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Live, Work and Study

Step-by-step guide to setting up a business

It’s easy to start a new business in the Amsterdam Area. Read on for a quick overview of the steps to follow, from registering a new company to hiring talent and finding the right premises.

Launching a business in the Amsterdam Area

Like anywhere else, setting up a business in the Amsterdam Area requires some administrative action. Find our step-by-step guide below, detailing everything you need to get your business up and running in or around the Dutch capital.

Step 1: Find out if you're legally entitled to start a business

Are you legally entitled to start a business in the Amsterdam Area (or elsewhere in the Netherlands)?

  • EU/EEA nationalsIf you’re a national of an EU member state, the EEA (European Economic Area), or a Swiss citizen, you are free to live and work on a self-employed basis in the Netherlands, i.e. to start a business.
  • If you are not an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen and do not have permanent residency, you should consult the IND (or a lawyer) to evaluate your individual situation and what your residency rights are.

Step 2: Choose a business name and refine your business plan

Ensure the business or trade name is clear, unique and appropriate. It’s also important that only the services actually provided are advertised. If you are unsure of existing trademarks, contact the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property

Another important step in launching a successful business is writing a detailed business plan that determines the aims and goals for your new company and the path towards achieving them. It should include the mission of the business, as well as profit and loss sheets, estimates of running costs, annual projections, and potential alternatives if things don’t immediately go to plan.

At this point, it’s also worth looking into funding options. New businesses are welcome in the country, and the government is actively stimulating business activity. There are a range of public-sector financing options, including financial incentives by the national government, incentives on local, regional and European levels, and subsidies that are often tied to a specific field, theme or sector, such as renewable energy and innovation.

Step 3: Determine what legal form your company will take

One of the first decisions to make as a business owner is how the company should be structured. The legal form depends on such issues as whether the business is operated by one or several owners, whether there will be financial partners, and so on. Those that are self-employed without staff – freelancers or ZZP-ers – are a one-person business and are also referred to as a sole trader (eenmanszaak). For more information on this form of entrepreneurship, consult our Guide to Going Freelance in Amsterdam.

Step 4: Find the perfect business location in the Amsterdam Area

The Amsterdam Area has a wide variety of office and business space, from modern co-working spaces in startup hubs to centrally located retail space to fully equipped corporate facilities. Choosing the right space is defined by your priorities: Do you want to be immersed in the city’s creative scene? Be close to ICT hubs or financial services? Have a great connection to the airport? It’s good to know that all new and recent developments in the region have a strong emphasis on sustainability, innovation and growth.

Step 5: Be sure you qualify for all the necessary licences and permits

When starting a new business or expanding into the Netherlands, it’s important to comply with national and European regulations and apply for any necessary business permits or licences that apply to your sector. Some sectors are more heavily regulated than others, namely the financial sector (with financial and fintech businesses requiring licence and registration) and the life sciences sector (where strict European regulations cover medical devices and in vitro diagnostics and producers must have their devices evaluated by a Notified Body).

No matter what type of company you're starting, it’s good to explore the regulations and permits necessary for all types of professional services. If innovation is a key part of your business, also consider IP rights – learn more about registering a trademark or idea and applying for patent.

Procedures are generally clear and straightforward. All companies must comply with national and European rules, however smaller companies that are more closely involved with the general public – such as shops, hotels or childcare centres – may also have to follow specific rules or apply for a licence from the local municipality.

A good place to start are the industry-specific checklists provided by the Dutch government for starting a business.

Step 6: Register your company

Registration with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK) is compulsory for every business. Once your company is successfully registered at the Chamber of Commerce, the details will be passed to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst).

Step 7: Arrange your financial administration

A key topic for new businesses is understanding what taxes to pay and when. The taxes you pay varies depending on the size and structure of your company. They can include wage tax (loonbelasting), income tax (inkomstenbelasting), and VAT (omzetbelasting).

It’s good practice to open a dedicated business bank account when starting a new company. You will also need to get to know the types of personal and business insurance that may be mandatory for your company.

Step 8: Explore subsidies and other tax incentives

The Netherlands is home to many financial support systems, public-sector financing, and subsidies for specific sectors. These are generally given to support companies promoting R&D, innovative projects, sustainability initiatives, and energy transition. Not every new business will fall under these schemes, but it’s worth exploring what’s available to see if you can benefit.

On a broader scale, all new companies should educate themselves on Dutch fiscal policies. Make sure you understand the tax treaties, transparent system, and potential fiscal benefits for both businesses and their employees.

Step 9: Familiarise yourself with Dutch labour law

Make sure you have a firm grasp on the essentials of Dutch labour law, such as contracts, notice periods and dismissal, social security, CAOs, holiday pay and other employee entitlements. There are many systems in place which protect both employers and employees, and if you're new to the area these may be unfamiliar to you. 

Step 10: Find staff

Finding the right talent is essential to launching and continuing a successful venture. The presence of highly skilled, internationally oriented talent is one aspect that attracts international companies, startups, and investors to the Amsterdam Area. For companies looking to hire from abroad, there are various incentives and schemes for international employees and entrepreneurs, such as a visa for highly skilled migrants or the startup visa for international entrepreneurs.

Step 11: Arrange visas and permits for international talent

Amsterdam is already home to a large pool of highly educated and multilingual workers. However, in certain sectors there’s still a need to attract talent from around the world. When that involves talent from other EU nations, the procedures are usually easy. When talent from outside the EU is involved, arranging visas, residence and work permits may involve more steps, but the process needn’t be difficult.