Dividend tax

Companies often pay out profits to the shareholders in the form of dividends.

The following are further examples of dividend situations:

  • Partial repayment of the moneys paid-up on shares by shareholders;
  • Liquidation payments above the average paid-up equity capital;
  • Bonus shares from profits;
  • Constructive dividend. This concerns payments made by a corporation primarily for the benefit of a shareholder as opposed to the business interests of the corporation;
  • Interest payments on qualifying hybrid debt as such debt is treated as informal equity of the borrowing company.

For cooperatives there may also be an obligation to deduct dividend tax on profit distributions to a holder of a membership right. This is the case if the main objective or one of the main objectives of the membership of the cooperative is to avoid dividend tax or foreign tax and the chosen structure has not been set up for business reasons that reflect the economic reality. The structure with a cooperative may be submitted to the tax authority beforehand and assessed for an obligation to deduct tax.

Exemption 
​
No tax is withheld, among others, in the following situations:

  • Where, in inland relationships, benefits are enjoyed from the shares, profit-sharing certificates and cash loans of participations to which the participation exemption applies;
  • If a Dutch company pays out dividends to a company established in a member state of the European Union and the company holds at least a 5% share of the Dutch company.

Step-up tax basis of cross-border legal merger and division
​In the case of a cross-border merger or division an unintentional Dutch dividend tax claim on foreign profit reserves may arise. To prevent this on certain conditions the value of the assets that are transferred as a result of a legal merger or division to the acquiring corporate body in the Netherlands is regarded as (untaxed) paid-up capital for dividend tax purposes. This does not apply for assets that consist of shares in a Dutch corporate body.

Refund scheme for foreign taxpayer
​With effect from 2017 the law has included a provision that provides for the refund scheme for dividend tax for foreign taxpayers (natural person or a legal entity). According to the jurisprudence in 2016 this was previously approved by policy decision. For foreign taxpayers with a holding in Dutch shares under certain conditions it is possible to request a refund of dividend tax deducted. The shareholder must qualify as beneficial owner of income from shares for which a foreign taxpayer exists. A refund is possible where the dividend tax is higher than the income or corporation tax that would be payable if the relevant taxpayer had been resident or established in the Netherlands. Refund of dividend tax is not granted if the foreign taxpayer is entitled to a full offset of the Dutch tax in the state of residence or establishment based on a tax treaty signed between the Netherlands and the relevant state of residence or establishment.

Tax rate
​The tax rate for dividends is 15%. The tax is withheld by the company that pays out the dividends and pays it to the tax authorities. The dividend tax withheld serves as an advance tax payment on income and corporate income tax. The Netherlands has signed tax treaties with various other countries, as a result of which a lower tax rate will apply in many instances.

Prevention of double taxation

Residents of the Netherlands and companies that are registered in the Netherlands must pay tax on all revenue generated worldwide. This could result in any given income component being taxed both in the Netherlands and abroad.

To prevent this kind of double taxation, the Netherlands has signed tax treaties with many other countries. The treaties are largely modelled on the OESO Model Treaty for the prevention of double taxation.

If an income tax component is nevertheless double-taxed as income or corporate income tax, the taxed amount is reduced based on the exemption method. The method entails a reduction of the Dutch tax related to the foreign income. The exemption on the income tax is calculated per box.

Double taxation of dividend payments and interest payments and royalties is prevented with the use of the settlement method. The use of this method means that the Dutch tax is reduced by the amount of tax charged abroad. In certain situations it is also possible to deduct the foreign tax directly from the profits or as costs related to income.