Founding a business in Amsterdam
Like anywhere else, setting up a business in Amsterdam 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 the Dutch capital.
Step 1: Find out if you’re legally entitled to start a business in the Netherlands
Here’s how to find out if it’s possible for you legally to start a business in Amsterdam (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.
Tip: Consider registering with the IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service): although you’re not legally required to do so, it is still advisable, because documentation may be requested (for example by an insurance company).
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. Highly skilled migrants, for instance, cannot establish a private company with their existing residence permit. It could also be interesting for you to check out the scheme for startups: that’s a residence permit programme that affords ambitious entrepreneurs from outside the EU one year to launch an innovative new business in the Netherlands.
Step 2: Make a business plan
The most 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. The business plan may also be required by the Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel) to help choose the most appropriate company structure, and other institutions. The business plan 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 go immediately to plan.
Tip: The Chamber of Commerce, where new companies are registered (see step 6), offers advice and information about running a business and can help formulate a business plan. It operates independently and employs expert staff to help those starting a business – be they resident in the Netherlands or coming from abroad.
Step 3: Determine what legal form your company will takeOne 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. Find an overview of the legal forms of companies in the Netherlands here.
Step 4: Choose a business name
Ensure the business or trade name is clear, unique and appropriate. It's also important that only advertise the services actually provided are advertised.
Tip: If you are unsure of existing trademarks, contact the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property.
Step 5: Find a location
Amsterdam has a great variety of office 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 and vibrant city life? Be close to ICT hubs or financial services? Have a great connection to the airport? Read our page on Amsterdam's wide range of high-quality business locations to help you find the perfect home for your business.
Tip: If you intend to run a small (office-based) company from your home, check your rental contract to ensure this is permitted. Businesses including the likes of food preparation or those which would create noise and movement of people or goods are typically not permitted in residences.
Step 6: Register your company
Registration with the Chamber of Commerce (see also: step 3) is compulsory for every business. Learn more about registering your company here.
Step 7: Registration with the tax authorities
Once your company is successfully registered at the Chamber of Commerce, the details will be passed to the Dutch tax office (Belastingdienst). Your company will be assigned a VAT registration number (BTW-nummer). As a business owner you will have to pay tax, some of which to the government and some to the municipality. These can include wage tax (loonbelasting), income tax (inkomstenbelasting), national insurance contributions (volksverzekeringen), employee insurance contributions (werknemersverzekeringen) and VAT (omzetbelasting).
Tip: The Belastingdienst website provides information in English on taxation for businesses. It is also recommended to seek out professional financial and administration advice before starting a business.