Provision of services: 'cross-border' versus 'establishment'

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Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
3 min read

If you are a resident from one of the countries within the European Economic Area EEA (Europese Economische Ruimte, EER) or from Switzerland, you are free to offer your services in the Netherlands without any legal or practical obstructions. You can do this either by establishing your company in the Netherlands or by offering your services in the Netherlands from within your own country.

To stay in the Netherlands as an EEA or Swiss resident you do not need a permit. You do need to register with your municipality as a resident if you stay for more than 4 months or as a temporary resident (non-resident) if you stay for less than 4 months.

The rules that apply to your services are basically the same as for Dutch nationals. This follows from the EU Services Directive and its Dutch transposition the Services Act. Therefore in principle it makes no difference to Dutch law if you are a foreign or a Dutch service provider. Nor does it matter if you offer the service permanently (establishment), or as a temporary, cross-border activity. In Dutch legislation, specific rules may apply to the activity itself. Who performs the activity or where they come from is considered not to be relevant.

Although there are no legal differences between Dutch or EU citizens to practise professions, for certain professions you may need to meet specific requirements with regard to your professional qualifications.

Do you work with foreign self-employed professionals or freelancers? Then check if they are allowed to reside and work in the Netherlands. If they come from outside the EEA (the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland they will generally need a work permit.

For certain activities or services you need an establishment in the Netherlands. For example, if you want to run a cafe or set up a childcare centre. In these cases, different laws and regulations apply, and you must register your establishment in the Netherlands with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce and the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration.

Language requirements

Does your foreign employee work on a hazardous task or as a healthcare professional? Then they may be required to have sufficient command of the Dutch language to perform the task safely. This also applies to temporary workers.

Temporary cross-border services

If your company is based outside of the Netherlands, but within the EEA or Switzerland, and it performs an assignment in the Netherlands with employees that come from countries outside the EEA or Switzerland, these employees do not need a work or residence permit if they are allowed to work in your company's country. You must also notify the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV, in Dutch) 2 days before they start the assignment and your company's service may not comprise the provision of employees (as intermediary, secondment or subcontracting).

Are you an employer abroad or a self-employed person with a duty to notify from the European Union, another country within the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, and do you have a temporary posting in the Netherlands? As of March 1, 2020, you have a duty to notify new temporary postings.

Taxes and social security

The Dutch Tax and Customs Administration does have certain rules for paying taxes in the Netherlands for foreign service providers, concerning the payment of tax in the Netherlands:

  • The Dutch Tax and Customs Administration will view you as a foreign entrepreneur if you are not established in the Netherlands. This is the case if your business does not have a permanent address in the Netherlands. In this case you may still need to pay Dutch income tax, but the rules are different.
  • If your company is established outside the Netherlands, and you do business with the Netherlands, specific Dutch VAT rules apply. If you are established in the Netherlands or if you have a permanent establishment here, you will be subject to the same VAT rules as other entrepreneurs in the Netherlands.
  • If you run a business in the Netherlands or employ personnel in the Netherlands, you will likely have to pay payroll tax and social insurance contributions. This is true even if you have an establishment outside of the Netherlands.
  • If you work temporarily in the Netherlands for a foreign employer as an EEA or Swiss citizen, you are generally covered by your home country’s social insurance system and you will not have to pay social insurance contributions in the Netherlands. However, you will require an A1 certificate (certificate of coverage).
  • If you have a foreign employer, you may keep your insurance from your country of origin. However, rules apply to this. For more information, contact the Social Insurance Bank (Sociale Verzekeringsbank, SVB).

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