Start a Business

Do you want to start a business as a refugee in The Netherlands? Try to do it! There are many possibilities, but of course also many rules and regulations that you have to know about. But with info, network, help, brains and skills, you can do it. Speaking the language or working together with Dutch people is really helpful and predicts a better future. How to start? Here you can read more about the first steps. If you have a klantmanager, contact him or her about your plans.

Talk first with existing entrepreneurs and Inform yourself about the market, plan, target group and legislation.

  1. Do you need to follow special laws or meet conditions in your field?
  2. Does your talent match the business? Do you need to involve others?
  3. Who wants to buy your service/product?
  4. Who are your competitors and how are you special?
  5. How is your price comparing to the price of your competitors?
  6. Where will you be located?
  7. How can you be unique?
  8. What do you need concerning investments?
  9. Who is your target group? Do you meet their demands?
  10. How will you attract customers? (Marketing)
  11. Do you need insurance for your work?

Just Send a Bill (Easy Start)

It is not always obliged to start up an official company. You can also try first to do it more easy. Many Dutch also don’t know this, but in many cases you can officially earn up to around 10.000 per year and send bills without always having to register as an official company. Note: income tax you need to pay from the earned money after the year in which you earned.


  • Work and send someone a bill (without adding VAT / btw).
  • You have to keep a copy of the bills for yourself.
    Save about 30-35 per cent of the amount.
  • Keep the coupons / tickets of the costs you have made for this work.
    Also the amount of kilometers if you drove by car.
  • After the year, around March, you have to fill in your personal tax form.
    – Then you add the earned money as “Income from other work”
    (Inkomen uit overige werkzaamheden)
    – You deduct the costs of which you kept the coupons. And 0,19 eurocent per kilometer.
    – Over the left over amount you will have to pay income tax. You will receive a message from the Belastingdienst after submitting the Tax form.

If you have already a job and you earn 300,- as a DJ extra:

  • You work as a DJ and you ask 300,-.
  • You pay for the train and you hire equipment for 100,- in total. Keep the tickets with you.
  • You make an official bill with bill number (001-2016) date, address and description of the work and you put 300,- as the total amount.
  • You send the bill to the person and you keep a (digital) copy for yourself.
  • After the year you will have to fill in your tax form.
    – There you add that you earned 300,- as ‘Inkomen uit overige werkzaamheden’.
    – You also fill in that you had 100,- costs (train and equipment).
  • The Belastingdienst will later charge around 30% of 200,- = around 60,-.
    But if you do this you earned officially and contributed to society!

Another option to work for someone is to be paid through a payrolling company. The custumor pays this payroll agency, and they pay you officially as wages. You can negotiate on the percentage the payroll agency earns for this sometimes.

Report Income if you have the “Uitkering”

If you have an “uitkering”/aid, you always have to report extra earned income at your municipality. In some municipalities you can keep part of it. In Amsterdam for example, you can keep 6 times per year, up to 185,- per month on top of your “uitkering”. If you earn more, this will be asked back by the municipality. But do not hesitate – it is taking care of yourself and if you earn more than the “uitkering”, you can be living independently! Something to be proud of.

Start Up a Real Business is often Profitable / Cheaper

If you have the skills, speak a little bit the language, know how to arrange things and have a good business plan, starting up your own business officially can have many tax advantages. But it is a responsibility as well. Prepare well with  market research and a good business plan! Especially if you are planning to work more than 1225 hours per year (more than 3,5 days per week, with not many vacation weeks) and meet some other conditions, it is interesting to check if it is a good step for you. And in the first 3 years it is extra interesting, because starting entrepreneurs have to pay less tax during these years.


Hiring People

If you hire people, this brings responsibilities. You have to apply rules and regulations concerning minimum wages, labour laws and circumstances, insurance, health care and pension payments. Ask experienced Dutch for advice or hire an administrator of accountant to do the financial work. The wages (pay people) is easiest through a  payroll company. They arrange the payments and they can keep an eye on the labour laws and work contracts. Inform yourself well about labour legislation if you start hiring!

Inform Yourself about the Tax System

The tax system for businesses is quite complicated. But do not do it all alone. Ask advice at a tax advisor, entrepreneur or accountant about what is most smart to do and what you will have to arrange.

For example:

  • There is VAT (btw) that you have to add on top of ALLwhat you sell (most of the time 21%).
    Example: You work 8 hours for 200,- ex VAT (btw) in total. Then you send the person a bill for 200,- + 21% VAT (42,-) = 242,-
  • You have to pay this VAT (btw) back to the Belastingdienst – most of the time every 3 months.
  • After a year, you deduct the costs from what you earned and some fixed amounts (called ondernemersaftrek, startersaftrek and/or investeringsaftrek).
    If you yourself are the company, you have to pay income tax about the amount that is left.
    TIP: always keep at least 35% of what you earn to later pay tax!
    TIP2: hire an administrator to do this work for you!
  • Always ask help you start up an easy administrative system for this.
  • Keep track of ALL the hours you spend preparing and working. De Belastingdienst can ask for it.

Preparing while in the “Uitkering”

If you have the uitkering / aid from your municipality, there are options for help with starting / preparing  your own business. The municipality has an extra form aid (Bbz) and can look at if they think your business has a future. If they think your idea is good, you can prepare to start it up. Then you do not have to apply for jobs in the mean time. For this you could have 1 year.
Ask at your local municipality for this possibility and the conditions.

What if the Business Fails (Bbz-uitkering)?

If you get in trouble financially, under conditions, you can have help again of the municipality. Help to get some money on top of what your earn to at least have the same amount as the “uitkering”. If you have financial problems, contact your local municipality and ask for the possibilities for a temporary “Bbz-uitkering”.

Loan to Start a Business (Starterskrediet)

If you have a good business plan, you could ask some banks to invest. But as a starting entrepreneur, the municipality can sometimes also give you a loan (without paying interest) to start up your business. Ask for the possibilities and conditions at your local municipality.

Relevant links to Start a Business for Refugees in The Netherlands


Keywords: Start a Business as a Refugee in The Netherlands

© Marinka Dohmen & Younes Younes, 2016. All rights reserved.