Starting a business

Types of companies in Belgium

The main forms of companies in Belgium are: limited liability company, unlimited liability company, and sole proprietorship.

Starting a business

General and limited partnerships are less common. The minimum capital requirements to start varies according to the type of company.

Limited Companies

A Public Limited Company (société anonyme, SA/naamloze vennootschap, NV) must be set up by at least two people. They must contribute a fixed amount of capital in return for shares in the company. Public Limited companies must have at least three directors who represent the company in dealings with third parties. This kind of company is suitable for large businesses.

One-person Private Limited Companies (société d'une personne à resposabilité limitée, SPRLU/eenpersoons beslotenvennootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheid, EBVA) can be set up by one person and have one shareholder. The company's shareholder must be an individual, not a legal person. One-person Private Limited companies are suitable for family businesses and small and medium enterprises (SME).

A Limited Liability Company (société privée à responsabilité limité, SPRL/besloten vennootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheid, BVBA) must be set up by at least two shareholders (private or legal persons). A married couple that invests together count as two shareholders, even if they invest from their joint estate. Shareholders must contribute a fixed amount of money in return for shares, and their liability is limited to the amount they contribute. Limited Liability companies are run by one or more managers, who don't have to be shareholders. This kind of company is suitable for family businesses and SMEs.

Partnerships

Gerneral Partnerships (société en nom colectif, SNC/commanditaire vennootschap op aandelen, Comm VA) have at least two partners, who are indefinitely liable for the partnership's debts. General partnerships have no restrictions on organisation, as long as the partners are still liable and the shares can't be transferred without limitations. General partnerships are a cooperative partnership, and are suitable for members of the liberal professions who cannot limit their liability.

Limited Partnerships (société en commandite simple, SCS/gewone commanditaire vennootschap, Comm V) can have general partners as well as limited partners. General partners direct and manage the company, and are jointly liable for the partnership's debts. On the other hand, limited partners' liability depends on the amount of capital they contributed towards the partnership. Limited partners cannot be involved in the company's management, and if they do, they become general partners. Limited partnerships are the best choice for people who don't have enough capital to start their own business.

Cooperatives

Cooperative Companies with Limited Liability (société coopérative à responsabilité limitée, SCRL/cooperatieve vennootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheid, CVBA) must have at least three shareholders (private and legal persons), who contribute a fixed amount of money. The shareholders' liability is limited to the amount they contributed. Cooperative Companies with Limited Liability are run by one or more managers (shareholders or not). These companies suit SMEs and family businesses.

Cooperative Companies with Unlimited Liability (société coopérative à responsabilité ilimitée, SCRI/cooperatieve vennootschap metb onbeperkte aansprakelijkheid, CVOA) have at least three shareholders (private and legal persons), who have unlimited liability for the company's debts. Cooperative Companies with Unlimited Liability are managed by one or more people.

General and limited partnerships are less common. The minimum capital requirements to start varies according to the type of company.

Limited Companies

A Public Limited Company (société anonyme, SA/naamloze vennootschap, NV) must be set up by at least two people. They must contribute a fixed amount of capital in return for shares in the company. Public Limited companies must have at least three directors who represent the company in dealings with third parties. This kind of company is suitable for large businesses.

One-person Private Limited Companies (société d'une personne à resposabilité limitée, SPRLU/eenpersoons beslotenvennootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheid, EBVA) can be set up by one person and have one shareholder. The company's shareholder must be an individual, not a legal person. One-person Private Limited companies are suitable for family businesses and small and medium enterprises (SME).

A Limited Liability Company (société privée à responsabilité limité, SPRL/besloten vennootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheid, BVBA) must be set up by at least two shareholders (private or legal persons). A married couple that invests together count as two shareholders, even if they invest from their joint estate. Shareholders must contribute a fixed amount of money in return for shares, and their liability is limited to the amount they contribute. Limited Liability companies are run by one or more managers, who don't have to be shareholders. This kind of company is suitable for family businesses and SMEs.

Partnerships

Gerneral Partnerships (société en nom colectif, SNC/commanditaire vennootschap op aandelen, Comm VA) have at least two partners, who are indefinitely liable for the partnership's debts. General partnerships have no restrictions on organisation, as long as the partners are still liable and the shares can't be transferred without limitations. General partnerships are a cooperative partnership, and are suitable for members of the liberal professions who cannot limit their liability.

Limited Partnerships (société en commandite simple, SCS/gewone commanditaire vennootschap, Comm V) can have general partners as well as limited partners. General partners direct and manage the company, and are jointly liable for the partnership's debts. On the other hand, limited partners' liability depends on the amount of capital they contributed towards the partnership. Limited partners cannot be involved in the company's management, and if they do, they become general partners. Limited partnerships are the best choice for people who don't have enough capital to start their own business.

Cooperatives

Cooperative Companies with Limited Liability (société coopérative à responsabilité limitée, SCRL/cooperatieve vennootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheid, CVBA) must have at least three shareholders (private and legal persons), who contribute a fixed amount of money. The shareholders' liability is limited to the amount they contributed. Cooperative Companies with Limited Liability are run by one or more managers (shareholders or not). These companies suit SMEs and family businesses.

Cooperative Companies with Unlimited Liability (société coopérative à responsabilité ilimitée, SCRI/cooperatieve vennootschap metb onbeperkte aansprakelijkheid, CVOA) have at least three shareholders (private and legal persons), who have unlimited liability for the company's debts. Cooperative Companies with Unlimited Liability are managed by one or more people.

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