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Setting up a business in the Netherlands

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The Netherlands is a great place to be a business owner. The Dutch government recently announced its efforts to make the Netherlands the start-up capital of the EU, providing grants, special visas, and other means of encouraging companies to move here. Of course, you don’t have to be a tech wizard to start your own business. There’s room for all kinds of businesses here.

Type of business

The first thing you need to be clear about is what kind of business you’re starting. In an unincorporated business structure (i.e., freelancers and professional partnerships) you are personally liable for the debts your business incurs. In an incorporated business structure, your personal assets remain separate from the business assets.

There are five types of incorporated businesses: Besloten vennootschap (BV), private limited company; Naamloze vennootschap (NV), public limited company; Stichting, which is a foundation; Vereniging, association; and Coőperatie, a collective. To start any one of these requires a notary to draw up a contract and register the business at the Kamer van Koophandel (chamber of commerce).

If you choose to start an unincorporated business, you can register at the KvK yourself; there is no need for a notary. After you fill out the registration form you can make an appointment with the local branch of the KvK. As with all things government-related, you must bring a valid identification, any additional paperwork (such as a lease if you are renting an office) and the fee.  

Taxes

When you start a business you will also have to register with the Belastingdienst, the tax office, in order to pay taxes. They will assign you a BSN number through which you will report the BTW taxes that you collect/pay every quarter. As a general rule, you add up the amount of BTW you collect (typically 21%, but this depends on the type of business you run) and subtract the amount of BTW you paid for business supplies, travel, and other business-related expenses. This will give you the amount of tax you owe every quarter, or the amount of tax the Belastingdienst owes you.  

Income taxes are somewhat more complicated, and it is advisable that you find an accountant who is experienced with this kind of work, in order to make sure you are calculating everything correctly.  If you have employees, then you will also need to deduct the payroll tax from their salaries. There may also be taxes relating to the status of your business (incorporated or unincorporated).  

Entrepreneurs are entitled to work-related deductions from the income that they make. This includes materials and equipment, transportation costs, and services that pertain to your business.

Insurance

Depending on the type of company you are operating, insurance may be a worthwhile purchase. Insurance should a client fail to pay their bill, or computer insurance to cover damages caused by viruses and other malware, may be worth buying if you are handling very important things. 

 Useful links:

KVK - Chamber of Commerce
NFIA - Agency for Foreign Investments
Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour
Europa – Startups for the Netherlands

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See also

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and supports both multinationals and smaller startups, proving numerous job opportunities for expats.
The famous port of Rotterdam is a popular destination in the Netherlands, however expats may find it hard to find a job if they do not speak some Dutch.
The Netherlands boasts a low unemployment and is home to numerous multinationals, making it a popular choice for expats looking for a job abroad.
Utrecht is a fast-growing city in the Netherlands, with sectors such as healthcare and financial services offering expats employment opportunities.
European Union citizens are free to travel to the Netherlands without any restrictions whatsoever. But other foreigners have to fill in some formalities.

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