Business structures in the Netherlands: overview

This information is provided by

Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK | Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO | Statistics Netherlands, CBS

In the Netherlands, you need to choose a legal structure when you start a business. You cannot operate without choosing a business structure and be an entrepreneur. You choose a business structure when you register at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK). Your choice will help determine such aspects as liability and tax obligations.

Self-employed or freelancer?

If you want to work as a self-employed professional (zzp-er in Dutch) or freelancer, you need to be aware that neither of these are legal structures. You will still have to choose a legal structure when you register at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce. Most self-employed professionals act as sole proprietors or have a private limited company.

Which corporate structure suits your company?

There are many possible business structures, as listed on this page. Which one suits you best depends on your circumstances. To help you choose, we have compiled the most common considerations in the paragraph Help in choosing a legal structure, further on in this article.

Types of legal structures

There are business structures with and without corporate (legal) personality.

Business structures without corporate (legal) personality are:

If you choose a business structure without legal personality, you will be personally liable for the debt of your company, with your private capital and belongings.

Legal structures with corporate (legal) personality are:

When you set up a legal structure with legal personality, a civil law notary has to draw up the relevant papers, including your registration at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK), to create the legal personality. If your company is a legal personality, you won't be personally liable for the company's debts. There are some exceptions to this, for instance if grave mismanagement, recklessness or fraud on your part has led to the debts.

If your business is a legal entity or a partnership, you will receive an RSIN number when you register at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce. This is the business equivalent of a citizen service number (BSN in Dutch).

Filing annual accounts

Certain types of company are required to file their annual accounts with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK). The size of the company determines how the accounts have to be submitted.

UBO register

As of 27 September 2020, most businesses that are registered in the Dutch Commercial Register ( including the European legal structures listed on this page) will have to include their 'ultimate beneficial owner(s)' or UBOs in the UBO register. The UBO register is one of the measures taken in accordance with the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Act (Wet ter voorkoming van witwassen en het financieren van terrorisme, Wwft). Persons who have more than 25% of the company shares, more than 25% of the voting rights, and/or have the ultimate say in company matters are considered UBOs. Inclusion in the UBO register can be arranged via the website of the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce KVK. Companies that were already registered in the Commercial Register will have a year and a half to register their UBOs. See for more information (in Dutch) the KVK website.

European legal structures

European legal structures offer you the option to work together across borders with companies from other Member States of the European Union. There are three European legal structures:

Legal entity supervision

Do you want to incorporate a private or public limited company, or amend your articles of association? Your legal entity falls under the continuous supervision of Justis, the Agency for Scrutiny, Integrity and Screening (Ministry of Justice and Security). The aim is to detect and prevent abuse. You do not require a certificate of no objection (verklaring van geen bezwaar).

Changes in the legal structure

Changes in the legal structure or the collaborative venture in which your business participates will have fiscal and administrative consequences. Changes must be reported to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst) and the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel, KVK). You may have to re-apply for certain licences from your municipality, including, for example, the licence under the Licensing and Catering Act and operating permit.

Tips for choosing a legal structure

There are quite a few considerations to be taken into account when making the choice for a legal form or business structure. The statements below can help you find out which bracket suits your situation best. Select and deselect statements to access information on several considerations you may have. Try to read all the information here; it will help you make a well-informed decision.

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Not what you are looking for?

If you need personal advice, contact the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce. They can talk you through the options.

Statistics: businesses by legal form

Number of business structures with and without corporate (legal) personality.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK

This information is provided by

Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Statistics Netherlands, CBS