Investigation launched into ethnic profiling at Dutch Tax Authority: report

Belastingdienst Amsterdam
Belastingdienst AmsterdamBICWikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA

The Dutch data protection authority AP is investigating possible ethnic profiling by the Tax Authority. There are indications that the Tax Authority used information about people's second nationality to determine whose childcare allowance was halted, RTL Nieuws and Trouw report.

The investigation was launched after complaints from a daycare center in Almere and a childminder agency in Eindhoven. At the end of 2016 the Eindhoven agency noticed that a Tax Authority employee had the second nationality of parents registered in an Excel file. A few years ago, half of the parents who used the Almere daycare center had their childcare allowances withdrawn. The agency noticed that this almost exclusively happened to parents of foreign origin, according to the news agencies.

In 2017 AP already asked the Tax Authority whether it registers people's second nationality and if so, whether this is used for risk selection. The Tax Authority denied this, according to a letter in the possession of Trouw and RTL. 

Responding to questions from the newspaper and broadcaster, the Tax Authority now acknowledged that it uses data on nationality in checks. According to the Tax Authority, this data is used to check whether a parent has Dutch nationality or a residency permit. The information comes from the Personal Records Data Base, the Tax Authority said. 

In the Netherlands it is almost always forbidden to record things like race and ethnicity. Since 2015, the Persona Record Database no longer registers a second nationality, only stating whether someone is Dutch or not. As explanation for this, the Tax Authority said that it has "original data" from the Personal Records Database and that it will "examine the possibilities of cleaning this data from the systems", RTL and Trouw write. 

In 2014 over 230 families ran into financial problems when the Tax Authority suddenly stopped their childcare allowance. The service said that there were "signals of fraud", but years later it turned out that the termination of the allowance was only justified in 27 cases. Parents filed nearly 400 complaints, but they were unable to properly substantiate their complaints because the Tax Authority had not clearly indicated which documents were missing or insufficient in their files. 

The sudden halt of the childcare allowance led to sharp criticism from the National Ombudsman and Children's Ombudsman. "The Tax Authority left the parents in an impossible position, major financial problems and long term uncertainty", National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen said in 2017. Last year Children's Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer said that the suspension of the childcare allowances was in violation of Convention on the Rights of the Child.

State Secretary Menno Snel of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations apologized last year for the way in which the Tax Authority acted.