Do you want to set up a business in the Netherlands? There are various government and other rules to follow. Use this checklist to find out what the procedure is for starting a company in the Netherlands. This checklist is a general guideline. Depending on your situation, you may need to take other steps as well. For instance, you have to comply with rules and regulations for your business location.
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 usually need to apply for a temporary (MVV) and permanent residence permit. Perhaps you are an innovative startup - in that case, you may have a startup visa.
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 (Nederlandse Vereniging van Bankenspan>) has created a Quick Scan to help you find out if you are eligible. Read how it works.
2. Write a business plan
It helps to write a business plan when you are setting up your own company. In a business plan, you outline your plans: think about company formation and the legal business structure you want to choose. What are you going to sell or produce, who will be your clients, how will you find financing? Is there a demand for your product or service on the Dutch market? These are all matters you need to have thought about before you begin, if you want to have a chance of succeeding. To find out more about different ways of financing your business, watch our webinar 'Financing your business in the Netherlands'.
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 want to bring your existing company to the Netherlands. What rules apply and do you need to register? This depends on what you do: opening a branch office, transferring the entire business or only opening a goods depot or representative office. Read more about Foreign entities.
You 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 you do:
- 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 do not, 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.
Note: you will have to pay income tax (inkomstenbelasting, or IB for short) over the income you earn with your business. Also, you may need to take out insurance for your company. Tip: you will most likely be eligible for the small business scheme (KOR) or the SME profit exemption scheme, which means you pay less VAT or none at all.
You 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.
You may be eligible for support to start your own business with incapacity benefit. Conditions are that you live in the Netherlands and you have a long-term occupational disability.
You can 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).
Checklists for starting a business
Find out specific information about different industries or sectors in our checklists for starting a business.
4. Select a legal business structure (rechtsvorm)
Owners of a new company must first select a legal business structure like sole proprietor (eenmanszaak) or private limited company (bv). The legal structure determines your liability and tax obligations.
Tool for choosing a Dutch legal structure
If you want to set up a business, but you are in two minds about which legal structure to choose, use our Tool for choosing a Dutch legal structure. It will guide you through some of the main considerations, such as liability, staff and taxes, and give you advice suited to your needs and wishes.
5. Choose a trade name for your company
Setting up your own business also means choosing a company name (also called a trade name). You must have one to register your company in the Dutch Business Register (Handelsregister) at KVK.
6. Register with the Dutch Business Register and Dutch Tax Administration
New businesses must register with the Dutch Business Register at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK). Read our step-by-step article to find out about the registration procedure, costs, etc.
Once you are registered in the Business Register, KVK will pass on your details to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst). Private limited companies and public limited companies have to register via a civil-law notary. The notary 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.
7. Register as an employer for payroll taxes and social security
If you intend to hire staff, you will first need to register as an employer with the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration.
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 for your business location
You may want to establish your business at a particular location. Make sure your choice of location is in line with the municipal zoning plan (bestemmingsplan). 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. Be aware of Dutch 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. Take fire safety measures 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. Draw up 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 as soon as possible. In the Netherlands, you are legally obliged to maintain accounts and to retain them for 7 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 risk you cannot afford to cover.
17. Personal data processing
18. Support from Dutch government organisations
Several Dutch government organisations support you when starting your own business:
- The Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK) provides information on how to start a business in the Netherlands. They can advise you on creating a business plan, carrying out market research and other issues.
- 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 NL Platform 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 can advise and assist you in starting up your business. They can also help you to 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.