In the past, the National Register of Legal Entities was authorised to assign all legal entities a national number of 9 digits, starting with 2, 3, 4, or 9. If the company was liable to VAT, the national number became the ‘VAT number’ and was preceded by BE. For sole traders and associations, it was the VAT authorities who issued the 9-digit numbers, starting with 5, 6, 7. These numbers were automatically ‘VAT numbers’.
In addition, there was a trade register number for ‘commercial’ companies. This was a separate register at the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Linked to a national or VAT number, these two numbers formed the unique IDs for a company.
Since 2003, the trade register has been abolished and the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises is authorised to allocate a company number to each entity. As a result, the National Register and the VAT authorities had no longer the authority.
For companies already in possession of a VAT number there was a simple solution: their VAT number received a 10th digit, namely a 0, which was placed before the original 9 digits. This number immediately became their company number. In the future, the first digit will probably be ‘1’. Companies established after 1 July 2013 received a 10-digit enterprise number from the start. If an enterprise is subject to VAT, the enterprise number becomes the VAT number at the same time. The transition period lasted until 1 January 2005, since then all Belgian companies have one 10-digit enterprise number.