Start your own business in the Netherlands

Are you a student? Do you want to start a business in the Netherlands? Here we cover everything you need to know and what you have to arrange in order to start your business.

Who counts as an entrepreneur in the Netherlands?

If you:

  • Sell goods or provide services in exchange for money, and
  • Expect to make a profit

Then the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration considers you an entrepreneur for income tax purposes. Once you fulfill the above two requirements, then your activities are considered business activities.

Alternatively, if you fulfill the two requirements, but the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration does not regard you as an entrepreneur, you are ‘enjoying results’ and your income counts as ‘earnings from other activities’. If this is your case, then you cannot claim any of the special tax arrangements for entrepreneurs for income tax (see below). You are allowed to deduct the costs you incur for your activities from your profit. You may still be an entrepreneur for VAT purposes.

Checklist: starting a business

So, how do you set up a business in the Netherlands? The Dutch government provides an excellent checklist to help out with the procedure of starting a business. Below is an adapted version of this checklist for you to get an idea; however, make sure you do additional research and check the relevant government pages before you actually set up your business, as the information here is not meant to be exhaustive.

  1. You must fulfill the conditions for staying and working in the Netherlands. Some options are:
  2. Figure out how you’ll finance your business
  3. Select a legal business structure (rechtsvorm). Some options are:
    • Sole proprietor or sole trader (eenmanszaak)
    • Limited partnership (cv or commanditaire vennootschap)
    • Private limited company (bv or besloten vennootschap)
    • Public limited company (nv or naamloze vennootschap)
    • Cooperative (coöperatie)
    • Association (vereniging)
    • Foundation (stichting)
  4. Choose a company name. You’ll need one to register your company in the Dutch Commercial Register (Handelsregister) at the Kamer van Koophandel (KVK, or Dutch Chamber of Commerce)
  5. Make a business plan. You’ll need to include all the above information (and more) in your business plan
  6. Register with the Dutch Commercial Register at the KVK. You’ll need to pay a one-time fee for this
  7. Register with the Belastingdienst (Dutch Tax and Customs Administration). They will provide you with a VAT number and a VAT-ID
  8. If you intend to hire staff, register as an employer with the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration
  9. Check whether you need professional qualifications (this is only the case for some professions)
  10. If you wish to establish your business at a particular location, make sure your choice of location is in line with the municipal zoning plan (bestemmingsplan)
  11. If your business operations will have an impact on the environment, you must submit a notification of environmental management to your local municipality
  12. If you plan to run a business from your home, you’re normally obliged to let the municipality know. Also look into whether there are any tax and mortgage issues
  13. Create your business accounts. This should be done as soon as possible. Bear in mind that in the Netherlands, you’re legally obliged to maintain accounts and to retain them for 7 years
  14. Check any (health) insurance requirements. If you live in the Netherlands or earn income here, you are obliged to take out health insurance. You are also obliged to pay Dutch national insurance contributions. Additionally, there are several ways to insure your business’s assets in the event of legal liability or any other risk you cannot afford to cover

Are you eligible for subsidies, deductions and tax schemes?

The Netherlands offers a lot of incentives and help for (young) entrepreneurs wishing to launch their own business. Here are a few:

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs

As a young entrepreneur, you will be given the opportunity to work temporarily at the SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) of an experienced entrepreneur in another EU country.

Small Business Scheme (KOR)

If you run a small business, you may be eligible to participate in the small businesses scheme, as part of which you will be exempt from paying turnover tax (VAT).

Entrepreneur allowance

This is deducted from the profits so that the entrepreneur pays less tax. The entrepreneur’s allowance consists of, for example, a private business ownership allowance and tax relief for new companies.

SME loan guarantee scheme (BMKB)

If you have a business in the Netherlands and employ no more than 250 workers, you may be eligible for a guarantee for part of a loan, which will enable you to borrow more than would otherwise be possible based on your collateral.

Microcredit

The microcredit facility is available for (start-up) businesses in need of a loan or guidance. This scheme consists of a business loan and coaching.

Starting a business with disability benefit

Students with a long-term occupational disability may be eligible to receive support in establishing their own business.

Does income from my business affect my eligibility for student finance?

As a student in the Netherlands, you may be receiving studiefinanciering (student finance). If you decide to start your own business, and begin to receive income from this, your eligibility for student finance may be affected. Therefore, if:

  • You enrolled in higher education (HBO) or in a Dutch university after 1 September 2015, then you can earn an unlimited amount of additional income without this affecting your studiefinanciering
  • You started studying before 1 September 2015 or you’re currently enrolled in secondary vocational education (MBO), then you can earn a maximum of € 14,682.96 in additional income. If you earn more than the maximum additional income, you’ll need to stop your student finance

Useful links

There are several Dutch government organisations there to support you when starting your own business. Here are a few useful links from them:

  • The Kamer van Koophandel (KVK, or Dutch Chamber of Commerce) provides information on how to start a business in the Netherlands. They can advise you when it comes to creating a business plan, carrying out market research and other issues
  • You will find information about, for example, the investment climate in the Netherlands, the sectors that offer the most opportunities and the possibilities of finding local business partners on the NL Platform website
  • The Belastingdienst (Dutch Tax and Customs Administration) offers you information about which taxes you have to pay and how to keep your accounts up to date
  • The business coaches of Qredits Microfinanciering Nederland can advise and assist you in starting up your business. They can also help you to write your business plan
  • The Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS, or Statistics Netherlands) offers statistical information about districts where you can establish your business. CBS has collected sector-specific information that could be interesting for you as an entrepreneur
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