Tax office promised workers wouldn't be punished for ethnic profiling, stopping childcare allowances

Belastingdienst Amsterdam
Belastingdienst AmsterdamBICWikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA

The director general of the Tax Authority promised officials last year that they would not be punished for unjustly accusing parents of fraud and halting their childcare allowance, in some cases using ethnic profiling to do so. The Tax Authority confirmed to RTL Nieuws and Trouw that 'no disciplinary measures' were one of the demands three officials from the fraud department at the heart of this scandal made in return for their cooperation in the investigation. Their demands were met, RTL Nieuws reports.

This affair revolves around the Tax Authority halting the childcare allowance of thousands of parents after they were wrongly labeled fraudsters. They were ordered to repay the allowances they received. This left many families in serious financial trouble. There were also signs that ethnic profiling was being used to select families for investigation.

According to RTL Nieuws, the then Tax Authority director general Jaap Uijlenbroek personally informed the three tax officials that no disciplinary action will be taken against individual officials. Whatever they said during the investigation would not be used against them, would be kept out of their personnel files, and the interview records would remain confidential. "Taking action against individual civil servants is not appropriate," Uijlenbroek said, according to the broadcaster. 

Uijlenbroek held talks with the officials involved in October and  wrote in a memo that  there was "no culpable act" by individual officials in the fraud hunt. The memo also said that one could "rule out the existence of abuse of office or dereliction of duty", and that the affair involved not "personal but institutional bias". This memo did not pass muster at the Ministry of Finance, where the highest official - the Secretary General - wrote comments on the memo and sent it back. The comments stated that "official crimes cannot be excluded in advance", according to RTL.

The promises made to the involved officials seem to hold little water, as the Ministry of Finance pressed charges against top officials of the Tax Authority last week. The tax officials are suspected of extortion and professional discrimination, State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen of Finance said in a letter to parliament.