Becoming self-employed in the Netherlands

Being self-employed offers a sense of freedom and independence, but it also entails certain obligations and risks, such as paying taxes and VAT and keeping detailed records of your business activities. 

Thorough preparation is the best way to start. You are definitely not on your own; plenty of assistance with starting up business can be found in the Netherlands. But before you start your company, you should consider the following issues:

Residence permits to start a business in the Netherlands

If you would like to start a business in the Netherlands and you are not an EU or EEA national and not Swiss, you will have to comply with particular IND (Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst, the Dutch Immigration Authorities) formalities.

Develop a business plan

Starting a business requires a number of steps and key decisions. The process of creating a business plan enables you to look at your business in its entirety and for the long-term, which will help understand the impact of starting a business.  

At this stage, you also need to think about issues such as a company name, permits and insurances, business location and financial planning.

Choose the appropriate legal form for your business

Dutch law recognises various legal forms, such as a one-man business (eenmanszaak), a private limited company (BV) or a general partnership (VOF). The main difference is the liability should your enterprise take on any debt, as well as which tax regime applies. Most self-employed individuals and freelancers use the one-man business.

It is wise to obtain accurate and comprehensive advice as to which entity suits your business ideas best.

Determine the tax-deductible business expenses

You may deduct the costs incurred for your company's business interests. Business expenses include costs that are necessary to carry out your business; all other costs are not tax deductible. If you have a receipt with VAT on it, you can reclaim the VAT you paid. This seems rather simple, but there are many exceptions and exclusions.

Costs for food, drinks, business lunches and dinners (including any tips) as well as conferences, seminars and study trips can only be deducted for 73.5%, and the VAT on these costs is not reclaimable.

If you travel by train or tram or even by taxi, the costs are deductible. For public transport, you do not need a VAT receipt. The VAT is always 6% and you can calculate it yourself.

Costs for clothing and personal care are not tax-deductible, except for work clothing. Work clothing is clothing that you can wear (almost) exclusively in the context of your business. 

After you have thoroughly prepared and you are ready to start your business, many critical questions will still arise, and it can be a challenge to know where and how to find the answers – especially if you are not familiar with the Dutch regulatory business environment. Professional help is advisable so that you can invest your time in what matters most: building your company.