Administrative formalities for Brussels-based retailers

As is the case with any new business, opening a retail or hospitality outlet requires meeting a series of administrative obligations to obtain the authorisations required, to create the company, to keep the books, to hire staff, to play music, etc.

    Opening a retail business, restaurant or café

    Your obligations


    Employment status

    Starting a business implies immediately taking an important decision: sole proprietorship or company? What are the main differences and the benefits and drawbacks of the two options?

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    Sole proprietorship or company, full-time self-employed or part-time self-employed: before starting your business in Brussels you will have to prove, in nearly every instance, that you have basic business management skills. 

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    In some sectors, known as “regulated professions”, you will also require specific additional professional skills. Is your profession regulated? 

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    Quite a few insurance policies are optional; however, the law does require certain insurances.

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    for retailers


    Cash flow management

    Your business’ cash flow is crucial. It ensures that your business can continue to operate. In turn, your business must generate enough revenue to maintain sufficient cash flow. How do you optimise your cash?

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    EcoBox is a simplified management tool for the self-employed and VSEs to track the essential day-to-day functions of their business. The EcoBox tool is intended for all entrepreneurs who want to manage their business.

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    Les obligations comptables


    Not all companies are subject to the same accounting rules. Obligations vary depending on the legal form of the business, the business sector, revenue, the balance sheet total and the number of employees.

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    Hiring staff

    Les réglementations


    You will have to meet a number of obligations when you become an employer: registration with the ONSS, DIMONA declaration, payroll tax withholding, administrative formalities, compliance with the legislation on well-being at work, etc. You can find all the information you need on the FPS Economy and FPS Employment websites.

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    champ culture

    Well-being at work

    Well-being at work is defined as allfactors related to the conditions under which work is executed: safety at work, the protection of employee health, the psychosocial aspects of work, ergonomics, hygiene at work, and the improvement of working premises.

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    recrutement attente salle


    Your company is growing and you’re thinking of hiring staff. Where do you find employees? How do you set their compensation? What hiring aids are available? How do you manage your staff?

    Read more

    fleuriste caisse

    Financial tips for recruiting

    You need an extra pair of hands but you don’t think you can afford to hire someone. There are a number of solutions and employment aids available that can help reduce your personnel costs.

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    Authorisations and obligations

    Fire prevention

    Your establishment must be up to standards with respect to fire prevention. To ensure that you are, you will usually have to schedule a visit by the Pompiers de Bruxelles (Brussels fire service) to your business to obtain a “Fire safety certificate”.

    The fire service reference site for Brussels is

    Hospitality of Retail?

    Hospitality establishments often need to obtain a new certificate when the operator changes. This isn’t necessarily the case for retailers.

    In both cases, future hospitality/retail business operators must contact the Service Exploitation (Operations Department) of their municipality to ask if they are required to have a certificate to operate in their particular situation. This will depend on the municipal rules.

    How to obtain a fire safety certificate

    1. First, it is recommended that you call the fire service's Prevention Department. You will receive an answer to your administrative questions right away. If you have technical questions about the installations required, an officer will call you back to discuss the main rules to be followed and the applicable regulations, depending on the type of establishment.
    2. Once you have spoken with an officer, followed their recommendations and done any work necessary on your business, you will have to fill in a form to schedule a visit by the fire service. It should be sent to The visit date will be set with the fire service. The administrative fee is a fixed €60 and each visit costs €100 an hour. Generally speaking, a one-hour inspection will be sufficient for a hospitality or retail business visit.
    3. If any issues are detected during the visit, the fire service will send you their inspection report listing any problems as comments. The municipality will also receive a copy. You will be asked to make the necessary changes. To ensure that you have complied with the fire service’s recommendations, you can either send in photos (as long as the required changes can be taken in photo, for example, the placement of fire extinguishers) attached to the initial form to be returned. If the photos can’t show the changes, you will have to schedule another inspection (at the same cost as the first one).
    4. If everything is in order, you will receive a certificate with no comments.

    More information

    For more information, see the Vademecum provided by the fire service on the topic.

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    Hospitality sector application

    You will have to request authorisation to open a hospitality business in most of the municipalities in the Brussels-Capital Region. You will have to submit a hospitality sector application which will vary depending on the municipality. 

    The application must be made via the Middle Classes department. Some municipalities have a special unit for hospitality sector businesses. 

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    Hospitality sector cash register

    All hospitality sector operators must provide a control document to the government. It consists of bills, receipts or receipts from a cash register system.

    FPS Finance has created a website dedicated to the topic with practical and technical information.

    The SCE-Horeca website provides additional explanations to help you.

    Itinerant businesses (markets, food trucks, stallholders, etc.)

    An itinerant business is conducted outside of a retail outlet, either by a retailer or by a person who doesn't have a retail outlet.

    Mandatory authorisations

    The itinerant business card authorises the sale of the products it lists. It is issued by the business one-stop shops. In addition to the card, contact systematically the municipality to obtain an authorisation to use the public highway. Note that the use of the public highway is subject to a municipal fee. In the case of a market or similar organisation, the organiser is required to obtain municipal authorisation as well. 

    Special regulations

    The organisation and operation of fairground activities is subject to special regulations.

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    Looking for tips to start up your food truck ?

    Often fun and colourful, food trucks are based on a well-defined concept and seem like an easy alternative and a first step to opening a small permanent establishment. Easy? Don't be so sure! If you're tempted, read our advice carefully to make sure things run smoothly!

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    No smoking

    It is forbidden to smoke in enclosed public spaces. Hospitality spaces are non-smoking (fr) by definition. A sign with pictogrammes or text to remind people that smoking is forbidden must be visible.

    Smoking is permitted on terraces as long as they are completely open on one side. Smoking is also permitted in a special smoking room in hospitality establishments, under certain conditions.

    All information about the topic can be found in the brochure published by SPF Public Health.

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    Music broadcasting


    If you want to play music in your shop, restaurant, snack bar, taxi, etc., you will first have to submit a declaration to the SABAM to contribute to the fair compensation of the artists. The payment of an annual fee is required and set according to the industry.

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    Also ensure that you meet the noise standards applicable in the Brussels-Capital Region and that you do not create any noise pollution.

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    Municipal retail taxes

    Brussels’ municipalities have their own taxing authority. Each municipality can require taxes for different reasons, for example: taxes on night shops, for use of the public roadway, on commercial signs, for occupancy with a commercial lease, etc.

    For more information, you can consult the list of taxes by municipality or contact the tax office for your municipality.

    Terrace or item on the public highway

    The installation of terraces is regulated throughout the Brussels Region. Authorisation must therefore be requested from the municipal authority. Authorisations are normally issued for a year. Only hospitality sector businesses can request approval for a terrace. 
    Other businesses can request authorisation for a display or easel.
    Authorisations are also required for events, and are available from the municipality.
    The regulations are specific to each municipality.

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    Opening hours

    • Retail opening hours are regulated by federal law.
    • Businesses providing services like restaurants, cafés, barbers, etc. are not subject to them. 
    • The retail trade law requires a weekly day of rest and limits the opening of daytime businesses (from 5:00 am to 8:00 pm during the week and from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm on Fridays and the day before holidays) and night-time businesses (from 6:00 pm to 7:00 am). 
    • Waivers are available depending on the type of business.
    • Municipal waivers are also available for special events: for sales, year-end holidays, clearance sales, etc. A list is published by each municipality every year. 
    • Tourist centres also benefit from waivers from the law on opening hours and weekly rest. 

    Waste collection contract

    As a retailer, you are required to take out a waste collection contract with Bruxelles-Propreté or an approved private collection company

    Do you want to reduce the waste you produce? There are many sources of information available to help you achieve Zero Waste. Need more information? Contact the zero-waste facilitator: 

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