Thursday, February 21, 2013

Registering a business at the KvK

This morning, I woke up early to finally register Goodputty as a business in The Netherlands. It's a super simple and painless process, and that's really impressive. When I registered Goodputty in Malaysia six years ago, there was a lot of waiting and scammers waiting at the offices to try to get you to pay them to register for you, but luckily there were also official signboards warning you about them. Still, I'm sure not everyone is as observant as I am when it comes to these things, so the scammers probably get a pretty decent wage from this.

Anyway, here's what you need to do to register at the KvK (Kamer van Koophandel).

What you need:
A valid identity document.

I would have used my Dutch ID, but as that got pickpocketed in Germany and I haven't received a replacement, I emailed the KvK in Rotterdam (you have to direct all your enquiries to your local KvK) to ask if I could use my Malaysian passport instead. They said yes. Basically, all you need is a valid passport or driving license, and you have to be registered with your local city hall and have your information listed in the GBA so that the KvK can refer to this. The KvK can retrieve this information through the system, so don't worry about getting a printed GBA from the city hall.

What you can do to save time:
Go online to and find the link to register as whatever you want to be. In my case, it was a one-person company (eenmanszaak). Once you're there, look for the digital form to register. This goes straight through to them, and then you don't have to sit at the desk at the KvK and fill it in in front of the staff. The digital form asks for all your personal and company details. It also allows you to register at the tax department immediately for a BTW number, which is very handy.

After you've finished filling in the form, depending on your location, you must either make an appointment at the KvK or you can just drop by. In my case, I'm super fortunate because the KvK branch at Rotterdam Blaak is the walk-in kind. It's even just around the corner from where I live! The office is the busiest between 12pm and 2pm, so if you can only make it at those times, do make an appointment. I decided to go first thing in the morning, so that I wouldn't have to wait long.

The process at KvK:
I arrived at KvK at 9.30am and felt a little lost at first because the reception area is circular and the sign which says "Receptie" is blocked by other little signs saying "alleen pinnen", "pinnen en contant", etc. So I initially thought that it was just the cashier's counter. Plus, the lady behind the counter was busily typing in her computer and I thought I just had to walk straight in. But she was actually the receptionist; and as with most businesses here, the receptionist is the biggest and most annoying obstacle to any visit. I had to wait while she finished typing, and then I received a cold and regal smile asking what my purpose there was. I only managed to say "I would like to register as..." before she went "Okay" and tapped on her keyboard. I received a waiting card and was asked to wait at the waiting area behind.

There were only two other men there, and about 6 counters open so far as I could see. So that was good news. I sat for about 3 minutes before a man came over to introduce himself. Very quick and efficient! So far so good.

I told the gentleman what I was registering as, and gave him my passport. He took it to scan and verify - they seem to have some software or machine that instantly retrieves all the information based on your scanned document, which I think is really cool - and everything checked out. Then, as I had already filled in the digital form the day before, all we had to do was double check the details and fill in a few more details like codes for the type of business, which is only available in the KvK system.

After just 15 minutes, more or less, he was sending all the information to print and I was registered at the tax department as well. Very, very impressed.

The tax department:
You receive a BTW number, but it's only temporary until you receive a letter of confirmation from the tax department in about a week. You can then officially invoice your customers with this BTW number.

Per 1 January 2013, the KvK does not charge business owners an annual fee.

Bank account:
If you want to open a bank account specially for your business, you'll need to order an 'uittreksel' that declares you to be a legitimate business owner. This costs a whopping € 11. But worth it for your peace of mind and that of your bookkeeper ;)

And voila! You're registered! Congratulations!

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