice on setting up your project;
- the drafting of dossiers for subsidy applications;
- support during the first months of activity, etc.
For these additional services, the counters are free to set their own rates.
Registration with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises
The Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (CBE)
is a database containing all basic identification data of registered entities (hereinafter referred to as entities) and their business units. Registered entities include all legal persons under Belgian law and natural persons exercising a professional activity on a self-employed basis.
The distinction between craft, commercial and non-commercial companies under private law has been abolished since 1 November 2018. These capacities were replaced by “company subject to registration”.
Enterprise counters are obliged to immediately register the company with the CBE when the application is complete. If the application for registration is incorrect, incomplete or unwarranted, the enterprise counter will inform the applicant as quickly as possible and at the latest within five working days of the application.
The enterprise number
When registering with the CBE, each entity receives a unique identification number, which is the enterprise number. The number consists of 10 digits and starts with 0 or 1. Almost all company number starting with 0 are expected to be allocated by the end of 2022. Once this series is exhausted, enterprise numbers starting with 1 will be allocated.
The entity must use its enterprise number in all contacts with the administrative or judicial authorities. For example, the enterprise number is also used for identification purposes with the VAT administration and the NSSO.
Any company subject to registration must indicat its enterprise number on all deeds, invoices, announcements, notices, letters, orders and other documents.
Market stalls used for the economic activity of a company subject to registration, as well as the means of transport, which is primarily used in the context of itinerant activities or, in the case of employers, in the context of a civil or utility construction activity or an activity cleaning the interior of buildings, must visibly display the company number.
The Establishment Unit Number
Each establishment unit of an entity is also given a unique identification number. This establishment unit number is different from the enterprise number. It consists of 10 digits and the first digit is between 2 and 8.
An establishment unit is any place that can be geographically identified by an address, where at least one of the entity's activities is carried out or from which the activity is carried out (e.g. workshop, retail unit, warehouse, sales outlet, office, head office, registered office, agency, branch and subsidiary). This means that an entity with several business units also has several business unit numbers.
The companies subject to registration must register their establishment units with the CBE via an accredited business counter. However, they can change the address of their business units themselves, free of charge, via the application "My Enterprise". On the other hand, non-profit associations can enter, modify and terminate the data of their business unit themselves via the same application.
Registration of a Sole Proprietorship
After having verified, if necessary, your entrepreneurial capacities, the business counter will register your entity which is registered as a natural person in the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises, and will register it as a company subject to registration. You will then be assigned a enterprise number.
The counter may refuse to register your entity registered as a natural person if it does not meet the conditions for access to the profession or if a required document is missing. Reasons must always be given for the refusal. In the event of refusal, you may submit a new application that meets the required conditions or lodge an appeal with the Conseil d'Etablissement of the competent region.
Pleas note that it is, however, the professional body from which you depend (order, institute or chamber) which is responsible, in certain cases, for verifying whether you meet the conditions for exercising the profession in question and which submits, ast the case may be, the authorisation granted admission in the CBE.
The cost of registration is 101 euros, including one establishment unit, plus 101 euros for each additional establishment unit. The prices were applied at the beginning of 2023 and are indexed annually.
Registration of a Company
Companies are registered in the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises when the deed of incorporation is filed (electronically or at the Registry of the Company court). At the same time, the company receives its enterprise number. It must then apply to a business counter to register with the CBE as a company subject to registration.
The counter may refuse to register your entity if it does not meet the conditions for access to the profession which it must meet, as the case may be, or if a required document is missing. Reasons must always be given for the refusal. In the event of refusal to register as a company subject to registration with the CBE by the business counter, you can lodge an appeal with the Conseil d'Etablissement of the competent region.
When this operation is not free of charge, the cost of registration is 101 euros, including one establishment unit, plus 101 euros for each additional establishment unit. The prices were applied at the beginning of 2023 and are indexed annually.
Besides the denomination of the company subject to registration and the establishment units, the counter takes care of entering other data such as the activities and bank account numbers.
Registration of Foreign Entities with the CBE
There are many options for a foreign entity wishing to carry out activities in Belgium and to settle in the country: it can set up a branch, a subsidiary or a business unit.
From a legal perspective, a branch within the meaning of the Companies Code is not a separate entity of the company. The branch and the foreign entity are one single entity.
An entity wich sets up a branch in Belgium, if it does not yet have one, receives an enterprise number. This number is communicated by the registry of the competent company court, at the time of the filing prior to the opening of the branch.
It must then apply to the business counter of its choice to be registered as a company subject to registration.
Legally, the subsidiary is a separate entity from the foreign entity. It has a legal personality (unlike the branch). The legal form chosen is then a type of company under Belgian law.
The subsidiary established in Belgium obtains an enterprise number when it is registered with the CBE by the notary or the registry of the competent company court. It must then apply to the business counter of its choice to be registered as a company subject to registration.
The Establishment unit
Some foreign entities may conduct their activities from an address in Belgium without having a branch or subsidiary. In such cases, these entities conduct their activities in Belgium from an establishment unit (e.g. workshop, factory, shop, sales outlet, office, etc.).
The entity which has an establishment unit in Belgium obtains an enterprise number via the business counter when registering its establishment unit with the CBE.
What Must Be Done if There Is a Change in the Situation of the Registered Entity??
If your situation changes (change of address of the establishment unit or telephone number, exercise of a new activity, etc.), you are given a period of one month to request the modification of your registration as a company subject to registration. You are indeed responsible for the accuracy of the details registered with the CBE.
These changes can be made either via a business counter or, in some cases, via the "My Enterprise" application, 24 hours a day and free of charge.
Please note that if you are unable to make the changes yourself via My Enterprise, you can use the application to identify the competent service to contact.
Economic activity - NACE code
For the registration of activities in the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises, business counters use NACE codes.
Business counters may encounter interpretation problems in selecting NACE codes for certain specific activities. In such cases, they contact the FPS Economy, which gives an opinion on the NACE codes to be applied.
Or perform a search using the Nacebel code search engine:
Where to find a Business Counter??
As of today, 8 organisations are accredited as business counters. The business counters have 154 offices around Belgium. You are free to choose any business counter, regardless of where your company is located.