The Kingdom of Belgium is the headquarters of the European Union and NATO and has a stable economy. The possibility of obtaining a residence permit, the geographical location, and the largest port allow foreign businessmen to engage in international trade, shipping, and real estate. There is a reduced income tax rate of 20% for small and medium-sized businesses. Financial reporting is submitted annually to the state authorities. Small and medium-sized companies are also exempt from audits.
(From EUR 2 500)
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As a member of the European Union (EU), Belgium complies with the accounting, audit and financial reporting requirements set out in EU decrees and directives incorporated into national laws and decrees. Belgium has brought its legal framework to complete conformity with acquis communautaire of the EU (French for community acquis, a legal concept in the EU legal system) in regard to the above fields.
All Belgian companies must file annual financial statements (including a balance sheet, profit and loss statement, and notes to financial statements; a cash flow statement is not required in Belgium) in accordance with the format predefined by the National Bank of Belgium (NBB), the Central Balance Sheet Office in accordance with the Royal Decree of 29 April 2019.
Micro, small and large enterprises must keep the complete set of books of accounts in accordance with article 3.84 of the Code of Economic Law.
The complete set of books of accounts includes:
Companies must annually inventory all their assets and liabilities and record the results in the inventory book. Belgian generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) are set out in the Royal Decree of 29 April 2019 and must be applied by all companies to their compulsory annual accounts. IFRS or other GAAP do not apply.
The following types of legal entities must file financial statements:
A copy of financial statements must be in one of the three official languages of Belgium depending on the region where the company’s office is registered: Dutch – for Flanders, French – for Wallonia, German – for the German region. Companies incorporated in the Brussels region can choose Dutch or French.
According to article 3.88 of the Commercial Code, books of accounts must be kept for 7 years after the closing of the financial year starting on 1 January.
Foreign companies that have a permanent establishment in Belgium must also annually deposit with the National Bank of Belgium (NBB) a copy of annual financial statements of the foreign company and consolidated financial statements along with the balance sheet of the Belgian permanent establishment if the permanent establishment has employees in Belgium.
The Belgian Code of Companies and Associations reads that all large companies must be audited annually.
The Code of Companies and Associations defines a company as large if more than one of the following criteria are exceeded:
Appointment of an external independent auditor shall be approved by shareholders for the period of 3 years.
The auditor must also be a member of the Belgian Institute of Companies’ Auditors.
Only in very rare and clearly defined circumstances an auditor can resign or be dismissed by the company during that 3-year period.
According to the Audit Act of 2016, audits must be conducted in accordance with standards set by the Belgian Institute of Registered Auditors (IBR-IRE) and approved by the High Council for the Economic Professions and Minister of Economy. Application of these standards is possible provided that they are translated into Dutch and French and published at the website of IBR-IRE.
Compulsory financial statements must be approved by the meeting of shareholders within 6 months after the closing and filed with the Central Balance Sheet Office within 1 month after such approval, i.e. not later than 7 months after the closing of the financial year.
In the case of late filing of annual accounts, the National Bank of Belgium charges an extra fee from the first day of the 9th month after the closing of the financial year. Taking this into account, the deadline for approving and filing annual accounts is the day before the first day of the 9th month after the closing of the financial year.
Since 1 January 2020 annual accounts can only be presented in electronic form; annual accounts cannot be filed on paper since the stated date.
In general, a tax return must be filed not earlier than 1 month after the approval of financial statements at an annual general meeting of shareholders and not later than 6 months after the end of the financial year. Tax authorities can extend the tax return filing date upon request.
In recent years, the deadlines for filing a profit tax return were regularly postponed. The deadline for filing corporate tax returns for 2020 is 30 June 2021, but changes are possible.
Late filing of annual accounts with the National Bank of Belgium is an infringement of companies law and jeopardizes directors’ liability to the company and third parties.
I. During the 9th month:
II. From the 10th to the 12th month after the end of the financial year:
III. From the 13th month after the end of the financial year:
Companies that do not meet the deadline for filing documents can be taxed in the form of tax assessment. The tax administration can apply a tax increase of 10% to 200%.
Consolidated financial statements must be prepared in accordance with the Belgian GAAP in accordance with the Royal Decree of 29 April 2019.
The Royal Decree of 18 January 2005 allows companies to publish their consolidated financial statements in accordance with IFRS.
Consolidation, according to IFRS, is obligatory to all listed companies, credit institutions, insurance companies and investment firms.
According to article 1:26 of the Code of Companies and Associations, if a group does not exceed more than one of the following criteria, it is not required to make consolidated financial statements:
If a group of companies calculates thresholds without exclusion of intragroup amounts, the thresholds are increased by 20%.
Consolidation is compulsory for public companies even if the group of companies does not exceed thresholds.
A group is not required to publish consolidated financial statements if its financial statements and financial statements of all its subsidiaries are included in consolidated financial statements of its parent company or ultimate parent company provided that:
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