Netherlands

Introduction

 

About Netherlands  

The Netherlands has an open economy which relies heavily on foreign trade, characterised by low unemployment and inflation. It is also an important European transport hub with some of the biggest airports and ports in the country.

The Netherlands has excellent ICT connectivity, a skilled English-speaking workforce and favourable business climate. All these factors lead to the Netherlands being an attractive investment destination, in addition to its strong domestic market and accessibility to the rest of the EU. The Dutch government also strongly supports businesses with the formation of The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) which offers advisory services to businesses at every stage of operations in the country.

Furthermore, the Dutch government has signed tax treaties with numerous countries to allow investors from those countries to be exempted from paying double taxes, hence lowering the total tax rates on foreign investors.

The Netherlands has a large and interconnected financial system, being home to globally important banks and insurers. Currently, the banking system is dominated by four domestic banks and comprises half of the financial sector.

China-Netherlands trade has been increasing over the last few years and the Netherlands is China's third largest trade partner in the EU.

 

What solutions are available in Netherlands?

Solution Description
Treasury Centres A centralised treasury is one way to reduce the tax burden, centralise risk management, improve liquidity and enhance yield on cash.
Interest Optimisation Maximise your interest yield from for your balances held with the bank.
Notional Pooling Cash balances in different accounts are notionally offset to derive the net balance, which is then used to calculate interest.
Sweeping/ Zero Balance Account (ZBA) ZBA are checking accounts with zero balances where funds are physically swept to eliminate excess balances and maintain greater control over disbursements.
In-house Banks (IHB) In-house banks provide corporate treasurers with another method of centralising and consolidating their business.
Intercompany loans Similar to bank loans, intercompany loans refer to lending between entities within the same group.

Corporate Treasury in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is ranked as the fifth most competitive economy in the world and was one of the founding members of the European Union. Here, we highlight some of the key benefits relevant to treasury and cash management in the Netherlands.

 

Financial Market Development

  • The World Economic Forum ranks the Netherlands 31st in the world for financial market development in The Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016.

  • The report also ranked the Netherlands as 60th in the world for the soundness of its banks, although it notes that the financial market has yet to recover from the 2009 property market correction.

  • The Netherlands has an excellent business infrastructure, a highly-educated and multilingual workforce and a sound legal environment.

  • There are no foreign-exchange controls in the Netherlands.

 

Sophistication of Banking Systems

  • The Dutch banking sector is relatively large. It is dominated by domestic banks, with the three largest institutions accounting for 68% of assets. More than 60 foreign banks have branches in the Netherlands.

  • The Netherlands' foreign-exchange market has an average daily turnover of USD 85 billion, accounting for 1.3% of global turnover (Bank for International Settlements triennial global survey 2016).

  • The Netherlands has a well-developed debt market with both government and corporate bonds available. New issues reached EUR 41.316 billion in the final quarter of 2016.

 

Regulatory Bodies

  • The banking industry is regulated by the Bank of the Netherlands and the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets. As a Eurozone country, it is also covered by the Single Supervisory Mechanism.

 

Tax

  • The corporate income tax rate is 20% on the first EUR 200,000 of profits (this amount will gradually rise to EUR 350,000 in 2021), and 25% on profits above this amount.

  • Resident companies pay corporate income tax on their worldwide income. Non-resident companies are taxed on income from Dutch sources. No tax is withheld for transfers to the head office.

  • There are no withholding taxes on interest. Withholding tax of 15% is charged on dividends but full or partial reductions often apply.

  • There are no stamp duties in the Netherlands.

  • Value added tax (VAT) is levied on the sale of goods and services produced or generated in the Netherlands, as well as on the import of goods and the acquisition of goods through an 'intra-European Union (EU)' arrangement. The standard VAT rate is 21%, with a reduced rate of 6% for what are considered basic necessities. A special rate of 0% is applied to goods or services used in the production of goods such as intra-EU supplies and exports.

  • The Netherlands has tax treaties with more than 90 countries and territories.

  • The Netherlands is a signatory to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement, through which information is exchanged between tax administrations, to provide a single, global picture on some key indicators of economic activity within multinational enterprises.

     

Benefits for regional treasury centres

  • The Netherlands has many tax incentives for foreign-owned companies and a favourable business environment for treasury centres.

  • The Netherlands has over 90 tax treaties, one of the most extensive tax treaty networks in the world.

  • The Netherlands is a Eurozone country with trading hours that overlap with Asia, Europe and North America.

  • Notional pooling and cash concentration are permitted between resident and non-resident accounts. Cross-currency pooling is also available.

  • The Netherlands is an established global and regional cash pool centre due to its: extensive tax treaty network, access to EU tax directives, advance pricing agreement opportunities and absence of withholding tax.

  • The Netherlands has a liberal regulatory regime and a sophisticated cash-management culture.

  • Offshore tax opportunities are available in the Dutch Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius, collectively known as the BES islands, which are categorised as special Dutch municipalities and have their own tax codes.

 

Banking

 

Banking System

  • There are 47 banks and 47 branches of foreign banks in the Netherlands. The last few years have seen a slow decline in the number of banks, lost either through mergers or closures.

  • The banking sector is dominated by three large domestic banks: ABN Amro, Rabobank and ING Bank. Together, they make up 67.76% of total banking assets, with 5.34% held by the next seven largest banks.

  • The Netherlands operates a universal banking system, which does not distinguish between retail and investment banking.

 

Bank Accounts

  • Residents: May hold foreign-exchange and domestic-currency accounts both domestically and overseas. Domestic-currency accounts are freely convertible to foreign currency.

  • Non-residents: May hold foreign-exchange and domestic-currency accounts, and domestic-currency accounts may be held overseas and are freely convertible to foreign currency.

  • Interest is available on current and demand deposit accounts.

     

Legal and Regulatory

  • The Netherlands' central bank, De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), is a member of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB).

  • The European Central Bank (ECB) supervises banks within the Eurozone that are regarded as 'significant' through the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) and other 'less significant' banks are supervised by the national central bank, such as the DNB.

  • The Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets supervises transactions between financial institutions and clients.

  • A company is resident if it is incorporated in the Netherlands or is managed or controlled in the Netherlands.

  • The Netherland's has anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism-financing legislation in place, and follows European Union (EU) anti-money laundering directives.

  • Foreign-exchange controls are not applied in the Netherlands.

  • The Netherlands has set up a financial intelligence unit, the FIU-Netherlands, which is a member of the Egmont Group.

 

Payments

 

Payment Systems

TARGET2

 

  • Operates on behalf of the Eurosystem.
  • Three Eurosystem central banks –Banca d'Italia, Banque de France and Deutsche Bundesbank – provide the Single Shared Platform (SSP) of TARGET2.
  • The Netherlands has 66 direct and 45 indirect participants.
  • Processes high-value and urgent EUR-denominated domestic and cross-border credit transfers.
  • Activates final settlement of participants' net balances from Equens Clearing Settlement System (CSS) (a European payment service provider).
  • Settles transactions in real time and with immediate finality.
  • Transactions are processed electronically using SWIFT.
  • Final settlement is done across participant banks’ correspondent accounts held at the SSP.

Equens CSM (Clearing and Settlement Mechanism)

Multilateral net settlement system

  • Processes low-value, non-urgent and bulk EUR-denominated retail payments (there is no value threshold).
  • 66 direct participants
  • Linked to selected European payment and clearing systems and the US' Federal Reserve for cross-border, multi-currency clearing.
  • Settlement of payments for participants of the Equens CSM are done by Equens participant payment centres.
  • Settlement of payments for participants of CSM linked to the Equens CSM is done via the European Automated Clearing House Association (EACHA).
  • Payments for any other banks are done through the Euro Banking Authority (EBA) as a STEP2 participant.
  • The European Clearing Cooperative (ECC) handles all payment and clearing systems within the EU.
  • Final settlement is done through TARGET2.
  • Paper-based payments are truncated prior to being processed.

EURO1

Pan-European RTGS-equivalent net settlement system

  • Operated by EBA Clearings.
  • Processes high-value (no maximum value threshold) and urgent Euro-denominated domestic and cross-border payments.
  • Payments processed with immediate finality and are irrevocable.
  • 52 participant banks (five in the Netherlands).

STEP1

Pan-European net settlement system

  • Operated by EBA Clearings.
  • Processes low-value (no minimum value threshold) and non-urgent Euro-denominated commercial payments.
  • STEP1 open to all banks in the EU and has access to EURO1 platform.

STEP2

 

Pan-European Automated Clearing House (ACH)

  • Operated by the EBA Clearings.
  • Processes low-value, non-urgent and bulk Euro-denominated retail payments.
  • Provides straight-through processing for interbank transactions.
  • Settlement done same or next day, depending on time of submission.
  • A pan-European real-time infrastructure for EUR-denominated transactions is under development by EBA Clearing and Italy’s SIA Group (one of the operators of STEP2).
  • Cross-border transactions can be processed through SWIFT and overseas correspondent banks.
  • 137 participant banks.

SEPA

(Single Euro Payments Area)

EU integrated payment infrastructure

  • Pan-EU standardised electronic payment system, set up for settlement of EUR-denominated credit transfers and direct debits.
  • Not applicable to urgent, high-priority transactions. There is no value threshold.
  • Jurisdictional scope of SEPA is the 28 EU member states plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Monaco and San Marino.
  • 48 participants in the Netherlands.

 

 

Payment Instruments

 

Credit Transfers

  • Credit transfers can be paper-based or automated, and electronic transactions are becoming more popular.

  • Used for payroll, supplier and third-party payments and government transfers.

  • High value and urgent electronic transactions are settled through TARGET2-NL in real time.

  • Low-value and non-urgent SEPA transactions are processed through Equens CSS, and can be done same day or next day through STEP2.

  • TNS (Telegiro Nieuwe Stijl) payments cater for low-value and urgent credit transfers.

  • IBAN Acceptgiros are paper-based or electronic transactions, however, their usage is in decline as SEPA payments become more common. They will be phased out by 1 January 2019.

 

Direct Debits (autodebits)

  • Used for low-value, regular payments such as utility bills.

  • SEPA direct debits provide same day or next day (through Equens CSSd) payments.

 

Card Payments

  • Cards are commonly used, especially debit cards for retail transactions. Debit card payments have exceeded cash payments from 2015.

  • The main card brands in use are Visa and MasterCard, with American Express and Diners Club also well-established. They are all SEPA and Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV)-compliant.

  • Almost all card payments are processed through Equens CSS, with Visa and MasterCard also cleared through their international card schemes.

  • There were 7,224 ATMs and 320,057 EFTPOS (2015), which are all EMV-compliant. Transactions are settled through Equen CSS.

 

Other Payment Schemes

  • MasterPass is a digital wallet scheme operated by MasterCard Netherlands. It is an e-money payment service that can be used online or by mobile and is processed through Equens CSS. Can be used by holders of MasterCard, Maestro, American Express and Visa cards.

  • Cheques are no longer in use.

  • SWIFT messaging is the default communication channel for credit transfers, direct debits, cross-border payments, clearing and settlement.

 

Demographics

Recent developments

 

Dutch consumers buy into Bitcoin

Dutch customers spent EUR25 million buying 11,000 Bitcoins through trading platform BTC in the first nine months of 2017. The platform registered a total of 44,000 transactions during the period. BTC is one of a number of players in the market, with an estimated 20% market share in the Benelux countries, suggesting total transactions of the cryptocurrency by Dutch consumers was significantly higher. An estimated 135,000 Dutch consumers own Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, according to research agency TNS Kantar.

Read more about the development here.

 

The Netherlands at the forefront of blockchain innovation

The Netherlands is at the forefront of blockchain innovation, according to a crypto expert. Emanuele Francioni, founder of Netherlands-based incubator Web 3 Ventures, said institutions in the country had successfully created consortia, such as the National Blockchain Coalition, that made the technology more accessible and the crypto space safer. Presently there is a thriving community of domestic businesses dedicated to advancing the technology through hosting meet ups and events.

Read more about the development here.

 

Low interest rates to remain for extended period

The European Central Bank has told the market it expects to keep interest rates low for an extended period of time. At its January meeting, the Bank’s Governing Council left the interest rate on the main financing operations unchanged at 0%. Rates for the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility also remained on hold at 0.25% and -0.40% respectively. The Council said it expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their current levels well past the horizon of the net asset purchases, which are expected to continue at a rate of EUR30 billion until the end of September 2018 or beyond.

Read more about the development here.

 

 

This Market Profile is brought to you by DBS. Get in touch with us for further insights on doing treasury in the Netherlands and take advantage of our innovative solutions to empower your business. Click here to find out more.

 

 

Sources: IMF World Economic Outlook database, October 2016; CIA World Factbook; Trading Economics; PwC

Please note that the information contained in this document, assembled based on information available and accurate as at July 2017, is of a general nature only and is subject to change whether for economic, political, social or other reasons.

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Last updated on 22 Feb 2018