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Government information for entrepreneurs

How to start a shop - a checklist

This information is provided by

Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK | Statistics Netherlands organisation, CBS

Do you intend to start a shop in the Netherlands? Starting a shop may not be as simple as you might think. As a retail entrepreneur, there are many factors you need to take into consideration. What products do you want to sell? Who will be your clients? Where do you want your store to be located? Is there a market for your products? Which rules and regulations do you have to comply with?

This checklist guides you through the steps of starting a retail business in the Netherlands. It is possible that you will need to fulfil other obligations as well. Consult your local municipality regarding the order of the steps. You can carry out several steps at the same time.

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. You will sometimes also require a residence permitExternal link, depending on whether or not you are from the European Economic Area (EEA).

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

A business planExternal link is not mandatory, however, it is recommended. It summarises the plans you have for your store and forces you to examine whether your plans are viable. Is there a market for your products? Who are your competitors? Who are you selling your products to? It is important to define your target group and to conduct market research before you write your marketing planExternal link.

3. Financing your shop

Your business plan also includes a financial planExternal link. If you want to open a shop, you need financing. If you are looking for funding or additional capitalExternal link, your financial plan may be used by financiers to analyse the viability of your business. Your financial plan includes the investments you will need to make and how you plan to finance them. You need to think about the turnover you expect to generate and if your business will be profitable. It also forces you to examine cash flow and whether you'll have enough cash each month. Based on this information, you may have a better view on the financing you might need.

4. Choose a trade name

In order to have your retail business included in the Commercial Register, you will require a unique trade nameExternal link (company name). If you are planning to set up a website, or sell your peroducts online, don’t forget to register your domain name.

5. Select a legal structure

Owners of a new business must first select a legal structureExternal link (e.g. one-man business or a private limited companyExternal link). The legal structure determines such issues as liability and tax obligations.

6. Register with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce

New businesses must be registered with the Dutch Commercial RegisterExternal link. If you register as a sole proprietor or as a cooperative, they will issue you with a VAT numberExternal link and pass on your details to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration. You therefore do not need to register separately with them. If you decide to register as a limited company or association, you will need to register with the Tax Administration separately. See also Legal structures of businessExternal link.

7. Regulations for the location of your retail business

Building regulations

Your shop, or business premises as it is officially called, must comply with the building regulations. You will find these regulations in the Buildings Decree 2012 (Bouwbesluit 2012, in Dutch) as well as in your local building by-laws. You must also comply with building regulations and layout requirements that are relevant to your specific business activities. Moreover, if you plan to build, rebuild or renovate, in most cases you will need an All-in-one Permit for Physical AspectsExternal link (Omgevingsvergunning).

Zoning plan

If you want to establish your retail business at a particular location in the Netherlands or if you plan to start a home businessExternal link, your plan must be in line with the municipal zoning planExternal link (bestemmingsplan). A zoning plan includes detailed rules on how a certain plot of land or area can be used.

Municipal taxes

In most cases a municipal tax is owed for the use of public land (officially, this is a tax on ‘encroachments on or above public land’External link, precariobelasting). You also have to pay this tax if you want to display articles for sale in the street. Make sure to consult your local municipality to receive more information about the rules and regulations that may apply within your municipality.

General Municipal By-Law (APV)

In Dutch municipalities, you will have to observe the General Municipal By-LawExternal link (Algemene Plaatselijke Verordening, APV). It lays down the municipal regulations with respect to public order and safety. Every municipal authority has its own APV, which is often made available via the municipal website. The regulations concerning the retail sector are:

8. Consider fire safety requirements for your store

If you occupy a business property, you have to take measures to ensure fire safetyExternal link. In most cases you must submit a notification of occupancy to your local municipality. If your business has a higher fire risk, you must also apply for an All-in-one Permit for Physical AspectsExternal link.

9. Check whether you need insurance

If you live in the Netherlands or earn income here, you are obliged to take out health insuranceExternal link. You are also obliged to pay Dutch national insurance contributionsExternal link. Additionally, there are several ways to insure your business’s assetsExternal link in the event of legal liability or any other any other risk you can’t afford to cover.

10. Keep orderly business records

Every entrepreneur is obliged to keep business recordsExternal link. Your records must comply with certain rules. For instance, you have to retain your records for at least seven years. And if you wish to receive the entrepreneur allowanceExternal link, you must keep a record of the number of hours spent working for your business.

11. Find out which taxes you need to pay

If your shop is a source of income, the Tax Administration will most likely view you as an entrepreneur for income tax. You will then have to pay tax on your company profit. You need to pay VAT (BTW) on most products and services. The Netherlands has three VAT ratesExternal link. You can obtain an exemptionExternal link for some goods and services. You charge VAT to your customers, and then transfer it to the Tax Administration office. If you have turnover in another EU country or outside the EU, other VAT rules apply.

12. Sales of alcohol

You may only sell high-alcohol beverages in your shop if you have an off-licence permitExternal link. Off-licences may only sell alcoholic beverages and related articles, such as corkscrews or wine and beer glasses. In addition, they may deliver high-alcohol beverages to private homes.

13. Sales of tobacco

Smoking is discouraged by the Dutch government. Therefore the Dutch Tobacco Act (Tabakswet) contains rules designed to reduce the sale of tobacco products and electronic cigarettesExternal link. Any form of advertisingExternal link for tobacco products or electronic cigarettes is prohibited. You may only sell tobacco products and electronic cigarettesExternal link to people aged 18 and older. This must be displayed clearly for everyone to see.

14. Draft general terms and conditions

It is wise to use general terms and conditionsExternal link to minimise your risks and provide clarity for you and your customers. General terms and conditions include rules about payment, guarantees and disputes.

15. Check product, packaging and labelling requirements

Consumer goods must be safe to use. That is why the products your shop sells must comply with several product requirements. If you want to market consumer or professional products within the European Economic Area (EEA), CE markingExternal link may be compulsory. CE marking indicates that the product meets the high safety, health and environmental requirements set by the EU. There are also requirements for product packagingExternal link and labellingExternal link, for instance the language on the label when you export products. Make sure to check which regulations apply to your products.

16. Keep your stock management up-to-date

It is important to keep your stock management up-to-date in order to maintain a clear overview. This entails keeping records of all procurements and sales, to avoid the risk of running out of stock. There are several digital programmes that help you to keep your stock management up-to-date.

17. Hiring staff for your retail business

If you intend to employ staffExternal link in the Netherlands, you are obliged to verify the identityExternal link of all workers on the basis of an original identity document when they join your company. You must also register as an employerExternal link with the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration. As an employer you need to provide a healthy and safe work placeExternal link for all your personnel and pay at least the statutory minimum wageExternal link and a holiday allowance. You are obliged to recruit personnel initially in the European Economic Area (EEA)External link and/or Switzerland. Only once you prove that you cannot find suitable personnel here, will you be permitted to recruit from other countries.

18. Cartels and competition

A cartel agreementExternal link is an agreement between competitors with the intention of hindering or restricting competition or creating false competition. In such cases, competitors agree to fix prices, share markets, limit output or boycot certain suppliers or buyers. In the Netherlands, cartels are illegal. Violating the cartel ban may result in a fine.

Number of shops started

Over the past 10 years the number of started businesses with a physical shop shows a decrease.

Questions relating to this article?

Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK)

+31 (0)88 585 2222

This information is provided by

Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Statistics Netherlands organisation, CBS