Cleo Coates Jul 13, 2023 11:34:45 AM 15 min read

Everything You Need To Know About Expanding Your Business Into Europe

Embrace the tremendous opportunities the European Union (EU) presents for business growth with our comprehensive guide. Despite its intricate laws and diverse business landscape, the EU offers an attractive market, favourable tax benefits, and investor-friendly policies. 

However, challenges such as varying regulations and capital requirements exist. We also provide essential advice for HR specialists and business leaders on topics from cultural adaptation to GDPR compliance. Trust in Emerald to navigate these complexities, transforming your European expansion vision into a successful reality. 


Top Reasons to plant your business roots in europe

Setting up a business venture in Europe offers an enticing array of benefits. Whether you are a small-scale entrepreneur or a multinational corporation leader, the EU opens up an ocean of opportunities, attractive tax rates, and a vast market ready to embrace your business. Let's take a look at them:


1. A Trade Behemoth

At the heart of Europe's appeal is its economic stature. With a combined GDP of €15.8 trillion, the EU stands as the world's second-largest economy. This economic power offers unprecedented access to trade routes that have flourished for centuries. For example, Spain and Portugal serve as valuable connections to the North American market. 


2. Unified Market

With the open borders policy and a population of 447.7 million, the EU provides a substantial consumer base for businesses. The freedom of movement in goods, services, capital and people allows companies to avoid intra-EU trade tariffs and access a larger talent pool. This immense market size dramatically improves business prospects and enables business to thrive. 


3. An Investor's Haven

Europe boasts a tax-friendly attitude towards businesses, particularly for non-resident companies. Many EU countries, like Romania and Ireland, offer tax rates below 4% for specific companies, providing a significant incentive for foreign investors. Additionally, some countries offer special incentives, such as Ireland's 0% corporate tax for the first three years of incorporation.


4. Non-Resident Ownership and Asset Protection

One of the most significant advantages of opening a company in Europe is the opportunity for non-resident ownership. This means a business owner does not have to list nominee directors or owners, providing peace of mind and security. Moreover, by filing as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), business owners can enjoy limited personal exposure to financial risk.  


5. A Single Currency

20 of the 28 EU countries have adopted the Euro as their currency, easing transactions and eliminating the need to figure out exchange rates. This simplified financial system saves businesses time and money, making operating more efficient. 


6. Support for SMEs

The EU offers various support programmes for SMEs, including access to finance and markets, entrepreneurship assistance, and aid in internationalisation and growth. 

With these advantages to benefit from, establishing a business entity in Europe presents an excellent expansion opportunity. From access to vast market, supportive tax structures, and vast resources to non-resident ownership and asset protection, Europe offers an ideal business environment. Regardless of the business size of sector, the EU is indeed a fertile ground for business growth and prosperity. 


Ways to set up an entity in europe 

This venture, however, is more than just selecting a country and establishing a presence. It involves choosing one of four main methos to set up shop, each offering its unique advantages and strategic benefits:

Let's take a close look at these exciting paths towards establishing European a presence:

1. Merger: Two or more public limited liability companies from different EU countries can merge, creating a unified European Company and streamlining operations across borders. 


2. European Holding Company: By gathering public or private limited companies from different EU countries of those with a two-year presence in other EU countries, one can form a European holding company, enabling strategic management of group entities.


3. European Subsidiary: Companies can establish a European subsidiary involving entities from different EU countries or those with a two=year presence in other EU countries. This facilitates better control of European operations under the parent company's umbrella.


4. Conversion: This A public limited liability company with a two-year-old subsidiary in another EU country can convert into a European Company, granting European benefits while preserving its established business operations. 

All of these methos come with specific requirements that vary depending on the EU country in which the company is registered. Typical stipulations include having a registered office and head office in the same EU country, having a presence in other EU countries, and a minimum subscribed capital of EU 120,000. Other factors include agreements on employee participation in the company bodies and consultation and information procedures. 

Moreover, it's possible to transfer the registered office of a European Company to another EU country without winding it up, as long as it's not going through legal proceedings such as winding up, liquidation, or insolvency.

Remember, seeking advise from legal and business professionals when considering such a move is crucial, as the requirements and legal implications can be complex and vary significantly between EU countries.


Potential challenges companies should be aware of

Having explored the advantages; it's now time to turn our attention to the challnegsed that come with establishing a European entity, also known as a Societas Europea (SE). Let's navigate through these complexities to gain a comprehensive understanding of what lies ahead. 

Businesses should consider the following:


Complex Regulation

Despite the unified framework offered by the SE structure, businesses must comply with the laws of the EU country where they are registered. There isn't a single SE law but 30 SE laws, which can significantly differ. Companies may need help navigating different European countries' complex, varied legal requirements and regulations.


Employee Participation

Companies must agree on employee participation in the company bodies and how employees will be consulted and informed. This process may prove challenging, particularly for businesses that are not used to strong worker representation.


Moving Registered Office

When it's possible to transfer the registered office to another EU country without dissolving the company, some EU countries might oppose the transfer during the two-month notice period on public interest grounds. Legal proceedings many be necessary to resolve these issues. 


Variable Capital Requirements

The minimum subscribed capital requirement is EUR 120,000, but some countries may have higher capital requirements. Businesses need to ensure they have the necessary capital to meet these requirements.


Legal Proceedings

A company undergoing legal proceedings such as winding up, liquidation, or insolvency cannot transfer its registered office to another EU country. Businesses need to be aware of the impact of their legal status on their ability to operate as an SE.


Accounting Rules

Companies must follow the accounting rules for public limited-liability companies in the EU country where they are registered. Understanding and complying with different national accounting standards can be a challenge.


Rules on Winding Up and Liquidation

Rules regarding winding up, liquidation, insolvency, and cessation of payments can vary significantly between countries, making these processes more complex. 

To mitigate these challenges, companies should seek advice from legal and business professionals experienced in European corporate law when considering setting up an entity in Europe. Emerald specialises in overcoming these complexities, empowering you to concentrate on your primary business functions. Contact us to strategise your European expansion plans.


What HR Specialist need to consider

When it comes to HR, there's quite a bit to juggle when considering smooth operations and compliance with local labour laws, especially within the EU's diverse landscape. Here's a breakdown of what they should be focusing on:

  • Labour Laws and Employee Rights: Understanding varying EU labour laws related to working hours, minimum wage, and other benefits to prevent legal disputes and ensure fair treatment.
  • Employee Participation: Establish agreements on employee participation in company bodies to comply with EU laws. Familarise yourself with different employee representation systems across EU countries.
  • Cultural Differences: Grasp and respect cultural variances within the workforce, including work-life balance attitudes, communication styles, hierarchy perception, and punctuality norms.
  • Recruitment and Talent Management: Utilise the EU's freedom of movement, and strategies effectively to attract and retain talent from different countries. Aim for a competitive benefits package and an inclusive environment.
  • Training and Development: Implement language and cultural integration training, and offer professional development opportunities to maintain a skilled workforce in a global setting.
  • Tax and Social Security Considerations: Adapt to different EU tax rates and social security systems. Ensure correct employee enrolment and compliant payroll procedures. 
  • Data Privacy: Comply with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regarding storing and using employees' personal data.
  • Work Permits and Visas: Navigate work permits or visa requirements for non-EU nationals. This understanding aids in the smooth facilitation of international hires.


Considerations for business leaders

MAs business leaders gear up to establish a new entity in this diverse region, they must account for many factors to ascertain their venture's success and legal compliance. These factor are crucial for creating a solid foundation that supports growth and sustainability: 

  • Choice of Jurisdiction: Consider diverse economies, business climates, and tax policies. The chosen country significantly affects business prospects. 
  • Market Research: Understand the competitive landscape, customer preferences, pricing strategics, and potential market share in the selected country.
  • Regulatory Environment: Comprehend unique regulations and legal frameworks in each country. These span areas from employment law to environmental standards.
  • Business Structure: Choose an appropriate legal structure, such as a SE, considering operational needs and strategic goals. This choice influences tax treatment, liability, and governance. 
  • Financial Considerations: Beyond startup costs, consider ongoing expenses like tax obligations, payroll, and operational costs. Explore incentives like tax breaks or grants offered to foreign businesses.
  • Human Resources: Evaluate local workforce skills, talent pool, cultural norms, and employee rights and benefits.
  • Supply Chain: Assess the feasibility of transferring or establishing your supply chain in Europe. Consider factors like transportation costs, import/ export regulations, and local supplier reliability. 
  • Cultural Adaption: Understand and respect cultural differences, affecting aspects from negotiation styles to marketing strategies.
  • Data Protection: Comply with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Understanding these regulations is crucial to avoid non-compliance penalties. 


Capitalising on an eor for european expansion

Given the intricate nature of European expansion, a deep understanding of the process and challenges discussed is paramount. Partnering with an Employer of Record (EOR) could be invaluable to ease this journey. 

Now, let's look at how working with an EOR can help your organisation expand:


Navigating Compliance and Payroll

EORs adeptly handle local laws, compliance, and payroll management, reducing risks of legal issues and penalties while facilitating smooth operations.


Efficient Talent Management

With local knowledge and networks, EORs streamline the talent acquisition process, manage employment contracts and ensure alignment with local labour laws. 


Focused Business Operation and Risk Management 

Outsourcing administrative tasks to EORs allows businesses to concentrate on their core activities. EORs mitigate employment-related risks, offering a swift, risk-averse, and efficient approach to market entry and scaling. 

Utilising an EOR provides a streamlined route to explore the potential of the European market, handling administrative tasks while ensuring legal compliance.


Choose Emerald as your expansion partner

Navigating European business expansion is undoubtedly complex, with hurdles in regulatory compliance, workforce integration, strategic planning, and supply chain management. However, these challenges shouldn't discourage you from your expansion dreams. 

Emerald is uniquely positioned to turn these complexities into opportunities. Our extensive experience and deep understanding of European markets equip us to guide you seamlessly through these obstacles. We take on the legwork, from navigating diverse regulations to tapping into the best talent pool, allowing you to concentrate on your core operations. 

Make the most of your European ambitions by partnering with Emerald. Contact us today, and together, we'll transform your European expansion plans into a successful reality.

Cleo Coates

Joined Emerald in 2021 as a Digital Marketing Executive. Cleo is responsible for implementing Emerald's creative digital strategy across our website and social platforms.