Category Archives: Holding Company Netherlands

A Foundation in the Netherlands

Dutch trust explained

A foundation (stichting) in the Netherlands is defined by law as “a legal person created by a legal act which has no members and whose purpose is to realize an objective stated in its statutes using capital allocated to such purpose”. The foundation is used  a lot for non profit organizations like school or hospitals, charities, sports organization and promotion purposes, relief organizations, as well a family foundation, as holding vehicle for shares or certificates of shares. The Dutch foundation is also uses as a vehicle for protection purposes against hostile take-over of public companies at the Dutch Stock Exchange. A Dutch business lawyer can explain the relevant aspects of the Dutch foundation.
Foundation Netherlands

Dutch Foundation

It is possible to pursue a purpose of private benefit. However, the purpose of the Dutch foundation cannot be to distribute the foundation’s profits to the founder or to members of its organs. The founders can be members of the board. Commercial activities are allowed if these are within the objectives of the foundation and are in general taxed. The regular company tax in the Netherlands will then be applicable.

Incorporation Dutch Foundation

Foundations are established by a Dutch Notary through a notarial deed by the containing the bylaws. The foundation will then be a legal entity and has  full legal capacity. The initial board of the foundation has to be specified in the deed. No governmental body is involved in establishing a foundation. Minimum capital is not required for the establishment or operation of a foundation. Regarding the purpose, there are no restrictions. The Dutch foundations can be established for public and private purposes. The only restriction is that the purpose cannot be to distribute the foundation’s profits to the founder or to members of its organs.

Company register in the Netherlands

Foundations are registered with the local Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands. The deed of establishing of the foundation and the bylaws are kept at the register as well as the names and the addresses of the foundation itself, members of the board with powers of representation, representatives of the foundation and its founders. A Dutch attorney can investigate the foundation’s registration, the registered board members and it’s annual accounts.

Board of Dutch Trust

The board members represent the foundation towards third parties. The statutory provisions of the foundation could assign the right of representation to one or several board members and also to other persons who are not  board members. The board has the duty to maintain financial records and keep an administration. Within 6 months from the end of each financial year, the board must prepare a balance sheet and a statement of revenues and expenditures of the foundation. An external audit is only necessary for medium or large entities. That is the case is two of these items apply:; net sales exceeding € 8.8 million; average number of employees is above 50 and/or the assets exceed an amount of € 4.4 million. Each member of the board has an obligation towards the foundation to perform the duties assigned to him properly. For matters within the competence of one or more board members, each board member  is jointly and severally liable with respect to any shortcoming. Only if  the shortcoming is not attributable to a board member and he is able to proof that, then he may not be liable.

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Multinational Holdings in the Netherlands

The Netherlands are the ideal domicile for companies that operate globally. The good fiscal climate in Holland exists especially because of the large amount of tax treaties entered into with other countries. Therefor Holland has an advantage over other countries offering competitive tax schemes. Companies like Cisco, HP, Tesla, Dtek, Abbott, as well as international artists like The Rolling Stones and U2 have found a safe haven for their holdings in the Netherlands, very often in Amsterdam. Several  law firms and tax advisers that can facilitate the holding companies.
Holding Companies in the Netherlands

The organistation promoting the Dutch fiscal climate is the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA). The agency also promotes the advantage for international companies to obtain tax rulings with the Dutch tax Authority. Tax lawyers can negotiate a tax  ruling to establish which part of the profits of a company is subject to tax in the Netherlands.

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Directors liability in the Netherlands

Directors of companies in the Netherlands can be held liable both in civil law and criminal law. Dutch law does not have the concept of disqualification.

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Civil liability pf Director Dutch Company

Each director has a duty towards the company to properly perform the duties assigned to him (section 2:9 Civil Code). That’s the general rule. There is only a failure if it can be established that the director has failed in the performance which could be reasonably expected under the specific circumstances. Failure of a director does not automatically lead to liability. Liability is only incurred in the case of serious culpability (ernstige verwijtbaarheid). Whether serious culpability is involved has to be determined on a case by case basis whereby all relevant circumstances have to be taken into account.

Joint Liability under Dutch Law

All directors are, in principle, jointly and severally liable for inlawful acts. An individual director may be discharged if he can prove that (i) he cannot be held responsible for the failure and (ii) he has not been – actively – negligent in preventing the consequences thereof.

Tort action againt board of Dutch Company

A director may be held liable in tort (onrechtmatige daad – section 6:162 Civil Code)) by a creditor on the grounds that he entered into a transaction on behalf of the legal entity, while at a time he knew or should have reasonably known that the company would not beable to meet the obligations, and would not have sufficient assets from which the debt could be recovered.

Exculpation of Dutch managing Director

It is not sufficient that there was a more than negligible risk that the legal entity would not be able to meet its obligations. The director should have anticipated that the risk would actually materialize. If the managing director has not taken an irresponsible risk when he entered into the transaction, the managing director cannot be held liable if in retrospect it appears that the company nevertheless does not fulfill its obligations and it was foreseeable from the start that the legal entity would not provide for recourse.

A managing director can also be held liable in tort if he has allowed or effectuated that the legal entity does not meet its obligations under an earlier commitment and consequently causes damage to the other party.

Director’s Liability in bankrupcy

Such claim in tort can also be brought by the receiver in bankruptcy, on behalf of the creditors of the company (even though the bankrupt company would not have had a claim against the director).

If the legal entity does not provide sufficient resources to pay all creditors in the case of bankruptcy of the legal entity, the directors shall be jointly and severally liable for the deficit in the bankruptcy if (a) it is apparent that the management has not discharged its duties properly and (b) it is likely that the bankruptcy was caused by the mismanagement of the board. This is referred to as manifestly improper performance of duties (kennelijk onbehoorlijke taakvervulling) (section 2:138/248 Civil Code).

Mismanagement in Dutch Company

Only manifestly improper performance of duties during the three years preceding the bankruptcy is taken into account. Manifestly improper performance of duties means that no reasonably acting entrepreneur would have acted – in equivalent circumstances and with the knowledge the director had (or should have had) at the time – similarly.

If improper performance of duties by the board is established, all managing directors are, in principle, jointly and severally liable. If mismanagement is established, the directors are jointly and severally liable for the entire deficit of the bankrupt estate (although the court can mitigate damages).

Faults in bookkeeping

If the management has failed to keep its books properly (section 2:10 Civil Code) or has failed to publish the annual accounts with the Chamber of Commerce (section 2:394 Civil Code), improper performance is (irrefutably) deemed to have occurred and improper performance is (refutably) presumed to have been an important cause of the bankruptcy. An individual director can exculpate himself if he can prove that other factors were an important cause of the bankruptcy. However, the burden of proof lies with the director.

Similar liability rules apply for supervising directors and factual directors.

Criminal liability of Netherlands Comapny

Under particular circumstances, (factual) directors can be prosecuted (section 51 Dutch Criminal Code). For example, section 1 of the Economic Offences Act lists a number of obligations under Corporate Law, the non-compliance of which constitutes a criminal offence.

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