Starting a business abroad

Published by:
Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO
Netherlands Tax Administration, Belastingdienst
Netherlands Tax Administration, Belastingdienst
Statistics Netherlands, CBS
Statistics Netherlands, CBS
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK

The rules for starting a business are different outside of the Netherlands. Each country has its own laws and business climate. For example, not every country has the same legal structures as in the Netherlands. Setting up a foreign branch of an existing business also has tax consequences. If you or your employees start working abroad, you need to arrange social security properly. And you may have to consider other requirements for your profession.

This article is about starting a business abroad, while being based in the Netherlands. If you are looking to start a business in the Netherlands from abroad, please read this article instead.

Research the country where you want to establish your business

Starting a business abroad requires good preparation. No matter if you are starting a business just across the border or if you plan to do business in a developing country. Look for up-to-date country information to get a picture of the market, professional culture, the business climate, subsidies, and financing schemes. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) provides detailed country information in Dutch, and also in the NL exporteert app (in Dutch). The Support International Business (SIB) programme can also help you get started in a new market.

Check the local laws and regulations for starting a business

You may start a company or subsidiary in all member states of the European Economic Area (EEA). The conditions vary from country to country. Do you want to establish a company in a country outside the EEA? Then the possibilities for business establishment are sometimes limited. For example: you may only be able to set up a company with a local partner. Business Partner Support Op Maat (in Dutch) helps you find that local partner.

Choose a business structure

When you start a company abroad, you need to choose a business structure. In the EU, you can establish a business with any Dutch business structure. If you have a business already, and you wish to expand into another EU country, you can also opt for the European Public Limited Company (Societas Europaea, SE).

Register your business with the local authorities

Almost all countries have a register for businesses. A government agency usually manages such a register. It differs per country how long it takes to register your company. The registration fee also differs. Our network of embassies and consulates abroad helps you find the right contacts in a country.

Check the tax consequences

You will face special rules for Dutch corporate or income tax (in Dutch) and taxes in the country of establishment. And sometimes withholding tax (bronbelasting), which is often withheld if you receive interest, royalties or dividends from another country. The Netherlands has concluded tax treaties with a large number of countries. This prevents you from paying tax on your income or assets more than once.

Payroll tax and social security

Are your Dutch employees going to work for you abroad? Then check the 'Werken over de grens' section in the Tax Administration’s Payroll Tax Handbook (in Dutch). You can also contact the Tax Information Line for Non-resident Tax Issues.

Consider your diplomas and other qualifications

Foreign authorities can ask for your Dutch diplomas if you want to start a business. This depends on the sector in which you are active. By legalising your diplomas, you demonstrate that the diplomas are legally recognised in the Netherlands.

Arrange the necessary permits and visas

You often need a business permit to start a business or carry out work in another EU country. You must meet certain requirements to get it. A declaration of registration is required if a Dutch employee works in an EU member state for more than 3 months. Outside the EU, a residence permit and a work permit are required. You also need a visa for some countries.

Look into the options for financial support

The Dutch government can help you with financing and subsidies for international business. For example, the Dutch Trade and Investment Fund (DTIF) offers loans and guarantees if you are having trouble getting your finances sorted. The Tool for financing and insurances for international business (in Dutch) also helps you discover if you are eligible for international financing or export insurance from the government. And for entrepreneurs who want to expand their activities to emerging markets or developing countries, there is the Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF). You can view all options in the Subsidies Guide (in Dutch).


Statistics: Dutch subsidiaries outside the EU

The graph shows the number of Dutch subsidiaries outside the EU per year.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO