The recent trends show that offshore jurisdictions are off the corporate agenda in view of the increased scrutiny and decreased levels of acceptance from both fiscal and corporate social responsibility perspectives. Client feedback confirms the following rationale for moving corporate tax planning solutions onshore:
- Increased scrutiny on tax havens and statutory requirements regarding tax substance, potential issues concerning withholding tax and taxation of foreign profits; and
- Avoiding overtly complicated tax systems with strict CFC (controlled foreign company) regulations, thin capitalization rules and prohibitive transfer tax applicability.
It is a well‐known fact that the Netherlands is not a tax haven but a safe haven and a logical choice as an alternative with an extensive double taxation treaty network. In addition, the Netherlands has an extensive bilateral investment protection treaty network that is regarded to provide premium coverage in view of the broad definition of “investor” and “investment” and providing access to dispute resolution through arbitration against independent states and awards that are enforceable against states, often referred to as “the Dutch Gold Standard.” Dutch structures are increasingly a recurring feature in international corporate structures for the purpose of protecting key corporate and personal assets. In this GT Alert, we briefly set out the options for migrating a corporate structure to the Netherlands to benefit from the all of the features that the Netherlands has to offer.
How to Achieve a Corporate Migration
Migrating a corporate entity within the EU into the Netherlands is a straightforward process from a Dutch law perspective. The following options are available:
- Registration of an EU member state entity with the Dutch Trade Registry
The tax residence of an existing holding company can often be changed by moving its place of effective management and control outside of its existing jurisdiction for tax purposes. This may trigger a tax charge on exit.
- Cross border merger
EU parent companies can migrate to the Netherlands by effecting a statutory merger with a Dutch entity under the cross‐border merger regulations. It is also possible for non‐EU parent companies to merge with a Dutch company by initially entering into the EU through a conduit EU jurisdiction that permits cross‐border mergers with non‐EU entities.
- Share swap
It is possible to incorporate a holding company in the Netherlands whereby the existing shareholders exchange their existing shares for shares in the newly created Dutch holding company.
- Re‐registration as Societas Europaea
An EU parent company can re‐register as a European Company (Societas Europaea) and transfer its statutory seat to the Netherlands followed by a re‐registration in the Netherlands as a Dutch parent company.
Why migrate to the Netherlands?
Key drivers for migrating the top holding company of an international group structure to the Netherlands are:
- Low corporate income tax rate of 25% on trading profits (20% up to EUR 200K first band);
- The Netherlands has an extensive double taxation treaty network with well over 90 jurisdictions;
- The Netherlands has entered into a vast number of bilateral investment protection treaties (BITS) that offer comprehensive protection against unfair treatment of investments by sovereign states through access to world class dispute arbitration;
- International and well‐recognized jurisdiction with one‐tier corporate governance system similar to that of common law countries;
- Straightforward, cost‐efficient and fast incorporation process for Dutch entities;
- Public company N.V. entities are widely recognized as listing vehicles;
- The Netherlands is the premier port of entry to mainland Europe with excellent facilities in terms of corporate and financial services;
- English language optional for proceedings before the Amsterdam courts; and
- Limited and straightforward corporate reporting requirements.
The Netherlands is a gateway to Europe and the rest of the world. For many years, the Netherlands has been a preferred location for foreign companies to establish a business. The location, the political stability and, especially, the beneficial tax regime have turned the Netherlands into one of the go‐to countries in this respect. The following tax points are of particular relevance:
- The general Dutch corporate income tax rate is 25% (20% up to EUR 200K first band). This rate is more than competitive in the region, as all countries surrounding the Netherlands have higher corporate income tax rates.
- Traditionally, the Dutch participation exemption has been a major attractor of companies to the Netherlands. This facility allows the receipt of dividends and capital gains from subsidiaries free of tax in the Netherlands. The Dutch facility is still one of the most flexible and easy accessible compared to other jurisdictions, especially, with regard to the following conditions: no holding period is required, an interest of 5% is already sufficient to apply, interest in subsidiaries located in tax havens are allowed to benefit from the facility and certain other specific benefits are available.
- No withholding tax on royalties and no withholding tax on interest.
- Dividends are taxed at a statutory rate of 15%. However, this rate may be reduced by virtue of tax treaties to 0‐10%. In principle, no dividend withholding tax applies to distributions made by a Dutch cooperative pursuant to the domestic rules.
- No controlled foreign company/Subpart F rules
- No thin capitalization rules.
- There is no stamp duty or capital tax.
- One of the most extensive international tax treaty networks (the Netherlands has concluded over 90 tax treaties, more than most other countries) and the membership of the EU (and corresponding access to EU treaties) ascertain minimal taxation on payments to any group company.
- Another traditional benefit of the Netherlands is the open attitude of the Dutch tax authorities. The Netherlands offers the possibility to discuss and reach agreement on tax positions in advance with the Dutch tax authorities that can be formalized in agreements (or advance tax rulings) to offer optimum certainty in advance.
- Currently, the Dutch government´s main focus is on innovation. In 2007, the government was one of the first countries to introduce a special tax regime aimed at innovation (Innovation box). Based on the Innovation box, income earned out of R&D activities can benefit from an 80% exemption, resulting in an effective tax rate of 5%;
- The Netherlands has extensive experience in the use of hybrid structures (i.e. hybrid entities and hybrid loans). These structures can be used to further optimize the group tax rate.
- The Netherlands has traditionally not only been very welcoming to foreign companies, but also to expatriates. In the Dutch Personal Income Tax Act, expatriates (with certain skills) can receive 30% of their income as a tax free allowance under the so‐called “30%‐ruling.” A benefit that also benefits the employer in negotiating (net) salaries.
- Customs authorities in the Netherlands have a reputation for being cooperative, innovative and exceptionally efficient; all to facilitate the free flow of goods. Customs duties or import charges are charged at a later date, if the goods are stored in accordance with customs procedures in the Netherlands. This leads to considerable cash‐flow advantages to foreign shippers.
- The Netherlands' position on Value Added Tax (VAT) is also advantageous. In contrast to other EU member states, the Netherlands has instituted a system that provides for the deferment of VAT at the time of import. Instead of paying VAT when the goods are imported into free circulations within the EU, the payment can be deferred to a periodic VAT return. The Dutch VAT system offers companies significant cash‐flow and interest benefits.
- Even though the Netherlands provides several unparalleled tax facilities, it is not blacklisted as a tax haven, but can be considered as a safe haven.