When you want to export your products to the Netherlands, do market research to make sure there is a market for them. The Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries offers market information about European countries (you don’t have to be from a developing country to use this information). There is also the European Commission’s Access2Markets database.
Find an agent or distributor in the Netherlands
Before you can start exporting your goods to the Netherlands, you must find a way to distribute the goods. There are a few options:
- An agent
- A distributor
- Set up a branch in the Netherlands
To find the right partner to do business with, you can attend networking events, join business networks or conduct a search in the Dutch Business Register (in Dutch).
Please be aware that you have to pay various taxes when importing goods into the Netherlands:
- Import duties
- Excise duties, on tobacco and alcoholic beverages
- Consumer tax
- Anti-dumping duties
These taxes are called import levies (invoerheffing). The amount to be paid in import levies depends on the kind of product and the country of origin. You can find this information in the European Commission’s TARIC database. Although you usually do not have to pay import levies yourself, your customer may find the amount of duties an impediment to buying your products. Take the amount due in levies into account when setting a price, and determining if you want to market your goods on the EU market.
If you want to export products to the Netherlands from outside the EU, your representative inside the EU is usually responsible for lodging the customs declaration to officially turn the products from non-EU goods to Union goods. This is usually the importer, but in some cases you can be responsible: for instance if you and your importer agree on the Incoterm® Delivered Duty Paid. The importer will have to follow Dutch and EU rules and regulations as laid out in the articles Importing products into the Netherlands: regulations and Importing goods from a non-EU country.
Beware of parallel imports: if you are not the producer of the goods you will export to the Netherlands, the importer should request and receive the producer’s permission to import the products into the Netherlands. If this permission is not obtained, the importer may receive a fine, or the goods may be destroyed. If you have not been paid in full prior to this, you may find yourself in trouble.
If you export goods to the Netherlands from a non-EU country, you will not have to charge VAT, unless you are also responsible for the import into the Netherlands. See also the EU pages on taxation and customs. There is also the possibility that you export your goods to a branch of your company in the Netherlands. In that case, whether or not your branch office has to charge and pay VAT depends on whether it sells the goods to other companies or to private individuals. See the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration information on the subject.
Getting paid – how to ensure you get your money
Especially if you work with an importer for the first time, you may want to make sure you will get paid for your products. There are several ways to increase that certainty, ranging from a letter of credit to advance payment. Also, it is of course common sense to check whether the party you are going to be doing business with is reliable and creditworthy. In the Netherlands, you can check the Dutch Business Register (Handelsregister) to find details on the company you are dealing with.
When setting up a collaboration with an agent or distributor, it is wise to document your agreement in a written contract. Make use of the ICC Incoterms®. These are international standards for goods transport, to cover for instance:
- Who arranges the transport from where to where
- Who is responsible for transport insurance, licences, documents and cutoms procedures
- At what point the transport liability transfers from seller to buyer.
N.B.: The most recent version of the Incoterms is Incoterms® 2020. If you have been using the ICC Incoterms® 2010, you can continue to do so. They remain valid.
CE marking, labeling and other EU regulations
When preparing your product for the Dutch market, you have to take into account several product requirements: both Dutch and EU ones. There are regulations to be observed for:
- Product safety; these are laid down in the Commodities Act
- CE marking or other product requirements; you can look these up in the EU Trade Helpdesk
- When selling perishable goods: dating
- Providing documentation/manuals in the language of the country you’re exporting to
- Production methods (child labour etc.)
Packaging and waste
The party importing your products to the Netherlands will have to contribute to the disposal of the packaging waste. Depending on the materials used, this contribution may be sizeable. Make sure you use an eco-friendly packaging material, if possible, and discuss packaging with your agent or supplier.
When exporting goods to the Netherlands, you will have to provide several export documents to your national customs: an invoice, a packing list and a transport document. You may need additional documents if you export foodstuffs, plants or animals, or cultural or strategic goods, f.i. a certificate of origin, a licence or a health certificate. Your national chamber of commerce can help you find out which export documents you need to transport your goods to the Netherlands.
Statistics: import of goods
Total import value of goods from non-EU countries