Ensuring a soft landing on Dutch soil

The Liaisons for Potential Foreign Investors of the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration advise enquiring companies about ‘our’ legislation, regulations and procedures.

International entrepreneurs who are considering performing activities in our country, soon find their way to Wiel Meessen, Martin de Graaf and Jan Meyboom (FLTR on the photo) when making their tax and customs-related enquiries. These Liaisons for Potential Foreign Investors (LPFIs) advise enquiring companies about ‘our’ legislation, regulations and procedures. “We do not advertise, but we do want to give them a positive business-oriented feeling of the Netherlands.”

The Ministry of Economic Affairs is doing its best to get the international business community interested in establishing themselves behind the dykes. From embassies across the globe, officials try to coax manufacturers and service providers to the Netherlands, thus steering employment and economic activity to this country. An organisation that plays a prominent role in promoting Holland is the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency. Once the NFIA has raised awareness at a foreign company for possible expansion into the polder, at a certain point the agency also refers such a party to the Tax and Customs Administration. When seeking contact, this company is immediately redirected to the agency’s LPFIs. “In the orientation phase and any period thereafter, we are then the main service desk for such a market player; Martin acts on behalf of the Tax Authorities, Jan and I act on behalf of Customs,” says Meessen. “Every conceivable question in the field of taxation and customs procedures could be posed. We do not always know the answer ourselves, but we invariably find the specialists who are experts in specific topics or disciplines.”

Certainty in advance
“Companies often need very practical and quite generalised information,” says Meyboom. “Such as: how long does it take to arrange a permit? Or: are there any differences in the cargo handling speed between Schiphol and Rotterdam? But sometimes questions are also quite profound, and they want to know extremely detailed aspects. As a potential international investor is generally in the Netherlands for a short while, and we normally only get to meet such a party once, we make every effort in immediately getting all the relevant experts involved. For example, someone from our National Value Team or our National Origin Team. They can often provide international entrepreneurs with a certain degree of certainty about how customs clearance of their commodity flow will progress – and that is perhaps the most important aspect for them. After all, they would benefit most from predictable logistics. Where that is concerned, they need look no further than the Dutch customs authority: we liaise and try to make agreements in advance with our clients, if the situation permits. It is embedded in our way of acting and thinking.”

Distinct role
As a tax expert, De Graaf also joins the discussions. “As Jan and Wiel ensure a soft landing in the world of excise and customs duties and tariff classification, I show our guests the ropes in Dutch tax practice. I have noticed that it is highly appreciated when a representative from the tax office talks about how we deal with regulations here. Such administrative procedures in our country are arranged as smoothly as possible and in a realistic manner. Besides, we can confirm this in writing. The latter provides companies with the necessary certainty in advance.”

De Graaf emphasizes that he and his fellow LPFIs maintain a very distinct role: “We do not do any lobby work and do not advertise our country; that role is allotted to the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Nor are we consultants; international companies are required to bring along their own consultants, insofar as they wish to make use of them. But when we communicate, we like to highlight the strong and often unique aspects of the Dutch approach.”
Meessen: “The feedback that we often get from delegations from outside the EU is that we are particularly service-oriented. That we are communicative, and can provide detailed information – if necessary, tailored for individual enterprises or certain industries. That is very much appreciated. We believe that this attitude ultimately contributes to a good business climate, economic growth and more jobs. That’s our objective.”

Service liaisons
Aside from being a strict supervisory authority, Dutch Customs is also a facilitator of international trade and logistics of EU cross-border commodity flows. All kinds of officials carry out such a role, including attachés stationed by the service at various places across the globe (see the series 'Our man in…' in this e-zine) and the Head of Trade Relations. APBI’s Meyboom and Meessen act under their supervision as a kind of service liaison officers. They maintain contact with many external organisations, and within the own service they work closely with regional commercial contact points and start-up coordinators, among others. Such close contact is often quite handy, for example when a potential foreign investor has his eye on a particular city or area as a possible place of business.

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