FAQ - How can I get started?

FAQ - How can I get started?

At visit.brussels we understand the challenges related for gathering information. Therefore, we aim to ease the preparation of your association’s journey to Brussels by providing you with some key initial information gathered in these Frequently Asked Questions.

Choosing Brussels for an international association office - we are very happy to welcome all those setting up associations in the world’s capital of international associations and join the locally based vibrant community.

Let us guide you through the main aspects for your establishment or operations in Brussels.

For further practical in-depth information, please contact the FAIB (AISBL’s Belgian Federation), 1819 helpdesk and Invest & Export services of hub.brussels.

  • 1. General
     1.1 Why Brussels?
      - Why should international associations choose Brussels as their headquarters?
     1.2 Support
      - What kind of support is available for international associations in Brussels?
    2. Legal
     2.1 Association Setup
      - Which key questions should be raised before setting up an association in Brussels?
      - What steps are required to set up an association in Brussels?
      - What are the costs of setting up an association in Brussels?
      - What can the entity do before it is officially established?
      - How can a new association get a legal address in Brussels?
      - What are an association’s obligations?
      - What type of insurance coverage should an association get?
     2.2 Transition & Expansion
      - What is required for setting up the branch office in Brussels?
      - What legal status does a branch office have?
      - Does a branch office need to deposit annual accounts?
      - What status do branch office employees have towards Belgian authorities?
      - Can a branch rent office space in Belgium?
    3. Financial
     3.1 Costs
      - What are the costs of setting up an association in Brussels?
      - What minimum base capital is required to launch an international association?
      - What would be the fixed recurrent costs to be expected?
     3.2 Banking
      - Can a newly established association open a bank account in Belgium?
     3.3 Fiscality
      - Which tax regime applies to associations in Belgium?
     3.4 Liability
      - What liability implications are there for the association board?
    4. Human resources
     4.1 Working Solutions
      - What are different remote/teleworking solutions?
      - Is the employer obliged to provide a compensation for teleworking to the employee?
     4.2 Employment Status
      - What status do branch office employees have towards Belgian authorities?
    Want further information?

    1. General

    1.1 Why Brussels?

    Why should international associations choose Brussels as their headquarters?

    Brussels is an attractive location for associations. Associations, whether related to science, research, industry groups, culture or business services, are intrinsically linked to the city’s vibrant character. The city offers a very intense network and collaborative model of academics, businesses, research centres, technology-driven communities and international organisations. It is a pivotal place where associations can develop, grow, organise events and share their values and messages.

    Brussels - the n°1 association city: Brussels is a natural home for international associations. With its highly-skilled multilingual workforce and depth of support services, the city is an ideal spot for building membership and approaching European decision-makers. With 2,250 headquarters, Brussels is home to more international associations than any other city and is the n°1 destination for association meetings in the world.

    Corridors of power: As host city to the major European Institutions, international organisations and regional representations, Brussels enables all types of associations to reach their stakeholders at all levels and give exposure to their activities. The city is home to a huge diplomatic corps, journalist community and lobby groups, and also 1,700 international corporations operate Europe-wide from their Brussels-base, spawning a diverse business services sector.

    Strategic location: Strategically located in the heart of Europe, Brussels is easy to reach by air, road and rail, but also easy to move around in. In this compact city, many places are within walking distance, or a short tram, bus or metro ride away.

    Specialist in life sciences: Belgium has the world’s highest concentration of life science professionals and is the second largest pharma exporter in the world. With its world-famous university hospitals and concentration of international hi-tech and healthcare companies, Brussels is a pivotal centre for life sciences.

    1.2 Support

    What kind of support is available for international associations in Brussels?

    The Brussels Association Bureau is a one-stop shop and specific point of contact that provides valuable support for international associations. It is a multilingual expert service ready to guide you to the resources, training and connections that will enable your association to develop and reach its professional objectives.

    One stop shop: Associations can obtain initial information on starting, developing and moving an association, receive guidance from various expert partners for all association management aspects, and obtain information relevant to their activities thanks to the Brussels Association Bureau’s single contact point.

    Networking opportunities: Associations can meet representatives of more than 2,250 associations present in Brussels, and participate in events and platforms tailor-made for associations.

    Association club: Associations can work and connect with peers in the “International Association Club”, a place for networking and experience-sharing among association representatives. Furthermore, they can obtain material of interest related to business, life or cultural activities in Brussels and use the resources of the one-stop-shop onsite.

    Training and learning: Associations can meet and learn at the European Association Summit, the annual peer-to-peer event for associations, or join the Executive Master in International Association Management set up by Solvay Brussels School, and access details on training, information and continuous education for association representatives happening all year round.

    Global Association Hubs Partnership (GAHP): Associations can benefit from the common platform setup by Brussels, Dubai, Singapore and Washington DC to grow and expand association presence across continents through joint initiatives among the partner destinations.

    Marketing: Associations can display their activities through the communication channels managed by visit.brussels and other public authorities.

    The information service 1819 supports anyone who is starting or developing a business in the Brussels-Capital Region, including associations. 1819 advisors provide information and advice on different aspects such as financing, government grants for launch or expansion, selection of the appropriate legal form and social security status, administrative formalities, etc. In addition, they provide orientation on the network of institutions and organisations that is available to assist with the setup of businesses in Brussels.

    Brussels-based associations can also access the services of the Centre for Companies in Difficulties (Centre des Entreprises en difficulté/Centrum voor ondernemingen in moeilijkheden). A team of specialised experts provides free assistance in various areas, such as legal, fiscal, financial, social or strategic advice, but also coaching, networking events and other types of support.

    A number of associations support international associations through networking, education and information:

    The European Society of Association Executives (ESAE) is the leading organisation in Europe bringing together association professionals. ESAE facilitates the exchange of best practices among peers and makes sure current and future leaders understand the association business and strategy.

    The Federation of European and International Associations established in Belgium (FAIB) represents and supports European and international associations in Belgium in every possible way.

    The Union of International Associations (UIA) maintains and provides comprehensive, up-to-date information on international associations, their activities, meetings and concerns, and supports and facilitates the work of international associations through training and networking opportunities.

    Officially accredited social secretariats are non-profits that can guide and support associations with the administrative formalities required by Belgium employment law. A social secretariat also takes care of the collection of social security contributions and payroll taxes and ensures an accurate and correct dataflow towards the Belgian authorities in the name of, and for, the account of its clients/employers.

    Brussels has an extensive ecosystem of service providers whose support is specifically geared towards international associations. This includes Association Management Companies (AMC), lawyers, accountants, event organisers (PCO), communication and public affairs consultancies.

    2. Legal

    2.1 Association Setup

    Which key questions should be raised before setting up an association in Brussels?

    Link to https://visit.brussels/en/article/latest-news/start-your-association-in-brussels-with-a-good-checklist-thanks-to-our-set-of-key-questions

    What steps are required to set up an association in Brussels?

    1. As a primary step, define the organisation’s mission (purpose, goals), scope of activities and funding model. Please note that an association cannot distribute profits to its members.
    2. Choose the legal form (non-profit association (NPA / ASBL (FR) / VZW (NL)) or international non-profit association (INPA / AISBL (FR) / IVZW (NL)). Depending on the legal form chosen, different minimum requirements apply and the registration procedure will be different.
    3. Draft the articles of association, which must at least detail:
      • Legal form of the association, description of its purpose and main activities,
      • The indication of the region in which the registered office of the association is established,
      • The minimum number of members (two) and the conditions and formalities for admission and departure of members, (for NPA / ASBL (FR) / VZW (NL) also their rights and obligations and the maximum amount of membership fee),
      • The basic rules of governance, including 
        • The powers, convocation and decision mode of the General Assembly,
        • The powers, convocation and decision mode of the Board of Directors,
        • The conditions and formalities for admissions and departure of board members, as well as the duration of their mandate,  
        • The conditions and formalities for admission and departure of the CEO, if any and other persons are entitled to represent the association,
        • The procedure for amending the articles of association.
      • Conditions for the dissolution and liquidation of the association and the disinterested purpose to which it should give its patrimony in case of dissolution.

      The provisions must be in line with the Belgian law pursuant the Code of Companies and Associations (Code des sociétés et des associations/Wetboek van vennootschappen en verenigingen) of 2019.

      In Brussels, the articles of association will be provided in French or Dutch.
    4. Hold a Constitutive General Assembly with the founding members: note that the articles of association must be recorded in writing. They may be drafted and signed in the form of a private deed (acte sous seing privé/onderhandse akte), in the presence of the founders only, or in the form of an official deed (acte authentique/authentieke akte) drawn up before a notary. In case of an INPA / AISBL (FR) / IVZW (NL) only this latter option is possible.

      The constitutive act, i.e. the deed of incorporation (acte de constitution/ oprichtingsakte) must at least contain the following information:
      • The address of the registered office,
      • The surname, first name (s), domicile of each founder, or, in the case of a legal person its corporate name,
      • The identity (name, address, date of birth) of the persons entitled to represent the association (directors, CEO, etc.).
    5. File and publish: The deed of incorporation (acte de constitution/oprichtingsakte) is the key legal document used to create an association. It includes the articles of association, lists the founding members and provides information on the transitional provisions made by the founders of the association.
      Once prepared, the deed of incorporation must be submitted to the court’s clerk of the Brussels Enterprise Court (Ondernemingsrechtbank/ Tribunal de l'entreprise), who will organise the inscription in the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (Banque-Carrefour des Entreprises/Kruispuntbank van Ondernemingen).

      The specific forms that are to be completed for the publication can be downloaded here. The registration will be published in the annexes of the Belgian Official Gazette (Moniteur Belge/Belgisch Staatsblad). A publication fee needs to be paid at the time of registration.

      All decisions concerning the appointment/resignation of Board members, persons delegated to day-to-day management and other persons authorised to represent the association must also be filed and published in the Belgian Official Gazette (Moniteur Belge/Belgisch Staatsblad).
    6. Undertake the UBO registration: clearly identify the association’s unique beneficial owners and collect and keep adequate, accurate and current data about them; register the data in the UBO register through a legal representative of the association or a designated representative.
    7. Open a dedicated bank account: It is obligatory to open a bank account for the association. Although Belgian legislation does not explicitly require the bank account to be in Belgium, for practical purposes this would be recommended.
    8. Fulfil the VAT registration obligations: A newly set up ASBL/VZW might need to be registered as a VAT payer, based on its planned activities and sources of revenue. Alternatively it is possible to apply for a simplified VAT regime if the annual turnover does not exceed €25,000. For this, a registration form needs to be filed with the Belgian tax authorities.

    In order to ensure the smooth and successful creation of an association under Belgian law, it would be important to:

    1. Identify the founding members in a timely manner. Depending on their legal status, they may need some time to mandate their legal representative to act as a founder of a new legal entity.
    2. Ensure the right documentation is collected in due time. In case of non-Belgian founding members, additional information concerning their status, address, etc. may be required. In some cases a translation may be needed.
    3. Ensure a valid power of attorney is given to a trusted legal entity to ensure that all acts related to preparing and filing the documents for the association can be done without the need to further involve the founding members.
    4. Make use of the transitional provisions to create a valid board, including a clear definition of the legal representatives of the new association, including their powers. This will ensure that UBO registration, opening bank accounts and signing legally binding documents is possible.
    5. Plan the founding assembly as the time that the deed of incorporation and articles of association are formally approved and signed. Depending on the articles of association and the power of attorney, this could possibly be done in writing or virtually.

    The registration can be carried out online, using a Belgian ID card via the e-greffe/e-griffie.

    What are the costs of setting up an association in Brussels?

    The core costs associated with the establishment of the association are related to:

    Registration and publication fee (see here for current amounts),

    Notary costs, for any association choosing to become an international non-profit association  (INPA / AISBL (FR) / IVZW (NL)),

    Any consulting or service costs for advice or support (e.g. from an Association Management Company (AMC), lawyer, tax advisor, social secretariat, etc.).

    What can the entity do before it is officially established?

    The legal status is obtained on the day the articles of association and the acts relating to the appointment of the directors are filed with the Brussels Enterprise Court (Ondernemingsrechtbank/ Tribunal de l'entreprise).

    A certain time may elapse between the time when the non-profit association is incorporated and the time when it obtains its full legal personality. During this period, the association can already perform a limited number of acts:

    • Buy equipment
    • Rent office space
    • Open a bank account
    • Hire staff

    Unless otherwise agreed, the people who make such commitments are personally and severally liable. There is however an exception to this rule, when the association:

    • Obtains legal personality within two years of the birth of an engagement, and
    • When the non-profit organisation ratifies this commitment within three months of obtaining legal personality.

    The commitments made by the association are deemed to have been entered into from their inception.

    How can a new association get a legal address in Brussels?

    During the setup phase, associations frequently use the office address of their service provider (e.g. Association Management Company, lawyer, etc.). Alternatively, they can choose a service provider that offers virtual office services.

    Once the association requires physical office space (either in a co-working office or its own office), then the change of legal seat will have to be executed according to the articles of association. As long as this address remains within the Brussels-Capital Region, no publication in the Belgian Official Gazette (Moniteur Belge/Belgisch Staatsblad) is required if the address has not been indicated in the articles of association.

    What are an association’s obligations?

    Associations have some annual obligations which are established by law:

    • Organise at least one board meeting per year
    • Organise the Annual General Assembly
    • Approval of the financial statements and budget by the General Assembly, as prepared by the Board;
    • Publish the associations’ accounts (applicable to large associations as described here)
    • Vote on the board members’ discharge for the exercise of their mandate
    • Ensure proper minuting of official meetings

    In addition, associations are required to publish any changes related to the articles of association, board members, persons delegated to day-to-day management, persons authorised to represent the association within a month after the decision has been taken in the Belgian Official Gazette (Moniteur Belge/Belgisch Staatsblad).

    Non-profit associations (NPA / ASBL (FR) / VZW (NL)) must also maintain an up-to-date member registry at all times. It is strongly recommended that international non-profit associations (INPA / AISBL (FR) / IVZW (NL)) do the same although it is not an obligation for them.

    What type of insurance coverage should an association get?

    Depending on its setup, an association will have to subscribe to a number of insurances:

    • Occupational accident insurance, for the association’s employees,
    • Fire insurance, in case of rental or ownership of building space.

    Other insurance coverage that would be recommended:  

    • Civil liability insurance to cover the liability of the association, its members, directors and volunteers,
    • Liability insurance for the directors of the association in the event that the director is sued for breach of social, fiscal, administrative or environmental legislation,
    • Insurance for meetings, events, exhibitions organised by the association.

    2.2 Transition & Expansion

    What is required for setting up the branch office in Brussels?

    To set up a branch office (centre d’opération/verrichtingscentrum) in Brussels, registration with the court’s clerk of the Brussels Enterprise Court (Ondernemingsrechtbank/Tribunal de l'entreprise) is required. The following documents have to be filed:

    • The latest coordinated version of the articles of association of the foreign association;
    • A  decision of the foreign association mentioning:
      • that a branch in Belgium will be opened;
      • the address, name, purpose(s) and activities of the branch;
      • identifying the persons who can represent the foreign association, as well as if they can act alone or conjointly towards thirds parties;
      • appointing the branch’s permanent representative(s) and their powers, and providing their personal details (copy of the ID card and proof of residence dated of less than 3 months). (While the(se) person(s) do(es) not need to have Belgian nationality, it is recommended that s/he(they) is(are) based in Belgium and s/he(they) can elect domicile at the registered office of the branch);

    The documents mentioned above must be legalised by a notary from the foreign country and then translated into one of the official languages (Dutch or French) by an authorised sworn translator in Belgium.

    • A copy of the foreign association’s registration certificate, issued by the local registry in its country of origin;
    • The previous financial year’s financial statements of the foreign association as published in the foreign country, which must also be translated and filed with the National Bank of Belgium.

    The Crossroads Bank for Enterprises will issue a registration number, a VAT number and the connection with a payroll agency.

    The incorporation of the new branch will be published in the annexes of the Belgian Official Gazette (Moniteur Belge/Belgisch Staatsblad).

    Any change related to the branch, such as the address, articles of association or identity of persons who can represent the branch, would also need to be published.

    Note that no bank account will need to be opened in Belgium, but any foreign association having a branch in Belgium is required to file its annual accounts relating to the last closed financial year with the National Bank of Belgium, in the form in which these accounts have been drawn up, checked and made public in accordance with state law to which the association is subject. This filing takes place annually, in the month following its approval and at the latest seven months after the closing date of the financial year.

    What legal status does a branch office have?

    A branch is no distinct legal entity, but is an extension of the foreign association. The foreign association keeps control over the activities of the Belgian branch and is also fully liable for the Belgian branch. There are no articles of association, no board of directors nor minimum capital required for the branch.

    One or more permanent representative(s) in Belgium for the activities of the branch should be appointed by the foreign association.

    Does a branch office need to deposit annual accounts?

    Generally speaking, the same accounting standards apply for a Belgian branch as for a Belgian association.

    Small associations can keep simplified accounts and must file their annual accounts with the clerk of the Brussels Enterprise Court (Ondernemingsrechtbank/ Tribunal de l'entreprise) if they do not exceed more than one of the following thresholds:

    • Average number of employees over the year: 5;
    • annual receipts: €334,500 (excluding VAT);
    • balance sheet total: €1,337,000.

    Large and very large associations must file their annual accounts with the National Bank of Belgium if at least two of the following thresholds are exceeded:

    • Average number of employees over the year: 5;
    • annual receipts: €334,500 (excluding VAT);
    • balance sheet total: €1,337,000.

    When certain thresholds are met (employment headcount, balance sheet and turnover), the annual accounts must be controlled by a statutory auditor.

    What status do branch office employees have towards Belgian authorities?

    Assuming that Belgian tax residents, working 100% in Belgium, are concerned, the employees can be employed in Belgium through the Belgian branch of the foreign entity (mentioning the foreign entity on the employment agreement with reference to the Belgian branch).

    Belgian labour law will be applicable together with Belgian social security and Belgian withholding tax. In practice, this means that a Belgian payroll will be required, as well as all affiliations imposed by Belgian law and collective agreements on employers. Social documents will also need to be kept available through a social mandatary. The employees have the same rights in Belgium as normal Belgian employees.

    Considering that almost all provisions in Belgian labour law are mandatory in nature, it would not be recommended to opt for the selection of foreign labour law in the employment agreements with these employees, but rather Belgian labour law. Even if foreign labour law would be chosen, the same obligations towards the authorities, both by the employee and employee, will exist.

    Can a branch rent office space in Belgium?

    Given that the branch has no legal entity, the rental contract for office space would need to be signed by the foreign parent association. The parent association may also grant extended powers to the branch’s permanent representative, such as the power of signature.

    3. Financial

    3.1 Costs

    What are the costs of setting up an association in Brussels?

    The core costs associated with the establishment of the association are related to:

    • Registration and publication fee (see here for current amounts),
    • Notary costs, for any association choosing to become an international non-profit association  (INPA / AISBL (FR) / IVZW (NL)),
    • Any consulting or service costs for advice or support (e.g. from an Association Management Company (AMC), lawyer, tax advisor, social secretariat, etc.).

    What minimum base capital is required to launch an international association?

    There is no founding capital required to establish an association (ASBL/AISBL) in Belgium.

    What would be the fixed recurrent costs to be expected?

    Associations typically have the following recurrent fixed and administrative costs:

    • Rent and utility costs
    • Service fees (e.g. association management company, lawyer, tax advisor
    • Employment / contracting costs
    • Insurances
    • Costs for official publications and for ensuring compliance
    • Subscriptions, licenses

    3.2 Banking

    Can a newly established association open a bank account in Belgium?

    Yes, it is obligatory to open a bank account for the association. Although Belgian legislation does not explicitly require the bank account to be in Belgium, for practical purposes this would be recommended.

    The bank will request the following information:

    • Information on the legal entity (name, address, type of legal entity, etc.);
    • Information on each mandatory (full name, birth date, occupation, address, phone number, email address) and definition of their rights (access, payments, limits, etc.);
    • a copy of each mandatory’s ID and, if no Belgian ID, also proof of address, such as utility bill, driver’s license, tax declaration, etc. need to be provided.

    The bank documents need to be signed by each mandatory, and they are likely to need to identify themselves in person at a Belgian branch of the chosen bank. 

    3.3 Fiscality

    Which tax regime applies to associations in Belgium?

    In Belgium, non-profit associations are normally not subject to corporate income tax, but rather to the legal entities tax, which taxes income from real estate (e.g. rental income), and certain types of movable income (e.g. investments) that the association might own.

    In very specific circumstances, they may be subject to some specific income tax (e.g. on movable income such as interest and dividends) and to a separate assessment on fees paid or attributed to beneficiaries that are not correctly mentioned on fee forms (the so-called ‘secret commissions tax’) and on part of the benefit in kind on company cars.

    Associations are not taxed on donations or on revenue generated by their activities, provided that these are non-commercial.

    (International) non-profit organisations are subject to a ‘compensatory tax for inheritance tax’, an annual taxation of 0.17% payable on the assets of the association to the extent the value of these assets exceeds €25,000.

    A non-profit association supplying goods or services to third parties (which can be its members) may be considered a VAT taxpayer. Depending on the activity conducted by the association, the VAT status will be fully taxable, partially exempt or fully exempt. Even when the association is fully exempt of VAT, a VAT registration might be required in order to self-account for the Belgian VAT due on goods and services acquired from abroad.

    3.4 Liability

    What liability implications are there for the association board?

    The association is responsible for the faults of its directors and bodies. Nevertheless, the association, via its general assembly, has the power to engage the legal responsibility of its directors for their mistakes and damages to the association. The directors and those entrusted with the daily management of an association, i.e. the officers, may be held legally liable in case they do not exercise their mandates in a professional manner. In cases of gross mismanagement, they may be held accountable towards the association for faults in the exercise of their assignment (contractual fault), and towards third parties for extra-contractual faults.

    It is recommended to subscribe to a director’s and officer’s liability insurance, which protects them in case of claims following a wrongful act committed in their capacity of director or officer:

    • Errors, omissions, negligence, violation of legal obligations
    • Third party liability and criminal liability may be engaged
    • Risk for the director to have to pay on his private assets
    • Defence costs and indemnities
    • Claims possible from all stakeholders (employees, shareholders, suppliers, clients, state, competitors, etc.)

    In practice, when the board of directors consists of more than one person, it operates under the principle of collective responsibility, which requires that decisions taken are deliberated, with some exceptions, by a majority of the votes present or represented. Directors acting as a collegial body will jointly engage their liability in the event of mismanagement, misconduct or violation of the law. Nevertheless, directors could be relieved of their legal responsibility if they did not take part and denounced the fault alleged to all other members of the board. It is therefore recommended to ensure proper minuting of the contested decision.

    Directors found personally liable for damage resulting from breach of the regulations enforceable against associations or for the association's debts expose themselves to financial penalties, but only to a certain amount regulated by law:

    Average turnover on an annual basis (excl. VAT) AND/OR Average balance sheet total on an annual basis Liability Cap
    < €350,000 AND < €175,000 €125,000*
    < €700,000 AND < €350,000 €250,000
    < €9,000,000 OR < €4,500,000 €1,000,000
    Between €9,000,000 and €50,000,000 AND Between €4,500,000 and €43,000,000 €3,000,000
    > €50,000,000 OR > €43,000,000 €12,000,000

    *for the capped liability of €125,000 the amounts are calculated over the last financial year, for the other caps over the last three financial years.

    4. Human resources

    4.1 Working Solutions

    What are different remote/teleworking solutions?

    Belgian legislation makes a difference between teleworking on a structural basis or occasional remote working.

    Structural teleworking means that the employee works from home or any other location than the office on a constant, regular and permanent basis (working remotely as of at least 1 day per week). In this case an agreement in writing is mandatory. Within this framework, the employer is obliged to bear the installation costs for IT programmes, operating costs, depreciation and maintenance costs, etc. Employees working remotely on a structural basis can organise their own working time, but the employer can impose restrictions. It is therefore important to have agreed on the terms in writing.

    Occasional remote working is not on a structural, permanent basis, but only exceptionally due to for example personal reasons or force majeure. In this case, it is recommended to have an agreement in writing or a written teleworking policy in place to define the terms and conditions of this teleworking. Within this framework, employees need to perform the number of hours as foreseen in their work roster.

    There might also be hybrid situations when it comes to teleworking: e.g. starting the day working from home and drive to the office once the morning rush hour is over, or meet up in the office only for brainstorm sessions or meetings with colleagues and clients, and then work the rest of the day from home. In such cases it is important that the practical aspects are determined and agreed upon between employer and employee on a case-by-case basis.

    If the employer allows remote work from abroad, this is also a possibility. However, in this case it is important to keep in mind that there are tax and social security aspects which should be investigated in advance.

    Is the employer obliged to provide a compensation for teleworking to the employee?

    Based on the distinction between structural and occasional teleworking, the provisions differ.

    In case of structural teleworking, the employer must pay a compensation to cover the employee for the costs incurred during the structural teleworking. Within this framework, the employer is obliged to bear the installation costs for IT programmes, operating costs, depreciation and maintenance costs, etc.

    When the employee works remotely only occasionally, the employer can agree to bear any costs caused by the occasional telework, but it is, in this case, not mandatory.

    Depending on the type of costs the employer wishes to cover, a net allowance could be foreseen under certain conditions. See here below a brief overview. Considering the fact that the Belgian social security authorities and tax authorities have taken a different position in the past, a distinction is being made.

    Allowance type Social security exemption Tax exemption
    Home office allowance 10% of gross monthly salary relating to (only) structural teleworking or up to €129.48 per month Up to €129.48 per month
    Professional use own laptop €20 per month €20 per month
    Professional use own internet connection €20 per month €20 per month
    Other costs Based on actual expenses (proofs, tickets, receipts) Based on actual expenses (proofs, tickets, receipts)

    As per the above, the Belgian tax authorities do not accept that 10% of the gross monthly salary relating to structural teleworking is granted to the employee as a compensation for teleworking. Consequently, should an employer wish to grant this type of allowance, it will in principle be free from social security contributions, but withholding taxes may be due on this amount.

    Furthermore, the tax authorities generally accept that a home office allowance is granted to employees working remotely for at least 1 day per week on a structural basis. In order to obtain certainty about the amounts the employer would like to grant to the employee in this regard, a ruling can be obtained in advance.

    4.2 Employment Status

    What status do branch office employees have towards Belgian authorities?

    Assuming that Belgian tax residents, working 100% in Belgium, are concerned, the employees can be employed in Belgium through the Belgian branch of the foreign entity (mentioning the foreign entity on the employment agreement with reference to the Belgian branch).

    Belgian labour law will be applicable together with Belgian social security and Belgian withholding tax. In practice, this means that a Belgian payroll will be required, as well as all affiliations imposed by Belgian law and collective agreements on employers. Social documents will also need to be kept available through a social mandatary. The employees have the same rights in Belgium as normal Belgian employees.

    Considering that almost all provisions in Belgian labour law are mandatory in nature, it would not be recommended to opt for the selection of foreign labour law in the employment agreements with these employees, but rather Belgian labour law. Even if foreign labour law would be chosen, the same obligations towards the authorities, both by the employee and employee, will exist.

     

    Produced by Interel teams, on behalf of visit.brussels.
    Last update : 08/09/2020

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    Want further information?

    → Follow the Expatica checklist to start a business in Belgium. 

     

    And what are the personal steps to take when moving to Brussels?

    → Download the Expats in Brussels Guide and/or the Expat Welcome Desk step-by-step infographic

    → Visit the web pages of the Brussels’ Expat Club or Bright Expats.

    You will learn how to quickly feel at home in Brussels!