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The consumer

Consumer Profile
The population is ageing and the median age is 43.3 years in 2020. Some 15.9% of the population is under 14 and 19.6% is over 65 years of age. The population growth rate is 0.22%. On average there are 2.2 people per household. According to the latest data provided by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), in 2019, 3.05 million of households are composed of people living alone and 2.02 million are couples with children. It is estimated that women represent 50.1% of the total population in the Netherlands. The population is very urban since 92.5% of people live in urban area. The Randstad Area (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague, Utrecht) is the most populated region. The level of education is very high in the Netherlands, 78% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education. On average, 38% of Dutch adults (25-64 year-olds) have a tertiary education in 2019, similar to the OECD average of 39%. Some 83% of the active population is made up of employees, 12.3% are self-employed entrepreneurs, 4% are business owners. The most represented sectors are commerce, transportation, hotels, government and health.
Purchasing Power
GDP per capita PPA is USD 59 686 in 2019, according to the latest World Bank data. The average wage for a person working in the Netherlands is USD 59 555 in 2019. Before COVID-19, a large number of Dutch households were experiencing an increase in purchasing power, estimates are now revised downwards.  The consumer price index in October 2020 was 108.5, an increase of 0.55% compared to 2015. In the Netherlands, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 29 333 a year, lower than the OECD average of USD 33 604  a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn more than four times as much as the bottom 20%. The Gini index is 28.5 which is moderate but the level is increasing. The pay gap between men and women is 15.2%, just below the European average. Immigrants have lower wages than natives. People between 45 and 59 have the highest salaries (more than 43,600 euros a year), while people under 30 and over 65 have the lowest wages (less than 28,400 a year).
Consumer Behaviour
The Netherlands is a consumer society. Important purchase criteria include price and quality. According to McKinsey's research, following the COVID-19 crisis, consumers cut spending in almost all categories. More than half of consumers have tried different purchasing behaviour, including trying new brands and shopping methods, some of which they may keep long-term. They also expect to buy a larger share of their purchases online than before the crisis.

There were 16.26 million internet users in the Netherlands in January 2020. The number of internet users in the Netherlands increased by 36 thousand (+0.2%) between 2019 and 2020. Internet penetration in the Netherlands stood at 95% in January 2020. In 2020 the penetration rate of social networks was 64%. WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram are the most used networks. Influencers and comments from other users are viewed before making a purchase. About 78% of the Dutch wish for more control over the use and dissemination of personal data while 39% are willing to exchange their data provided that they can benefit from adapted offers. Some 26% do not want to share their data and 35% are indifferent. Consumers are generally ad-aware, and advertising campaigns are generally effective in driving sales.

Fashionable products need to be practical, healthy and responsible. Taking health into account is becoming increasingly important with the consumption of meat, dairy products and sugary drinks is decreasing while the consumption of fruits and vegetables is increasing. Advertisements broadcast to promote respect for the environment with products that are good for the planet have influenced behaviours. Organic products in the Netherlands registered a market size of US$ 1080.9 in 2019, representing 2.2% of global demand, with a per capita expenditure of US$ 62.54. The Netherlands is the 7th largest organic market in the European Union. The most consumed organic products are dry goods, breads, eggs, meat, soup and baby food. The second-hand market is also growing. In the Netherlands, the second-hand market is already well-developed (with a forecast industry revenue of USD 388.1 milions), and is expected to absorb even more of the 'traditional' retail market in the future. About 12.5% of the population use collaborative platforms (Airbnb, Uber etc.), and this figure is expected to increase in the coming years.
Consumer Recourse to Credit
In the Netherlands, the use of debit cards, especially Maestro cards, is widespread. This is less the case for credit cards, which can be refused in many shops. Mastercard and Visa cards, even if they are debit cards, can be assimilated to credit cards and refused. Household debt has reached a high level (105.53% of GDP) but is decreasing and it is largely composed of mortgages, with consumer credit representing only a small portion. About 5 million people in the Netherlands have debts, with an average of 162,900. Consumer credit is on the rise. Having so far been unattractive to the Dutch, they are mainly used to finance education costs and cars. The good conditions of access to consumer credit should allow an increase with the latter.
Growing Sectors
Accommodation and food services, garden furniture and equipment, home maintenance, education services, home textiles, audio-visual equipment, vehicles,  transportation services, clothing, leisure and culture.
Consumers Associations
United Consumer


Importing & Distributing

Import Procedures
The official model for written declarations to customs is the Single Administrative Document (SAD). The SAD serves as the EU importer's declaration.  It encompasses both customs duties and VAT and is valid in all EU Member States.

As part of the "SAFE" standards advocated by the World Customs Organisation (WCO), the European Union has set up a new system of import controls- the "Import Control System" (ICS)- which aim to secure the flow of goods at the time of their entry into the customs territory of the EU. This control system, part of the Community Programme eCustoms, has been in effect since 1 January 2011. Since then, operators are required to fill out an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) to the customs of the country of entry, prior to the introduction of goods into the customs territory of the European Union.

Non-agricultural goods entering EU territory must adhere to customs formalities (ENS). This declaration must be carried out by the person bringing the goods to the territory. The Summary Declaration can be made electronically or on a form provided by the customs authorities. The deadline for lodging the ENS depends on the mode of transport carrying the goods.

Since July 1, 2009, all companies established outside of the EU are required to have an EORI number if they wish to lodge a customs declaration or an Entry/Exit Summary declaration. Once a company has received an EORI number, it can use it for exports to any of the 28 EU Member States.
Goods in transit only need a single EU transit document.

Customs duties are the same for all EU member states. VAT, on the other hand, is established by the tax authorities of each member country, and differs for each country.

Below is a summary of VAT rates that apply in the Netherlands:

  • Zero percent rate applies to exports;
  • 6% rate applies to necessities such as food, medicines, and transportation;
  • 21% is the general or standard rate and applies to most goods.

VAT is levied at the same rate for imports into the Netherlands as for domestic products or transactions.  The basis on which VAT is charged on imports is the C.I.F. value at the port of entry, plus any duty, excise taxes, levies, or other charges (excluding the VAT) collected by Dutch Customs at the time of importation.  This total represents the transaction value of the import when it clears customs. Dutch importers are liable for payment of customs duties, VAT, and any other charges at the time of clearing the goods through customs. Temporary imports that will be re-exported are not subject to the VAT.  An importer may have to post a temporary bond for the amount of customs duties and taxes, but this is cancelled when the goods are taken out of the country.

Additional information about import procedures can be found on the European Commission website.
The Dutch Customs website also provides necessary information regarding the customs clearance procedure.

Specific Import Procedures
The Union Custom Code - adopted on 9 October 2013 as Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 - Title V provides for the following customs simplifications:

  • Simplified declaration (Article 166 UCC)
  • Centralised clearance (Article 179 UCC)
  • Entry in the declarant's records (Article 182 UCC). This type of customs declaration is not allowed for all customs procedures (e.g. exclusion of transit).
  • Drawing-up of customs declarations for goods falling under different tariff subheadings ( Article 177 UCC)
  • Self-assessment (Article 185 UCC)

For more information, please visit the Dutch Customs website.

Distribution channels
According to the latest data released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the Dutch retail sector recorded 8.2 percent year-on-year turnover growth in May 2020. The volume of sales increased by 5.9 percent. Turnover was up in both the food sector and the non-food sector. Furthermore, online sales increased by almost 50 percent. In May, turnover in the non-food sector was up by 1.2 percent year-on-year. Shops selling food, beverages and tobacco achieved 10.1 percent more turnover in May 2020 than in the same month last year. The volume of sales increased by 6.5 percent. Supermarkets saw a turnover growth of 10.3 percent, while turnover of specialist shops increased by 8.1 percent.

Hypermarkets was the best performing channel in grocery retailing in 2019. Although it remained a small channel in the grocery retailing in the Netherlands, with 41 outlets, the two most important players AH XL and Jumbo Groep saw strong sales growth in their existing stores.

Discounters continued to outperform modern grocery retailers and supermarkets in particular. Nevertheless, the rate at which discounters are gaining value share from other grocery channels slowed in 2019 in comparison with previous years.

Approximately 80% of the Dutch food retail outlets are full service supermarkets, operating on floor space between 500 and 1,500 square meters, located downtown and in residential areas. Retailers with full service supermarkets have responded to the need of the Dutch to have these supermarkets close to their homes. The remaining 20% includes mainly convenience stores (near office buildings, city centre, motorways and train/metro stations), some wholesalers and just a few superstores (conveniently located in shopping malls and industrial parks).
Distribution market players
The Dutch retail industry is rather consolidated. In 2019, the main actors are:

  • Albert Hejin, 34.9% market shares
  • Superunie, 27.5% market shares
  • Jumbo Groep, 21% market shares
  • Lidl, 10.7% market share
  • Aldi Holding, 5.9% market shares

Most of the food retail stores are full-service supermarkets.  In addition there are some department stores (HEMA and Bijenkorf), convenience stores, gas markets (On the Run/Snack & Shop Shell Station, GO shops – the fresh way, Café Bonjour, and Wild Bean Café) and wholesalers (De Kweker, Sligro, Makro, Bidfood, VHC – Horesca, Hanos, and Zegro) that all sell food products.

Retail Sector Organisations
Dutch Food Retail Association


Operating a Business

Type of companies

The BV (Besloten vennootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheidi) is a Private Limited Company.
Number of partners: One or more. It can be constituted of several legal entities or individuals, and 1 shareholder for a BV proprietorship. At least one person on the board of directors must have Dutch citizenship.
Capital (max/min): EUR 0.01
Shareholders and liability: Liability of each partner is limited to the amount of capital contributed.
The NV (Naamloze Vennootschap) is a Public Limited Company.
Number of partners: One or more without limitation in the number of partners.
Capital (max/min): Minimum EUR 45,000. 20% should represent the subscribed amount and 25% the amount released at the incorporation
Shareholders and liability: Liability is limited to the amount of capital contributed.
The VOF (Vennootschap Onder Firma) is a general partnership.
Number of partners: Minimum 2 without limitation in the number of partners.
Capital (max/min): No minimum capital required.
Shareholders and liability: Partners' liability is joint and unlimited.
The CV (Commanditaire Vennootschap) is a limited partnership.
Number of partners: Minimum 2 without limitation in the number of partners. 2 types of partners: active partners and sleeping partners.
Capital (max/min): No minimum capital required.
Shareholders and liability: At least one active partners have an unlimited liability. Sleeping partners have a liability limited to the amount contributed.
Bijkantoor is a branch.
Number of partners: No legal entity, it depends on the status of the parent company.
Capital (max/min): No minimum capital is required, if the branch is registered with the Trade Register.
Shareholders and liability: The parent company is liable for actions carried out by the branch except for management which is limited, joint and several.
Setting Up a Company Netherlands OECD
Procedures (number) 4.0 5.2
Time (days) 3.5 9.5

Source: Doing Business - Latest available data.


Cost of Labour

Minimum Wage
Gross minimum wage as of 1 January 2020 : EUR 1.653,60 per month (source:, latest available data).
Average Wage
According to the Dutch Central Plan Bureau (CPB), the median gross salary for 2020 in the Netherlands is €36,500.
Social Contributions
Social Security Contributions Paid By Employers:

The Dutch social security system consists of the National Insurance, the Employee Insurance. In total, the employer's share of national insurance contributions amounts approximately 18.19 or 23.19% of employee's gross wages. The schemes are the following:

  • Unemployment Insurance Act: 2.94% or 7.94% (depending on the duration of the contract)
  • Disability Act: 8.55% the maximum will be EUR 4,893.24.
  • Health Insurance Act: 6.7% maximum EUR 3,834.54.

Social Security Contributions Paid By Employees:

The Dutch social security system consists of the National Insurance, the Employee Insurance. In total, the employee's share of insurance contributions amounts approximately 27.65% of employee's gross wages. The schemes are the following:

  • National Survivor Benefits Act: 0.1 percent, maximum EUR 34.71
  • General Old Age Pensions Act: 17.9 percent, maximum EUR 6,213.45
  • Long-term Care Act: 9.65 percent, maximum EUR 3,349.71
  • General Child Benefit Act

Intellectual Property

National Organisations
The NL Agency is the agency for companies in the Netherlands
Regional Organisations
Industrial Property Office, Copyright Office
International Membership
Member of the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)
Signatory to the Paris Convention For the Protection of Intellectual Property
Membership to the TRIPS agreement - Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)


Tax Rates

Consumption Taxes

Nature of the Tax
BTW (Belasting Toegevoegde Waarde) - Value-Added Tax (VAT)
Tax Rate
Reduced Tax Rate
A reduced rate of 9% applies to: foodstuffs (excluding foodstuffs for animal consumption); some soft drinks; water supplies; certain pharmaceutical products; certain medical equipment for disabled persons; domestic passenger transport (excluding air travel); intra-community and international road, rail and inland waterway passenger transport; books (including e-books); newspapers and periodicals; admission to cultural events and amusement parks; writers and composers; certain renovation and repair of private dwellings; certain cleaning of private households; hotel accommodation; restaurants (excluding alcoholic beverages); take away food; bars, cafes and night clubs; admission to sports events; use of sports facilities; minor repairs of bicycles; shoes and leather goods; clothing and household linen; hairdressing; cut flowers and plants for decorative use (some exclusions) and food production; some works of art, collectors items and antiques.

Exports of goods, intra-Community supplies of goods, and supplies to ships and aircraft used for international transportation are zero-rated.

Other Consumption Taxes
Liquor tax, tobacco tax, gasoline tax, aviation fuel tax, liquefied petroleum gas tax, petroleum tax, motor vehicle tax and other taxes are levied as excise duty on the end price to consumers. If the goods are used solely as raw materials, no excise tax is levied. Taxes on exported goods typically qualify for a refund.

Corporate Taxes

Company Tax
Tax Rate For Foreign Companies
Companies incorporated under Dutch law are deemed to be residents of the Netherlands. For foreign companies conditions such as the place of management and control are used to determine the tax residency.
Capital Gains Taxation
Capital gains are generally included in taxable profits and taxed at the corporate rate. Participation exemption is provided for qualifying dividends and capital gains from the sale of shares in a company. The firm investing in a subsidiary must meet the following requirements: (a) maintain a minimum 5% ownership of the subsidiary; (b) the subsidiary is not held as a portfolio investment or the subsidiary is subject to a reasonable corporate tax rate in its country of residence; or (c) the share of "dormant" assets (such as portfolio investment) of the subsidiary does not exceed 50% of the total.
Main Allowable Deductions and Tax Credits
Business expenditure is generally tax-deductible, including costs incurred in setting up a business; reserves kept for certain types of future spending and book profits; rents, royalties and interest payments on corporate debt; remuneration of members of the managing and supervisory boards; bad debts; capital losses; pension plan contributions; commissions; bonuses paid to employees through an internal profit-sharing plan; gifts to contributions to religious, social, charitable and other institutions (up to 50% of taxable income or EUR 100,000, whichever is lower); and many types of taxes, including foreign taxes if not already benefiting from a tax treaty (but not corporate income tax). An additional standard allowance is provided for investment in fixed assets. Certain expenses such as fines are non-deductible.

With regard to goodwill, the amortisation for tax purposes is limited to 10% of the purchase price per annum, and the tax depreciation of other fixed assets (i.e. inventory, equipment) is limited to 20% of the purchase price or production costs each year.

Capital losses are deductible unless attributable to the disposal of a shareholding qualifying for the participation exemption. Tax losses can be carried forward up to six years and back for one year. For losses incurred in fiscal year 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies may create a reserve with respect to their 2019 corporate income tax return. The losses may not exceed the total losses expected for 2020 or exceed the profits for 2019 (prior to the reserve), and the reserve must be released with respect to the 2020 corporate income tax return.

Other Corporate Taxes
A real estate transfer tax is levied on the acquisition of property in the Netherlands at a rate of 8% of the market value of the property, or 2% for private residences.

Insurance tax at a rate of 21% is levied on insurance premiums, excluding life, accident, medical, invalidity, disability, unemployment and transport insurance, which are exempt.

Landlords in the regulated sector that rent out more than 50 houses are subject to a specific tax. The taxable base consists of the total value of the houses (capped at EUR 315,000 per house) minus 50 times the average value. The tax rate is 0.526% for 2021, and it is charged on the average value of the houses.

Various environmental taxes are levied, including a coal tax, energy tax on the supply of electricity and natural gas, tap water tax, waste tax on the disposal of waste and a motor vehicle tax.

From 2021, a unilateral air passenger tax is imposed by airport operators. The rate is EUR 7.845 for each passenger departing from a Dutch airport (an exemption applies to transfer passengers and children under the age of two). Moreover, a national CO₂ levy applies to industrial production and waste incineration.

Municipalities levy an additional annual real estate tax at varying rates, which is deductible for corporate tax purposes.

The total aggregate rate for social security contributions is 27.65%, calculated on the first EUR 35,129 of each employee’s gross salary (2021).

Companies annually bringing 50,000 or more kilograms of packing material on the market must pay a ‘waste management contribution’ (rates vary according to various parameters).

Other Domestic Resources
Belastingdienst - Dutch Tax Administration
Consult Doing Business Website, to obtain a summary of the taxes and mandatory contributions.

Double Taxation Treaties

Countries With Whom a Double Taxation Treaty Have Been Signed
A list of countries with which the Netherlands has signed a tax treaty
Withholding Taxes
Dividends: 15% (0% for dividends subject to EU directive on the common tax regime applicable to parent companies and subsidiaries of different Member States or paid to a parent company based in a country with which the Netherlands has signed a tax treaty removing this withholding tax)
Interests: 0%/25% (paid to entities in low tax jurisdictions applies as from 2021)
Royalties: 0%/25% (paid to entities in low tax jurisdictions applies as from 2021)