Freelancing in the Netherlands : choosing between EOR, BV+30% or ZZP

Feb 27, 2024

If you want to freelance in the Netherlands, you need to choose what structure you want to use for that. The Netherlands has one or two basic company forms to choose and work from: the ZZP and the BV (which allows for the 30% ruling). In addition to this, there is also the option of using an umbrella company (or “Employer of Record” or Payroll Company). In this article we will explain the basic differences between the three approaches. 


The EOR

The EOR (or Employer of Record, or Umbrella Company, or Payroll Company) is basically a three-party construction. You hire the EOR. You enter the payroll at the EOR. The EOR then contracts with your clients and invoices them. Out of the revenues thus generated, you are being payrolled by the EOR as its employee. In an EOR setup you will become a regular employee. The tax rate on a regular employee is much higher than on entrepreneurs. This is mainly because of the employer’s taxes that are levied on top of your salary as an employee. In a normal employment situation, these costs are carried by your employer. In an EOR situation, these costs come straight out of your own freelancing revenues. So when you are comparing the costs between the two solutions, bear in mind that the pre-and post salary calculation methods offered by EOR providers do not take into account the employer’s taxes levied on top.

Advantages of using an EOR
- If you are a non-EU passport holder, the EOR will be able to provide you and your family with a Highly Skilled Migrant visa. This is very convenient. Setting up your own freelancing entity as a non-EU passport holder can be very problematic, because the visa options in such cases are limited.
- The EOR does not require you to maintain accounting and payrolling of your own. This is all taken care of by the EOR. You will just receive a monthly payment and payslip, so you can focus on your work.
- As a regular employee, you will also receive more benefits in the case of disability and subsequent unemployment benefits if your EOR work ends with a spell of unemployment.

Disadvantages of using an EOR
- Is not worthwhile if you earn under € 100,000 per year.
- It is expensive, and continuously so. You will be paying the EOR payroll provider a monthly fee. But on top of that you will also pay a higher taxation. This is because you are a regular employee, as opposed to an entrepreneur or DGA. These taxes are all paid straight out of your freelance revenues. This makes for about 50% of your monthly salary, each month.
- If you are working for 1 or 2 clients, you can let the EOR invoice those clients for you and use those revenues to pay your salary. If you escalate your business to multiple clients, or you wish to make reinvestments, the EOR construction quickly becomes a constrainment.
- If you are freelancing, you of course have business costs you can expense by paying them out of your revenues. In an EOR, you don’t have a business to expense these costs in. There are ways in which you can let the EOR handle these expenses, but the costs for this stack up quickly.
- The EOR will not work with just any client, because they also take upon them a risk (of your good work and the client’s good payment). They may refuse a client or put forth additional financial conditions on a case by case basis.


The BV+30% ruling

There are two main setups if you want to work from your own company in the Netherlands : the ZZP and the BV+30%. Broadly speaking, if you earn more than € 66,000 per year, you should go for the BV+30% setup. In the BV+30% setup, you setup a Dutch BV company and you enter its employment as a director. The BV then contracts with your clients and invoices them for your services rendered. The revenues thus received are then used to pay your salary as director. In this employment relationship, you may choose to apply the 30% ruling. If you want to go for this option, be sure you play your cards right. Sequence is important here. 

Advantages of the BV+30%
- This setup is the single most effective way of earning a salary in the Netherlands. Expect to pay about 28% tax over a € 100,000 annual salary. No taxes are levied on top of this.
- You have the possibility to expand your work. You can escalate to an unlimited number of clients. You can stick to freelancing, but also choose to invest or anything your entrepreneurial spirit takes you towards.
- You can easily expense all your business expenses, such as travelling expenses, laptops, business dinners, relocation costs.


Disadvantages of the BV+30%
- Slight initial setup cost.
- Slight continuous accounting cost.
- Visa is not included. You need to have either an EU passport or a valid visa lined up to work self employed. The BV itself does not give you this automatically.
- Is not worthwhile if you earn under € 66,000 per year.


The ZZP

The sole proprietorship (or “ZZP” or “Eenmanszaak”) is the most basic company form available in the Dutch legal system. It is a see-through entity, which means it has no separate legal personality, no limitation of liability, no division of shares and no separate capital from you, its founder. It is ideal for small time starters as self employed or freelancers. The initial setup costs are low and the rules are fairly straightforward.

Advantages of the ZZP
- Almost zero initial setup costs.
- Most effective up to € 66,000 per year.
- Low monthly costs.


Disadvantages of the ZZP
- Visa is not included. You need to have either an EU passport or a valid visa lined up to work self employed. The BV itself does not give you this automatically.
- Must meet ZZP fiscal criteria: more than 3 clients, 1224 hours per year, etc.
- Is not worthwhile if you earn over € 66,000 per year (as compared to BV+30%)
- No driver’s licence swap. No relocation cost expensing. 


An example case

Let’s get down to business with an example. Johnny comes to Amsterdam with two € 50,000 freelance gigs in his pocket. That’s € 100,000 in annual revenues. He has a European passport so he doesn’t need the HSM visa. But he wants to know what he can expect in the EOR scenario, the BV+30% scenario and the ZZP scenario. When comparing the company forms, he first needs to take into account the one off costs and continuous costs. Then he needs to consider the different tax treatments in each situation.

Finally, he must make sure he is comparing apples with apples:
1. The ZZP calculation assumes you meet the ZZP fiscal criteria. If you don’t meet these criteria, the tax rate is significantly higher.
2. Even if you meet the ZZP fiscal criteria, the tax benefits diminish over time. This is because the “startersaftrek” only applies in the first 3 years and the “MKB winstvrijstelling” drops each year as well.
3. Under the current rules, the 30% ruling drops each year as well. After 20 months to 20% and after another 20 months to 10%. This applies exactly the same for the EOR as for the BV+30% case. There is a slight chance these changes will be reversed in 2025, but we cannot know for now.
4. If you are moving to the Netherlands, you are going to have relocation costs. If you are bringing kids, you can put them in a Dutch expat school. These are two costs that can be expensed as business costs in the case of the EOR and BV+30% setup, but not in the ZZP case. This can easily amount to 15,000 in tax free compensation, which you would have otherwise had to pay out of your private purse.
5. The 30% ruling offers a free driver’s license swap. You need a Dutch driver’s licence after 6 months in country if you have a non-EU one. So if you don’t have a 30% ruling, that means taking a Dutch driver’s test somewhere down the road.
6. The ZZP and BV+30% have monthly accounting costs, but these usually also include the personal income taxes as well. These are not included in the EOR scenario.

Figure 1: comparison between EOR, ZZP and BV+30% on a € 100,000 per year salary


Johnny comes up with the above comparison. In the case of the EOR, the costs and extra taxes amount to about 50% of the salary. This means that € 98,000 yields € 65,333 in actual annual salary. That is 98,000 divided by 1.5. He therefore notices a tremendous difference in taxation between the EOR and the two company forms. He is aware that there are certain benefits to be had with the EOR but they just don't weigh up against the costs involved. The choice therefore boils down to the comparison between the two company forms. The financial picture is slightly in favour of the BV+30%. He also recognizes he only has 2 clients, so doesn't meet the fiscal requirements of the ZZP anyway. He's also looking forward to be able to expense his relocation and house searching costs as business expenses in his company his well. The BV+30% therefore seems the most logical choice for him.



Conclusion

Start with your visa situation. If you don’t need a visa (because you already have an EU passport, or other visa solution), the EOR is a bit of a waste of money. You are paying for things you don’t need. If you do need a visa, the EOR is your first choice. The choice between ZZP and BV+30% is mainly financially driven, with a cut off for € 66,000 per year in favour of the BV+30% and vice versa. Do take into account the extra perks that cannot really be quantified.



Disclaimer

We do not purport to be tax advisors, especially not your personal tax advisor. This article and the numbers mentioned herein are for reference only and, if anything, only intended to incite your desire to collect your correct numbers correct to your specific situation, and ask the correct questions in the process.