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How to do business in Belgium

Legal considerations

EU legislation forms the basis of Belgian law for trade and commerce. However, you should still seek professional legal advice.

Find a notary in Belgium at: https://www.notaris.be/other-languages/english, for assistance on aspects of business. For disputes you will need a lawyer.

Contact the DIT team in Belgium at: DITBelgium@mobile.trade.gov.uk or https://www.gov.uk/government/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-belgium#contact-us to help find tax and legal advisers before entering into agreements in Belgium.

Export licences for Belgium

You will need a licence to supply any goods to Belgium which are on the UK strategic export control lists. You can find out more at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/beginners-guide-to-export-controls

Some other products may need certification and licensing. To find out more about licences and permits in Belgium, see: http://www.business.belgium.be/en/managing_your_business/setting
_up_your_business/main_steps/licences_and_permits
.

To find out which other products may need certification or licensing before they can be exported to Belgium, also contact: https://www.gov.uk/starting-to-export/licences.

Law on marketing and selling in Belgium

If you are selling to consumers (rather than businesses) you must comply with EU consumer protection law.

Customers in Belgium have various consumer rights when you sell at a distance (without meeting the customer face-to-face).

Find out about consumer rights in the EU at: http://europa.eu/european-union/life/consumer-rights_en.

Standards and technical regulations in Belgium

Suppliers and manufacturers have an obligation to make sure products are safe. Products must meet relevant safety standards, have clear instructions for proper use and include warnings against possible misuse.

Product standards are the same in most EU member states. If you sell products in the UK it is likely that you already comply with standards in other EU countries.

Product requirements in Belgium

Many products require a CE marking before they can be sold in the European Economic Area (EEA), see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ce-marking. This marking proves your product has been assessed and meets EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements.

Find out more about CE markings at: http://europa.eu/youreurope/business/product/ce-mark/index_en.htm.

In Belgium, the Bureau for Standardisation (NBN) is responsible for developing, publishing and selling standards in Belgium. See: https://www.nbn.be/en.

You should consider taking out product liability insurance if you manufacture or supply a physical product that is sold or given away for free. See: https://www.abi.org.uk/Insurance-and-savings/Products/Business-insurance/Liability-insurance/Product-liability-insurance.

Packaging for export to Belgium

Packaging must conform to EU legislation on the prevention of health risks to consumers and the protection of the environment, especially with regards to waste treatment.

Find out more about packaging regulations in the EU, see: http://exporthelp.europa.eu/thdapp/
display.htm?page=rt%2Frt_TechnicalRequirements.html&docType=main&languageId=en#Packaging
.

Find out about requirements for using wood packaging in the EU, at: https://www.gov.uk/wood-packaging-import-export.

Labelling your products for Belgium

Labelling should be translated into both French and Dutch. Food products have specific labelling requirements. Textile products must be labelled with fibre content information.

You can choose to use the e-mark on packaging when exporting food products to Belgium, or use Belgium’s rules on weights and measures. See: https://www.gov.uk/weights-measures-and-packaging-the-law/labelling-packaged-goods.

 

Tax and customs considerations in Belgium

The UK and Belgium have signed a double taxation agreement ensuring the same income is not taxed in more than one country. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/belgium-tax-treaties.

Find more information on taxation in Belgium at: https://www.belgium.be/en/economy/business/taxation_and_accounting.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

The standard rate of VAT is currently 21%. A reduced rate of 12% applies to social housing and agricultural products. A 6% tax rate applies to basic foodstuffs, water, hotel services, property restoration and certain other supplies.

You can find the exact breakdown of taxes from the Belgium tax authority at: https://www.belgium.be/en/work/coming_to_work_in_belgium/taxes.

VAT is zero rated if your Belgian customer provides their VAT registration number and you have proof of export.

You will need your Belgian customer’s VAT registration number (from the invoice) for your VAT return and paperwork proving that the goods have been sent within certain time limits (usually three months).

Check with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) regarding VAT refund of business expenses incurred in Belgium, at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vat-notice-723a-refunds-of-vat-in-the-european-community-for-ec-and-non-ec-businesses?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=pageVAT_ShowContent&id=HMCE_PROD1_029943&propertyType=document

You can check to see if a Belgian VAT number is valid, at: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/vies/vieshome.do?selectedLanguage=EN.

Find more information on VAT in EU markets at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/vat-exports-dispatches-and-supplying-goods-abroad.

Excise duty in Belgium

You should check you have paid excise duty on any alcohol, alcoholic drinks, energy products, electricity or tobacco products you send to Belgium.

Find out more about excise duty and duty drawback within the EU, at: https://www.gov.uk/government
/publications/excise-notice-207-excise-duty-drawback/excise-notice-207-excise-duty-drawback
.

Company and corporate tax in Belgium

You can transfer capital, dividends, proceeds of sale abroad without any limitations or taxes if you are a holder of registered foreign investments. You only need to complete certain minor bank formalities for statistical information.

The corporate tax rate in Belgium is 33.99%. In certain cases, a progressively-reduced rate applies.

Contact the DIT team in Belgium at: DITBelgium@mobile.trade.gov.uk or https://www.gov.uk/government/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-belgium#contact-us, to help find local tax advisers before entering into agreements in Belgium.

 

Customs and documentation in Belgium

Belgium is part of the EU single market (https://ec.europa.eu/growth/single-market_en). This allows the free movement of goods and services without customs checks or the need to pay duty (except excise).

You can send goods to Belgium without special customs documentation. However, excise or controlled goods will need extra documentation. See: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/beginners-guide-to-export-controls for further information.

Although customs declarations are not generally required, traders must raise VAT invoices showing the VAT registration number of their customers and obtain evidence of shipment.

You have to:

Read HMRC’s guidance on dispatching your goods within the EU, at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/dispatching-your-goods-within-the-eu. Also you can find out more about complying with Intrastat rules at: https://www.gov.uk/intrastat.

Belgian trade agreements

Belgium is a member of the EU and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Contact the SOLVIT team at: https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/uk-single-market-centre if you have market access issues relating to the operation of the single market.

 

Shipping your goods to Belgium

You can usually send samples of your goods through the postal system. Your local post office can also be used to export small orders to Belgium which can be easily packaged and are within the current weight restrictions.

If you are sending goods by post you must check that the items are not prohibited or restricted by mail services in the UK and in Belgium. You can find out more about prohibited or restricted items in Belgium on Royal Mail’s website: http://www.royalmail.com/belgium.

When using postal services on a more commercial basis you must complete the required customs form with the commodity code that relates to your goods. You can find your commodity code in the UK Trade Tariff: https://www.gov.uk/trade-tariff.

You can contact the HMRC Tariff Classification Service for more help, at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/notice-600-classifying-your-imports-or-exports/notice-600-classifying-your-imports-or-exports#list-of-useful-contacts.

You must get a Certificate of Posting (form C&E 132) from the post office branch and you should ensure it is date-stamped. This supports the VAT zero-rating of your goods. If you are exporting UK duty-paid excise goods, you will need the certificate of posting form to support a claim for reimbursement of the UK excise duty. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/
attachment_data/file/374167/ce132.pdf
.

A pro-forma invoice (and licence, if you need one) must be attached to your consignment. Records of pro-forma invoices must be kept for four years.

For bigger orders, most businesses use a courier or freight forwarder. A forwarder will have extensive knowledge of documentation requirements, regulations, transportation costs and banking practices in Belgium.

You can find freight forwarding companies to help you transport your goods to Belgium via the British International Freight Association (BIFA) at: http://www.bifa.org/home, or the Freight Transport Association (FTA) at: http://www.fta.co.uk/.

Find out more about shipping your goods to international markets, at: https://www.export.great.gov.uk/shipping-and-logistics/.

Terms of delivery to Belgium

Your contract should include agreement on terms of delivery using Incoterms. See: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/international-trade-paperwork-the-basics#international-trade-contracts-and-incoterms.

UK Export Finance

The government can provide finance or credit insurance specifically to support UK exports through UK Export Finance (UKEF) – the UK’s export credit agency. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-export-finance.

For up-to-date country-specific information on the support available see UKEF’s cover policy and indicators for Belgium at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/country-cover-policy-and-indicators#belgium.

[Source – DIT/UKEF/gov.uk]


 

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