If the current “fiscal cliff” tax laws go into effect as scheduled, the maximum US tax rate on qualified dividends will go from 15% to 43.4%.

What this means for owners of a Dutch BV is that you may have to “top off” your taxes on dividends with an additonal 18.4% to the US as of 2013. Therefore you might consider paying a dividend before the end of 2012 to avoid this.

Currently when you pay a dividend out of your BV (assuming it is qualified, for this discussion let’s just say it is paid out of retained earnings) you will owe 25% tax in the Netherlands. You also owe 15% in the US, but you can use the Dutch taxes as a credit, so effectively you do not pay US tax, and actually have excess tax of 10% to use against other income.

For example, with the current law it looks like this: US tax = 15% – 15% credit = 0% tax in US. 25% tax paid in NL – 15% used as a credit = 10% remaining tax credit.

But as of January 1, 2013 it will look like this: US tax = 43.4% – 25% credit = 18.4% due to the US. 25% paid in NL = 25% used = 0% tax credit remaining.

This is a somewhat tricky issue, and I have simplified it here to make the point. You also need to consider (at a minimum) any current foreign tax credit carryovers and your future “marginal” tax rate in the US. You should discuss this in more detail with your US and Dutch tax advisors before taking action.