How Dutch government works

If you apply for a permit or a subsidy, or have to pay tax in the Netherlands, you will be dealing with various government bodies. How Dutch government is organised, is explained below.

Three administrative levels

Dutch administration is divided in 3 levels:

  • Central government (government and parliament, ministries).
  • Provincial authorities (regional).
  • Municipal authorities (local).

Water boards are responsible for water management throughout the Netherlands. However, these are not considered a separate level of government.


Municipal authorities

The Netherlands has slightly over 400 municipalities. They focus on all matters relating to their own jurisdiction. Examples are zoning plans, traffic matters, environmental aspects, management of public spaces, business parks, etc. The municipal authorities issue permits for this.

Provincial authorities

The Netherlands has 12 provinces. Provincial authorities form the level between municipal authorities and the central government. Provincial authorities focus on environmental affairs beyond the level of municipalities, spatial planning, traffic and transport, agriculture, etc. Provincial authorities often serve as 'area-based directors' and closely cooperate with the other levels. Provincial authorities can also issue permits in a number of areas, including the environment.

Central Government

The Central Government is responsible for national policy. Although many duties are decentralised, Central Government continues to be responsible for a number of duties. Examples are the granting of residence permits, air operating licences or gas production licences.

Other government bodies

There are also other organisations that perform government duties. These are:

  • Autonomous administrative authorities, such as the Employee Insurance Agency (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen, UWV), the Government Road Transport Agency (Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer) and the Authority for Consumers and Markets (Autoriteit Consument en Markt).
  • Regional partnerships.
  • Public bodies for specific professions and trades, such as the Netherlands Bar Association (Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten).

Some of these organisations are responsible for granting permits and licences or managing professional registers.

Finding the right authority

Always check which government body or organisation is competent as regards your activity. If you have any doubts, contact the municipality in which your business is operating. They can tell you who to turn to.

Answers for Business is part of Holland Trade & Invest