Global Business GuideNetherlands

From Global Connections

This is one of a series of Global Business Guides designed for businesses wishing to expand into another country/territory. This Global Business Guide was produced in January 2016. The materials contained in this document provide a snapshot at that time and were based on the law enforceable and information available at that time.


The Netherlands ranks 10th in the world for foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows, according to UNCTAD's World Investment Report 2015; it received inflows of USD30 billion in 2014.

The Netherlands ranked 28th in the World Bank's 2016 Doing Business rankings, down three places from 25th in the year prior. The Netherlands' strengths came in the Trading Across Borders topic where it ranked first in the world. The rankings also recognised that the Netherlands made paying taxes more costly for companies by increasing employer-paid labour contributions as well as road taxes, property taxes and Polder Board taxes.

Key facts about starting a business in the Netherlands:

  • It takes approximately four days and four procedures to start a new business in the Netherlands; this process is detailed in the Doing Business in chapter
  • The monthly minimum wage for those aged over 23 is EUR1,524.60; employment regulations are discussed in detail in the Labour chapter
  • It takes approximately 98 days and costs EUR62,719 to request a building permit from the Municipal Executive
  • The Netherlands ranked third in a comparison of 36 countries' intellectual property systems that assesses cost, speed, quality of judges/tribunals, quality of advice and the fairness and predictability of decisions; intellectual property rights are discussed in the Legal overview chapter
  • Companies that wish to list equity securities on the Euronext Amsterdam must, amongst other requirements, have published audited annual financial statements for the preceding three financial years; discussed further in the Finance chapter

While investing in the Netherlands is a transparent and straightforward process, it is important to understand the nuances of any local regime. The manner in which people conduct business in the Netherlands may differ from the home countries of investors. Furthermore, variations on these distinctions may exist in different regions of the Netherlands and the industry in which a company operates.

Dutch is the official language in the Netherlands and therefore the lingua franca of business. Nevertheless, much of the Dutch population is proficient in English.

Punctuality is important when conducting business in The Netherlands. Business attire is typically conservative; nevertheless, this varies across different industries.

A handshake is the typical greeting for a new introduction and business cards may be exchanged after initial introductions. Gift giving is not expected in Dutch business culture.

Those looking to establish a business in the Netherlands will often look to countries across the European Union (EU) as alternative options. While membership of the EU ensures parity in many aspects of the legal, tax and audit regimes, the Netherlands can be differentiated on the following factors:

  • The Netherlands is the sixth largest economy in the EU; in 2015, GDP growth was two per cent
  • The Netherlands was ranked the world's fifth most competitive economy
  • Amongst other incentives, companies falling under the Innovation Box regime can benefit from an effective tax rate of five per cent for income from intangible assets; discussed further in the Trade chapter
  • Highly educated, productive and multilingual workforce; 90 per cent of the population are fluent in English
  • The Netherlands ranked third in the world for the quality of its infrastructure; further details in the Infrastructure chapter

Although there are many benefits of investing in the Netherlands, foreign investors should remain aware of potential challenges. The Dutch domestic market remains small and characterised by high levels of competition. Despite ranking highly in the WE Forum Global Competitiveness Rankings, it was acknowledged that the labour market is still a relative weakness, particularly when it comes to flexibility of wage determination.

This guide has been developed to provide businesses with an overview of the Netherlands, its legal regime, start-up and market entry considerations, tax and customs requirements and a general summary of the factors that may affect the decision to do business in the Netherlands. However, the information contained in this document is generic in nature and you should not act or rely on it without obtaining specific professional advice.

Please note that the Global Business Guides may only be available in English.

Useful Links

1 Chamber of Commerce
2 Tax and Customs Administration
3 Data Protection Authority
4 Immigration and Naturalisation Service
5 Benelux Office for Intellectual Property
6 Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency
7 Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment



1 UNCTAD World Investment Report
2 Doing Business Rankings
3 IP Index
4 GDP Growth
5 English Language Skills
6 Global Competitiveness Report


Download Global Business Guide - Netherlands (4.51MB, PDF)


This document is issued by by HSBC Bank plc. (the Bank).  This guide is a joint project with Grant Thornton. It is not intended as an offer or solicitation for business to anyone in any jurisdiction. It is not intended for distribution to anyone located in or resident in jurisdictions which restrict the distribution of this document. It shall not be copied, reproduced, transmitted or further distributed by any recipient. The information contained in this document is of a general nature only. It is not meant to be comprehensive and does not constitute financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this document without obtaining specific professional advice. Whilst every care has been taken in preparing this document, the Bank and Grant Thornton makes no guarantee, representation or warranty (express or implied) as to its accuracy or completeness, and under no circumstances will the Bank or Grant Thornton be liable for any loss caused by reliance on any opinion or statement made in this document. Except as specifically indicated, the expressions of opinion are those of the Bank and are subject to change without notice. The materials contained in this document were assembled in January 2016 and were based on the law enforceable and information available at that time.

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