When you own a business in the Netherlands and you are no longer able to pay off your debts, you can petition the court (in Dutch) to be declared bankrupt. Before you take this step, you may consider debt restructuring or suspension of payment. Creditors, the public prosecutor, the court, and your shareholders can also petition the court to declare you bankrupt.
Petitioning for your own bankruptcy
You can petition for bankruptcy for yourself or for the company you represent. You can do so under the following conditions:
- you have 2 or more debts, one of which is due immediately, and
- you owe money to 2 or more creditors, and
- you have stopped paying
How to petition for bankruptcy
You petition for bankruptcy with the court in your district. To do so, you must use the Voluntary petitioning for bankruptcy Form (Formulier Eigen aangifte faillietverklaring, in Dutch). You are not obliged to have a lawyer if you apply for your own bankruptcy, but you should be present when your case comes before the court.
Partner must also sign
Do you want to petition for bankruptcy for your sole proprietorship or general partnership? And are you married or do you have a registered partnership? Then your partner must also sign the petition.
Shareholders must agree
If you are a director or officer of a public (NV) or private limited company (BV) with shareholders, you can only petition for bankruptcy if the shareholders agree.
What if someone else applies for your bankruptcy?
You can be made bankrupt if you:
- have 2 or more debts, one of which is due immediately (the payment term had expired), and
- owe money to 2 or more creditors, and
- have stopped paying
Who can apply to make you bankrupt?
The following parties can apply to have you declared bankrupt:
- your creditors
- the Public Prosecution Service, for instance if you have outstanding debts to many people
- the court, if you are involved in debt restructuring and you do not comply with the arrangements
- your shareholders
You do not need to be present when your case is in court. The judge will decide whether or not you will be declared bankrupt.
What if you do not agree?
You can let the court know if you do not agree with the bankruptcy petition. You must be able to prove that can pay your debts. You can tell the judge during the court session or you can write a letter.
Petitioning someone else’s bankruptcy
Does a customer owe you money? And does this customer not pay, even after you have sent reminders? You can have a customer made bankrupt. In that case you are the creditor and the customer is the debtor.
You can apply for a customer’s bankruptcy if:
- they have 2 or more debts, one of which is due immediately (the payment term has expired), and
- they owe money to 2 or more creditors, and
- they have stopped paying
You will need a lawyer to petition the court for your debtor’s bankruptcy (in Dutch). You will need to be present during the court session. The judge will decide whether or not your customer will be declared bankrupt.
Avoiding bankruptcy: private agreement to become possible (WHOA)
If your business is in financial trouble, you can enter into a private agreement with your creditors to try to avoid bankruptcy. Creditors or shareholders who do not agree can still be bound by the agreement. Therefore, the term 'compulsory agreement' is also used.
A compulsory agreement is also possible outside bankruptcy. If you experience financial difficulties, you may enter into an agreement with creditors to restructure problematic debts. If the majority of creditors support a relaunch, then a minority (or a single one) of creditors or shareholders cannot prevent this restart. The judge can approve this agreement (homologation).
This is called the Court Approval of a Private Composition (Prevention of Insolvency) Act (Wet homologatie onderhands akkoord in faillissement, WHOA).
What happens after you have been declared bankrupt?
If the court declares you or your company bankrupt, they will appoint an official receiver. This is the only person who is allowed to manage your company from the day that you have been declared bankrupt. The official receiver decides on the order in which your creditors will be repaid.
Find out more on what happens after you have petitioned for bankruptcy.
If one of the company directors has committed bankruptcy fraud, they can be banned from acting as a director for a period of up to 5 years. During that time, they cannot act as a director for a legal entity.
Do you want to start again as entrepreneur, but you still have unpaid debts or accounts? Then be aware you will still have to pay these debts or bills to your creditors, for example to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst).
Your customer's bankruptcy
If one of your customers has gone bankrupt and still owes you money, their receiver will send you a letter about their bankruptcy. If you have not received this letter, make sure to contact them yourself. You may clarify your claim, when the receiver calls a meeting to discuss all outstanding accounts.
Please note: if the receiver was unable to locate all creditors, any leftover amounts will be stored in the so-called Consignatiekas (consignment office, in Dutch). This is a deposit with the Ministry of Finance. It stores leftover (monetary) funds from, among others, bankruptcies and debt restructuring settlements for a period of 20 years. If you have a legitimate claim and have proof of this, you can file your claim through the Ministry of Finance (in Dutch). You can search the Ministry’s database (in Dutch) to find out if there are any funds left of your customer.
Central Insolvency Register
All bankruptcies, suspension of payments and debts managements of natural persons are listed in the Central Insolvency Register (in Dutch).