Are you legally entitled to start a business in the Netherlands?
When 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. Although not legally required to register with the IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service), it is advisable to do so because documentation may be requested, for example, by an insurance company. If you are neither a Dutch national nor EU citizen and do not have permanent residency, you should check carefully with the IND (or a lawyer) concerning your individual situation and residency rights. Highly skilled migrants, for instance, are unable to establish a private company with their existing residence permit.
Is starting a business right for you?
As an independent entrepreneur you pay taxes and contributions yourself, and you are not entitled to the following employees rights: minimum wage, paid holidays, a holiday allowance, statutory safeguards against dismissal and a statutory notice period. However, there are also many benefits of starting a business. You can work on what you want when you want to, you can choose the clients you work with, you have the freedom to direct the business in whichever way you feel is most appropriate, and there are also a number of fiscal benefits for businesses and freelancers in order to offset the loss of employee rights. As such, it is important to research these facts and consider any implications in terms of finances, health and future planning.
Chamber of Commerce
The official trade register of businesses in the Netherlands is the Kamer van Koophandel (often referred to as KvK or Chamber of Commerce). This is an independent organisation, which not only provides a comprehensive database of all businesses, but which operates independently and employs expert staff to help those starting a business – be they resident in the Netherlands or coming from abroad. In Amsterdam, the Chamber of Commerce office is located at:
De Ruyterkade 5 1013 AA Amsterdam
For registering a new company, you need to first fill in a form (in Dutch) and then arrange an appointment in advance by using the online appointment tool (in Dutch). Please note that you cannot make an appointment before you've filled in the form, and that it's not possible to book an appointment in person or by telephone. Changes such as change of address can usually be made using online forms.
As well as providing company registration services, the Chamber of Commerce in Amsterdam hosts frequent business events and workshops, informing new business owners (and also more experienced people) about key issues of running a successful business, such as marketing, administration and finance. The majority of these are in Dutch.
The first step in launching a successful business is a thorough business plan. This isn't simply a step to keep you in check with yourself, but the business plan may be required by the Chamber of Commerce to help you choose the most appropriate structure, and it will certainly be required for financial institutions. The business plan should not simply summarise the 'mission' of the business, but also profit and loss sheets, estimates of running costs, annual projections and potential alternatives if things don't go immediately to plan.
Determine what legal form your company will take
One of the first decisions you’ll make as a business owner is how the company should be structured. Businesses take many legal forms depending on whether they're operated by one owner, whether there will be financial partners, and whether or not it will directly employee other people. Profits, costs and liability varies in each of these legal forms. Read more about the variety of legal forms here.
Choose a business name
Your business or trade name must be clear and unique. If you are unsure of existing trademarks, contact the Benelux-Merkenbureau (Benelux Office for Intellectual Property). It's important you only advertise the services you provide. So, for example, don’t say your business is a BV (private limited company) if it is not.
Find a location
Location, location, location... is everything. The nature of your business will dictate the best demographic for your services. Know your market and you’re sure to find a winning venue. 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.
There is a wide variety of office space available in Amsterdam, from time-share desk space to corporate facilities. Likewise, there is a great variety in retail and work space. The City of Amsterdam (in Dutch) may be able to assist in finding an appropriate location, or check commercial property listings, such as Funda in Business.
Co-working spaces are also a great option for new businesses, as they are cheaper and more flexible than traditional office spaces. And Amsterdam has a great range of co-working spaces – small and large – across a range of sectors. These types of shared spaces are also great for inspiration, as advice, ideas and business strategies can be shared between the occupying businesses.
Register your company
Registration with the Chamber of Commerce is compulsory for every business. Once you have completed the steps above, it is time to file the appropriate paperwork at the Chamber of Commerce. Learn more about registering your company here.
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 and Customs Administration (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 (volksvezekeringen)
- Employee Insurance contributions (werknemersverzekeringen)
- VAT or Value Added Tax (omzetbelasting)
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.
Get the right insurance
There are two types of insurance that concern an entrepreneur:
- Personal insurance
- Business insurance
It is recommended that you speak to a financial advisor about what cover suits your business activities and costs.
Arrange various other administrative issues
These include tax, invoices (factuurs), terms & conditions, and expenses. A legal invoice, for example, must include:
- Invoice date and a unique sequential number.
- Date of delivery or service, or the date a payment is made (if different from the invoice date).
- Name and address of your client.
- KvK or business number.
- VAT or BTW number and the amount of tax payable.
- If relevant, the quantity and nature of the goods or services excluding VAT.
Either you can do the administration yourself or outsource it. See Taxes for our recommended partners and general information on taxes.