In Belgium, the Federal Public Service Economy has been charged with general coordination of the European Directive on Services.
Nevertheless, the Agency for Administrative Simplification, in collaboration with Fedict and partner institutions at other levels of government, may also play an important role in implementation of Chapter II, 'Administrative Simplification.'
‘Services Directive’ and ‘One-Stop Business Shop’
The ‘Services Directive’ is a piece of European legislation aimed at facilitating the existence of companies wishing to provide services in the European Union, either inside or outside their country of origin. The Directive establishes rules that apply to individuals wishing to set up a business or temporarily provide services in the EU/EEA (the twenty-six member states of the EU, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway). It requires member states to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, simplify the formalities imposed on businesses and make public administrations more efficient.
To implement the Directive, each member is obliged to create ‘one-stop business shops’, online administrative portals that help businesses to complete their administrative procedures online. One-stop business shops provide detailed information about all administrative issues relating to the establishment or expansion of a service-provision business in a given country by replying, for example, to the following questions:
- Which permits, licences or notifications have to be obtained before starting a business (in my own or another country)?
- What are the procedures that have to be completed if I wish to temporarily provide services abroad?
- What do I have to do to apply for a licence? Which is the competent authority?
- Are their licence fees? What are the corresponding waiting and/or processing periods?
- Which decrees and laws apply to the sector in which I will be operating?
- What do I have to do if I wish, for example, to open a restaurant or shop, or if I wish to offer travel agent services in another country without starting a business there?
- Which service should I contact for personal advice and further information?
Thanks to the one-stop business shops, it is no longer necessary to contact each public authority separately! The one-stop shops enable you to find all the information that you require and to submit online applications to the competent authority through a single points of contact. All the administrative procedures can be completed online by means of the one-stop business shop. You only have to contact the appropriate one-stop shop in the country where you wish to conduct your activities.
All one stop-shops are associated with the EUGO network: a central website provides ready access to all one-stop shops in Europe. Of course, the services that they offer are not in any way compulsory. You can always directly contact the competent authorities.
Types of services
The service sector encompasses widely diverse activities. In the Directorate-General for Economic Potential in the FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy, the Services branch examines the economic importance of the major service areas and competitive factors which are key to its development.
Most business-related services are expected to benefit in real terms from the upcoming opening of the services market through the transposition of the Services Directive.
Employers head-quartered outside of Belgium may post workers to Belgium on assignments while complying with Belgian regulations on working conditions.
Single points of contact
There are several authorised one-stop business shops, which are single points of contact for businesses.
The tax on personal income and income from self-employment is payable by anyone who has established residency in Belgium or whose assets are primarily located in Belgium. The tax administration determines the tax due on the basis of tax returns filed by physical persons.
Companies, associations, firms and organisations subject to corporate tax have to file a return once a year.
Every employer must register with the National Social Security Office (NSSO).
Certificate of qualifications
There are certain procedures to follow to obtain recognition of one's qualifications, which vary according to the particular diploma obtained.
Applying for a work permit
Unless an individual waiver is granted, any person without Belgian nationality must obtain a work permit to work under the authority of another person in Belgium.
The website of the Agency for Administrative Simplification contains extensive information on the status of the Services Directive in Belgium.