The CBE is a register managed by the Federal Public Service Economy in which all basic information about companies and their establishments is kept. The CBE centralises the basic information about companies and their establishments and distributes it to the various competent bodies. The CBE serves a double purpose:
- To make the functioning of government bodies more efficient.
- To simplify the administrative procedures for companies.
Each company is under the obligation to register in the CBE before the start of its activities. Each company and each establishment is assigned a unique identification number by the CBE. With this identification number, government bodies can exchange information. This way, the company needs to provide the same information to the government only once.
Besides the basic information (without limitation: the (commercial) name, the legal form, establishment(s), bank account number, capital, date of annual meeting, date of end of financial year, members of the Board, the identity of all persons demonstrating business skills (Brussels and Wallonia)), the CBE also contains information about the activities of the company, classified according to the NACE codes. The full table can be found on the website of the Belgian statistical office.
The way in which you can register in the CBE depends on the type of company. For instance, companies, international associations, and foundations are registered in the CBE via the company court and via an authorised one-stop business service. Non-profit organisations are only registered via the company court. Companies without legal personality (partnerships, etc.) and one-man businesses do not need to go through the company court. For these companies, it suffices to contact an authorised one-stop business service.
Companies evolve, which means that the information does not necessarily remain the same as when the company started. Many entrepreneurs do not modify their information in the register in time. They consider this to be a formality and are not aware of the importance of (correct) registration in the CBE.
Following the introduction of the registered cash register system, the electronic corporate tax return, BIZTAX, the UBO register, etc., many entrepreneurs have experienced the consequences of incomplete registration in the CBE. In the case of electronic registration, this only leads to a delay in the registration, but the lack of registration or incorrect registration may lead to a number of unpleasant situations in practice.
The economic code provides for fines in case of incomplete or absent registration, ranging from 26 to 10,000 euros. These fines are rarely imposed. The CBE will first ask the company to register, update or delete its information within thirty days.
Costs and too much tax
Many government services use the information as stated in the CBE to check whether a company is subject to certain taxes (e.g. FASFC, SABAM and provincial tax). The company may pay too much tax if the CBE contains incorrect or outdated information.
The tax inspector questions the professional costs incurred to obtain construction materials because the company has only registered for painting works. Besides the address of the registered office, the company had a second establishment, but this closed a long time ago. If the CBE is not updated, the company will receive an unnecessary invoice for provincial tax.
Social security reductions
It is important for any employer to indicate in which establishment of the company an employee is employed. For example target group reductions for employers depend on the Region where the place of business where the employee is employed is located. Failure to register the place of business (correctly) may lead to certain reductions in contributions being denied.
Subsidies and incentives
In order to support and encourage companies, both the federal government and the regions and local authorities give incentives/subsidies to those who invest to start their own business, to employers, to environmentally friendly investments, etc. To grant these incentives, the authorities use the information in the CBE. For instance, a company can only enjoy an 'SME wallet' when it has been registered with an 'acceptable' main activity.
Inadmissibility of claims
First of all, a company can only file a legal claim if it has been correctly registered in the CBE. Whereas absent or incorrect registration in the CBE used to lead to the inadmissibility of the claim, regularisation is now possible (new article III.26 of the Economic Code).
Professional liability insurance cover
Taking out professional liability insurance without activating the necessary activities and, depending on the region, professional knowledge in the CBE may lead the insurer to claim back compensation payments from the insured in case of a claim.
The above shows not only the importance of correct registration at the time the company is created but also of keeping the information up to date in case of changes in the company (e.g. registered office, name, activities, management knowledge, professional knowledge, establishments, etc.). Regularisation is possible in most cases but often results in additional costs. Prevention is better than cure!
It is certainly worth checking whether your company's information in the CBE still corresponds to reality. You can consult the CBE registration online via Public Search ofthe FPS Economy.