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If you want to set up a new business in the Netherlands, you must observe various government and other rules. This checklist tells you which general obligations you must fulfil when starting a company.
This checklist is ageneral guideline. Your specific situation may require you to fulfil other obligations as well. Please be sure to consult the sector-specific information for your business sector for additional requirements and information. Or consult one of the sector-specific checklists on this website. Also, we have listed the most important rules and regulations for self-employed professionals (zzp’ers), student entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs under the age of 18.
1. Check whether you fulfil the conditions for staying in the Netherlands
Entrepreneurs who intend to stay in the Netherlands must fulfil a number of conditions (see Coming to the Netherlands). If you are not an EU citizen, you will also need to apply for a temporary and permanent residence permit simultaneously.
If you plan to start doing business in the Netherlands, you will also need to have or apply for a business bank account (IBAN). The Dutch Banking Association has created a Quick Scan to help you find out if you are eligible. Read how it works.
2. Write a business plan
3. Different starting points
You may be starting your company as an innovative startup, from an unemployment benefit, a job, or as a student or minor. Find out what specific conditions apply to your situation.
You may not be a starting business at all, but wanting to bring your existing company to the Netherlands. What rules apply and whether you need to register depends on if you are starting a branch of your company here, transferring the entire business or only opening a goods depot or representative office. Read more about Foreign entities.
If you already have a job in the Netherlands, but want to set up a part-time business of your own, there are a few steps you need to take before doing so:
- check your contract, collective employment agreement (cao) and terms of employment for any clauses that could stop you from operating in your chosen field, such as a competition clause. This could be the case if you want to set up a business in the same sector as your employer, or would be approaching your employer’s clients.
- discuss your plans with your employer; you are not legally obliged to do so, but it may prevent problems and legal procedures.
- if you want to work fewer hours in your job, you should put in a written request with your employer at least two months before the starting date. Formally, you can only do so if the company employs at least 10 people, and you have worked there for at least half a year. Your employer has one month to react; if they don’t, the law holds that the request is automatically approved. If your employer turns you down, it has to be for a good reason. You then have to wait a year before putting in a new request.
If you currently receive unemployment benefit in the Netherlands, you can start a business and give up your benefit, partially retain it or reduce it for a trial period. See what the options are. If your business fails within the period that you remain entitled to unemployment benefit, you can reclaim it. To learn more about his, read Starting a business with unemployment benefit.
If you live in the Netherlands and you have a long-term occupational disability, in some cases you may be eligible for support to start your own business with incapacity benefit.
If you want to start a business under the age of 18 in the Netherlands, you will not be entitled to act as a legal person, unless you request limited legal capacity from a district court (if you are at least 16 years of age).
4. Select a legal business structure
5. Select a trade name for your company
Setting up your own business also means choosing a trade name (company name). You must have one to register your company in the Commercial Register.
6. Register with the Dutch Commercial Register and Dutch Tax Administration
New businesses must register with the Dutch Commercial Register at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK). If your business structure is sole proprietor or partnership, you will be issued with a VAT-number, so you don’t have to register with the Dutch Tax Administration separately. Private limited companies and public limited companies have to register via a civil-law notary, who will take care of the registration at the Dutch Tax Administration on your behalf. If you do business in the Netherlands, but your company is not permanently established in the Netherlands, you may only need to register with the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration.
Sole proprietors: VAT number procedure changes as of 1 January 2020
Do you want to start as a sole proprietor (eenmanszaak)? In that case, from 1 January 2020 onwards, the Tax and Customs Administration will issue your VAT number when you register at the Chamber of Commerce. When you register with the Commercial Register, the Chamber of Commerce will forward your registration to the Tax Administration, and they will process this to provide you with your VAT number. This may take up to five days. Before 1 January 2020, the Chamber of Commerce issued you with your VAT number directly when you registered your business. The change in procedure is necessary to protect sole proprietors' privacy; prior to the change, the VAT number was linked to the private citizen service number (BSN). Personal data were freely available in the Commercial Register. The Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsbescherming) has ruled that this is a violation of the GDPR. If you were already registered as a sole proprietor with your citizen service number before 1 January 2020, the Tax Administration will issue you with a new VAT number. You don't have to undertake any action.
7. Register as an employer for payroll taxes and social security
8. Check whether you need professional qualifications
You do not usually need a separate qualification to set up a business in the Netherlands. However, certain professions do require professional qualifications.
9. Consult the zoning plan with regard to your business location
If you plan to establish your business at a particular location, this choice of location must be in line with the municipal zoning plan. If this is not the case, you can apply for an All-in-one Permit for Physical Aspects (Omgevingsvergunning) to carry out your plans anyway. You can also ask the municipality to change the zoning plan.
10. Consider environmental regulations
If your business operations will have an impact on the environment, you must submit a notification of environmental management to your local municipality. Sometimes you must also apply for an All-in-one Permit for Physical Aspects (Omgevingsvergunning).
11. Consider fire safety requirements for your business premises
If your business is located in a building or other property, you have to take measures to ensure fire safety. In most cases you must submit a notification of occupancy to your local municipality. If your business runs a higher fire risk, you must also apply for an All-in-one Permit for Physical Aspects (Omgevingsvergunning).
12. Report a home business
If you plan to run a business from your home, you are normally obliged to report this plan to your local municipality. You must also bear in mind various tax and mortgage issues.
13. Apply for an All-in-one Permit for Physical Aspects for building activities
If you want to build, make alterations to or renovate your business premises, you will normally need an All-in-one Permit for Physical Aspects (Omgevingsvergunning). You can obtain this permit from your local municipality.
14. Describe your business’s general terms and conditions
General terms and conditions clarify your and your customers’ rights and duties. You are not required to draw them up, but they are useful to have. Make your customers aware of your general terms and conditions.
15. Create your business accounts
As you often incur expenses before the official launch of your business, make certain to create your business accounts in a timely manner. In the Netherlands, you are legally obliged to maintain accounts and to retain them for seven years.
16. Check whether you need insurance
If you live in the Netherlands or earn income here, you are obliged to take out health insurance. You are also obliged to pay Dutch national insurance contributions. Additionally, there are several ways to insure your business’s assets in the event of legal liability or any other any other risk you can’t afford to cover.
17. Personal data processing
Several government organisations support you when starting your own business:
- The Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK) provides information on creating a business plan and carrying out market research as well as other issues. They will provide you with the addresses and telephone numbers of all local offices.
- You will find information about, for example, the investment climate in the Netherlands, the sectors that offer the most opportunities and the possibilities of finding local business partners on the Holland Trade and Invest website.
- The Dutch Tax and Customs Administration offers you information about which taxes you have to pay and how to keep your accounts up to date. It is possible that you are entitled to special schemes.
- The business coaches of Qredits Microfinanciering Nederland give you advice and assist you in starting up your business. They help you write your business plan.
- Statistics Netherlands (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, CBS) offers statistical information about districts where you can establish your business. CBS has collected sector-specific information that could be interesting for you as an entrepreneur.
Statistics: enterprise births
Number of enterprise births.