Freelancing in a different country: 5 examples

Are you thinking about continuing your business activities abroad? This is possible, for example if you want to emigrate or move abroad temporarily. But what happens to your business? Does it remain in your country of origin, or does it move with you to the Netherlands (or other destination country) and do you have to start over? 5 examples to help you find out which situation applies to you.

You are a self-employed professional, who works on a freelance basis. You plan to move abroad. Where do you register your business: in your country of residence? In the country where you practice your business? Or both? This article answers those questions by giving you 5 examples of entrepreneurs who emigrated from the Netherlands and continued their activities as self-employed professionals without staff (zzp'ers).

Contact the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce KVK

As soon as a municipality reports to KVK that an entrepreneur is moving abroad, KVK contacts the entrepreneur to find out if the business activities will continue to take place in the Netherlands. "KVK helps entrepreneurs to register their business correctly. But it remains the responsibility of the entrepreneur themselves to ensure the registration of their business in the Business Register is correct. If you have plans to move abroad, contact KVK ahead of time, and prevent problems later on, for example with the Tax Administration, or foreign legislation", says KVK Business Register consultant Dédé van Es.

Dede van Es, KVKDédé van Es, KVK Business Register consultant.

Should you register or deregister with KVK?

You immigrate to the Netherlands

If you immigrate to the Netherlands and continue your existing business activities here, you may have to register with the Dutch Business Register at KVK. That is, if:

  • you practice your business activities in the Netherlands. It does not matter what kind of activity; whether you provide a service, sell a product, or practice a physical profession, such as construction, installing appliances, practising medicine, waiting tables, etc.
  • you are a sole proprietor. You will have to register with KVK as an 'eenmanszaak', the Dutch equivalent. Foreign sole proprietorships are not recognised as valid legal structures in the Netherlands.

You move from the Netherlands to another country

You are registered with KVK in the Dutch Business Register, but you plan to emigrate. If your actual business activities in the Netherlands end, you must report this to KVK. As long as you remain registered as a business, you must continue to file tax returns for your business, and pay insurances and other contributions. If you do not report to KVK yourself that your business activities in the Netherlands have come to an end, and the municipality or your landlord finds out you are no longer an entrepreneur, KVK will deregister your business 'ex officio'.

Legal structure

The legal structure of your business does not make any difference in determining whether or not you have a business in the Netherlands, once you have emigrated. The criteria for a business are the same for a freelancer who is registered as an 'eenmanszaak' and for a 'bv'. 

Registration in the Netherlands

Do you continue your business activities in the Netherlands after moving to another country, but do you not have a business address here? You must find another solution if you want your business to remain registered in the Netherlands. A business cannot be registered in the Dutch Business Register without a valid business address. 

In some cases, a Dutch client or accountant will give you permission to register your business on their address. You may only do so if your business activities actually require a registration with the Dutch Business Register.

5 examples

Van Es sketches 5 situations of zzp'ers who contacted KVK with the question: "What do I do with my registration?" as an example. Van Es: "KVK looks at every situation individually. These are examples of entrepreneurs who left the Netherlands without plans to return within 1 year."

1. Dentist

A dentist emigrates to France, and continues to practice his profession in the Netherlands. He works as a substitute and takes weekend shifts in a dental practice. Because he practices his business activities in the Netherlands, his business has to remain registered in the Dutch Business Register. But for this, he needs a Dutch business address, for example the address of the dental practice where he works. The owner of the practice premises has to agree to this. And the entrepreneur has to register his foreign private address in the RNI (Non-resident Persons Database) at 1 of the 19 Dutch RNI registration points.

2. Journalist

A self-employed journalist moves to the USA. If she writes copy for Dutch media from the USA, she is not in fact working in the Netherlands. The journalist must deregister at KVK. She no longer has to pay Dutch taxes, as the business activities now take place in the USA. The journalist can register with an American business register, and send her Dutch clients invoices from the States.

3. Online shop

The owner of a Dutch online shop moves to Spain. She no longer has business activities in the Netherlands, and must deregister from the Dutch Business Register. Even if her online shop sells only to Dutch customers, her business is Spanish. Her online shop may still be registered for VAT, if the turnover from Dutch customers exceeds the EU threshold for long-distance sales. The entrepreneur can choose: either to file her VAT for other EU countries in her Spanish VAT return, or to apply for a VAT number to the Dutch Tax Administration, and file a VAT return in the Netherlands for her Dutch sales.

4. Part-time handyman

A construction contractor moves to Austria after his retirement. He would like to do odd jobs in the Netherlands for a couple of months a year. To register as a zzp'er with the KVK Business Register, he needs a visiting address in the Netherlands. If he does not have a business address in the Netherlands, he can ask his clients or his accountant if it is OK to register his business on their address. The contractor has to register his foreign private address at one of the 19 Dutch RNI registration points.

5. Consultant

A freelance consultant moves from Sweden to the Netherlands. She continues to run her business and give advice to her Swedish customers, visiting them every now and again. In this case, the business activities take place abroad. The entrepreneur has to deregister from the Swedish Business Register and register a new business in the Netherlands. She can continue to provide services to her Swedish customers from her Dutch business. She will have to figure out how to meet her tax obligations for these so-called intra-community services - that is, services provided from a business in one EU country to a customer in another. In this case, the Swedish tax authorities can help her.

Questions? Ask for help

Discuss your plans to move with your accountant and ask the KVK Advice Team or the Tax Administration for advice. Change your Business Register KVK registration in time, so you can go abroad without worries. If your registration status is correct, other parties (such as the Tax Administration) will know what is going on with your business.

Good to know: if you move your business abroad, you no longer make automatic pension contributions under the General Old Age Pensions Act (AOW). This means that for every year that you work outside the Netherlands, you will receive less national pension when you retire. You can take out voluntary insurance with the Sociale Verzekeringsbank (SVB) to compensate for the missing AOW accumulation.

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