Tax Authority's fraud witch hunt started 15 years ago: report
The Dutch Tax Authority started its witch hunt for allowance fraudsters in 2006 already, much earlier than the previously believed 2013, RTL Nieuws reported based on confidential documents from the Allowances department that it has in its possession. According to the broadcaster, this not only involved the childcare allowance, but also care allowance, housing allowance, and the child-related budget.
A work instruction from 2006 mentions "treating people differently" when fraud is suspected, according to the broadcaster. They were to be placed on an "exclusion list" and their allowances halted. This happened on a large scale.
The Tax Authority told RTL Nieuws that it is logical that many people were suspected of fraud, given the large number of allowances paid. The policy was aimed at preventing unconscious and deliberate errors when applying for or changing allowances, the Tax Authority said, adding that even in those early years efforts were made to promote mass surveillance and fraud prevention.
The fraud hunt was intensified in recent years. A memo from 2016 mentions "De Rechters", or "The Judges" in English. These were officials who christened themselves judges and who would determine who falls into the "high risk" category and is subject to stricter controls. Here too there was no solid legal basis, according to RTL Nieuws.
The Tax Authority told the broadcaster that this method of risk selection was never actually used, and that looking back, the name "De Rechters" is a "somewhat unfortunate designation".
Documents from 2007 showed that once labeled fraudster, Netherlands residents could not get rid of that designation. The documents refer to "automatic continuation of the abnormal treatment". People who end up on an exclusion list were not notified of that. A work instruction from 2010 said that the reason for this was "that the applicants are involved in a fraud investigation". People who don't know they're suspected of fraud can't defend themselves, the broadcaster wrote.
The Tax Authority also had black lists of childcare organizations suspected of fraud, according to RTL NIeuws. Agencies that ended up on such a list were also not told that they were under extra scrutiny.