Looking for the Ideal Place to Set up Your HQ or Sales & Marketing in Europe?

Flanders, the northern region of Belgium, offers unmatched assets for foreign companies that want to establish a European or regional business presence!

Besides its exceptional location at the heart of Europe and long-standing tradition as an exemplary region for establishing European and regional headquarters, Flanders offers foreign companies a unique combination of:

  • Accessibility from all European key locations via particularly well-developed passenger, transportation and telecommunications networks;
  • Proximity to hundreds of international decision-making organizations, including the European Union and NATO;
  • Affordable office space and low cost of living compared to many other headquarter Locations;
  • Access to a highly-skilled and multilingual workforce, the result of a superb education system;
  • An ideal test market. Doing business is smooth and attractive in Flanders thanks to its open-minded culture - on economic, political, fiscal and social levels alike.

A Warm Welcome to Flanders!

High Quality of Life

The social fiber is great, the number of cultural events is impressive, and there are at least ten very good restaurants”, enthuses Diego Ruiz, Finance Director of JBS-Toledo [Brazil). “The people in Flanders are very friendly, very kind. And I know what I'm talking about, because I have lived in various other countries already."

People in Flanders are open-minded, and the social fiber is strong. On top of that, the region offers an exceptionally high standard of living for citizens and expatriates alike. This is mainly due to its:

  • First-class healthcare standards. Indeed, the healthcare system in Flanders is one of the best in the world and offers almost universal coverage to its citizens. For a low cost, they get access to high- quality healthcare;
  • Top-notch education. Thanks to the presence of European and international institutions and organizations, families living in Flanders can choose to send their children to local schools, national schools, European schools or schools specializing in their own national curriculum and language, e.g. American, Japanese, British, French, Dutch and German.
  • Rich cultural heritage. Renowned for its excellent gastronomy and culinary tradition, Flanders has a very rich cultural heritage. This is mainly due to the open-mindedness of the people. This has allowed expats to enjoy very high standards of living in Flanders for decades. There is an ever-growing number of dubs, sporting and cultural groups to provide for the needs of the thousands of foreign citizens Living in Flanders today.

The Gateway to Europe

Flanders - Belgium's northern region - is often called the gateway to Europe. And it's not hard to see why, considering the presence of Antwerp, Europe's second largest seaport, and Brussels, the center of the European Union and host to numerous international organizations and public authorities. Add to this an abundance of expertise in distribution, international trade and freight forwarding, and you'll have an idea as to why Flanders is one of the most attractive regions for establishing European headquarters.

On top of that, Flanders is easily reachable from all European key locations by road, rail (high-speed trains to important trade cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne, etc), air and sea.

A Well-Educated Workforce to Rely on

On the strength of its excellent education system - including five universities with an international reputation - Flanders fosters a ready-to-hand, skilled and motivated pool of talent. On top of that, the region is Located right on a nodal point where Europe's three major cultural and Language groups meet. People fluently speak Dutch, French and German - the three official languages in Belgium - and many employees make daily use of a language other than their mother tongue. On top of that, many people have great proficiency in English.

Thanks to this diversity, Flanders’ workforce enjoys the reputation of being flexible, eager to learn and highly productive The latter is evidenced by the region's labor productivity, which is estimated to be 25% higher than the EU-28 average.

An Ideal Test Market

Three reasons to try your luck in Flanders:

1. Flanders is a small region, counting approximately 6.5 million inhabitants. This means that new concepts or products can be tested with smaller budgets.
2. People in Flanders are multilingual and most are able to understand and express themselves in all of Belgium’s three official languages: French, German and Dutch. On many occasions, English is spoken fluently as well. Furthermore, the extreme proximity of different populations makes for an interesting opportunity to see how your product or service is perceived by a variety of cultures.
3. Belgium – and Flanders as a region – can be seen as a miniature version of Europe. Most economic and consumer trends that apply to Europe also apply to Flanders.

“Situated on the crossroads of three of Europe’s major cultures – German, Roman and Anglo-Saxon – Flanders’ inhabitants are open and receptive to all sorts of influences, be it cultural, culinary, social or professional. “All this makes Flanders an ideal test market for innovations”, says Hessel De Jong, General Manager Benelux Operations at the Coca-Cola Company. “If it works in Flanders, we’re pretty sure that it’ll also work elsewhere.”

Case in point: Coca-Cola houses the second largest R&D center of The Coca-Cola Company worldwide in Belgium. Here, some 500 new drinks are developed, destined for European, African, Eurasian and Middle Eastern markets. Other companies, including Red Bull, Procter & Gamble, Chiquita and many more have also discovered the assets of Flanders as a test market for their products.

Affordable Office Space

Office space in Flanders is fairly inexpensive compared to other regions and countries around the world and in Europe. With an occupancy price of EUR 327 per square meter per year, Brussels - the capital of Flanders - scores significantly lower than cities like London (EUR 729.89), Paris (EUR 820.00) and Luxembourg City (EUR 595.20).

An excellent climate for business…and living for leader in climate control solutions Daikin Europe N.V. the advantages of choosing the city of Ostend in Flanders as its headquarters are numerous. One of the main assets for the Japanese multinational, however, is the high quality of Life for expatriates. Many seem to value the international environment and availability of a superb education system, further strengthened by the presence of a Japanese school near Brussels.

A Favorable Tax Regime

Flanders is traditionally one of the preferred Locations for major companies in Europe. Despite the relatively high statutory Belgian corporate tax rate, many organizations quickly discover the benefits of its excellent business environment.

Add to that the wide range of combinable incentives designed to lower the effective tax rate for your enterprise, and there is really no excuse not to consider Flanders as a base foryour business undertakings.

The most interesting tax incentives for foreign companies looking to set up their business presence in Flanders include:

  • Notional Interest Deduction
  • Tax treaty network
  • Holding regime
  • IP and R&D incentives
  • Expatriate regime
  • Legal certainty business minded ruling practice
  • Transfer pricing - excess profits
  • Indirect tax

Notional Interest Deduction

This unique and automatically applicable tax incentive allows companies subject to Belgian corporate tax - including foreign companies with a presence in Belgium - to deduct a percentage of 2.742 (for tax year 2014) of their equity from their taxable income (and 3.242% for SMEs)_ As a result, the effective tax rate drops considerably whilst companies get the chance to strengthen their capital structure.

Tax Treaty Network

Companies located in Flanders have access to an excellent double tax treaty network, comprising close to a hundred countries, including the US and key countries in Africa (e.g. Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa) and Asia (e.g. Hong Kong or China). These treaties are specific arrangements between countries aligning their mutual tax policies and they are designed to avoid international double taxation.

Choose Your Scenario: is Your Company Eligible?

Establishing a business presence in Flanders can entail many things. For each of the following business scenarios, different tax incentives may apply. Make sure you don’t miss out on any of them, and find out how you can experience the full advantages of operating from Flanders.

1. A Representation Office
2. A Principal Branch
3. A Regional HQ or Shared Service Center
4. A Holding Company
5. Central Entrepreneur

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