Setting up a business in the Netherlands

If you would rather set up your own business, instead of finding a job, then the Netherlands is a great place to consider being your own boss.

The international outlook of the people and businesses in the country mean that it is an ideal place to setup a business as an expat.

Official issues

There are a number of steps and decisions you must take before you can start your own business:

 First of all, you need to make sure that you will be allowed to stay in Netherlands to maintain your business. If you come from outside of the European Union, this means that you will need a residence permit (MVV).

 In some cases you may also need to apply for a work permit (TWV).

 There are a number of professions in the Netherlands which are regulated. That is, you must have a recognised qualification in order to set up a business within that sector. See a list of regulated professions here, and how to have your qualification recognised here.

 Once you have this then you will need to register with your local municipality and organise a BSN number (burgerservicenummer) for yourself.

Legal forms

Now that you know you are able to set up your business in the Netherlands, it is time for you to decide which type of business you would like to set-up.

Perhaps you would like to become a freelancer (ZZP)? Or maybe you would like to enter into a partnership? Or perhaps you would like to be the sole trader involved?

These are just a few of the forms which your business can take, and each structure has different regulations and may require a special legal forms.

For more information on business structures, pleave visit the "Legal forms" section.

KvK (Kamer van Koophandel)

When you have decided on the type of business you would like to start, then you need to have it registered with the KvK (Kamer van Koophandel), the Dutch Chamber of Commerce.

Registration is possible anywhere from one week before you start doing business to one week after you have started.

Before you arrive you should have come up with a trade or company name for your business which is unique within the Netherlands. You can check with the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property to make sure your business name has not already been taken.

Also, having a business plan committed to paper, while not compulsory, is recommended. You can get some advice and information on this at the KvK office before registering your business.

In order to register at the KvK you must bring:
 A valid form of ID
 The rental contract if your business is not conducted from your home address (see FAQ section)

Once you have been registered you will be given a unique number for your business. This number, known as the KvK nummer, will need to be used on all invoices and outgoing post which your new business deals with.

setting up business netherlands
Photo by Flickr user Victor1558

Taxes for business-owners

As a business-owner in the Netherlands you are also obliged to register your enterprise with the Belastingdienst, or tax authorities.

If you are starting a one-man business, a professional partnership, a limited partnership or a general partnership then you can combine your registration with the tax authorities with your KvK registration.

It is sensible to register as soon as is possible, as you may be able to claim VAT refunds on your investments required to start the business.

Depending on the structure of your business, you will have to pay some or all of the following types of tax:
 BTW (VAT)
 Income Tax
 Payroll Tax
 Corporation Tax

For more information check out the "Legal forms" section.

Accounting

Business-owners in the Netherlands are obliged to keep detailed accounts for up to seven years. This includes administrative documents recorded on both paper and electronically.

These documents include things like invoices sent and received, bank statements, contracts and agreements made.

You should also keep a close track of your VAT expenses. As well as invoices sent and received this also includes things like your business expenses, which you may be able to claim the VAT back on.

Insurance

It's never nice to think of those moments when it could all go wrong - when your business falls on hard times, or you fall ill and are unable to work. However, it is always best to prepare for these eventualities with some insurance.

 Business insurance

You are not obliged to take out any insurance for your business in the Netherlands, but there are many types of business insurance available on a voluntary basis, should you decide to protect against any of the risks you are undertaking in your business.

A list of the types of business insurance can be found here.

 Employee insurance

If you hire employee's in your business you are obliged to pay insurance on behalf of your workers for a number of schemes, including national insurance.

Information about this can be found here.

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