Bringing a business outside its own country can have different goals. If the priority is minimal or zero taxes, simplified reporting and complete confidentiality of beneficiaries, then the option of a classic offshore is considered. However, when reputation, trust of solvent partners, as well as doing business in a stable political and economic environment are in the first place, then it is worth focusing on European jurisdictions.
Welcome to an Attorneys Association Lawrange for a consultation to understand which country suits you best for business. With the support of clients in entering the transnational level of entrepreneurship, we not only provide such a service as registering a company in Europe, but also resolve issues with a legal address and a corporate bank account, further accounting and legal services for a newly formed company.
Benefits of registering a company in Europe
On the one hand, Europe, and even the European Union in particular, is a heterogeneous environment. In each country, business rules, taxation, living standards are different. On the other hand, by registering a company in one EU state, you can secure a simplified access to all participants in the European market, as well as counterparties in the United States and advanced countries of the Asia-Pacific region.
Jurisdiction in the EU (and, as an option, the UK) is selected depending on the scale and specifics of the business. However, under any circumstances, opening a company in Europe allows you to get the following benefits:
- a company with a European incorporation has more significant weight in the eyes of partners and representatives of banking institutions in comparison with a company registered in the island jurisdiction;
- business is conducted in accordance with clear and uniform rules for all – the legislation of each EU country is stable and harmonized with common standards;
- prospects are provided for obtaining tax benefits and preferences on legal grounds, and not through tax evasion – you can count on flexible taxation, special government programs for small and medium-sized businesses, support for start-ups, a special tax regime in free economic zones, and so on;
- by default, there is a low level of corruption and bureaucracy, which ensures both prompt business registration and licensing, and the absence of disputes with regulatory authorities in the course of activities;
- a businessman receives conditions in Europe to minimize commercial risks, protect assets and diversify sources of income, as well as access to profitable lending;
- due to the lack of strict state regulation of entrepreneurship and bureaucracy, it is possible to develop multi-sectoral business models, and if one sector ceases to generate income, then the company will stay afloat at the expense of other activities.
Top 5 most popular European jurisdictions
The global course on the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing (AML and CFT) in recent years has “redrawn” the map of European jurisdictions that are comfortable for foreign business. In 2018, scandals related to money laundering broke out in Latvia and Estonia, which led to a “chain reaction”. The authorities of the Baltic States, as well as Cyprus and Malta, have ceased to be as hospitable to non-residents as they used to be. The rules of the game for immigrants from the post-Soviet space have become especially tough.
Note! After the transition period, the situation stabilized. An investor can register a legal entity and open a bank account for it in almost any European jurisdiction. However, this is much more difficult to do than before. More paperwork will have to be done and strict requirements will have to be met. You can’t do without an experienced assistant on this path.
Based on our own findings and recent business reviews, we can identify the TOP jurisdictions that offer favorable conditions for foreign business. Let’s take a look at each country briefly.
In recent years, the country has been holding a place in the TOP-10 jurisdictions in terms of ease of doing business (in the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking). Registering a company in England is a viable solution if you plan to promote an IT startup, open a financial institution, implement a development project or engage in a number of other types of business.
Note! British law offers a good choice of organizational forms of doing business – Private Company Limited by Shares (LTD), public limited company (PLC), limited liability partnership (Limited Liability Partnership) and so on.
Among The strengths of Britain as a jurisdiction are the absence of the country in the “black” and “grey” lists, legislation loyal to small and medium-sized businesses, and the presence of a developed financial infrastructure.
Important! The benefits in terms of taxation are registered in the country of partnership. If the company does not conduct economic activity in the UK, and the partners are not tax residents, then taxes are paid only in the country of tax residence.
In the United Kingdom, it is possible to register a cryptocurrency company, that is, to obtain a license to conduct activities related to virtual assets legally. A crypto company in the UK will have a much higher status than in most other jurisdictions in the world.
A great advantage for entrepreneurship is the country’s membership in the European Union. Registering a company in Bulgaria provides access to solvent customers, both in the euro area and around the world. The option of Bulgaria as a jurisdiction for business is suitable for novice entrepreneurs who want to try their hand, but do not invest large financial resources.
Among the available organizational and legal forms of doing business in the country are OOD (similar to LLC), EOOD (sole proprietorship), AD (similar to JSC) and so on.
Important! Bulgaria is a good choice for commercial activities due to its favorable taxation. Income tax is 10%, VAT (VAT) – 20%, payment of dividends for non-residents – 5%. A foreign company, subject to a number of conditions, can count on benefits and preferences.
If you use the services of JSC Lawrange, then along with the registration of the company, opening an account in Bulgaria is ensured. The country’s banks are characterized by reliability – in the majority, these are branches of international financial institutions. A corporate bank account can be opened in Bulgarian leva, euro or US dollars. Sometimes banks ask you to make an activation payment, but this is a small amount.
When the conversation turns to onshore jurisdictions, Portugal is mentioned without fail. The authorities have managed to create many incentives for the inflow of foreign investment. First of all, this is a program for obtaining citizenship through investment in the economy, as well as the Madeira free economic zone with a preferential tax regime.
Opening a company in Portugal is the acquisition of a European image and the benefits of using a favorable tax regime. The jurisdiction is suitable for the development of cryptocurrency and NFT projects.
Lawrange JSC offers clients a choice of service packages: a) opening an LDA or SA with a corporate income tax of 14.7%; b) opening a company with an IBCM license (Madeira Free Economic Zone) and a corporate income tax of 5%. We are talking about the following organizational forms of business: LDA (Sociedad por Quotas) – the equivalent of an LLC, SA (Sociedare Anonima) – a closed joint-stock company, SA (Sociedare Aberta) – an open joint-stock company.
Important! The country’s central bank (Banco de Portugal) has recently started issuing permits for conducting crypto-currency activities for commercial purposes (crypto licenses), that is, Portugal is one of the states where crypto-business is regulated. Obtaining a crypto license in Portugal provides a reliable legal platform for business related to virtual assets and, accordingly, access to the highest category of clients.
The country is experiencing economic growth, which is due, among other things, to a favorable tax and investment climate. Opening a company in Slovakia is a good solution for many tasks: taking a business to a transnational level, optimizing taxation as part of building a holding structure, and so on.
An attractive feature of Slovakia for non-residents is the low cost of registering a business. With the support of representatives of JSC Lawrange, the necessary procedures for registering a company can be carried out remotely, without a personal visit to the country. If necessary, the package of services will also include obtaining a trade or other license.
Note! The Commercial Code of Slovakia establishes the possibility of opening companies in such organizational and legal forms as a limited liability company – S.R.O., representative office (organizačná zložka), joint-stock company – A.S., general partnership – V.O.S. and so on.
Registration of a legal entity and further maintenance is cheaper than in most other EU countries. You can start a business in this country quickly and comfortably.
The list of business-friendly jurisdictions traditionally includes the Baltic States. Even despite the tightening of requirements for registering a business by non-residents, registering a company in Estonia or registering a company in Latvia opens up great prospects for export-import, financial and many other activities.
Important! Lithuania occupies a special place among the Baltic States, as it has created a legal foundation for cryptocurrency business and trading activities.
FinTech direction. The list of JSC Lawrange services includes the following packages: a) registration of a company + obtaining a crypto license in Lithuania; b) registration of a company + obtaining an EMI license in Lithuania.
The country retains the status of one of the most crypto-friendly states in Europe. The authorities of the country have managed to achieve a balance between strict rules to prevent money laundering and the presence of incentives for crypto enthusiasts. Lithuania offers two types of virtual currency service provider authorization: 1) exchange authorization; 2) for storage in wallets.
The country deserves attention as a favorable environment for fintech entrepreneurship. This is best evidenced by the number of registered payment institutions and e-money issuers – more than 100.
Features of European jurisdictions
Each country in the European Union is characterized by its own characteristics in terms of doing business by foreigners, taxation and the standard of living of the population. The heterogeneity of the EU is best demonstrated by the difference in minimum wages: the highest is €1,775 in Ireland and the lowest is €332 in Bulgaria.
When answering the question of where it is better to open a company in Europe, one should analyze the jurisdiction according to a number of characteristics, including:
- duration of the registration procedure;
- availability of requirements for the minimum amount of the authorized capital;
- the difficulty of obtaining permits and licenses for certain types of activities;
- conditions for business immigration;
- availability of preferential tax regimes that a foreigner can use;
- requirements to be included in the number of owners or to involve local residents in management;
- conditions for reporting and auditing;
- existence of an agreement on exemption from double taxation;
- the cost of registration and further maintenance of the company.
Important! The main condition is to correctly compare the specifics and needs of the business with the requirements that take place in a particular jurisdiction. For example, a business is registered to organize international trade or to form a holding structure, and so on.
Prospects for European business
Entering the European market or completely relocating a business to the EU is a way to protect your property in the face of internal instability, as well as a tribute to the globalization of the economy. Business in Europe makes it possible to expand spheres of influence, work in conditions of high quality standards and, over time, acquire citizenship of one of the EU countries.
Registering a company in Europe gives you access to tax optimization, government support programs, and the implementation of fresh business ideas that allow you to receive additional funding.
Obtaining a business visa or residence permit
Legal business activity in Europe may be the basis for foreigners to obtain an EU passport. To begin with, at the stage of paperwork for the company or after registration, the entrepreneur receives a business visa and enters the selected country. For example, in some jurisdictions, a founder can take a job as a director of his own company, and this will be the basis for obtaining a business visa.
The next steps are obtaining a residence permit, and then permanent residence. In addition to the founder of the company, within the framework of business immigration programs, residence permits can be obtained by family members. Also, together with a businessman, members of his team, who are also issued a residence permit, can move to Europe. To obtain citizenship by naturalization in different countries, a different period is required, at least five years or more.
Note! In many EU countries, so-called start-up visas are issued. We are talking about immigration programs for entrepreneurs who create innovative or necessary products for the country. For example, these can be products in the field of “green energy”, recycling, information technology, and so on. At the same time, in order to obtain a start-up visa, it is necessary to justify the relevance of the business idea and business plan to the state authorities. It is desirable that the implementation of the project entails the strengthening of the country’s economic position and the creation of new jobs.
Stability of the political and economic component
Regardless of the goals pursued (obtaining a residence permit, entering new capacious markets, organizing activities in the field of finance and virtual assets in particular), the entrepreneur is guaranteed clear and understandable “rules of the game”. Legislative changes that govern doing business in Europe are introduced smoothly and harmoniously – this never entails stress for the business community.
Note! The stability of the European currency deserves special attention. The European Central Bank has an effective toolkit and huge resources to mitigate any signs of destabilization. Even in the face of rising energy prices, anti-Russian sanctions and inflation, the central bank is successfully coping with its tasks.
The system of taxes and fees in Europe is characterized by heterogeneity, as well as other factors of economic development mentioned earlier. The common features for all EU member states are a differentiated approach to the taxation of foreign companies and the existence of an extensive system of double taxation exemption treaties for transnational businesses.
When analyzing the pros and cons of taxation in jurisdictions, consider:
- corporate tax + the presence or absence of the possibility not to pay it if the company does not conduct business in the country;
- taxation of dividends;
- the possibility of using one or another preferential tax regime;
- tax reporting requirements.
***Note: The current corporate tax rates in the European Union can be found here.
Organizational forms of doing business in Europe
Correct business structuring is the foundation for the effective functioning of the company in the future and the absence of problems with the adoption of managerial decisions. The organizational and legal form (OLF) should be selected according to the direction and scale of the business. It is also necessary to take into account the fact that in a number of jurisdictions preferences are provided only for certain OPFs. For example, in England and Scotland, partnerships have a special status.
Note! Despite the great diversity in the names of FETs across Europe, it all comes down to just a few basic types of companies. At the same time, one should not forget about the possibility of registering individual entrepreneurship in each country. This is the simplest in terms of registration of OPF. However, the minus of doing business as an individual is personal liability for all business obligations, including debts. An individual entrepreneur can lose literally everything, up to his housing and personal cash savings.
Let’s consider the main types of companies in Europe.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
Both in Europe and around the world, Limited Liability Company enjoys the greatest popularity among entrepreneurs. This form of doing business enables participants to limit their liability for obligations within the limits of the size of the shares invested in the authorized capital. Members are not personally responsible. Income, respectively, is also distributed depending on participation in the authorized capital.
Note! The LLC form is best suited for small and medium-sized businesses. Although under certain circumstances it can be quite effectively used for large enterprises.
Registration of a company in Europe in the form of an LLC provides for the preparation of constituent documents, the deposit of authorized capital and entry in the Commercial Register of the chosen jurisdiction. At the same time, the minimum amount of the authorized capital is often required to be small, in some states it is only 1 euro. The main disadvantages of an LLC in Europe include rather high costs, both at the start of a business and to maintain its life.
Joint Stock Company
This form of business organization is worthy of competition LLC. Economic activity in this form is well suited to attract investment at any stage of the company’s life cycle, from inception to scaling. As in an LLC, the shareholder of a JSC is not personally liable for the obligations of the company.
The peculiarity of joint-stock companies lies in the division of the authorized capital not just into shares (as in an LLC), but into shares. That is, shares certify corporate rights in business. In the case of successful business activities, the market value of shares increases, and significantly exceeds the nominal price. Shareholders receive income in the form of dividends. At the same time, shares can be pledged or other operations can be carried out with them, which is beneficial for the owner.
Note! Joint-stock companies are divided into two types: 1) open (public) and 2) closed. It is about offering or not offering shares on the public market (in particular, on the stock exchange) for sale. CJSCs (so-called private companies) are more flexible in terms of management. Open joint-stock companies open access to more sources of investment.
Partnerships are formed by entering into an agreement between two or more persons wishing to conduct a joint business. Obligations, principles of distribution of profits and powers are determined in this agreement.
Partnerships in Europe are of two types:
- general (full) – general partnerships;
- with limited liability (limited) – limited partnerships.
In general partnerships, all partners assume responsibility for business obligations, including debts and losses. In limited partnerships, some partners are only investors, that is, they do not have the right to manage, but they are not liable for obligations, they only receive part of the profit.
Note! Among the main advantages of partnership are the moderate costs of formalizing a partnership agreement. The disadvantages are the difficulties with the sale of such a business, since it is necessary
You can find a new partner, as well as the termination of activities, when even one partner so desires.
Branch (branch office)
It is possible to enter the EU markets by bypassing the procedure for establishing a new legal entity. A branch as an OPF of a business makes it possible to retain full control and management from the head office, as well as work on a unified corporate accounting system. There is no need to create a new governing body.
The branch is a subsidiary structure within the parent company, therefore it cannot break ties with it on its own initiative. At the same time, the rules for opening a branch in Europe vary from country to country.
Note! Among the advantages of the branch is the possibility of using both its own personnel (by way of business trips abroad) and attracting personnel (foreigners) in the country of location. Moreover, as needed, foreigners can be sent from the branch to the parent company.
Important! Unlike a representative office, a branch has a wider freedom of activity, for example, the ability to open production facilities, conduct trade, forwarding, construction activities, and so on. Often the branch operates at the expense of its own profits, and not at the expense of the parent company.
Representation (representative office)
At its core, a representative office (re-office) is a separate subdivision of a legal entity or a group of companies in a foreign country. The representative office is not entitled to engage in production activities. All expenses for the functioning of the representative office are covered by the head office.
However, despite the costs, opening a representative office justifies itself in cases where it is necessary to solve certain business problems. For example, this is a platform for a brand to enter the European market, for reconnaissance of the business climate in the country, if it is planned to register a separate legal entity. Representative offices protect the interests of the parent company.
Company registration procedure in Europe with Lawrange
To open a company in Europe with the support of Lawrange, the entrepreneur does not need much effort. The consultation will help you find out your needs, and then the following steps will be carried out:
Step 1. Choice of jurisdiction.
The best option is chosen depending on the goals, for example: a) for business immigration, b) for a particular type of activity, c) to enter new markets in the presence of an already functioning business.
Step 2. Resolving the issue with the resident manager and the office.
A non-resident is also entitled to register a company in the European Union. But as a director in most European countries, a local resident is required. A legal address is also provided in accordance with the requirements of the legislation of a particular country.
Step 3. Registration of a new legal entity.
In advance, according to the above criteria, the OPF is selected, the issue with the name and constituent documents is resolved.
Step 4. Opening a corporate bank account.
An account can be opened both in the country of incorporation of the company, and in another European state.
Optionally, it is also possible to obtain the necessary licenses and organize further accounting services for the company.
Europe for business is a whole ocean of opportunities. But at the same time, opening a company in Europe requires knowledge of international law, as well as practical experience in interacting with registering government agencies and representatives of banking institutions. Each step of an entrepreneur can turn into mistakes, loss of time, and even a chance to bring a business to the European Union.
Representatives of JSC Lawrange are ready to take on all issues of legal support for opening a company in the complex. Minimal participation is required from you, and soon you will be able to enjoy all the benefits of being the owner of a European company.
Where is it profitable to register a company?
You can choose respectable Great Britain or hospitable Bulgaria, Poland or Lithuania, Ireland or Malta for business. It all depends on your goals, direction of activity and the scope of your project.
How much money do you need to start a business in Europe?
You can analyze our proposals for registering companies in different European countries on your own on the website or order a consultation to get an answer to this question.
Where is the best place to register a company in Europe?
In some countries, for example, in the Netherlands, you will be provided with a quick company registration, in just a couple of days. And somewhere, for example, in Portugal, in the Madeira Free Economic Zone, you will get the opportunity to optimize taxes. The choice depends on what exactly is your priority.