Check the financial position of your business partner through the annual financial statements
- Edited 7 December 2022
- 3 min
- Secure business
Are you about to close a deal with a new business partner? In that case, make sure you are aware of the company’s financial position. In the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce Business Register, you can look up the financial statements of businesses belonging to a legal entity such as a private limited company (besloten vennootschap, bv), a public limited company (naamloze vennootschap, nv), or a cooperative (coöperatie). The more you know about your business partner, the better you can assess their reliability. That way you can reduce the likelihood that they will not be able to pay your invoice.
The financial statements provide insight into how a company is doing financially. Business-information providers, banks, and insurance companies also use these public annual figures for their credit and risk analyses. Accountant Wilfried Geurts explains how to tell from financial statements how your business partner is doing financially.
Requesting financial statements
You can request financial statements online from the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce. Anyone can request this financial information.
Insights into businesses
Businesses belonging to a legal , such as a bv, an nv, or a cooperative, must submit their financial statements to the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce on time every year. This is known as filing. The deadline for filing varies by type of legal entity, but in any case the financial statements must be filed within 12 months of the end of the financial year. Financial statements contribute to a more-transparent economy. It is not only business partners that can request each other’s financial statements. Others, such as banks, lenders, and industry researchers on a given sector also use annual financial statements to gain insights into businesses. Failure to file, or to file on time, is an economic (Overheid.nl, in Dutch), for which you can be fined.
The bigger the business, the more information there is
The bigger the company, the more information there is in its financial statements. Smaller companies file a limited balance annually with an explanation of how it was prepared. Larger companies also publish an annual , also known as a directors' report, a profit and loss account (in Dutch), and an auditor's (in Dutch). Listed Dutch companies do not file with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce. These companies must publish and file their financial report with the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (Autoriteit Financiële Markten, AFM).
You can read in the criteria what exactly should be included in the financial statements. The Netherlands Chamber of Commerce checks whether the filed financial statements have been drawn up correctly. It does not check for content. That is the responsibility of the business concerned. So you are dependent on the information the company gives about itself. Larger businesses are required to have their financial statements audited by an auditor. The business must submit the financial statements on time, along with the corporate tax return. Based on the financial statements, the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce calculates the key financial figures, as they are called, such as on liquidity and solvency (in Dutch). You will not receive these key figures when you request the original financial statements, but when you get the standard financial statements that have been processed by the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce. These key figures show whether a company has sufficient funds to pay for purchases.
Reading financial statements
Wilfried Geurts is an accountant at ZAAM Accountants en Adviseurs in Limmen. In the course of his work he reads many financial statements and assists companies that have to file their financial statements with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce. Geurts explains what can be found in the financial statements. "Most companies are small and file a balance sheet that offers limited information on assets, debts, and equity. But the financial (Belastingdienst, in Dutch) of those items is often not included." Thus you do not know the value of someone's company stock at that moment.
However, there is a way to get a better financial picture of smaller companies, too: "By doing a side-by-side comparison of different financial years, you can see how a business has evolved financially in recent years. Some companies file only at the very last minute, for instance to prevent competitors from seeing the company’s financial information earlier."
What if no financial statements are available?
It is mandatory to file financial statements. Yet there are legal entities that do not do so in a timely manner or at all. Geurts explains what might be going on in such cases. "The fact that the financial statements are filed either late or not at all may be due to illness, a business takeover, or delays at the accountant's office, to name a few examples. But if this happens several years in a row, the company might be careless in keeping to other arrangements as well."
More business information
In addition to financial statements, the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce Business Register also allows you to retrieve other information on a business, such as who is liable and authorised to sign. That way you can check who you are doing business with. All companies and legal entities in the Netherlands are listed in the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce Business Register. The register of ultimate beneficial owners, known as the UBO register, tells you who the ultimate stakeholders in a business are. Through the Central Insolvency (Centraal Insolventieregister, in Dutch) of the courts, you can see which companies are in bankruptcy or suspension of payments.
You can spar with the Advisory Team of the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, for example on money matters or financing. Please phone us with any specific questions at 088 585 2222. Our office hours are 08:30 to 17:00, Monday to Friday.