Have you just moved to the Netherlands? Perhaps you’re currently trying to navigate your way through the endless maze that is Dutch bureaucracy. Well, while you’re at it, here are some helpful tips on how to save some money along the way.
You’re probably thinking about all the new bills that you have to pay: health insurance, rent, travel and maybe even childcare. However, what you may not be aware of are the multiple allowances that can be granted to those below a certain income in the Netherlands. Let’s look at a few ways that you can keep a bit more money in your pocket!
Short on time? Here’s a quick guide to what we’ll be covering:
Toeslag: allowances in the Netherlands
As an international, there is one Dutch word that it is important to acquaint yourself with: “toeslag”. The sound is music to many a Dutchie’s ears. Meaning “allowance,” the word can often be found in the company of other words such as health and rent (see where I’m going here?) If there is only one Dutch word that you may learn whilst in the Netherlands, let it be “toeslag.” It holds the key to saving money!
As an international, access to these allowances is more restricted than it would be to a Dutch citizen but that doesn’t mean you should give up on them completely. You might be surprised by which allowances you can pocket.
So, you have arrived in the Netherlands and if you were successful in procuring an apartment, then you have also probably found yourself paying a bit more in rent than you had initially hoped for.
If this is the case, then the huurtoeslag might be something for you to consider looking into. Huurtoeslag is essentially a housing allowance that is offered to those who live in a self-contained setting and earn below a certain income level. The amount of money given depends on a number of factors, including nationality.
Am I eligible for the huurtoeslag as an international?
As an international, you are only eligible for huurtoeslag if you are either:
- an EU/EEA citizen, or
- have a valid residence permit in the Netherlands.
On top of this, whether or not you are eligible also depends on your age, the rent you are paying and if you are considered wealthy enough to pay without assistance. Let’s break these barriers into basic terms.
Your age affects how much huurtoeslag you receive
The first thing to consider is your age. You must be over 18 years old to apply for the huurtoeslag. You’ll receive a different rate depending on your age.
|Huurtoeslag Rates |
|Age||Maximum rent to be eligible for huurtoeslag||Huurtoeslag Amount|
|18-23 years old||€432.51||Calculated per situation|
|23 and older||€737.14||Calculated per situation|
If you are below 23, but live with someone who is 23 or above, you also qualify for the higher amount of rent. (Perhaps it’s a good idea to seek out a grumpy master student to live with — you won’t be able to party all night, but maybe the two of you could benefit from an allowance).
It’s important to note that if there are two or more people sharing a private space, your combined incomes must be below a threshold. As of 2019, you and your co-resident/s must earn below a combined total of €30,825 per year.
Your space affects if you are eligible for huurtoeslag
You must also be able to say that your living space is “independent”. There are three main conditions that your rental must fulfil for this:
- it has its own front door that can be locked from the inside and outside.
- it has its own living/ bedroom area, as well as its own kitchen with a cooker and access to water.
- it has its own private bathroom.
Your space can be considered independent even if you share an address with other residents within a house (for example, you and your partner live in the attic, another person lives on the first floor, etc.) as long as your space meets the conditions above.
The Dutch tax office (Belastingdienst) understands that everyone’s housing situation is unique, so they have a helpful guide for those who are unsure of whether or not the huurtoeslag applies to them.
If you, and the space you live in, meet the above conditions then it’s worth your time applying for housing allowance.
Ok, let’s say you’re sitting all cosy in your subsidised living space, the plants have been potted, the furniture is a colourful ensemble of IKEA and second-hand, when all of a sudden, you trip over an extension cord and break your arm.
That’s fine, because (like any responsible citizen) you have health insurance. But did you know that you can also receive an allowance to pay your health insurance premium? The allowance is called the zorgtoeslag and again, there are a number of important requirements in order to receive this benefit. Let’s lay them out.
Am I eligible for the zorgtoeslag if I am an international?
Any internationals who are living legally in the Netherlands and working can apply for the zorgtoeslag. On top of this, there are further requirements:
- You must be over 18
- You must earn below the joint income threshold
- Your assets/ joint assets are not too high
|Zorgtoeslag 2020 Thresholds|
|Living Situation||Income Threshold||Asset Threshold|
|Living with a partner||€38,945||€147,459|
Am I eligible for the zorgtoeslag if I am an international student?
However, it’s a bit trickier for international students. As an international student, you can only receive the zorgtoeslag if you meet all the above requirements and you have either a job or an internship.
If you are an international who is in the Netherlands only to study, then you are not covered under long-term Dutch health insurance and not eligible for the zorgtoeslag.
How much can I save with zorgtoeslag?
As with the huurtoeslag, the allowance given is based on your own situation. It’s usually around €80 to €100 per month. For example, if you take out a basic health insurance policy with an “own-risk” of €385, the zorgtoeslag should cover between 80-90% of the monthly costs.
Good to know: as long as you are insured or covered by the EU/EEA health card, GP visits are free within the Netherlands!
Now, let’s say that upon your arrival at the hospital with your broken arm, you meet a charming Dutchie and the two of you hit it off. Then let’s fast forward about seven years — you and your partner have decided to raise a child in the Netherlands.
This is a smart move, the Netherlands is one of the best countries in the world to do so. This is for many reasons, but did you know that you can also get financial help when it comes to having children? There are three different allowances that you can receive when you have a child in the Netherlands.
- Kinderbijslag (Child Benefit)
- Kindgebonden (Child Budget)
- Kinderopvangtoeslag (Childcare Allowance)
There’s a lot to learn about applying for child allowances in the Netherlands but let’s focus on what it is exactly that the allowances cover and who is eligible to receive them.
Kinderbijslag: all you need to know about child benefit
Meaning “child benefit” in English, the kinderbijslag is a national allowance that is meant to subsidise the general costs of having a child. Parents will receive a payment, per child, each quarter. The amount given depends on the age of the child.
|Kinderbijslag rates 2020|
|Age||Amount per quarter|
Parents can also apply for a double child benefit if the child has extra educational needs, or a health condition.
Am I eligible for the kinderbijslag if I am an international?
Anyone who lives and works legally in the Netherlands will receive the kinderbijslag once they have a child.
However, if you work for an employer or client that is based outside of the Netherlands in a non-EU/EEA state, things are different. If the employer/client does not have a social security agreement with the Netherlands, then you may not be entitled to the kinderbijslag.
Kindgebonden: all you need to know about the child budget
The next allowance to consider is the kindgebonden. Translated as the “child budget,” this allowance helps parents pay for their child’s necessities such as school books and clothes. Those who qualify for kindgebonden receive an allowance each month:
|Kindgebonden rates 2020|
|Number of children||Maximum amount per month|
|Four or more||Extra €24.75 per child|
Am I eligible for the kindgebonden if I am an international?
As long as you are living here legally, you will be able to apply for kindgebonden in the Netherlands. In fact, usually, if you’re eligible the Belastingdienst will automatically notify you.
Whether or not you are eligible to receive the kindgebonden depends once again on a number of conditions:
- Your child must be under the age of 18 (I would hope that this is a reasonable request.)
- You and your partner must earn below a certain level (you can calculate it here)
- You and your partner’s joint assets must not be too high.
- You must already be receiving the kinderbijslag
Kinderopvangtoeslag: all you need to know about childcare allowance
The final allowance that may be available to you as a parent in the Netherlands is the kinderopvangtoeslag. This allowance is meant to help you pay for any childcare that your child may need.
The amount you receive really depends on the number of hours you work and the type of childcare your child goes to. In order to get the best estimation, I recommend looking at the Belastingdienst website.
Am I eligible for the kinderopvangtoeslag if I am an international?
You are eligible to receive the kinderopvangtoeslag as long as both you and your partner are legal residents in the Netherlands and meet the following conditions:
- You and your partner are both working and therefore cannot take care of the child.
- Your child is going to a registered daycare.
- You and your child are both registered at the same address.
- You or your partner follows a course/plan in order to get work.
Again, the amount given depends on your own individual situation. For example, just how many hours you work and the cost of your chosen childcare. Thankfully, the work life balance in the Netherlands is one of the best in the world, so maybe you will have more time to spend with your child than you would in another country. Regardless of how much time you have together, it doesn’t hurt to consider whether or not you can be compensated for the cost of childcare!
As I am sure we have established, there are many handy services that the Netherlands has to offer for internationals. When it comes to saving a bit of money, two ways that you can cut down on costs are the reisproduct and various kortings.
The studentenreisproduct: am I eligible for this as an international?
The studentenreisproduct is a great way for students to save money on travel in the Netherlands. Those who receive the discount can choose to travel for free either on weekdays or over the weekend. It’s quite difficult for international students to qualify for this, but not impossible! Let’s run through the conditions:
- You must be a student.
- You must apply for student financing.
- You must be working for a minimum of 56 hours per month.
- You have a valid residence permit, or you are an EU/EEA citizen.
Whilst the requirements are strict, it’s definitely worth checking out the studenteneisproduct if you’re an international who is both studying and working. Head over to the Duo website for all the deets.
It’s important to really make sure that you meet all the requirements for this one because you can be fined up to €300 per month if you’re found to be lacking. For example, if you work 55 hours in one month instead of the minimum 56, you could have a bureaucratic nightmare on your hands and owe some money.
Korting on the train
If you find that you’re not eligible for the studentenreisproduct, fear not. There are still plenty of train deals at your disposal as an international in the Netherlands. They may not get you free travel but they can offer deals such as 40% off train fares when travelling outside of rush hour.
Saving money in the Netherlands
As an international, you may be quick to count yourself out of initiatives and allowances like the above — but nationality is rarely an issue as long as you are a legal resident of the Netherlands.
Do you have any tips for internationals in the Netherlands to get a great toeslag? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature Image: Markus Spiske/Unsplash