Ministers ignored concerns over Tax Authority's harsh fraud hunt: report

Belastingdienst Amsterdam
Belastingdienst AmsterdamBICWikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA

In 2014, top officials warned then Minister Lodewijk Asscher and State Secretary Erik Wiebes that the Tax Authority's hunt for fraud was going too far and leaving thousands of families in financial difficulties. But instead of intervening, they ignored the problem, according to Follow The Money's study of confidential documents, RTL Nieuws reports.

According to Follow The Money, these concerns also concerned childcare allowances, and may well be much larger than the childcare allowance affair currently being dealt with. The Tax Authority had a rule that said that parents who makes a mistake in claiming childcare allowance must not only repay the extra amount received, but everything. And this put tens of thousands of families in serious financial problems, according to the researchers.

In this case, the affected parents' mistake involved the rule that parents have to make an own contribution to childcare - the allowance cannot cover the entire amount. In some cases, daycare centers offered to pay the parents' contribution, in an attempt to attract customers. This resulted in parents not paying a personal contribution, and the Tax Authority demanding that they repay their entire amount of childcare allowance.

In most cases this affected parents with a low income, who had minimal amounts of own contribution covered by a daycare, according to the researchers. They ended up repaying tens of thousands of euros, for a mistake that largely cost less than a thousand euros. 

In 2014, top officials warned Asscher and Wiebes that this rule was causing problems. But they decided not to intervene. According to Follow The Money, it was made clear in a conversation with the head of the Tax Authority that this rule would not be amended. Asscher also repeatedly defended the harsh policy.