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How to Start an NGO in The Netherlands: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Are you planning to start an NGO or non-profit? The Dutch Foundation is one of the most popular solutions!

Embarking on the journey to start an NGO in The Netherlands reflects a combination of social vision and strategic planning that resonates with the ethos of global entrepreneurship. The steps to establishing a non-profit organization in this vibrant country mesh well with an avant-garde framework of supporting societal contributions while navigating through a set of legal and financial prerequisites. In an era where the importance of NGOs is increasingly recognized on a global scale, understanding the Dutch incorporation process, from the intricacies of choosing the right legal entity such as a "Stichting" (Foundation) to ensuring compliance with the Chamber of Commerce and the tax implications of the ANBI status, becomes crucial for any entrepreneur aiming to create a sustainable impact.

This guide aims to navigate through the comprehensive process of how to start an NGO in The Netherlands, systematically unfolding each step from selecting an appropriate organization vs foundation structure to registering your NGO with the Dutch authorities. We will explore the essential legal frameworks that govern the incorporation of NGOs in the Netherlands, including the differences between various legal entities and the implications for corporate income tax, asset protection, and more. Furthermore, the discussion will extend to practical aspects of registration with the Chamber of Commerce, understanding the ANBI status benefits, and crucial financial and tax considerations that ensure the resilience and longevity of your NGO. Following this roadmap not only simplifies the incorporation process but also aligns your visionary venture with the legal nuances and financial health required to thrive in The Netherlands.

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Step 1: Understanding Legal Structures for NGOs in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, choosing the right legal structure is pivotal for anyone looking to start a non-profit organization (NGO). This decision significantly affects aspects such as liability, tax obligations, and the ability to collaborate with others.

Types of Legal Structures

The Dutch legal system offers various structures for NGOs, each with its distinct characteristics regarding legal personality and liability. Structures without legal personality, such as sole proprietorships and partnerships, expose owners to personal liability for business debts. On the other hand, entities like private limited companies (BVs) and foundations (Stichtingen) provide a legal personality, shielding personal assets from business liabilities except in cases of mismanagement or fraud.

A Dutch Foundation (Stichting) is particularly popular among NGOs due to its unique traits. It operates as a self-owning entity without shareholders and is ideal for asset protection, privacy, and avoiding inheritance tax. Foundations can be used for a wide range of non-profit activities, including cultural, social, and educational causes.


Pros and Cons of Foundations (Stichtingen):

Foundations are advantageous for those looking to contribute to public causes without the intention of profit distribution. They require formal establishment through a civil-law notary and registration with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce but offer robust protection against personal liability.

Choosing the appropriate legal structure requires careful consideration of the NGO's goals, the founder's liability comfort level, and the fiscal implications of each entity type. This foundational decision shapes the organization's legal standing, operational flexibility, and potential for long-term success.

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Step 2: Registering Your NGO


Required Documentation

To register an NGO in The Netherlands, founders must prepare a set of notarized documents. These include the constitution deed and articles of association, which outline the organization's purpose, management structure, and operational activities. Essential details to be included are the foundation's name, information about assets, the purpose of the foundation, and details about directors and managers. Additionally, the local address of the foundation must be documented.

Filing Procedures with the Chamber of Commerce

Once the necessary documentation is prepared, the next step involves registering the NGO with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KVK). Upon registration, the NGO is automatically assigned a Corporate Income Tax ID, which is essential even if the NGO is not managed from The Netherlands or lacks a Dutch board member. The KVK provides the tax ID via post along with login details for accessing the online tax portal. This portal is crucial for checking pending tax requirements and submitting returns. It is mandatory to register the foundation in the Business Register at the KVK to avoid personal liability for the founders. Any changes to the board must be reported to the KVK within eight days to ensure that former board members are not held liable for debts. Optionally, the board may appoint a power of attorney to act on the foundation's behalf, a detail that should also be registered for clarity with business partners.

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Step 3: Financial and Tax Considerations


Tax Exemptions and Benefits

In the Netherlands, foundations and non-profit organizations may qualify for corporate income tax exemptions if their taxable profit does not exceed €15,000 annually or does not surpass €75,000 over five years. Organizations not seeking exemption can opt out to potentially offset losses, a choice that must be communicated to the tax office via letter when filing the corporate tax return for the first year of the five-year period. Additionally, obtaining a 'public benefit organization' (ANBI) status can provide significant tax advantages, including eligibility for gift and inheritance tax exemptions and specific corporate income tax relief.

Accounting Requirements

Dutch NGOs must adhere to stringent accounting regulations. Required documentation includes a balance sheet, profit and loss account, and, if applicable, supplementary notes. Foundations operating as businesses must prepare annual financial statements in accordance with Dutch law, which should be filed timely at the Chamber of Commerce. It is crucial to maintain accurate records throughout the year to ensure compliance with the Dutch tax authorities. This includes the preparation and filing of corporate tax returns and quarterly VAT returns, ensuring that all financial activities are transparent and comply with the latest regulations.

Getting started with House of Companies to incorporate your NGO


Throughout this article, we've journeyed through the step-by-step guide to establishing an NGO in The Netherlands, highlighting the essential legal considerations, registration processes, and financial obligations. 

From the initial choice between various legal structures, such as the advantageous Stichting for those seeking to make a significant societal impact, to the intricacies of registering with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce and leveraging tax exemptions, the pathway to setting up an NGO in this context is intricate yet feasible with careful planning and adherence to regulations.

The establishment of an NGO in The Netherlands is not just a testament to one's commitment to societal welfare but also a strategic embrace of the country's supportive legal framework for non-profits. Prospective founders are encouraged to diligently navigate through these steps, understanding the implications of each decision, and aligning their organizational goals with the regulatory and financial frameworks detailed. This guide aims not only to simplify the NGO establishment process but also to inspire action towards fostering an enriched community through well-informed and legally compliant ventures in the realm of non-profit engagement.


  1. What are the necessary steps to establish an NGO?
    To start an NGO, you need to follow these steps: Define your organization's mission, choose an appropriate legal structure, develop a constitution, register your organization, secure tax-exempt status, recruit a board of directors, and initiate fundraising and promotional activities.

  2. How can I establish a foundation in the Netherlands?
    To set up a foundation in the Netherlands, you must engage a civil-law notary to create a deed of formation. This deed should declare the creation of a "stichting" and include its articles of association. You can establish a foundation alone or with other individuals and/or legal entities, such as a private limited company (bv).

  3. What distinguishes a nonprofit organization from an NGO?
    In many places, nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and NGOs are essentially the same, both aiming to improve human welfare and society. However, NGOs typically have a broader scope of work. Nonprofits often include organizations like churches, boys and girls clubs, and alumni associations.

  4. What constitutes the organizational structure of an NGO?
    An NGO's structure typically includes a board of directors consisting of qualified individuals who oversee policy and decision-making. This board generally features nine members, including a coordinator who serves as an ex-officio member, a chairperson, and a vice-chairperson.




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