Dutch legal business structures
What are the steps to start my own business in the Netherlands?
Registration with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK Kamer van Koophandel)
Before you are allowed to start your business operations you must register your enterprise in the Dutch Trade Register at the Chambers of Commerce (KvK). Registrations in the Trade Register are public.
All entrepreneurs are required to register with the Chamber of Commerce (KvK). You qualify as an entrepreneur if you supply goods or services independently with the intention to make profit.
Self-employed without personnel (ZZP) and freelancers also have to register if their business satisfies the criteria for an enterprise. If unsure about whether you need to register your business contact the KvK.
You need to choose the legal form of your business before registering it at the KvK.
You should register with the Chamber of Commerce:
- No later than one week after starting your business;
- One week prior to starting your business;
- Earlier, in which case, the registration (with Chamber of Commerce registration number) will become official one week before the start of your business.
There is a registration fee that cannot be paid in cash.
You can register at the KvK by filling in an online form before you make the necessary appointment that will complete your registration procedure. At the appointment you will receive your KvK registration and VAT number. The appointment can be made online or by telephone.
In principle there is no need to register separately with the Dutch tax office (Belastigndienst) as that is automatically achieved when registering with the KvK. You will receive a VAT-number (btw-nummer) and a KvK number (identification number for legal entities and associations). If you are unsure whether the registration with the Dutch tax office has been done, we suggest you to check it with the KvK officer.
You do need to register separately with the Tax Authority (Belastingdienst) if you are starting a business as a limited company (BV) or a foundation (Stichting), because different criteria are used to establish whether you are an entrepreneur for VAT or income tax purposes.
Licences and Permits
Most businesses operate without permits or licenses, but for some, like the catering business, transport, or a taxi firm, a license is needed. If your products or business operations affect the environment an environmental permit may be required.
Permits and licenses are issued by the municipality or the provincial authorities.
Some sectors require registration with an industry board or a product board. Registration is a statutory requirement, based on the Act on Business Organisations.
Regulated professions and professional competence requirements.
A diploma or permit is usually not needed for starting a business in The Netherlands. There are, however so called regulated professions and professions subjected to professional competence requirements.
A regulated profession is one you can practice only if you meet the professional qualifications established by law. The legal profession is a typical example. The list is long and can be checked here:
Professional competence requirements apply to professions, such as: personnel in healthcare and child care, architects and town planners, financial service providers, bailiffs, bus and lorry drivers, driving instructors, crew of seagoing vessels, security guards and other.
European agreements on mutual recognition of diplomas enable access to regulated professions in member states. The Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education, Nuffic, can inform you about the status of your national diploma in the Netherlands and possible access to a Dutch regulated profession. Visit the Nuffic website for further information: www.nuffic.nl/en/diploma-recognition/recognition-of-your-profession-in-the-netherlands
You can also have your foreign credentials evaluated by IDW (International Credential Evaluation): www.idw.nl/en/
See comprehensive information at: business.gov.nl/regulation/professional-qualifications/
For some businesses/professions it is advisable to register at, or become member of an umbrella organisation. For example, tourism.
A tour operator will find it hard to attract customers without registration at the General Dutch Association of Travel Agencies, (ANVR), which prescribes travel and booking terms conditions, or membership of the Travel Guarantee Fund Foundation (SGR) which guarantees repayment in case of default of the tour operator. Over the years both memberships have become almost a necessity.