The Dutch Commercial Code and Civil Code contain rules on trade law.
The Dutch customs authorities check the compliance of importers and exporters with legislation on safety, health, economy and environment (VGEM). Imports and exports of certain goods are banned in the Netherlands or only allowed subject to certain conditions, e.g.:
- live animals and animal products;
- plants, flowers, fruit and vegetables;
- animal feed;
- radioactive substances and nuclear material;
- substances hazardous to the environment;
Some goods require an import or export licence.
The labels on pre-packed foods for retail must comply with the Food Labelling Decree. Compulsory markings and inscriptions on pre-packed foods are:
- product name;
- net quantity;
- 'best before' or 'eat by' date;
- information about the producer, packer or retailer.
In addition to the above, the Food Labelling Decree also contains other, product-dependent items.
Excise duty is a tax payable on specific consumer goods, for example:
- alcoholic drinks such as wine, port, sherry and beer;
- tobacco products such as smoking tobacco, cigarettes and cigars;
- petrol, diesel, domestic heating oil and LPG.
Excise duty is incorporated into the price paid by the consumer. Excise duty is paid to the Tax Authority by manufacturers in the Netherlands, traders and also importers of products subject to such duty.
International VAT number
You must comply with the declaration of value added tax (including a statement of intra-Community supplies).
Most entrepreneurs, once registered with the Tax Authority, are automatically assigned a VAT number. Sole traders receive a VAT number upon registering with the Chamber of Commerce. The VAT identification number is used for international business transactions.
In the Netherlands these identification numbers contain 14 digits: the VAT number prefixed by the country code (NL) and followed by a 3-digit code. The VAT number or VAT identification number must always be shown on your invoices.
Outgoing letters, e-mails (except for advertising), orders, bids and invoices from businesses must display the relevant trade name and business registration number from the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK). Invoices must comply with further legal requirements. All must display a number of basic details (e.g. VAT number, VAT amount, invoice date). Invoices must be numbered consecutively. Any invoices that fail to meet these requirements must be rectified, otherwise your client will lose any entitlement to deduct VAT.
Above a certain threshold, a statistical return should be filed and a register compiled of temporary shipments of goods.
Suspending tariffs or obtaining new tariff quotas
A business importing raw materials and semi-finished products from outside the EU is allowed to suspend import duties conditionally for five years. A suspension of duty application may be submitted to the Ministry for Economic Affairs at any time during the year. On 15 March and 15 September each year, the Ministry submits these applications to the European Commission.
The Hollandtrade.com website, produced by the Agency for International Business and Cooperation (EVD), provides information on the Dutch market.
Information from the Dutch government can be found on the Antwoordvoorbedrijven.nl website, which lists at a glance all the various relevant dos and don'ts, e.g. licences and requirements, laws and regulations, taxes and subsidies.