Legal forms of business

New businesses in the Netherlands have to make a choice from a number of legal structures or forms. Are you a self-employed professional? You have to choose a 'rechtsvorm' too.

Your choice will, among others, determine liability and tax obligations. Generally speaking, if you choose a legal business structure without legal personality (sole proprietorship or a partnership), you will be personally liable for debts your company incurs. If you choose a legal structure with legal personality (bv, nv, cooperative), the company will be liable. 

Be aware that the terms freelancer and zzp'er are not legal structures. Freelancers and zzp'ers will have to choose a legal structure too.

Legal structures

Sole proprietorship: the Dutch eenmanszaak

General or commercial partnership: the vennootschap onder firma (vof)

Professional or public partnership: the maatschap

Limited partnership: the commanditaire vennootschap (cv)

Private limited company: the besloten vennootschap (bv)

Public limited company: the naamloze vennootschap (nv) 

Cooperative: the coöperatie

Association: the vereniging

Foundation: the stichting


Check for more Dutch and foreign types of legal structures and information about each one.


Tip: tool for choosing a Dutch legal structure

There are several considerations to take into account when setting up a business. Your legal structure determines your liability and which taxes you need to pay. Are you not sure which legal structure is the right one for your business? Use the Tool for choosing a Dutch legal structure to find out.