Setting up the company was just the start of the bureaucratic processes! I am now starting to learn more about the Belgian system. I had thought it would be relatively quiet – at least until it came to paying the first year’s taxes. It seems not.
Firstly, there came the reminder that I have to register both the company and myself with a social bureau. There are a number of these in Belgium and I have a free choice which one I use. I am not yet clear on their full range of activities but I understand enough to now know that the social bureau is there to help me with paying my social taxes. I register myself and any employees with them and they then calculate how much I need to pay each month. Of course there is a charge to do this but it is not excessive and whilst it seems an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy the fact that it works is already a positive thing and probably the costs all round would be higher if this process were managed another way. One small side issue that did present itself was the classification of work that I shall do. My company statutes refer to satellite engineering as part of the domain in which I shall be active. The social bureau had seen the word engineering and linked this to “building”, so I received pages and pages of text detailing the qualifications needed to be able to build houses, plaster, plumbing etc. ie all the trades. I struck out that part of the form and returned it with my MBA certificate to prove that I have the qualifications necessary to run a consultancy!
Secondly, there was the request from the tax authorities to check that all the details I had submitted when I registered Capsec are in fact true. They sent me a 3 page form to fill in that basically asked for details already recorded. They did ask one or two other questions like where would the company accounts be held and who would be the accountant dealing with them. But I have no need to decide on either point until the company is up and running (even if I have) and I don’t see why having that information now helps the tax authority either. They will get it all naturally when I submit my first tax return next year. Nevertheless, it shows the level of suspicion between the public office and companies. It also shows that someone has the time available to do this.
The third form was more understandable and reasonable but carries another story. This is the process of VAT registration. Here I had a 5 page form to complete again with many of the details already provided elsewhere but at least I shall need to interact with the VAT office far earlier than I shall the tax office (ie every quarter). I have duly filled in the forms, returned them and now await the next set of requests. However, I was talking to a friend about this and he grimaced saying he had just finished registering his asbl for VAT. He had decided to do it all alone so he contacted the local office to ask them to send him the necessary forms. After 1 month of calling the office he could get no reply until once the phone was picked up. He explained that he was trying to contact Mr xyz and was told that yes this was indeed the right person but he would be very lucky to get him because he is never in the office and in any case he doesn’t care about registering new companies! My friend never managed to contact Mr xyz but did succeed with registering his company when the VAT office sent him the demand complaining that he was late and would be fined if he did not comply.
Belgium, as Douglas Adams might have said.