Launching a business in the Amsterdam Area
Like anywhere else, setting up a business in the Amsterdam Area requires some administrative action. Find a step-by-step guide below, detailing everything you need to do 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 in the Netherlands
Are you legally entitled to start a business in the Amsterdam Area (or elsewhere in the Netherlands)?
- EU/EEA nationals: If you’re a national of one of the EU member states, 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.
- Rest of the world: If you are not an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen and do not have permanent residency, you should check carefully with the IND (or a lawyer) what your individual situation and 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 up a thorough business plan to lay out aims and plans for your new business and keep them in check. It should summarise the mission of the business, but also include 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 is a range of public-sector financing options, including financial instruments by the national government, incentives on local, regional and European levels, and subsidies, which 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, also known as a sole trader or eenmanszaak. Consult our Guide to Going Freelance in Amsterdam.
Step 4: Find the perfect business location in the Amsterdam Area
The Amsterdam Area has a great variety of office and business space, from modern co-working spaces in startup hubs through centrally located retail space to fully equipped corporate facilities. Define 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, which vary by sector. A good starting point are these checklists for starting a business. Some sectors are more heavily regulated than others, for example the financial sector (with financial and FinTech businesses requiring licences and registration) and life sciences, where strict European regulations cover medical devices and in vitro diagnostics, and producers and manufacturers must have their devices evaluated by a Notified Body. And no matter if you’re launching a tech company, a creative agency or a legal firm, it’s good to explore the regulations and permits needed for all types of professional services. Finally, if innovation is a key part of your business, consider IP rights – learn more about registering a trademark or idea or applying for patent.
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. For businesses in the Amsterdam Area, these vary by sector.
For the most part, procedures are clear and straightforward, and you must comply with national or 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 comply with specific rules or apply from a licence from the local municipality.
A good starting point are these industry-specific checklists for starting a business.
Step 6: Register your company
Registration with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK) is compulsory for every business. And 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 getting to know what taxes you have to pay and when. Of course, what taxes you pay will depend on the size and structure of your company. These can include wage tax (loonbelasting), income tax (inkomstenbelasting) and VAT (omzetbelasting).
When starting a new company, it’s good practice to open a dedicated business bank account to use with it. And 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. For example, there may be support in relation to R&D, innovative projects, sustainability initiatives and the energy transition. Not every new business will fall under these schemes but it’s worth taking the time to explore what’s available.
On a broader scale, all new companies should get to know Dutch fiscal policies. Learn about tax treaties, the transparent system and potential fiscal benefits for businesses and their employees.
Step 9: Familiarise yourself with Dutch labour law
Introduce yourself to 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; if you are coming from abroad, some of these may be new to you.
Step 10: How to 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 of the aspects that make Amsterdam attractive to international companies, startups and investors. And for companies looking to hire internationally, there are various incentives and schemes for international employees and entrepreneurs, such as visa for highly skilled migrants or the startup visa for international entrepreneurs.
Step 11: Arrange visas and permits for international talent
There’s a highly educated, multilingual workforce already in place in the Amsterdam Area. But in certain sectors, there’s still a need to attract talent from around the world. Of course, when that involves talent from other EU nations, the procedures are usually easy. Arranging visas and residence and work permits for talent from outside the EU may carry more steps but it needn’t be difficult.