For a small country, the Netherlands packs a lot of punch. The country is considered one of the best connected in the world, thanks to its ports and transportation hubs – as well as its high speed internet.
The country is currently sixth in the World Economic Forum’s ranking of the most competitive economies, and as one of the most prosperous regions in the world, the local market also offers excellent potential.
Coupled with that is the welcoming Dutch approach to doing business, a whole raft of organisations to help you establish in a new market, and, of course, a friendly fiscal regime.
So how do you go about it to start a business in the Netherlands and what are the requirements? It is relatively simple, no matter where you live in the world. The Netherlands takes pride in having corporate legislation which is very open to foreign investment.
There are six main types of company in the Netherlands (apart from the eenmanszaak for a sole trader) and all have their own advantages.
1. The Dutch BV The BV (besloten vennootschap) is a limited liability company with a minimum share capital of €1. A BV requires a board of directors and local company HQ.
2. VOF The General Partnership or vennootschap onder firma is a business set up between two or more partners. All partners bring equity into the VOF in the form of cash, goods or labour, and no minimum start-up capital is required. The personal assets of each general member of the partnership can be taken by the creditors if there are debts that can’t be covered by the company funds.
3. CV The Limited Partnership or commanditaire vennootschap has at least two partners. One has unlimited liabilities and takes the management decisions – and one who is silent. He or she must deliver a capital to the firm and has his liability limited to his contribution.
4. Maatschap The Professional Partnership is formed by at least two partners and is used by the likes of dentists, architects, physiotherapists and lawyers. In a maatschap, you practise your profession alongside your partners under a shared name.
5. NV The Public Limited Company or naamloze venootschap is used for large investments and needs a starting share capital of at least €45,000. The NV is different from a BV in that an NV issues registered shares, but also shares that can be freely traded on the stock exchange.
6. Branches and subsidiaries of foreign companies The main differences between these two business forms is the degree of independence of the local branch or subsidiary related to the parent company. Deciding which form of company is best for your purposes can be a difficult decision. Your local KvK can help you with basic information, but it may also be worth turning to a specialist advisor who is aware of the pitfalls, depending on your business type. The procedure for starting a business in the Netherlands takes less than two weeks and getting documents authenticated is often the biggest take-up of time.
If you are considering setting up a company in Amsterdam, The Hague, Eindhoven or Rotterdam, you will also need the services of an experienced immigration lawyer in the Netherlands.
Dutch immigration rules are complicated – there are special visas for people working for start-ups for example – and you often have to start the procedures in your country of origin.
You may, for example, need to study the language and take integration classes (inburgering) before you arrive or as soon as you do so. New arrivals from the EU, EEA and Swiss nationals do not need a visa.
With a bit of help from the experts, it is all relatively easy to organise. Of course, if you can’t face the Dutch weather, or if you are concerned about the Dutch bonus cap for the financial sector and the country’s crackdown on shell companies with no economic value, you can always go through the process of opening a company in Singapore instead.