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The Netherlands funds state highways through a national Infrastructure Fund, which is fed by express lane fees and regular tolls.  Provinces, municipalities, and district water boards may also set tolls on motor vehicles passing through certain tollgates on state-managed roads.  Additionally, the government applies one-time and recurrent taxes on registered motor vehicles, and levies fuel taxes and a general VAT of 21%.  Whether or not these taxes are applied to road construction and maintenance is unclear.  In 2009, the Dutch government considered charging a per-kilometer fee for motor vehicle use and abolishing the motor vehicle tax, but that scheme was never implemented.  In recent years, the use of public-private partnerships to fund road construction in the Netherlands has enjoyed a revival.

I. Introduction

According to European statistical sources, the highest motorway density in Europe is found in the Netherlands (78 km per 1000 km² on average in 2009), Luxembourg (59), and Belgium (58).  As might be expected, the highway network is especially concentrated in the urbanized areas of those regions.[1]  In the highly developed highway system of the Netherlands, the costs of infrastructure investment are high “despite the favourably flat landscape” because they “are inflated by high population density, legal and regulatory aspects (e.g. complicated and lengthy land-freeing procedures, environmental regulation), a high number of crossings with existing infrastructure and waterways and problems associated with building on wet land, particularly reclaimed from the sea.”[2]  According to a 2007 study, on average it takes over twenty years from the proposal of a road to its construction, which may reduce the incentive to handle congestion by infrastructure-based solutions.[3]

The main motorways are part of the Dutch national road system (Autosnelwegen).[4]  This system is administered by the Rijkswaterstaat (Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management).[5]  The Rijkswaterstaat, which is under the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, “is responsible for the design, construction, management and maintenance of the main infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands,” including the main road network, waterway network, and water systems.[6]  Roadways are managed by authorities at different levels, including the national, provincial, Water Board (Waterschappen), and municipal levels, as well as by ports, individual homeowners, etc.[7]  

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II. Funding for National Road Infrastructure

A.  Constitutional Provisions

The Constitution of the Netherlands provides in general that rules on the management of the state’s finances[8] and the levying of taxes imposed by the state[9] are to be prescribed by acts of Parliament.  Other acts of Parliament are to provide for estimates of the state’s revenues and expenditures,[10] regulate taxes that may be levied by the administrative organs of provinces and municipalities, and regulate the financial relationships of those organs with the central government.[11]  The regulation and administration of the internal affairs of provinces and municipalities are delegated to their administrative organs, which may be required by or pursuant to an act of Parliament to handle such matters.[12]

B.  Road Fees/Tolls

According to the Dutch Law on Accessibility and Mobility, the net proceeds of “mobility rates” (mobiliteitstarieven) will be donated to an Infrastructure Fund.[13]  Mobility rates are fees payable at the time a motor vehicle with domestic or foreign registration passes through a designated fee payment gateway,[14] at which time the fee is levied on the vehicle owner.[15]  Mobility rates are governed by article 15, paragraph 1, and article 21, paragraph 1, of the Law.  These paragraphs state, respectively, that a vehicle’s express lane fee will be determined by the relevant Ministry and the Minister of Finance to ensure good flow in designated express lanes, and that a “toll” refers to the mobility rate levied by the state on a motor vehicle passing through a designated fee-payment gate on a state-managed road.[16]  A province, municipality, or a district water board may likewise set a mobility rate, or “toll,” on a motor vehicle passing through a designated gateway on a road managed by the state.[17]  For the purposes of the laws on provincial taxation, municipal taxation, and district water board taxation, respectively, this rate is deemed to be a provincial, municipal, or water board tax.[18]  Thus, the Netherlands funds road infrastructure not only at the national level but at the local level as well.

The Infrastructure Fund is established under the Infrastructure Fund Act as a fund for the financing and defrayment of the costs of the construction, management, and maintenance and operation of infrastructure that is or will be managed by the government, and for the financing and defrayment of the costs for related basic information.[19]  The Infrastructure Fund also finances and defrays the costs of the construction, management, and maintenance and operation of infrastructure that is not or will not be managed by the government.[20] 

C.  Motor Vehicle Taxes

Motor vehicle taxes are also applied in the Netherlands.  Beginning in 2010, the system of using net list-price as the basis for the vehicle sales tax was gradually phased out for passenger cars, and replaced by the vehicle’s “absolute” CO2 emission level as the basis, so that the tax rate increases with the emission level.  This has resulted in cheaper rates for fuel-efficient cars and a price hike for those that waste fuel.[21] 

Thus, anyone in the country who registers for the first time a car, a vehicle that transports light goods, or a motorcycle must pay a one-time tax called the tax on passenger cars and motorcycles (belasting op personenauto’s en motorrijwielen, BPM), which is levied on the basis of a car’s CO2 emissions and the van’s or motorcycle’s list price.[22]  The BPM rates are set forth in section 2 (Tarief), chapter 3, of the Passenger Car and Motorcycles Tax Act 1992.[23]

The person in whose name a car, van, motorcycle, bus, or vehicle for heavy goods is registered must pay a motor vehicle tax (motorrijtuigenbelasting, MRB).  This tax, which is to be paid every three months, is based on the registration of the vehicle, not on road use.[24]  There is no BPM or MRB payable on electric cars.[25]  Chapter 4 of the Motor Vehicle Tax Act 1994 covers the tax rates applicable to various vehicles.[26]

Transport companies must pay a heavy vehicle tax (belasting zware motorrijtuigen, BZM, or a Eurovignette), a road-use charge for vehicles that carry heavy loads.  Evidence of payment of the tax is valid in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Sweden.  For Dutch vehicles the tax is in addition to the MRB. [27] 

D.  Fuel Tax

The Netherlands applies an excise duty of about €0.846 per liter (about $US1.16) for leaded gasoline and €0.759 per liter (about $US1.04) for unleaded.[28]  In addition, there is a value-added tax in the Netherlands of 21%.[29]  It is unclear if these taxes are used to fund highway construction, maintenance, and management.

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III.  New Initiatives on Road Infrastructure

In 2009 the Dutch government considered charging a per-kilometer fee for motor vehicle use and abolishing the motor vehicle tax.  That scheme was never instituted, however.[30]  The Law on Accessibility and Mobility, while not adopting the road-pricing scheme, was created on the basis of the repealed Road Pricing Act and a package of related measures aimed at improving access to major economic centers in the Netherlands.[31]

The use of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the Netherlands has revived in recent years and been applied to road construction.

The Netherlands was one of the first European countries to explore the benefits of PPP.  However, after a promising start the Dutch PPP market did not really live up to the expectations.  In recent years, however, the Dutch PPP market has been gradually picking up as a result of both the financial crisis [of 2008] . . . as well as the acceptance by many that privately funded projects are beneficial to both public as well as private market parties.[32]

For example, in late August 2012, government officials took “a different approach to helping pension funds meet their goals” by investment in infrastructure projects; specifically, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment chose a PPP for a pilot program on expansion and maintenance of highway N33 (a connecting road) for a twenty-year period.[33]  However, the government subsequently announced that this would be the only project of its kind.[34]  In February 2013, the tender process was completed for a PPP project for the “design, build [sic], financing and maintenance of the extension of the, A1/A6 Diemen-Almere Havendreef” highway” (“A” roads are major thoroughfares).[35]

Another aspect of the roadway infrastructure in the Netherlands is the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) initiative.  According to a 2012 report published by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, in conformity with the European Union’s ITS Directive (2010/40/EU),[36]

[t]he Netherlands has invested many billions (in hardware, software, people and expertise) in order to enable the current range of ITS applications. . . . Many millions are also spent each year on operations, management, maintenance and upkeep.  For example, Rijkswaterstaat spends around €200 million [about US$273,648,000] a year on (dynamic) traffic management on the primary road network.[37]

The report noted that in future the country’s “Better Utilisation Programme” would invest about €170 million [about US$232,601,000] in regional-level ITS applications and about €50 million [about US$68,412,000] would be “available for innovative and effective ITS applications at a national level.”[38]  The report stated, however, that the need to cut costs of road construction, management, and maintenance was resulting in cost cutting for the roadside systems as well, especially ones on the primary road network that provide information to road users.[39]

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Wendy Zeldin
Senior Legal Research Analyst*
March 2014

 


* This report was prepared chiefly on the basis of materials available in English in the Law Library collection and online.  At present the Law Library does not have staff with Dutch language skills.

[1] Inland Transport Infrastructure at Regional Level, European Commission/Eurostat (Dec. 2010), http://epp. eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Inland_transport_infrastructure_at_regional_level.

[2] Tomasz Kozluk, How the Transport System Can Contribute to Better Economic and Environmental Outcomes in the Netherlands 12 (OECD Economics Department, Working Paper No. 804, Oct. 6, 2010), http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5km68g0zh7ls-en (click on “PDF”). 

[3] Id., citing to L. Molenkamp, PowerPoint Presentation, Traffic Congestion – The Netherlands’ Approach, Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, Rijkswaterstaat (London, July 2007).

[4] Welkom op Autosnelwegen.nl [Welcome to Autosnelwegen.nl], Autosnelwegen.nl, http://www.autosnel wegen.nl/.  This website “is dedicated to the history of Dutch national roads system in general, and motorways in particular” and is not part of the Rijkswaterstaat, which administers the highway network.  Id.  For a map of the system, see Rijkswaterstaat, http://www.rijkswaterstaat.nl/en/images/main-highway-network_tcm224-340839.jpg (last visited Feb. 20, 2014).

[5] Welkom op Autosnelwegen.nl, supra note 4.

[6] About Us, Rijkswaterstaat, http://www.rijkswaterstaat.nl/en/about_us/ (last visited Feb. 20, 2014).

[7] Wegbeheer in Nederland [Road Management in the Netherlands], Rijkswaterstaat, http://www.rijkswaterstaat. nl/wegen/feiten_en_cijfers/wegbeheer/ (last visited Feb. 27, 2014).

[8] Grondwet voor het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden van 24 augustus 1815 [Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands of 24 August 1815 (last amended June 27, 2008, in force on July 15, 2008), available on the official government website Overheid.nl, at http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0001840/geldigheidsdatum_05-02-2014; for an English translation, see The Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands 2008 art. 105(4), http://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten-en-publicaties/brochures/2008/10/20/the-constitution-of-the-kingdom-of-the-netherlands-2008.html.

[9] Id. art. 104.

[10] Id. art. 105.

[11] Id. art. 132(6).

[12] Id. art. 124(1 & 2).

[13] Wet bereikbaarheid en mobiliteit [Law on Accessibility and Mobility] (July 4, 2002, as last amended effective Jan. 1, 2013), art. 10 ¶ 1, http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0013854/geldigheidsdatum_21-02-2014.

[14] Id. art. 4 ¶ 1.

[15] Id. art. 4 ¶ 2.

[16] Id. arts. 15 ¶ 1 & 21 ¶ 1.

[17] Id. art. 21 ¶ 2.

[18] Id. art. 21 ¶ 3.  This provision refers to the respective sections of the tax laws concerned, i.e., ch. XV of the Provinciewet, §§ 1 & 4 of ch. XV of the Gemeentewet, and chs. XVI & XVIII of the Waterschapswet. 

[19]Wet Infrastructuurfonds [Infrastructure Fund Act] (May 27, 1993, as last amended effective Jan. 1, 2012), art. 2 ¶ 2a, http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0006001/geldigheidsdatum_21-02-2014.

[20] Id. art. 2 ¶ 2b.

[21] Jordy van Meerkerk, Gusta Renes & Geert Ridder, Greening the Dutch Car Fleet: The Role of Differentiated Sales Taxes (PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Working Paper No. 18, Jan. 2014), http://www.pbl.nl/en/publications/greening-the-dutch-car-fleet-the-role-of-differentiated-sales-taxes (click on “download the working paper”).  The authors provide a table of selected pretax prices (net list-price), the value, and the rate of the vehicle sales tax in the Netherlands for 2005 (before the new system began) and 2010.

[22] Vehicle Taxes, Government of the Netherlands, http://government.nl/issues/taxation/vehicle-taxes (last visited Feb. 24, 2014); Wet op de belasting op personenauto’s en motorrijwielen 1992 [Passenger Car and Motorcycles Tax Act 1992] (Dec. 24, 1992, as last amended effective Jan. 1, 2014), http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0005806/geldigheidsdatum_24-02-2014.

[23] Passenger Car and Motorcycles Tax Act 1992 arts. 9–12.

[24] Vehicle Taxes, supra note 22; Wet op de motorrijtuigenbelasting 1994 [Motor Vehicle Tax Act 1994] (Dec. 16, 1993, as last amended effective Jan. 1, 2014), http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0006324/geldigheidsdatum_24-02-2014

[25] Vehicle Taxes, supra note 22.

[26] Motor Vehicle Tax Act 1994 arts. 22–32.

[27] IdSee also Taxation of Heavy Goods Vehicles: Eurovignette Directive, Europa, http://europa.eu/legislation_ summaries/internal_market/single_market_for_goods/motor_vehicles/interactions_industry_policies/l24045b_en.htm (last updated Oct. 13, 2008).

[28] Wet op de accijns [Law on Excise Duty] (Oct. 31, 1991, as last amended effective Jan. 1, 2014), arts. 26–27, http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0005251/geldigheidsdatum_04-01-2014.

[29] Netherlands - VAT Rates Table (effective rates Mar. 1, 2013) (last reviewed Sept. 1, 2013), International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation online subscription database, http://online.ibfd.org/kbase/#topic=doc&url=%252Fcollections
%252Fvatrates%252Fhtml%252Fvatrates_nl.html&q=fuel+tax+fuels+taxes&WT.z_nav=outline&colid=4929&hash=vatrates_nl
.

[30] See, e.g., Kozluk, supra note 2; Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat [Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management], PowerPoint Presentation, Road Pricing in the Netherlands: Overview (Jan. 13, 2010), http://www.internationaltransportforum.org/jtrc/RoundTables/RTfeb10vanWortel.pdf; Minister of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, Rules for Charging a Pay-By-Use Price for Driving with a Motor Vehicle [Dutch Road Pricing Act] (undated), http://i95coalition.org/i95/Portals/0/Public_Files/pm/ reports/Netherlands%20Road%20Pricing%20Study.pdf.

[31] The package of measures comprised the Bereikbaarheidsoffensief Randstad [Accessibility Offensive Randstad], the Randstad being a conurbation of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht and their surrounding areas.  OECD Territorial Reviews: Randstad Holland, Netherlands, OECD), http://www.oecd.org/netherlands/oecdterritorialreviewsrandstadhollandnetherlands.htm (last visited Feb. 28. 2014). 

[33] Thao Hua, British, Dutch Forge Path for Infrastructure Investing: Government-Backed Initiatives Ease Way for Pension Funds to Invest in Asset Class, Pensions & Investments (Sept. 17, 2012), http://www.pionline.com/article/20120917/PRINT/309179984/british-dutch-forge-paths-for-infrastructure-investing.

[34] Mark Cobley, Dutch Funds Disappointed by Government’s Infrastructure Pullout (June 12, 2013), http://www. efinancialnews.com/story/2013-06-12/dutch-funds-unpleasantly-surprised-government-infrastructure.

[35] Linklaters Advises on Major Dutch Roads Project - A1/A6, linklaters (Feb. 17, 2013), http://www.linklaters.com/News/LatestDeals/2013/Pages/Linklaters-advises-major-Dutch-roads-project-A1A6.aspx.

[36] Directive 2010/40/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 July 2010 on the Framework for the Deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems in the Field of Road Transport and for Interfaces with Other Modes of Transport, 2010 O.J. (L 207/1), http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2010:207:0001:0013:EN:PDF.

[37] Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, ITS-Plan the Netherlands: 2013–2017 16 (2012), http://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/its/road/action_plan/doc/2012-its-plan-the-netherlands-2013-2017.pdf.

[38] Id.

[39] Id.